Thursday, 5 November 2009

The dull side of it - Part 1.

"Jens, I really need to read an email, but the email queue is taking forever to download! It's some guy named Brian that has sent a huge file as an attachment, probably 1MB. If not more!"

The other day I came to think of the above situation, when my dear father was in the need to read some email on the family computer back in 1997/1998. A few days earlier I had come in contact with a fellow named Brian Greenstone who was working on a freeware game and had asked on a game news site if anyone was interested in helping him. I volunteered to try and make some music. I was 18 and studying music during my final year of high school, with a life-long interest in games I thought this was a good opportunity to combine the two interest of mine. We discussed over email and he sent me the test builds of the game as simple attachments and I in turn sent my attempts at writing music back. My family had a 14.4 Kbps or maybe a 28.8 Kbps modem and sending and downloading those attachments took a little while... But that was how Brian worked with his game (and the following games too!), all content, as far as I know, was passed back and forth between the people working on the game using nothing but email.

As I thought about it I figured that maybe some interesting blog material could be found here. So, a couple of blog posts will take a look at how we have organized it here at Frictional and hopefully give a tip or two to those in a similar situation. To kick it all off I'm going to quickly go through how the company deals with daily communication among its members.

Frictional consist of five people, four live in Sweden, one in Spain and we do not have an office or place where we regular meet. We do all the work on our games from our homes and by using typical programs and technologies, all which are free. Much like other companies our work hours are from 8 in the morning to 5 in the evening and it is required that you are online on MSN during that period so that it is easy to get in touch with each other. While we also talk over the phone and through email, MSN is our main tool for daily communication. The exception is on Fridays when we meet up over Skype for our weekly meetings. The general idea is that news regarding the company (perhaps we have had a successful weekend sale) is shared to all the members and that all members do a quick "This I have done lately" presentation.

We split up our work in three week periods, where two weeks are the main period to work on a certain task and the third week is an extra week. The extra week is used to make sure there is time to compensate, should a task have had some problem or taken longer than two weeks. If anyone managed to finish within two weeks, the third week is used to work on some special assignment, usually something that is a bit more interesting and fun than the normal tasks. Should it be me, perhaps I spent two weeks making footstep sounds for 5 types of surfaces and on the third week I can instead work on making the sounds for a monster (which should be more interesting than walking on surfaces). On the Monday and the end of every three week period we have a "Show and tell" meeting on Skype where everyone has documented what they have done during the week and everyone can test it out (some gameplay, a new editor feature, new level etc). We spend 1-2 hours testing each others work, write down feedback and pass it to the creator, followed by the voice meeting where we give the most important feedback and discuss it.

That's pretty much it, only put on repeat! There is more work with the actual organisation and project planning, all the work that relates to who does what when and so on, but that would make this darn long. For next post I'll talk about the system we use for file sharing, we have used the same system since 2006 and have had some different solutions on where it has been hosted.


  1. Very interesting! I would like to see more articles about how do you organize your work and communication. Thanks!

  2. Do you guys know about Google Wave? It might help you a lot.
    If you don't know, you can search in YouTube for Google Wave and a lot of instructional videos will appear. In short is a collaboration/messeging/email tool (yes, all combined) that is suppose to be "what email would have been had it been created today" - Quote from Google.

    It is still in preview so getting it will take a while (but I have 18 nominations and I don't mind giving 5 up to you).

    If you are interested, my email is

  3. Indeed, Finsternis, I think that Wave could be very useful for smaller projects and groups like this. However, once you get your team up to a certain size I suspect that working in the same physical location is really the only way to make communication truly effective.

  4. Yeah I have been wanting to test Wave but have not been offered a invite until now ;) Will drop a mail!

    We have tried similar system in the past, they all sound good on paper but usually the end result has been a mess. I remember that during the course we took, when we worked on the Penumbra Tech Demo, had a system that was horrible. It clogged down the whole computer with files among other things. But, Google usually do it right when others do it wrong (at least their Internet approach will guarantee no mess of files on the computer!).

  5. The dull side of it?? This article was really interesting!

    I love reading about the inner workings of game designers. I especially didn't expect you guys to use MSN as a main way to communicate, but now that I think of it, its perfect.

    And I really like the 3 week plan you guys have going. A good way to work though goals.

    Look forward to reading more on these topics!

  6. Very interesting post(and blog!) can't wait for the next one about filesharing.

  7. So, if you use Skype anyways, why use that scary MSN at all? Esp. with the new screen sharing feature in Skype, remote collaboration is even more effective?