The Issues behind “Community Game Projects”
March 6, 2010
Across several Game Maker forums we have seen the creation of “Community Game” projects. The most widely-participated in of these by far has been the “GMCG”, started by grimmjow. Other smaller-scale projects include NOD‘s still unnamed Game Project, NODs first game project which died and 64 Digits’ (now dead) game.
Although the idea is plausible and there are always lots of volunteers in the beginning the initial thrill wears off in just a few short weeks. If a strong group is not built up by then the projects slowly deteriorate until it is just a small group of elite leaders that are talking to the wall. Here is a look at just a few of the many problems that plague these so called “Community Games”.
1. Lack of proper leadership
Although from the outside it just looks like the position with all the glory and the honor (and the mod powers!), the leadership position plays a very critical role in the overall out come of the game. Too often the leaders of these projects are relatively inexperienced in creating games, much less leading a group of lots of people. More experienced members who would have the knowledge and technical know-how to run such a project realize all the responsibility involved and generally tend to run in the opposite direction.
2. If you want it that way then why not you do it?
A problem I have encountered in many of the games out there is large groups making decisions, that are generally not their business. For example, why should the sprite makers and artists choose what program the sound and music crew must use to make music? It doesn’t really affect them. The musicians, who are hopefully experienced in their field should be able to make a decision themselves, independently from the rest of the community. Why should the people outside the music department get a say in something that does not affect them, but it will affect the musicians, and possibly make them leave.
3. Activity Levels
The activity and devotion of members in the project is easily one of the top deciding factors in the overall speed of the game. As with most projects (including community games) activity and enthusiasm is always exuberant in the beginning of the game. Unfortunately after the initial rush activity levels start to diminish. This is partially because people get bored with the game or perhaps just wanted to see how it is progressing without contributing. It could also be because at the beginning of the project, there is not a lot which can be done. Leadership roles are still being established and story lines are being written. The challenge is having something for everyone at all times that people can work on.
Another interesting angle that the GMCG is taking is to name a weekly “Top Contributer”. They are also thinking of awarding actual prizes to members as a way of saying thanks as well as an incentive to other members. However, we have yet to see a prize given out. I find this also very true with media groups that try to produce weekly or monthly projects. Viewers like the idea initially, but since they only want to tune in (or read it as the case may be) now and then, the people that run it get discouraged after and give up.
4. Group Decisions
Although some game projects just set up a monarchy and have one person call all the shots, that doesn’t really hold with the spirit of a community game. Alternatives include having a small group of “leaders” that make decisions for members, or having all-out community votes. Unfortunately community votes take lots of time and that can bore members that just want to work on the game. One of the alternatives to having votes or monarchs is to have community discussions or “meetings” if you will. The people that are working on the game will all go on a set chat room at a predetermined time and discuss the aspects of the game, as well as the pros and cons of new ideas. One of the downfalls though is that people are spread out over many timezones and have different schedules which makes it hard for everyone to get their fair say.
As with many group events, there are always people that sit on the sideline and watch before they jump in and do it. While having “contributor of the week” and giving out cash (or other forms of) prizes are good, that is not always enough to get people to join in. Group leaders need to think of creative ways to get these people “off the bleachers” (or computer chairs in this case) and into the project.