March 17, 2018

Devblog #5: How To Make Your Profit Share Project A Success

Greetings Legends!
This week, we've got Eric Boosman who is going to chat about successfully building a profit share project with a team!

Dark Tonic is a profit share only dev team.  Some of you knew this, most don't.

In this series of posts I'm going to talk about how to keep a profit share team together, tools we use to make it work, and things to avoid.

But first...

Who am I and why should you care?

You can read a bit about my background on our team page, but the relevant info is I was mod team member #4 for a small remote group working on racing games, which I helped build up into a team that spawned 2 pro dev studios, today known as SimBin Studios, creators of GT Legends, the GTR series, and the Raceroom series of games; and Slightly Mad Studios, creators of Need for Speed: SHIFT 1 & 2, and Project CARS.

I wore a lot of hats, but my primary role was Art Director, then Designer, and Creative Director.

Additionally, I founded Dark Tonic several years ago which has released two high quality games for iOS and Android, and a few must-have Asset Store plugins for the Unity game engine.  All were created on a profit share basis.  We're now knee-deep in our most ambitious project by far, Legends of the Brawl, which is shaping up very nicely.

Potentially relevant bonus info: I played in several garage bands in Seattle after high school, and if you've ever been in a band, you know that a special bond is created that makes you love each other and possibly want to murder each other.

Now then, if you take nothing else way from what I write, just remember this, and you'll do fine:

Pro-Tip #1: Don't be an a-hole!

It seems like such a simple concept, and it is, but I swear to you, it is the most common mistake people make in indie teams, in creative endeavors, and in life in general.  We're all taught the golden rule as a kid and if we all simply followed this one concept, the world would be so much better.

Be fair.  Check your ego.  Treat people with respect.  Give the benefit of the doubt.

Why?  I'm about to tell you why:

Pro-Tip #2: Keep Morale High

Your profit share indie team or volunteer effort of any sort is guaranteed to fail if morale breaks down.

If people aren't happy or feeling rewarded and fulfilled, they won't want to spend time doing whatever it is you're doing.  People will put up with a lot of crap if there's a paycheck guaranteed at the end of the week, but if there's no paycheck?  People will disappear from the project, just like you would.

So, how do you keep morale high?  Step 1: see Pro-Tip #1.  Step 2: keep people happy.

Now, keeping people happy doesn't mean trying to cater to everyone's whims, it means providing an environment where they will feel respected, valued, rewarded, and fulfilled.  This only comes from understanding who they are and what they truly enjoy.

Here are some things you can put into action immediately:
  1. Fulfilled - Ask your team members individually, if they could work on any specific part of the project or do any specific task, what would it be?

    You might find out a concept artist really loves to make visual effects, or an animator would rather do the rigging than the animation.  By molding someone's tasks to the stuff they most enjoy, that's a great way to keep them happily productive, and happy, engaged people produce great work.
  2. Respected - Show up to meetings on time.  Apologize when things don't go as you intended.  Be honest.  Understand life happens and don't make people feel guilty about missing a deadline.  Give the benefit of the doubt and assume people want to do their best.  Truly listen to what teammates say and try to understand their point of view.
  3. Rewarded & Valued - Make sure to give plenty of praise and mentions of appreciation.  Listen to ideas and feelings.  Allow everyone to contribute creative input in any area.

    Even if a deliverable isn't quite perfect, be mindful that time & effort went into their work, and be appreciative of that.  Always be constructive with feedback and give specific steps to improve something if needed.

All that said, volunteer work, profit share work, and remote work isn't for everyone.  Not everyone's personality type is suited to it, and even when it is, life can get in the way.

In the next installment, I'll talk about how to recognize warning signs of potential problems and minimize the pain of losing a contributor.

- Eric

That's it for this week's post. Next week, we will be hearing from Hailey Anuscavage about painting textures on 3D objects!

Thanks for tuning in! 

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