My Studio is in danger of collapse, any suggestions?

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Old 09 September 2013   #16
There's a reason a lot of entrepreneurs recommend not going into business with friends, and unfortunately you are learning that lesson first hand.

I don't really have much else to recommend to you other than you need to think of it from the perspective of what's good for the business and less about how he is a friend and your idealistic views of his actions. The point is he's fucking up, you need to find a solution that will either inspire him to continue working (whether that's motivation derived from a shared vision or straight up monetary gain) or cut him loose and find a replacement. You really only have those two options.

Statements about past friendships and loyalties go out the window when money is involved and whether you like it or not, this decision is about money. He doesn't feel you're going to gain anything and right now your potential could either be zero or a million, there's no way to tell for certain. You have to ease his monetary concerns somehow.
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Old 09 September 2013   #17
The thing is programmes make serious money in a range of industries, having a dedicated one is quite a luxury. He could probably write his own games and earn a good salary, he might just want some more experience in a larger company and not working with his friends. You guys just finished college, its a huge time of transition and unfortunately there isn't a huge amount you can do about it.

If you do break up, try to keep it amicable there is no reason why you wont meet again in another studio, you've all done well to get this far and have just graduated, try not to panic!

My suggestion would be depending on how close this current project is to completion, perhaps put all efforts in porting existing titles to other platforms, which would be much faster and give him some closer goal he can achieve. One of those might start taking off in a different ecosystem and would give you breathing room. I have heard that many good indies did not do well on XBLA so the problem might not be your games. At least then you will know if it was the game or the platform.

Last edited by conbom : 09 September 2013 at 03:33 AM.
 
Old 09 September 2013   #18
At work we recently had to can one of out top artists, because he was creating friction with our team, and our clients. In our view, unit cohesion is more important than talent.

Anyway I found an article that might interest you
How to Run An Indie Animation Studio: The Aaron Augenblick Interview
http://www.cartoonbrew.com/cartoon-...view-85490.html
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Old 09 September 2013   #19
Quote: I really hate to consider the possibility that he is just doing this to get more money from us since I had always viewed him as a friend who would sacrifice for us just as we sacrifice for him. I would really hate to think he is that kind of person.

Maybe he's burnt out. Not everybody's cut out for that kind of work. Maybe, after 4 years, it has become all about the money. After all, dreams & idealism don't pay the bills. I don't think that it makes him a bad person, but I don't think that anybody is the same now as they were 4 years ago. What we value and prioritize can change in that time, especially while you're in college. That's life.

Honestly, if he's becoming a stumbling block then he's not worth keeping around. You shouldn't have to beg him to stay, nor should he have so much power as to keep you from moving forward.

Did you ever join or start a club when you were a little kid? I did. You get all of your friends together. Everybody gets a silly title. At the end of the day, it's all just a game and nothing ever gets done. In the real world, there's a reason and rhyme to structure & organization. Titles have to mean something and carry some weight.

I'm all for collaboration and everybody having input, but there's something to be said for incorporating a top down approach. To mix my metaphors, a ship without a captain will sink and you certainly wouldn't give everybody in the car their own steering wheel. If you're president in title only then it won't work. You have to separate friendship and business, especially when you hold a greater stake.

You've already given him notice. You've already asked him to get with the program. You've tried to communicate with him. Now you've resorted to paying him off, at everybody else's expense. He has to be fine with sharing the risk as well as the reward. I don't like the idea of having to eat day old bagels just so my "partner" can eat caviar, so to speak.

IMO, it's time for him to go. If that means you legally dissolving the partnership and reincorporating under a new name without him then so be it. If it involves buying him out, either monetarily or through IP transfer, then consider that an option too. If you're at a dead end and he's going to continue to hold you back then why do you even need him?

You're just out of college. You've got guys coming out of college. You do not want to start your careers on the wrong foot. Is this REALLY the guy you want with you later on? If he's acting like this now, imagine him in 4 more years.

Clearly, he's either too burnt out or jaded to be a productive member of the team at this point. If he's going use his voting power to keep you guys down then y'all need to use yours to vote him away. Don't let him think that he's holding all of the cards. As president, you don't want him having that power. Everybody can be replaced or removed. Do it now while it's "only" $600 and the stakes aren't too high.

Originally Posted by grantmoore3d: There's a reason a lot of entrepreneurs recommend not going into business with friends, and unfortunately you are learning that lesson first hand.

Oh, yeah. Family either. I learned that the hard way years ago. It sounds nice at first, working with family, but discarding personal relationships and egos in favor of professionalism is almost impossible. One person will always try to blur the lines of propriety. It's worse than working with friends too because, at the end of the day, you've still got to see these people at holiday functions. To this day, 20 years later, I still won't work with or do work for family. I don't care who it is. Saying "no" now is a lot less painful than dealing with the sh**storms later on.
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Last edited by cookepuss : 09 September 2013 at 03:44 AM.
 
Old 09 September 2013   #20
Wow I would love to reply to all of these posts but there are just too many. regardless, these are really some great replies everyone and i want to thank everyone for your insight on this. I read through all of them and I think each post really brings some really great points. I certainly wouldn't mind working with individuals who hold these values lol

@cookepuss; I felt your post was very good, helped me think about things in a different light. Also I wanted to say something about your quote here:
Originally Posted by cookepuss: Is this REALLY the guy you want with you later on? If he's acting like this now, imagine him in 4 more years.
If you asked me this before the summer, I would have said "absolutely!" This member and I were always on the same page, we had the same vision and we wanted to see this studio out till the end. He was probably one of the most dedicated and passionate members of the team. But after he graduated, something broke his spirit and the passionate guy I used to know just crumbled into someone who no longer cared about his promises, his team, or his passion. Considering I also care about him as a friend I wanted to find a way to help solve that but after countless times talking with him to find a solution to help get him back on his feet, I'm beginning to realize that perhaps the best course of action may be to let him go. The only problem with that is we are in the middle of our best game yet (something I believe each of us should be truly proud of) his talents lie in animation and programming and due to this unique blend, he is able to create in-game blending algorithms that make his animations seamless within the game. he is right in the middle of completing his work and if i let him go now, it would be extremely difficult to find a person who is equally skilled in both fields to be able to finish what he started essentially. him leaving now could postpone the completion of the game far beyond the time we may have. I wanted to find a way to keep him on just for this one project and just long enough for him to complete his work so that the rest of the team wont have to be stalled by his leave.

Originally Posted by RobertoOrtiz: At work we recently had to can one of out top artists, because he was creating friction with our team, and our clients. In our view, unit cohesion is more important than talent.

Anyway I found an article that might interest you
How to Run An Indie Animation Studio: The Aaron Augenblick Interview
http://www.cartoonbrew.com/cartoon-...view-85490.html

Thank you RobertoOrtiz for the link, I will definitely be reading it over tonight.

Originally Posted by conbom:
My suggestion would be depending on how close this current project is to completion, perhaps put all efforts in porting existing titles to other platforms, which would be much faster and give him some closer goal he can achieve. One of those might start taking off in a different ecosystem and would give you breathing room. I have heard that many good indies did not do well on XBLA so the problem might not be your games. At least then you will know if it was the game or the platform.

That's a very true statement and I feel that is part of the reason why our games didn't do well on the indie game market. but porting it over would be hard considering the games were done using XNA which is no longer being developed. We could try porting them to Windows phones or tablets but it would require a lot of re-working/re-sizing of the assets to accommodate for the hardware differences. And I'm sure most of them would rather move on than go back to old titles. Regardless, I think I'll pitch this idea at our meeting tomorrow.

Originally Posted by grantmoore3d: There's a reason a lot of entrepreneurs recommend not going into business with friends, and unfortunately you are learning that lesson first hand.

I don't really have much else to recommend to you other than you need to think of it from the perspective of what's good for the business and less about how he is a friend and your idealistic views of his actions. The point is he's fucking up, you need to find a solution that will either inspire him to continue working (whether that's motivation derived from a shared vision or straight up monetary gain) or cut him loose and find a replacement. You really only have those two options.
Yup, you are right, it seems to really come down to those two options. I can usually find ways to inspire him but it's always short lived. He probably got used to my sucking up and constant praise. :/

Originally Posted by CGIPadawan: Well, if I was on the team, I would be asking if Thieves' Plummet has a distributor.
If you do... that can be touted as indisputable proof of progress.

Since you mention high School and college.... It helps to note maybe the age groups involved?

I'm guessing all your team members are very young people. You read the history of places like Apple, Hewlett Packard, etc. And in one page it seems like they went from Garage to IPO.

But that's just simply not true!

Even Rovio, I think there was a discussion of them some time back... there's this illusion that Angry Birds was their first game and bang they made it.

That's not true. If Thieves' Plummet becomes a hit there will be this illusion that Thieves was your first game, too.

I have a feeling it's something like that.

It's also important to re-align what the Vision is... the Vision is NEVER "Let's make money!"
You have to remember what it is in games you guys are introducing.

You are absolutely right. I've even heard that it took Bungie over 10 years to finally make a hit game. Whats ironic is this member told me this back when he was really passionate about the studio. Now I always use Bungie's story as an example to help boost morale when we may need it.

What kind of progress are you referring to from a producer? We don't have a producer, we are completely solo.

yes you are correct we are rather young (I'm 23). We actually started the company back when I was a senor in high school so to be completely correct, it's been about 5 years since we started. It was something that I had always wanted to pursue. People would tell us that we were too young to do it and that it was very unlikely that we would even release a game on anything. But in this studio, we created things that we never thought we could; 3 official releases including some that rivaled those of the best quality titles in the indie market at the time. My vision for the studio has never been fueled by the pursuit of fortune or money. I view the vision of the studio as a testament to all people who have a burning passion to achieve a dream and proof that those dreams are within reach despite the age. It is the whole reason we called the studio Soulfire Software.

So in that sense I would say we are successful. But unfortunately by definition a company is not successful until it is earning more money than it is putting in which is probably why this team member feels that we are failures. I try to keep a balance between both definitions of success in my understanding of our vision.

Last edited by galacticmuffin : 09 September 2013 at 08:13 AM.
 
Old 09 September 2013   #21
Yeah people don't realize it took 10 years to make angry birds and if you read about their adventure it was not without drama. I havent read all the advice here but letting one person hold your group to ransom wont work in the long run. Let the group decide. The talk about directorship is defunct becuse none of you has the power to go to court so just shake hands and call it quits. You get rid of the guy or you end up without a crew and will have to build another one. Don't forget every failure is valuable to you personally even if a group cant see it that way.
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Old 09 September 2013   #22
Seeing as you tried talking to him and he wouldn't open up, have you considered a group chat with the whole team instead? He might feel he has some support from the group and be more willing to talk. Also, it might help bring other things out into the open from other members.
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Old 09 September 2013   #23
Can you not invite him to leave but pay him for his work as freelance? You are giving him money anyway - why not turn this into a contract until this project completes. Then let him know that if he is required again you'll contact him.

Also, throw in that you would like to salvage the old friendship you used to have.
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Old 09 September 2013   #24
Quote: just last month we payed him $600 to stay and work and now I'm broke.


Sounds to me based on your descriptions he's just waiting for another job/gig to pan out before splitting. He may not see a future in your project. He probably wants to get on with life and buy a house or a car, etc. and can score a real paying gig if he's got some chops.

I would look for a replacement if you can't do the coding yourself.
 
Old 09 September 2013   #25
Looking at Septipus: Tentacle Apocalypse...it belongs more on a tablet than a console like the 360.

Could your "irreplaceable" programmer be up for an Apple/Android port to generate more money? Septipus would be a reasonable purchase for 1.99 rather than the 65p you are charging, which is criminally under priced for the effort you guys have put into that game.

Also, I agree that you should get yourself a manager to oversee the team. Someone older and more experienced will go a long way. You don't need a Gordon Ramsay(far from it), but someone who is not only willing to consider the difficulties a team member maybe facing but to make the tough calls such as "your services are no longer required.".
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Old 09 September 2013   #26
Originally Posted by Boone: Looking at Septipus: Tentacle Apocalypse...it belongs more on a tablet than a console like the 360.

Could your "irreplaceable" programmer be up for an Apple/Android port to generate more money? Septipus would be a reasonable purchase for 1.99 rather than the 65p you are charging, which is criminally under priced for the effort you guys have put into that game.

Also, I agree that you should get yourself a manager to oversee the team. Someone older and more experienced will go a long way. You don't need a Gordon Ramsay(far from it), but someone who is not only willing to consider the difficulties a team member maybe facing but to make the tough calls such as "your services are no longer required.".
I asked him if that was something he would be interested in doing last night as some people suggested that here, as i suspected he has a grudge against that game and would not be interested in working on it again. he did however say that he was proud of what we are accomplishing currently with Thieve's Plummet and enjoys working on it, which is interesting that he insists to stop working on it. iI is very hard to get him to tell me how he is thinking. ill see if i can get him to talk to the rest of the team today but i also don't want to pester him to much with this.

However I will ask one other programmer if he would be interested in doing that, he might like the idea of porting.

Originally Posted by Boone:
Also, I agree that you should get yourself a manager to oversee the team. Someone older and more experienced will go a long way. You don't need a Gordon Ramsay(far from it), but someone who is not only willing to consider the difficulties a team member maybe facing but to make the tough calls such as "your services are no longer required.".

We have wanted/needed someone like that for the longest time; i think a bigger "boss" would provide healthy discipline for the company. I just don't know where to start to look for one that we can trust.
 
Old 09 September 2013   #27
Originally Posted by galacticmuffin: I asked him if that was something he would be interested in doing last night as some people suggested that here, as i suspected he has a grudge against that game and would not be interested in working on it again. he did however say that he was proud of what we are accomplishing currently with Thieve's Plummet and enjoys working on it, which is interesting that he insists to stop working on it. iI is very hard to get him to tell me how he is thinking. ill see if i can get him to talk to the rest of the team today but i also don't want to pester him to much with this.

However I will ask one other programmer if he would be interested in doing that, he might like the idea of porting.

We have wanted/needed someone like that for the longest time; i think a bigger "boss" would provide healthy discipline for the company. I just don't know where to start to look for one that we can trust.



Scott, you may have more success posting this over on GameDev, being as its a site dedicated to games development and that your friend is a programmer.

Just out of interest; how serious is your set up? Do you have your own office space or are doing this from a garage or basement? Are you all in the same location or distributed?
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Old 09 September 2013   #28
Originally Posted by Boone: Also, I agree that you should get yourself a manager to oversee the team. Someone older and more experienced will go a long way. You don't need a Gordon Ramsay(far from it), but someone who is not only willing to consider the difficulties a team member maybe facing but to make the tough calls such as "your services are no longer required.".

That has to be Scott (galacticmuffin) though. I won't deny that having somebody more experienced managing the team has its advantages, but part of growing up means doing the hard things that grownups have to do. If he brings on a so-called "hired gun" to make the hard calls that should be his then his title of president is totally meaningless. If you're going to hold a leadership role then, eventually, you're going to have to lead.

The other problem with a hired gun is more long term. If Scott continues to pass on these crucial responsibilities to a 3rd party, as the studio grows, people will eventually stop recognizing him as the key authority figure. This new guy won't sit on the throne, but he might as well be king. Delegation is important. It's a sign of a good leader, being able to trust one's own team. However, some tasks cannot and should not be farmed out, especially not when your majority stake means you accept the majority of the risk.

Having a project manager, somebody to produce and wrangle them to success is a good idea. Having somebody to sheepishly hide behind while they get tough and do things like firing people... At one point or another, we've all got to grow up. If he can't do it then he's not ready for a management role yet.

When you're in college, it's easy. You and your friends are making "pie in the sky" plans. You've got these great ideas. You're going to take the world by storm. Once you graduate, it all gets real. The hard part isn't the coming up with good ideas. Those are a dime a dozen. The hard part isn't even the artistic or technical aspects of getting a project completed. You've all been trained for that.

The one thing you HAVEN'T been trained for is the thing most crucial, the business side. Incorporation. Taxes. Payroll. Copyright. Trademark. ETC and so forth. You're learning all of these things on the fly. That's the roughest part about your first business. By the time you learn the ropes and make your mistakes, you have to pray that it isn't too late. Otherwise, these will end up being hard learned lessons most useful for starting your SECOND studio.

Scott, I understand that this guy is great at what he does and that you're at a crucial point in the game's development. However, don't you think that he knows all of this? Maybe he thinks that it makes him bulletproof. I'd seriously look into bringing in somebody else. Getting a new guy up to speed with the code base is a short term loss. The long term gains are far, far more significant.
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Old 09 September 2013   #29
I would assume that everyone on the team has the right to use the previous games in their cv/resume. This is great, it means that each and every one of you has a much better chance of landing a job than someone who hasn't worked in a team and finished projects.

You're 23, you've got a long time to live and a lot of new things to learn. Why not pitch to the others the idea of disbanding, finding work, and coming together someday in the future with more work and life experience under your belts?

I never started a team. I joined a few online teams during high school and early college. None of our projects succeeded and I decided to just make something by-myself. When I graduated, I wrapped up my (first completed) game and pretty much stopped. I even felt an odd grudge against it much like your friend does with the previous project you mentioned.

Like other in the thread have pointed out, something indeed changes when you graduate - especially if you get a full time and serious job. Priorities change, and in my case, I needed time to mentally sort through it all and figure out why I wanted to be a cg artist/programmer in the first place.

There's something about the hunger... that you feel when you're eating ramen and studying... you could just about do anything for your dream. Then you graduate, start loan repayments, get a full time job in an unrelated industry... and if you're like me... you sort of become just another boring drone for a while.

The hunger & passion goes away, and in my case, I considered that maybe my new industry was more worth climbing the ladder in than games. As time passed, I could feel my art and programming skills begin to rot, but a recent game-like project I did for a client kinda gave me back the feeling I had for it.

Today I feel less panic... less... dramatic... about succeeding in games. Having a regular paycheck, and learning that I was able to do something cool despite working full time. I can feel the desire coming back. It's hard to quantify... hard to explain.

So my advice is this: break up amicably. It's not the end of the world, especially for you guys. You have all that previous work and experience between each other. Break up, settle into adult, post-college life, let your friend figure out who he is and what he's going to do with himself, and when you feel like its time, try it again.
 
Old 09 September 2013   #30
I will not give you any advice , as i pretty suck with managment ...

But after working in various VFX companies, i can assure you that Nobody is IRREPLACEABLE. When someone has build himself a big reputation in the company ... evreybody tend to believe he is UNIQUE and the world will collapse if he leave ... this is not true ! even How good you are ...

When all the talented people leave your ship, chance are that YOU ARE the problem ...
But if it's only ONE individual that threat the road map , you may have some responsability , but if you honestlty believe that you have done all in YOUR POWER to solve the problem ... chance are that HE IS the problem ...

I agree with Roberto beetween
- working with 5 good artist who can colaborate.
- 5 genius with strong ego that want to shine.

i will go with the first one, cause in the first case you can still walk (slowly) on the road map while if your stuck in political/ego war you are stuck and thus you go backward ...

Cheers

E

EDIT : I've read that you'r 23, dude that's already big ... i was spending most of my time Drinking beer at 23 You must keep your faith back cause what you already did so young deserve a BIG RESPECT ... and you are learning that leadership comes with the ability to get your HAND DIRTY ... when you have to ! But if you take this crisis as a lesson of life you will discover that all that you need is just to find a good programmer and maybe an other artist ... on a planet with 7.000.000.000 human i'm sure you can do it !
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Last edited by SebKaine : 09 September 2013 at 08:44 AM.
 
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