The Right People

Posted on February 24, 2015 by Shibusuke

It seems impossible that it’s already mid-February. Time flies when you’re madly developing, huh?

One quick update: over the last few months, we’ve made some incredible progress on Zombie Playground. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but anyone who has been following the game’s development and is looking forward to its release should definitely keep an eye out for our next Kickstarter update.

Our progress on Zombie Playground (and on Shroud as well) comes in large part from a piece of advice that comes up frequently on Gamasutra, and which I first really understood when it was told to me by a colleague who had started his own business and raised it into a successful company. What was it? Put in the effort up front to wade through whatever tax regulations and contracts, and hire the right people with the right talent, wherever they are in the world.

Like many others, I thought that hiring the right people was a given but had never had to deal with what goes into that process - and I’m still learning. When faced with a mire of international tax law, contracts, and payment transfers, it is tempting to write off hiring or collaborating internationally, especially when the time required to seek out and find the right person is already immense: it can feel overwhelming when trying to think on the scale of the entire planet.

However, the value of a solid team and strong relationships far outweighs the inconvenience of having to read through page after page of income tax conventions (excuse me while I fall asleep at the memory), and a quick Google search will provide numerous resources on why finding the right people are so important.

Still, I’ve encountered reluctance to look beyond borders or (perceived) language/cultural barriers. The concerns are valid: what if we can’t communicate what we want, or they don’t understand? Won’t the contract be complicated? What if it doesn’t work out and we can’t do anything about it because they’re in another country? Those are all terrifying, especially as a young business.

Just getting Abyssal Arts off the ground required an enormous amount of research (and bothering knowledgeable colleagues) about international tax agreements, employee contracts, employer obligations, and so on. I had a background in contracts and negotiations, so this part was probably a bit easier for me than others who may not have worked in this area before (the wave of seriousness that washed over my art friends whenever the word “contract” was uttered was always priceless).

Trust is the other key factor. In my experience, if the other party doesn’t seem trustworthy or reliable, it is probably best not to pursue the relationship. If they are honest and dependable, rather than linguistic, cultural, or legal hurdles, any problem-solving that does occur is more likely to be for the sake of the game than anything else.

With all that said, it can be done. While it does not make for exciting reading, actively planning ahead to figure out the necessary setup (especially for international collaboration) and then seeking professional advice saved Abyssal Arts a lot of time and service fees. Thanks to careful preparation and research, there were only minor headaches involved in the process, and waiting for us on the other side of the bureaucratic tunnel was full-fledged independent development!

And then there’s the biggest reward: our team. One of the reasons we’ve been able to make the strides that we have over the last few months is that we established a solid team of talented, self-motivated people, right from the outset, despite being dispersed across 3 different regions (it also helped to have a great project to work on.)

In our case, the upfront investment of time was more than worth the long-term benefits of building our little team. The flexibility and determination that is driving our development process applies equally to all other aspects of what we’re doing, and has enabled us to avoid compromising on the most important part of any project - the people.

The takeaway is to learn what you need now, so that when you find that perfect team member, the one who is as inspired by your project as you are, wherever they are and whoever they are, you are prepared to bring them on board right away. Don’t let concerns about paperwork and regulations stop you from working together - it may be frustrating or confusing, but it can be overcome, and the end result is definitely worth it!

Abyssal Arts is currently a co-developer on Zombie Playground as well as developer of Shroud, where we are preparing to practice what we preach in the search for art staff.