Game dev coffee chat

The art of having different opinions

Our last post touched on stagnation and progress. We highlighted some issues in our decision making process and introduced some steps we’ve since taken in order to improve it. Decision making plays also an important role in this post.

Indies are free, markets are not

As indie devs, we have the freedom to express ourselves within our art. Freedom is something that we at Brakesoft have always valued. Brakesoft is built with individual expression in mind, while also providing the support and motivation of team work. Nothing we do is just for Brakesoft, but for everybody who works with this project. In other words, this is equally everybody’s game. Hence, we encourage open discussion and transparent decision making, ensuring that each and every member feels valued and appreciated. 

Nonetheless, when you put a group of independent workers together you’re bound to get some differing opinions. Each of one the members is bound to have their own ideas how the art should be expressed and what would be the best method to do something.  Finding the common path for the project isn’t always a straightforward process. During this project, we have noticed that it’s actually easier to be on the same page when it comes to the major game design decisions and elements. Instead, it’s the seemingly tiny details that sometimes are the most dividing ones.

In our case, one of these tiny team-dividing details occurred when we were designing our play button. It’s no surprise that we each had our own opinion of what a play button should look like. However, there were also some things we all agreed upon. We all wanted the play button to be something simple, yet interesting. Play buttons need to make an impact as most often they’re one of the first things a player sees inside the game. The play button also ties in our need to stand out from the crowd.

New games are born every single day. Players have more choices at their expense than ever before. Churn-over is incredibly high and every developer is trying their hardest to attract some of those famous whales. Entering in this over-capacitated market requires dedication, innovation, hard work and a dash of luck. Or, lots and lots of money, a truly rare resource for most indie devs. The reality is, most small developers’ give everything they have just to reach the first hundred downloads.

Entering this market is no mean feat. It requires a solid amount of bravery, luck and skill, not forgetting hard work. Alas, enter we must, and with a product we can be proud of. But, when everybody has different goals, unity isn’t always easy to achieve.

Majority and minority

This story begins, when our talented 3D artist created a couple play button variables. The majority of the team undeniably loved the design and the overall feel of a pink play button. With nine against one, the result was arguably in favour of the pink play button. Yet, one more twist waited for us. 

The company hierarchy at Brakesoft has always been low and this has also affected the voting system. We base our decision making on majority votes. Even in cases, where the result hasn’t been unanimous, this has never caused any issues within the team. However, occasionally there are some decisions that the top management may have to overrule for the sake of Brakesoft’s long term goals. Coincidentally, this apparently minor detail about the play button’s color story eventually turned out to be one of those situations. Hence, for the first time in Brakesoft’s history, the majority vote didn’t count. Instead, the vote’s result was overruled by the top management.

Pink Play button which was trashed

Arguably, this is fairly common when it comes to larger companies. Often those who sit at the top get the final say, and those who are at the bottom can only obey or leave.

For the first time, a voting and its result caused a tiny drift within the team. It no longer could be argued that we all had an equal say to how the project moves onward. As a result, we now needed to compromise our freedom to create for the project’s overall progress. Alternatively, we could just spend all of our time debating what color the play button should be. Thus, eventually stalling the entire production.

A choice had to be made, and we chose to move forward.

Finding a new path together

We communicated our thoughts and feelings. Each side brought up their perspectives. The art team and the marketing team both argued that the pink color supported our overarching color theme. On the other hand, the top management argued and eventually decided that the pink play button could deviate some potential players away from our game. Ultimately, we chose to move onward from the pink play button and decided to pursue an entirely new color theme, which pleases the entire team.

From this event, we have learned that even the tiniest details can have major impacts on the project. Communication is important, but it could be argued that listening skills are equally crucial for sustainable progression and development. For the project’s development, it’s important that the opinions both for and against are heard and taken into account. This requires strong leadership and communication skills. Additionally, it also requires respecting each other and valuing different opinions. Flexibility and open discussion pave the way for a successful indie dev management.

In the end, even if we are a group of independent workers, we’re not alone. We’re a team. And at the end of the day, we’ll find a way to continue forward, together.

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