Building a development collective
Usually independent developers and small development teams don’t have access to the same resources as large companies. Nevertheless, teaming up with other developers they can increase their reach, leverage their existing resources and find new collaborators for their projects. However, larger collectives imply more complex challenges, so reviewing a panel discussion from the members of LA’s Glitch City collective might provide some hints on where to start.
Where to start?
In the last GDC Next 2014 Teddy Diefenbach (Game Designer at Heart Machine), Akira Thompson (Game Designer at RainBros), Asher Vollmer (Independent Game Developer), Sam Farmer (Independent Game Developer) and Benjamin Esposito (Founder at Little Flag) covered how a group of independent developers built a development collective (Glitch City) highlighting its benefits for indie developers.
All the panel members highlighted that joining a development collective offered them a unique opportunity to build a support network as indie developers while at the same time still being able to work each of them on their individual projects. Such development collectives allow their members to share the different challenges they have to face during the development phases of their apps or video games and, therefore, receive feedback from their fellows on how to overcome those challenges. Such challenges can range from technical to business ones (e.g. what is the best tool or approach to use to reach certain goal in the functionality or module they are developing; or validating and discussing business ideas and monetization issues).
In such development collectives there might be a set of different dynamics between the developers of such communities oriented to help each other. As the panelists shared – the main value of such dynamics is that they offer the opportunity to share and provide know-how to other developers on an altruistic base. This trust based relationship allows video game and software/apps developers to overcome on an individual base the challenges they face in a very competitive environment and, therefore, such development collectives seems to be effective ecosystems to ensure the survival of its members that, otherwise, might not be that successful.
How to get into such development collective?
Usually, the way to access such communities is through a screening process of the new members that would like to join such collective and the criteria are usually based on seeking complimentary profiles that could enrich the community. Initially the starting size of the community might vary but it is usually below 10 developers. After several years such communities might grow up to 15 or 20 developers, but apparently there seems to be a limit in the growth potential of such ecosystems as the relationship between its members is kept on an informal and friendly level, so due to a lack of formal mechanisms to handle such groups, too large communities become unmanageable. Moreover, one of the key elements for such development collectives to succeed seems to be the fact that each member is expected to bring to the community their contacts, skills and ideas and the development collective is expected to organize regular community events (e.g. brainstorming, group updates on who is doing what) to keep everyone up to date with what is happening, so personal and professional fit plays a significant role for such development collectives to be successful.