Finding a team as an indie developer

posted by Ben Hill on 24 November 2016 in Articles

Finding a team as an indie developer

When you’re just starting out as an indie game developer, you might need to wear several hats. Programmer, artist, sound designer, etc. But at some point it can be overwhelming to have to do everything and create quality content in areas you don’t excel at. Thankfully, there are loads of options for finding team members that specialize in different areas of game development.

One of the best ways to meet and recruit people is simply to meet people in person. Meetup is a great resource for this, because the website lets you find groups of indie developers near you that meet regularly for networking or gaming events. These meetups are great ways to establish some contacts if you’re looking to form or join a dev team. You’ll often find people who specialize in certain disciplines, not just programming or game design. I went to an indie dev meetup recently and met composers, programmers, and a 2D artist.

Most game developer meetups are pretty relaxed, so there’s no need to feel anxious about approaching someone you don’t know. Especially because everyone is there to meet people, showcase their games, or scout for potential team members.

Conferences, festivals, and game jams are also great ways to meet people who could potentially join your development team. Or conversely, you might find a team that wants you to join. Events like Pax and GDC are great places to showcase games, meet industry professionals, and just continue networking. Some of these events are expensive – especially GDC – but thankfully there are loads of smaller events for game developers on a budget.

Game jams are unique in that they give you a chance to meet people and work on a small project together in a short amount of time. Usually these events focus on rapid prototyping and developing a new game in 48 hours with a small team. This makes a game jam a great way to meet potential team members for a bigger project, and flex your development chops at the same time.

Having a team that can collaborate in person is great, but a lot of indie developers are using websites like Reddit’s gameDevClassifieds and Indie DB to form teams remotely. This is an option you might want to go for if you don’t live in a city with many game developers. Some people are willing to work remotely on projects for free or for revenue-sharing, but if you’re just starting out or don’t have the budget to actually hire someone, Indie Teamup is another site you can try for joining or starting a small dev team.

gamedev convention

Whatever method you choose for recruiting a team to work on your game, you’ll want to find people that are dedicated. If you don’t have any budget, small games or mobile games with that can be made in a short amount of time are a good way to go. Having manageable, doable deadlines and goals for your team will keep them motivated. Many people are self-motivated though, and there are a lot of people online that are dying to just work on a game that will be shipped, even if it’s small. Take advantage of that, but don’t take advantage of the people. What I mean is don’t be one of those people who demands 15 hours of work a week from your team if you aren’t paying them. I see far too many cringe-worthy ads online for indie teams that require applicants to be willing to work for a year with no pay. That’s very risky for the team member, when there’s no guarantee that the game will be a success or even come out at all. So yes, people might be willing to volunteer for your project on a hobby or part-time basis, but also be aware that their time and skills are valuable.

As a final piece of advice, I would recommend following up with indie developers after you meet them, especially if you want to recruit them for your project. You can’t do any harm by shooting a quick email saying that it was nice to meet them at so-and-so meetup or game jam. I have sent loads of emails to developers, and while that hasn’t always turned into a gig, people always appreciate the initiative I took to follow up with them.