4 things you really need to make an amateur computer game.

If, like me, you are an Amateur Game Designer you should follow some advice that I have found to be really really important.  Whatgamesare.com says it best.  You need four coders.  When I started the ZoRTS project my instinct was to keep the team small because controlling lots of people seemed beyond my ability.  Over the course of the project I have experienced reasons why this was a bad idea.

For some projects four coders might appear to be overkill.  Too many team members can feel like scope creep.  An amateur team with 4 coders, 1 music, 2 artists, 1 project manager is a big group.  8 people seems like a lot.  My suggestion to you is “Suck it up” and get four coders.   It’s doubly important in an amateur game design setting because real life is going to have a much larger impact on the scheduling of the members and therefore the project.  You have no carrot, and no stick to motivate the team.  You need 4 coders because real life is going to knock a few of them out for some amount of time in your project.

Professionals can, of course, get away with many fewer people and still develop great titles…  But they have the advantage of having created games in the past (for money).  When designing with Amateurs you have to account for their unproven status.  Work quality could be unpredictable.  Timing can be worse than unpredictable.

When a company produces a game they have a captive workforce.  An employee is ideally available daily, while a volunteer project member could be able to work on the project weekly or even monthly.  They are motivated by pay to sit at their desks and get the job done.  In an amateur project the threat of firing someone who doesn’t meet their deadlines is less effective negative reinforcement.  

Finding someone that is extremely interested in a personal way in the project will ensure that they produce stuff for the project.  Getting kicked off a team may be a great negative motivator, if they are personally very interested in the project.  On the other hand someone who is very motivated to be on the project most likely is not missing their deadlines.

So get four coders to allow for real life changes.  Set deadlines and goals.  Doing these things ahead of time to prevent disasters later.  Do you have any neat tricks to share when starting a computer game project?  Comment below.  Comment below with your opinion on how many people an amateur project should have.

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