Too many cooks spoil the broth

posted by pschichtel | 27 April 2017

Hi fellow gamedevs,

I'm part of Banana4Life, a team consisting of @rahtainka, @faithcaio, @jqnas and me. We made the small horror-ish game "Where Is Mommy?":

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One thing we noticed during the development of the game (or more precisely nearing the end of the jam): We produced a lot more and higher quality content in a shorter time span compared to our previous Ludum Dare appearances. During the last Jam we had three additional team members working on the game, yet we barely managed to publish the game in time. This time we easily finished several hours before the submission hours and had an overall better game.

This made us think about what went wrong last time, because our process stayed largely the same. In my opionon, there are two possible reasons, why this might have happened:

  1. Management overhead: Intuitively more developers would mean more work can be done and in theory that is probably true. However the larger the team gets, the more difficult it becomes to keep everyone on track with the project. Everyone needs to have a common vision of the game and everyone needs to be roughly aware of what others are doing. Communicating the vision and work will consume more time as the team size increases. Failing to communicate will most likely result in slowdowns due to duplicate work, merge conflicts and will lead to a distorted end result.

  2. Experience gap: Our core team (the previously mentioned people) work pretty well together and we have already participated in four previous Ludum Dare jams together (more in other constellations). Our mode was always the same: One artist working on visual assets, one artist working on acoustic assets, two programmers working on the logic and game/level design shared across all four (we generally make all our assets from scratch). The three new guys were unexperienced in game jams as well as with the technical platform (Unity3d). This lead understandably to a lot of questions which in turn took a lot of time away from the more experienced members. Additionally a lot of communication, which normally happens implicitly in the small team, did not happen across the entire team which lead to more confusion and slow downs.

For us, four people actively working on the game seems to be the sweet spot with maybe one additional member for some dedicated task (e.g. UI).

I'd like to hear your opinions and experiences on the topic: Do you work in teams? How big is your team?

And of course opinions on the game are just as welcome.