Combining Game Development Project Roles: Do's & Don'ts
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
For an indie game studio, it is highly unlikely that there's a dedicated person assigned to each of the roles described in the first part of the article. So it is natural that your team members cover several roles at once. It is just that some combinations work against you and the process; therefore, should be avoided at all costs.
Actually, a game development team can be split into 3 major departments: Design Department, Production Department and Release and Management Department (we don’t touch on game marketing here). The Production Department can be further split into Development and Content Departments. Now, let’s assign game development project roles to the departments.
Concept artist (2D artist)
Release and Management Department
Release and infrastructure manager
Note: the above listing contains a bare minimum set of game development roles, which in some studios can be split down further.
How to Combine Roles
Now let's define some possible combinations that can exist in game dev companies.
Game designer/Story designer/Level designer
Most intensive game designer’s work is at the project's start. Then, as the project starts shaping, the game designer just has to monitor the process. Now he can easily dedicate his time to story design and work on characters and dialogues, provided that he has skills for that.
In general, game levels can be more content-oriented or logic-oriented. If the latter, a game designer could handle the level creation process as well.
Concept artist/Texture artist
In the middle of the game development process, concept artists are less busy with concepts as the majority of them have been developed by the date. Surely, the art is required throughout the entire project duration, but most likely they will be able to use some free time to work on the object’s textures.
3D artist/3D animator
If a 3D artist has enough perception of how the animations should work, he can handle the 3D animator’s task as well.
Sound engineer/Any person from Design or Production Departments
Several persons can prepare sounds for game objects, provided they have enough skills and imagination to choose appropriate sounds from royalty-free libraries as indie game studios most likely won’t be looking to create unique sounds. It is important, though, that the final sounds are integrated into the project by a single person (or, at least, following the guidelines), so that all requirements in terms of data formats, loudness, compression, etc. are compiled.
Game developer/Render engineer
The developers can and should share their activities with each other because this improves the general code quality of the project. At least one person in the team should be able to optimize game performance in addition to writing “MonoBehaviors”.
Project manager/Release and infrastructure manager
Project manager’s only duty is to make sure everyone gets what he requires at the right time. Synchronization between teams is the most crucial part of project management activities in game development. And the sad truth is that even in small teams people cannot organize themselves. Which is why project managers are usually very busy on such projects, but if they know how the game dev industry works, they can easily find time to perform release management activities.
How Not to Combine Roles
This rule is really simple: don’t combine roles from different departments in a single person! So what are the most dangerous combinations? Well, here’s our infamous top 5 list:
Let’s be honest, most of the artists are bad developers just as well as developers are not good enough in drawing to produce production-ready resources.
Game developers are very bad testers because there is a technical excuse for each bug making the issue “not exactly a bug”.
With rare exceptions, a game designer who starts coding his ideas faces difficulties implementing certain approach so he tries to simplify that approach, which leads to original ideas transformation, and the end product is absolutely not the same as was planned. That happened because game designer also had to respect his developer interests.
Project manager/Production/Design department
A project manager has to be really independent when resolving the issues. No personal favorites should be involved. Make him code or draw and you instantly get favorite department, which gets a special attitude.
2D artist/3D artist
This was discussed a bit previously but should be remarked that 2D artist and 3D artist, in theory, can be a single person, but generally it is a bad idea to put this person on one project. This can lead to concepts being overly simplified (for easier further modeling), and simplified looks don’t exactly do a good job for every project.
So we tried to give you some recipes for reducing the chances of failure. Just remember that trying to make a decent game with 3 people won’t give any good results. A good game dev team is a must if you want to create a worthy game.
Let us know in the comments what you think.
Till next time.