Guest Post: Virtual Game Development

Hey iDevBlogADay,

since I have got very little time, due to the fact that I’m leaving for Palo Alto in a few hours, the start of this years WWDC trip, I have asked my fellow Limbic co-founders Iman and Arash to write a little guest post. They’re writing about the problems we face as a company working in two timezones with 9 hours in between, and being almost “purely virtual”. Here it goes:

Unlike many startups, Limbic operates as a virtual company. In our case, we collaborate with team members in seven locations across the globe (Palo Alto, Davis, San Diego, Burbank, Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand). As one can imagine, operating in this fashion brings many challenges, but in our experience it comes with substantial benefits as well.

In order to support this arrangement, some degree of planning is essential, as meetings across multiple time zones must be coordinated. For our projects, we use a slew of tools for communication and task management:

* Skype, IRC, and iChat for voice and video conferencing

* Skitch and Dropbox for sharing images and videos

* BananaScrum and Lighthouse for project planning and task management

* GitHub for source code hosting and collaborative development

* for scheduling

The most common problem with working across multiple time zones is finding overlaps in the availability of US and European team members to meet. This leads to inevitable late night or extremely early morning meetings. When working on dependent project tasks, we have found it is important to sync up daily and hand off to other team members to ensure smooth and continuous development. If a voice or video meeting cannot be attended for a particular day, individual members communicate their progress via email to the team. Also, because team members aren’t able to casually communicate throughout the day and all discussion happens during meetings, they tend to run quite long in order to cover all issues.

One of the difficulties with virtual collaboration is that it can be slower than face to face communication for rapid iteration. We minimize this by using screen sharing, chat, and video conferencing whenever necessary. A tremendous advantage to working virtually is that it allows everyone to work from their own favorite environment (coffee shop, home, etc.). In addition to the environmental benefits, commute time is reduced or eliminated in many cases, allowing more productive time for work. FInally, with no office expenses to pay, the operational overhead of the company can be reduced.

Recently at Limbic, we have moved towards capturing the benefits of a shared workspace by establishing a small studio in Palo Alto as a hub for physical collaboration, while maintaining the flexibility provided by continuing to operate primarily virtually. We also like to bridge the gap between all team members by periodically planning retreats where we all meet up face to face to have fun, brainstorm, and help kick-off new projects.

That’s it! I’m rather exited for the next post, as it’s going to be one week after we launch our new game, Nuts!

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