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Letting Go Of Game Contractors
by Kimberly Unger on 08/11/10 12:31:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


It’s a hard decision, letting go.  We are designed to adapt, millions of years of evolution encouraging us to make changes, to take that one giant leap forward.  Yet somehow it’s still the hardest thing in the world to make a change.

How do you know when it’s time to let go of a contractor?

Its a really hard thing to sort out, I suspect even for the experienced producers.  You have somebody under contract to complete a piece of work, usually that is clearly laid out with milestones and checkpoints.  How many milestones should they miss before you regard them as a liability rather than an asset? 

Bringing new people up to speed takes time, and often takes you back to ground zero, as new programmers often are more comfortable rewriting the code to suit their style and artists all have a different method of creating that gives them an end result they can work with quickly and efficiently.

This is one of the places where having a weekly staff meeting can be a bonus, even if you are working with contractor.  It’s one of my weakest points, I admit.  I hate “bugging” professionals, even if I’m paying them, but my recent experience has shown me that there’s a certain amount of nagging necessary, even expected if the jobs going to get done at all, let alone done on time.

After working through this particular project, though, I have had to make a number of changes to the way I do business.  Some of them, in my POV, are unfortunate ones.  Paying on completion of a contract is standard business. 

I’d rather be able to help my creatives out, pay as you go, but thus far I’ve been burned by this at least three times during the course of this game, in all cases the contractor in question ditching halfway through (sometimes actually saying "I'm out" sometimes just vanishing into the ether), leaving me with half the budget and only a portion of the work done.  Now, you may say, “Hey, half the work is done, you have half the money, so what’s the problem?”

The problem here is ramp-up time.  It takes time (paid time) to get someone new up to speed.  This is particularly true with programmers, but is also true with the creatives as well.  so in reality, what I have is half the work left, half the budget, but an additional 25% of rampup work required.  The numbers go bad and, worst of all, the timing goes bad.  Milestones go by the wayside, funds get taken off the books, from a biz standpoint it’s a nightmare.

So what I’m left with, at this moment, is a set of “arbitrary rules” to work with.  How long do I allow a contractor to go MIA before cutting them off and finding a new one, how draconic do I make my contracts, when do they get paid, all of these things are harsher than I want them to be. 

After spending 10 years as a contractor, cribbing about contract terms myself, I am now seeing the *reasons* for these rules.  There are good contractors out there, I know there are, but the bad ones make these rules and cutoff points necessary just for the sake of preserving the project.

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