Communication for a Long-Distance Team
William and I have been working on Punks N' Patriots for several months -- with him pushing nightly builds between his full-time Microsoft job and me scribbling bugs and fixes during every break from my studies.
Communication has always been, strangely enough, both our strength and weakness when working together. During the 48-hour game jam in which our game was created, our extremely different personalities and experiences made it hard to trust each other's judgement. It was only when I learned to trust Will with the code and he learned to trust me with the design were we able to talk constructively and share our ideas on both elements.
With that hurdle cleared, we had another to face -- how do you collaborate effectively with someone all the way across the country? Our main method of sharing information was a google document, but that method often led to misunderstandings. In one case, I noticed a bug and reported it, only for Will to implement the very same bug (thinking it was a feature I wanted).
We took to employing frequent phone and video calls to discuss features, fixes and bugs. It's not enough for a game designer to just dole out orders for their team to follow -- each involved team member should at least have a chance to give their input. For example, often I'll suggest a fix and Will will tell me he'd have to rewrite a bunch of the AI script to achieve it. While the fix might be something I wanted to test, having that information means that I can discuss other options that might take less time to code.
Our team uses the Unity Cloud sharing service to keep updated with the latest build. This has been really convenient, sending us emails with the latest PC, mac and linux versions whenever the game gets updated. This allows each of our team to not only have the latest version on hand for testers, but to be able to check older versions to see when a bug or strange behavior appeared.
Lastly, Will and I keep in contact almost every day. This doesn't mean we bother each other when we're busy or need a break, but getting into the rhythm of even thinking about Punks N' Patriots each day has definitely helped every aspect of our project.
I hope this helps any long-distance dev teams out there! Stay strong!
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