Do you need a partner for your game?

When starting a browsergame project, a lot of people will instantly look for a partner. Many programming message boards are full of threads titled “Making browsergame, need coder/designer”, or “tell me how to make a browsergame!”, or “I have a great idea, and I want a partner to help me put it into practice”. As a matter of fact, it was actually threads like these that motivated me to start up Building Browsergames – to try and answer some of the questions I see most often on message boards. And one of the ones that seems to come up a lot is “how do I find a partner to help me with my game?”.

Before you rush head-long into looking for(or paying for) a partner, ask yourself: do you really need one?

There are definitely pros and cons to having a partner. Here’s a brief list of some of the pros and cons of having a partner:

  • Pro: Helps you keep motivated

    Having a partner will help you keep motivated to work on your game, because you and your partner can pester each other and say “hey, is <feature x> done yet?” – it will help you stay motivated to get things done if there’s always someone asking you and waiting to see what you’ve finished.

  • Con: Inefficiency

    Even though you might be doing less work than you would be without a partner, you might find that you are getting it accomplished in less efficient ways – because for every thing you do, you need to get confirmation from another person. And if they suddenly drop out of communication with you, it can wreak utter havoc with your project – especially if you don’t have all of the assets for your game available. What happens when half your game suddenly disappears, and you can’t get in touch with the person who has it? Also, there’s a risk of your game getting into a “design by committee” mode, where nothing gets done because both partners can’t agree on anything – or things take a lot longer to do because an agreement needs to be reached before the idea gets implemented.

  • Pro: Idea Bouncing

    Sometimes it’s hard to find people who are as interested in your idea as you are. If you find a partner, that won’t be a problem – because you’re both interested in the idea, and therefore can bounce ideas off of each other. It makes it a lot easier to determine whether an idea is good or not.

  • Con: Less Control

    If you’re a control freak, you probably won’t relish giving some of that control to your partner. But if you’re going to maintain a good partnership, you will need to give up at least some control – which means that things may or may not end up going your way. You also need to be careful about control of the assets involved in your game – if one of the partners controls the web hosting for example and suddenly decides that they are no longer interested in continuing with the project, what happens? You will need to discuss this with your partner before you enter into any sort of partnership, just in case.

  • Pro: Shared Responsibilities

    If you’re willing to relinquish enough control, it’s possible to have one partner work in one role, and the other partner work in a completely different role. This allows you and your partner to work to your strengths – so if you’re better at design than development, you’ll be able to focus on designing the game, while your partner develops it. This doesn’t always happen – and if you both have the same strengths, your roles will probably overlap – but at least you’ll be able to divide the work (if only slightly).

At the end of the day, whether you decide that you need a partner or not is entirely up to you. While there are many more pros and cons to having a partner, hopefully this brief list has given you an idea of at least a few of the things you need to consider before you make your decision.

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Luke is the primary editor of Building Browsergames, and has written a large portion of the articles that you read here. He generally has no idea what to say when asked to write about himself in the third person.

Friday, May 2nd, 2008 design, gettingstarted
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Building Browsergames is a blog about browsergames(also known as PBBG's). It's geared towards the beginner to intermediate developer who has an interest in building their own browsergame.


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