Collaborative design is awesome because your ideas are tested on other people who are also highly involved in the process, as well as having a greater pool of people to contribute. As I have already argued, working with others produces a better project (statistically based on revenue per developer), and working alone is not really sustainable.

A beetle from a puzzle game I am currently working on with friend Ceri Williams. We discussed ideas and concepts for a while until the opportunity came where we were both free at the same time

Of course, working with other people is a skill, and getting the most out of a group is a process. Legendary Dutch games programmer Joost van Dongen goes into this process in detail describing how his team get the most from everyone. While his team is around 16, I am more familiar with smaller teams – 2, maybe 3 core people. At this scale, the onus weights heavier on each member, the team cannot afford any dead weight, the relationships between team members become really important.

For most, team development is a necessity, where no single person has the complete range of skills to develop and market a project. Even if you do have the ability, you probably are not highly talented all across the board – it will benefit the project to have specialist people in different areas.

The problem many face is finding other people to work with or starting their own team. Most projects don’t even get off the ground, which is OK if you are a hobbyist, but if your ambition is to be a full-time professional, this is a career ender.

Recruit from your friends

The first place you should look for developers to work with is your friends and real-life contacts. These are people you already have a relationship with, and you have a better idea of what to expect. Understanding each others expectations is really important and an existing friendship will keep the team together through the rough patches (which you find in all the best projects). If you don’t know anyone who is suitable, this is really bad. It doesn’t get worse. There is only one place left to look… oh god no…

Recruit from the internet as an absolute last resort

The problem here is that the internet is dripping with scammers, time wasters, compulsive liars and a host of other issues which make most people you find completely unsuitable as development partners. Because you have no relationship with these people, you don’t know what to expect from each other and you won’t know about their issues until it inconveniences you and the project. But, I know a lot of you are stubborn and will do this anyway, so here is my guide to minimize the damage. The below also applies to working with friends.

How to pick potential targets for collaboration

The temptation is to throw out a fishing line, sit back and see who bites. Maybe make a forum post and see who replies. The problem with this is that is completely non-targeted; you don’t know who you will get, but the hope is that someone suitable will come along. Targeting is really important to get you the partner you want. If you don’t know exactly what that is, you are sure to find out what you don’t want the hard way.

How to target

You need to develop a specific profile for who you would like to work with, which is probably going to be the <programmer / artist / other skill> version of you. Be honest with yourself and develop a description of what you expect – level of experience, type of project that interests you, the amount of time you have available, the kind of tasks and work that need to be produced, etc.

Target someone with a similar level of experience and ability to yourself. There is much more difference between ‘what you can do’ and ‘what you have done’ than you think. Look at ‘what you have actually done’ and look for someone who matches that level of experience.

Research individuals who are potentially available and make a list of 4 or 5 people who you think are suitable but not over qualified, and write personal emails to them explaining what you are proposing.

Be easy to work with

It is really important to sell yourself well – show them what you can do and be as easy-going as possible. Be trusting and open, and don’t suggest a confidentiality agreement before discussing your best ideas. Approach with a ‘yes’ attitude and take the other persons ideas and opinions as seriously as possible. Focus on setting the team up to get the most you can from others; enable and facilitate them.

Are you ready to work with others?

Before starting to look for others for a project, it is great to have an existing portfolio of work and maybe even a CV to make your ability and skill level easy to understand. If you don’t have this yet, it is probably worth developing it first. micromacro