Friday 29 June 2012

A bad kind of competition

A short blogpost this time, with a small but valuable lesson that we learned at Ronimo a couple of years ago.

At some point we figured it would be wise to make two artists make designs for an important character, and then from all the designs they make choose the best. At first glance this looks like a really good idea: two people will come up with a much wider range of designs and the chances of reaching something really good are a lot higher than with one artist.

However, there is a gigantic downside as well: in a sense making this design becomes a competition, and one of the two artists will lose. This can be incredibly demotivating, especially if an artists 'loses' a couple of times in a row.

So we decided to not do this again, and just give a single character to a single artist to design. That artist makes a lot of different designs, everyone can give feedback and in the end we choose from his concepts. We can still have variation and something to choose, but whatever is chosen, it is always a design by the artist working on it, so he never 'loses'.

For this same reason, we also rarely move a task to someone else when a specific artist appears stuck on it. It is often better to struggle a bit, or to let it rest for a week or so, or to get help, then to give the entire topic to someone else and see him find something cool within a day. This feels too much like someone else did a better job, and we don't want that kind of competition in our office. Of course, if someone asks for the task to be moved, then that is totally okay.

I guess some people might excel under competition and stress, but in general, I feel it is a good idea to try to keep any form of 'winning' and 'losing' outside our development process.

(Except when playing games, in which case everything else must give way for the glorious purpose of pwning n00bs.)


  1. "Lose", not "loose".

    Informative, though!

    1. Ouch, that spelling mistake makes me a sad panda... :( Fixed now!

  2. This is interesting. What is the teams hierarchy? I have the impression that Ronimo keeps everyone mainly on the same level to share design responsibility etc. as discussed previously, but it makes sense to switch and swap and manage artists. Is there a lead artist organizing this, a team or project leader or a group of you who manage the others?

    1. There are a lead artist and a lead programmer, and since we have only two game designers, there is no lead designer.

      However, with a small team it is rather easy to decide these kinds of things with everyone on roughly the same level, especially in our art team. The lead makes most of the planning, and if the team cannot reach a decision as a group, the lead gets to decide, but in general our art team doesn't really work by hierarchy. Especially since our four full-time artists are all co-founders of the company.

      In the coding team it is a bit different, since I am the only co-founder there and the four other programmers were hired well after Swords & Soldiers Wii was already released. So the coding team has a lot more hierarchy, but still, there have been cases where we made coding decisions against my opinion, because the other four programmers all disagreed with me.

  3. Great advice! I really appreciate all of the insights you have written over the years working as a small indie game developer. I currently work as a software engineer doing contract work for the US government, but continue to aspire to dabbling with indie game development myself. Learning more about the trials and efforts at Ronimo has been incredibly enriching for me.

    ( How I found your Blog )
    - PSN Offers Free Awesomenauts Demo
    - Played with significant other, completely hooked, picks up a copy
    - Several weeks of playing later, my curiosity to learn more about the development process of the game gets the better of me and I find Romnio's Forum, and a thread inside which contained a link to your blog here
    - Absolutely elated by many of your posts, regularly enjoy going through your old posts and reading, added to my daily RSS reader and always looking forward to new posts!


    1. Good to hear you like it! Writing these posts takes quite a lot of time every week, so it is nice to hear people are interested and like to read them. :)