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Three critical things to know about successful co-development relationships

Highly regarded games developer Streamline Studios discuss how best to work with other production houses

Co-development relationships are tricky. Making them successful means making a better product.

In today's game production environment, going outside your comfort zone involves developing complex global production relationships between different studios, artists, programmers, writers, composers, across time zones, languages and cultures. Co-development between studios is how developers expand their business, create compelling products, add expertise, workforce, and resources while keeping a realistic focus on ROI.

How do you make a successful co-development relationship work?

1. Know your team.

Make sure your team is ready for the challenges of co-development. How will you have to change your production models to accommodate the other studio's methods? Make sure you communicate clearly to your team why you think co-development is the best choice for your game. If you don't work things out and include your team in the process, a paralyzing internal resistance can develop, and that might sink the whole game.

The increasingly complex process of producing a successful game means co-development is the future of game production, but that doesn't mean human nature has changed. Consider the challenges of getting people from different cultures to work together. Diversity is a strength, but that doesn't make it's easy to manage.

Diversity is a strength, but can be hard to manage

2. Know your project

There are two distinctive styles of projects. Neither is more valid than the other, but it's important to know where your one fits.

The first type is a defined project. You have things worked out, you have an art bible, a story bible, you know your specifications, technology is locked down, assets lists organized, you have a distinct vision, and you want a partner to work within that vision. Lay out your vision in a concise manner. Transparency is the cornerstone of a successful co-development relationship; if you have a solid concept and know how to get there, share it. Your best choice for a partner will get excited by your vision and want to join.

The other style of project is what I might call an ad-hoc project. A creative process is a delicate affair and sometimes chaos is good. Sometimes the best path to a completed game is more of an exploration than a set of pre-determined ideas. You have a game concept, but there's no art bible, lots of sketches and ideas but specifications are not finalized, technology is still changing, there are no assets lists. You want things open, fluid, tides of creativity flowing across the world. Tricky yes, but some of our best games are made this way. Chaos can be harnessed in a co-development process, but teams need to be mature, ready, open, and collaborative by nature. Know your team and know your project. Important steps to take and understand.

3. Know your tools

Make sure to use the right tools to make co-development work

Going into a successful co-development relationship is a lot about preparation. Once the white-hot battle of game production begins, you'll want to have your tools prepped and ready.

There are five key areas to consider.

- Accessibility - your tools need to be available to external parties from anywhere in the world.
- Collaborative - the systems you choose must track communication in an orderly, logical way. (No emails chains!)
- Management - ensure your tools give you a global, boots-on-the-ground view of every step of the in-progress work.
- Analytics - capturing performance metrics is worth its weight in gold. Find an active, automatic way of doing this.
- Finance - your tools must compare forecasts, actuals, issue daily reports and perform on-going project health checks.

Co-development means you're forming a powerful, sophisticated team. The architecture of your project needs to be designed to make every aspect of your game production sync to a single resonant heartbeat.

Get it right, and it's like you've created a gigantic, beautiful games studio with no walls and no limits. Imagine the game you can create in a place like that.

Streamline Studios is a leading game developer and development solutions provider for the video games industry. It has worked on major games, films and brands including Final Fantasy XV, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom, Bioshock Infinite, Avatar, and Coca-Cola. Streamframe Development Management software has contributed to over 300 AAA productions. For more information on its services, click here.