So you've got this fantastic idea for a project that you've been jotting down for weeks! You've scribbled out volumes of notes trying to refine your idea and you finally feel like you're ready to get started. Only problem is that you have no idea where to start; your art looks like that of a 5th grader, you don't know the difference between usr and src, and your mapping skills stop at the flood tool.

It's official: You need help.

No problem! You'll just post an ad in the Classified section of the forums and you'll have resumes and people banging on your inbox to worship your almighty design skills! BUT WAIT! Stop! Don't type anything! I can already read what you're about to write and I have some news for you: Your advertising sucks! You'll never get anyone interested on your project with an ad like that, but fortunately for you, mama Kats is here to help, sugar.

I'm going to help you fix that ratty, old ad and teach you how to turn it into a juicy piece of modern literature that's collective awesome will attract promising developers with the pure power of electromagnetic badassery.

Without further ado: Here is my 3 core tips on common advertising misconceptions and how to suck less.

#1 "My project is top secret! I can't let any of my precious ideas be leaked!"

Survey says... That's a fat-flaring negative, Ghost Rider! If people have no idea what your project is about, they're not going to be interested in it. Period. Let me lay something pretty heavy on you for a second. It's going to be tough to hear, but it's important for you to know that... nobody cares about your idea.

Seriously, not a single person out there gives one, microscopic internet about the details of your game. I promise. Your game is not worth secrecy. In-fact. Secrecy is why no one knows about your game enough to inquire about working on it with you. If you want people to take you seriously, you have to give them details:

Questions that should be answered:
  • What is the main genre of the game?
  • What mechanics does the core gameplay surround?
  • What kind of atmosphere will the game have?
  • Will it be narrative-driven in any aspect?
  • How many players is the game intended for?
  • [Insert other important details here]

People want to know what your game is about. What kind of project you're working on. You want to give them enough information that it gets them motivated and excited that you really want to get this project off the ground!

Also, make sure the people sending their information to you have a reliable way of contacting you. It's perfectly fine to deal in phone numbers and emails. I personally don't work with people who aren't comfortable with having my cellphone number and vice versa. If we're going to work together, I like being able to shoot you a quick text about something or be able to conference call without relying on being with my computer at all times.

"Well, I told people it was an original fantasy RPG. I really don't want to say more because of how secret and awesome it's going to be, so that should be good enough."

Incorrectomundo, Senor Soup Stain!

Congrats on the vivid descriptor! My mind is swarming with imagery of rolling hills, epic forests and haunting mountain chasms! It's so crystal clear, you'd almost think I was being sarcastic. Nice use of adjectives there, Tolkien.

But, in all seriousness, if all you give people to work with is an "original fantasy RPG", then you've guaranteed to set yourself up for complete and udder(moo) failure.

Now, with all of this being said, I will admit that there's rarely ever a need to divulge one certain piece of a game openly to everyone in an advertisement: the story. A game's storyline (if it has one) should be captivating and refreshing. We don't want to know spoilers, we don't want a premature setup other than maybe a short logline of the overall plot, just to give a sense of direction, and we certainly don't need a 24-paragraph synopsis of it either. For the love of C'thulhu, TL;DR.

I hope I've driven this point home, so please, if your ad is less than 3-4 paragraphs in length with little-to-no details about the gameplay itself, just don't post it. M'kay?

#2 "I can't pay you right now, but if you help me, I'll make you an admin and if the game makes money, you'll get a cut of the profits!"

This comes down to a simple token of: be upfront with potential clients. Either promise compensation or don't. Don't teeter-totter on "maybe"s and "if"s. The people coming to you are doing you a service by offering theirs, so please, for the love of all that is holy: don't disrespect them by pulling that crap.

We get it, not everyone has the funding to produce a AAA game. That's fine, but please don't act like a job after a job is any kind of reward. Not sure if you know this or not, but being a game administrator is work. It shouldn't be some in-game power fantasy. Administrators are the customer service for the game, handling customer issues, complains and questions. That is their job and rarely, if ever, do they get compensated for it.

Now, if you do plan on paying for someone's service, don't do anyone the disservice of lowballing their prices. $50 in programming is going to get you some minor bugfixing and code profiling, not a full-blown RPG framework. $50 in art assets is going to be a handful of sprite sheets of moderate quality and maybe some extra doodles thrown in. You'll be lucky to get anything animated worth a damn. Most artists are not animators and you shouldn't expect the animation quality from a pure artist to be anything astounding.

If you're going to offer compensation, standard rates should be no less than about ~$4-5/hour for a hobbyist who will be relatively reliable. If you want someone who can work on nothing but your game full-time, expect to pay at least $500 weekly. That's what a living wage is like for many people. Any less than that is just insulting and their programming simply won't be able to warrant working on your project full-time in lieu of other work to make ends meet.

Another tidbit is that if you're planning on hiring anyone for your project, don't do so until you've spoken to other people in the field about exactly what you're wanting to accomplish. They'll be able to help you work out an estimated time-frame that someone like what you're asking for should be completed in. If your project is estimated at around 180 hours of programming to get going, have the budget in mind to pay a programmer for at least 180 hours worth of work. Also, a really good way to get good developers interested in your project really fast: Offer up-front partial payment. Seriously, we have families and bills, we LOVE being able to start a project and instantly have money in the bank. It gets us fired up and excited to work with you.

If you plan on holding a full staff, just be sure than you can hold up to any agreements you make. If you offer compensation in the form of $5/hour of programming to get the game set up, that agreement should last until that person stops working for you. There's nothing worse than getting a good job, finishing it, trying to move on with your life and the owner prodding you to update the game with no extra pay. It's another one of those insulting things.

Fortunately for you, you probably won't be working with a paid team. In that case, you should expect to not be able to rely on anyone. It's simply the nature of the beast. Free game development is an at-will basis and when someone gets tired of working on your project and leaves, you shouldn't be too surprised by that. People get bored. People lose interest and there's very little you can do about that other than have enough people on staff to cover any deficiencies you might have.

That's enough on money for one-day, I'm sure. I think I've been long-winded enough and have made my point.

#3 Leading a Team

This is something that a lot of people take for granted. Too many developers think it's the easiest thing in the world to be a project leader. It's a cushy management job, right? You just sit around, telling what work everyone else needs to do and soak up the rewards, right? Well, not quite so cut-and-dry there, King George.

To effectively manage a project, you have to have an integral understanding of how the game fits together. You need to be able to identify what needs to be done and in what order to maximize workload efficiency. You should be able to write up detailed check-list for your staff to follow. Breaking up the workload into managable chunks in parts of a list makes it much easier to stay motivated, which is the main goal of the project manager.

Now, before you get too confident, understand that not everyone has the skills necessary to be a project manager. You have to have good communication skills to get your requirement across succinctly as well as being able to cut people off who are holding the project back. Have a programmer who only checks in once a week with minimal work done or a pile or excuses? Sorry, but someone's got to let them go. Respectfully, of course, but there's no sense in hanging onto dead weight, and unfortunately, too many people don't have the heart to outright fire someone.

If you yourself don't have the skills to lead a team effectively, consider bringing one on board to help guide your project in the right direction. More often than not, a project lead's experience can even help you identify problem mechanics and help you refine the overall design of the game, which will give you a much more polished product at the end of the day.

If you do plan on leading your own team, then you should already have a tasklist completed. How else would you know what all you need to complete your game? Just something else to think about while you set up to knock it out!

Closing Remarks

Well, this post was a gimungus cluster-fart, but hopefully at least one person is going to read this and not suck as much as they were... or they might, I don't know, I only worked in sales and marketing for a couple years, so I probably know jack shiitake, to be honest. If you found with informative. Hurray. If you thought it was funny, post "Lol" or some anti-Semitic comment, either one works. If you hated it, post your primary mailing address so I know where to send these industrial sized straws to... so you can suck it up.

Oh, and if you read it and thought, "This doesn't apply to me, I do what I want!" then I sincerely hope you're awoken one night by the goopy sweat of Nicholas Cage's ballsack as it drags across your forehead in the pitch darkness while he mutters quotes from the National Treasure movies.

Love you all <3 XOXO #SuperflyTNT
A lot of folks 'round here need to take notes from point #1. All too often I come across a one-liner ad that says, "Need [so-and-so] for project, contact me for details!", or something to that effect, and guess what? Paid or not, I automatically pass over it.

Good read though.
In response to FKI
FKI wrote:
A lot of folks 'round here need to take notes from point #1. All too often I come across a one-liner ad that says, "Need [so-and-so] for project, contact me for details!", or something to that effect, and guess what? Paid or not, I automatically pass over it.

In response to RoxasX-San
i have a question for you

is there two sword art online games being made because i believe i seen sword art ascension and sword art accent
I'm the designer and programmer for Soul Ascent Online.
GreatPirateEra wrote:
They're one and only. The developers decided to go on an original route after receiving feedback from their fanbase. They're still inspired by SAO, however.
On topic, quite a lot of 'developers' on byond could benefit a lot from reading this post.
oh ok and why do you say inspired sao isnt it supposed to be sao?
Alien, do not bring off-topic stuff into this post. This is intended as ad awareness, not a Q&A box. Thank you.
Actually kinda proud of the Classified's section right now. First post I've seen for hiring someone actually has some substance and detail to the work needing done. Two thumbs up for people paying attention!
OneManArmy ftw
I have a cute story about point #1.

Back in high school, I never told anyone I was a game developer. During my senior year I was sitting next to one of the few people I would have conversations with and he hinted at wanting to go to Full Sail ( although he couldn't afford it obviously, we're from the hood ) because he wanted to create a first-person shooter game inspired by Tom Clancy's series of games.

I asked him more about the project ( because I was going to offer help based on the details he gave me ) and immediately he went into this "MUST NOT REVEAL ANY PRECIOUS INFORMATION, GAME IDEA DEFENSES ACTIVATED" mode and just started giving me really vague answers like "yeah, something like that." Me, having experience making games as well as connections to gaming publishers, could've pointed him in the right direction and even worked with him on the game, but I didn't press the issue.

If he wanted to go into full paranoid mode about his Tom Clancy knockoff game, that was fine with me. He never went to Full Sail and never made the game BTW. But yeah, if you're looking for help, at some point you gotta spill the beans, no one ( especially professionals who do this for a living ) are going to sit there and listen to you say "I AIN'T GIVIN YOU NO DETAILS" over and over. I'm not even a professional and even I ain't got no time for dat. If I'm in a discussion about anything project related and one guy is like, "sorry but I can't disclose anything about my top secret million dollar idea" I'm just going to conclude you're a retard and end the talk right there.
In response to Kats
sorry bout that
Yeah, people have this adorable, naive concept that ideas are valuable, when ideas are a dime a dozen on a good day. It's actual implementations or demonstrations that have value, as they indicate the ability to produce something. Any fool with an eighth of a brain can come up with an idea.
It's just like... people think that they're so unique with these concepts and they're just rehashes of something existing or blatant ripoffs. Everyone's so worried about being original that no one stops to think what might be fun.
Trueeeeee. Most of the time they think it's 'original' but clearly isn't and has obvious rehashed ideas. Which isn't bad in my opinion but what they don't understand is they need to think of a way to make said rehashed ideas better and more fun then how it was implemented previously.
As nice as this is to find, I feel as if I've tried all of these things and still have no luck with finding a team.

Rather, I occasionally find... "help", but the lot of them seem to never do anything. It's not like I'm down there backs, cracking a whip, demanding something be done everyday, but I'd like to think that after 1 week, even if it's not completed, you could at least say, "yeah, I started something", or something along those lines. Hell, sometimes, I even gave them 2 or 3 weeks to produce something, but still get nothing but excuses. Instead, usually, I end up making long, detailed lists of what a person may need to do, even making sure every function / component which may be connected to their task is fully functional (like having all the turfs needed for a mapper), but they still do nothing.

This is something that has happened on more occasions than I care to count, leading me to just end up being a "one-man team" of sorts. It's longer and more tedious - Especially when you can't icon and have to rely on things like IconShare and Icon Bay (which by the way, seem to really only have resources for anime-themed games; more specifically, DBZ), but I somehow get by.... Somehow.

*Aherm* - Got any pointers for that though? Finding an actual able team, instead of just... Lazy people?
In response to Yoren
Yoren wrote:
As nice as this is to find, I feel as if I've tried all of these things and still have no luck with finding a team.

Finding programmers on BYOND is easy.

If you want an artist, try searching off of BYOND. I find good artists within 24 hours easily. Sound, pixel, and 3d artists. You just have to look in the right spots.
In response to Xirre
Xirre wrote:
If you want an artist, try searching off of BYOND. I find good artists within 24 hours easily. Sound, pixel, and 3d artists. You just have to look in the right spots.

Care to point me in the direction for that then? Because, quite frankly, I've no idea where to even start.

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