Sunday, June 26, 2011

Transitioning from Programmer to Leader

Before I went to E3, our team had only about 6 (or so) full-time developers. I was able to dedicate 30-50% of my time to the actual production work - programming Miner Wars.

Upon return from E3, we had nearly doubled our staff. About 11 people in Czech office and a few more abroad. I had to make a quick decision – is my future that of a programmer or a leader?
Luckily, I’d had experience as a leader before, and felt confident about a transition.

While on the flight from the US to Prague, I re-read a book on the topic: Team Leadership in Game Industry. It made me think more about the prospect of running a ‘team’; right after I arrived back to Czech I strode into the office in my new role - LEADER.

Here are some of the larger implementations I’ve made:

  • Production work is left to the production staff: I no-longer do the actual programming - I have to delegate all production work to other team member. Reason: if I sit down and start implementing new features, fixing code, looking for bugs... it would stop me for X number of hours, all of which could be used to perform leadership duties, and ensuring the production staff is able to keep on track.

  • I do everything in my power to not be a bottleneck to the team. Reason: developers can't wait on my decisions.

  • I try to lead, not manage, and especially not micro-manage. We tried hard to hire only senior developers who can work independently.

  • We rotate places in our office very often (almost every week) and everybody spends his first week in the same office as I. Reason: everybody in the team gets to work with me, know me, and vice-versa, then they all get to work with each other together and ingratiate themselves; there are no separate groups and we are just a bunch of happy friends. But we still have professional discipline, follow deadlines and I rule using iron hand! :)

  • I let developers to add their contribution to the design too. I don't try to design every little detail. My job is only to wrap it all up and make it move in the desired direction.
This whole transition (Marek Programmer -> Marek Team Leader) was very fluid, especially because I was dropping more and more programming duties during the months pressing on, so actually very little has changed to me – I’ve just made that mental switch.

Finally, I’d like to add that I’m very surprised how our team turned out. Everybody is enthusiastic and they all seem to love their job. Everybody is dedicated. I didn't expect this would work in all cases – looks like we did good job during hiring process.
The first attribute we looked for in a new applicant was his/her passion for the project. I consider this the most important attribute.


A Post-Mortem on Administrative Tasks:

A hard lesson learnt early-on was the value of administration/secretary’s role. It is, of course, important to save money, especially as a start-up business. But the time programmers, artists, and other developers had to spend on unrelated tasks ended up yielding a cost higher than which would have been saved if we had simply hired an administrative officer in the first place.
Next time we’ll be hiring a secretary the day the office opens its doors.

Monday, June 20, 2011

USA 2011 - Los Angeles, E3, ...

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See more photos: USA 2011 - Los Angeles

Photos from my trip to US, sorted by date, showing my journey:  San Diego, Mexico, Los Angeles, E3, Las Vegas, Nevada, Arizona, Grand Canyon, Phoenix, back to Los Angeles, Universal Studios Hollywood, Hollywood Blvd. (and that's basically it).

Some random notes:
  • Mexico is fine, tacos and burritos, although I expected it to be extremely cheap which didn't turn that way.
  • Las Vegas has fantastic buffets where you can EAT ALL YOU CAN for only 15-20 dollars! In my case it means eating so much that I didn't need more for next 24 hours! This is probably the only reason why would I ever come back to LV :)
  • Grand Canyon is huge. It's an attraction worthy of Miner Wars
  • Americans are not fatter than us, but if they are then it's extreme piece :-)
  • I changed my mind regarding automatic gears in car... they’re better than manual!
  • Universal Studios Hollywood - I can only recommend - good attractions - for example the one showing Water World... they had explosions and a man set on fire... cool stuff! But don't trust their ALL YOU CAN EAT PASS - it's about $20 or so, they’ve only got about 4 different meal types, and all of them are more “pass” than “all you can eat”.
  • There are two photos above which show the former (or current?) house of Mike Tyson.
  • Hospitality issues - some places in US and especially Las Vegas have so many customers that they don't care about you or your satisfaction. It's worse after you actually paid and now expect some services. They just don't care. They make sure they put “NO REFUND” declaration on every paper you sign, so if you don't like what have you paid for... well, then just F*** OFF.
    A positive outcome of this experience is that I have realized how customers feel when they haven't received what they've expected and paid for in a good or service. I am going to do everything in my power to not let that happen to our customers - Miner Wars fans.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Blogging started

Hello Friends,

My name is Marek Rosa and I'm the guy who started Miner Wars development.

Recently I've decided to write a blog to serve as a diary for Miner Wars development, Keen Software House, and my personal life. (The last category is going to be empty most of the time, unfortunately--not because I'm a private person, but because I have no personal life.)

I'll be documenting the tough life of Miner Wars developers - covering topics such as programming, 2D/3D art, game design, story, business... basically anything that comes through me.

Luckily, now is the best time to start - today I fly to Los Angeles - our team is going to visit E3, meet industry people, shake hands, etc.--you know the drill.

We already have big and unrealistic plans for next year's E3 - we want to make a big show, Miner Wars and VRAGE running on big screens, real 6DoF cockpit, explosions, blood, girls... Hollywood style!

Now, there is one thing better than the whole of E3--I can finally get some free time and just screw around. I'm extending my trip to the US for one more week, so my homie Ansel and I will be doing a road trip over the US before and after E3.
We're going to visit Mexico, San Diego, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, Phoenix in Arizona, then back to LA, Hollywood, Universal Studios Park, and many more! We'll keep you posted with photos of our travel and shenanigans.

On a different note: 3 new developers are joining our Prague team and 1 more is on his way. That'll make a total of 11 developers in Prague, 3 in the USA, and 1 in Australia, (and some other external people too). Quite a menagerie.