Sunday, March 6, 2011

Being a freelance game designer - A look at the backstage (part 1)

Hello all,

The IGDA Newsletter's editor asked me to write a paper on my peculiar status; I am a game designer and creative director but I work freelance, an unusual situation in our industry where those positions are not outsourced. This paper has been published in the February edition of the IGDA newsletter but to my non-IGDA readers, I will share in my blog the highlights of that publication.

A question I often get is what type of company outsources one of the key positions in the development of a game to a freelance. in fact, different studio profiles have different needs:

  • To small studios, , I essentially bring expertise and manpower. Thanks to my broad spectrum of experience, I can do almost anything related to the design of a game: The game concept, the full game and level design, the tuning, etc. Since I'm flexible, I can adapt the number of days I commit every week to the financial resources and needs of my clients.
  • To medium-size studios, I bring manpower. They often ask me to join the team, either on a part-time of full-time basis. I usually work in their studio for six to eighteen month periods.  I am embedded and treated like anybody else in the team (same hours, same LAN parties at lunch time, same bad coffee, etc.).
  • To large studios or publishers, who have plenty of internal resources, I bring a specific know-how or blend of expertise.  

Another question I get frequently is how I work with clients who can be located thousands of miles away. I'm based in Paris, France, but I've worked with companies as distant as the US or India.

  • For consulting or coaching missions, I either go on-site or I work remotely, depending on the client's requirement... and budget. Going on-site is usually mandatory for audit missions because the game build cannot leave the studio and needs frequent debugging . Furthermore, face-to-face discussion with the development team is very important if they are to use my analysis or recommendations
  • For full design assignments, I can work remotely if the game scope is reasonable. Mobile games, Facebook, iPhone, iPadPSN or XBLA titles fit that description. How is it possible ? It works when my client entrusts the entire design work to me, from concept to level design. This gives me complete control over the content of the game and makes it easier for me to propose a coherent design that I can follow up and that's achievable.
  • Lastly, for the clients that put me in with their team, I commute between my home and their studio. I stay on-site for a few days a week and work the rest of the week from my office, in Paris.

In my next posts, I will give my recommendations to studio managers interested in outsourcing some of their design work and I will conclude with some tips to those of you who consider going freelance.


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