Chris Natsuume, Bjorn Book-Larsson, Craig Brannon – “OUTSOURCING” IS SO 2005 – WE HAVE ENTERED AN AGE OF INTEGRATED VIRTUAL TEAMS

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Outsourcing Panel: Slideslides & audio(51 MB) Today’s teams exist more and more in the internet ether – and the trend is growing stronger daily. For better or worse, the sun never sets on a virtual international studio, and every studio becomes more virtual every day. Come hear from industry veterans and their experiences with virtual teams. Sections in this workshop include: 1) Case Study: Boomzap, who has been running a virtual studio across 3 continents for three years with information on how to best manage teams that never meet, yet must collaborate daily. Issues include developing “work at home” discipline for the team, communication issues, collaboration across time and space, and dealing with international teams and second languages. 2) Best Practices: When a company contemplates hiring an out-of-house person or team that may be hundreds or many thousands of miles away to assist in the game development, several things should be taken into consideration aside from the potential beneficial impact on your budget. Common benefits include improved work quality, flexibility in skills and a profound effect on schedule. Evaluating potential outsourcing vendors can be a tricky deal, and looking for the right match and screening them with as much scrutiny as you would a full-time in-house employee is paramount. Before entering into an outsourcing deal, it is critically important to create well-defined, mutually agreed-upon criteria of what is expected from the outsourced vendor. Because of potential differences in culture, language, geography and time zones, this documentation should be as specific and unambiguous as possible. Be sure to clearly define the scope, schedule and milestones for the project. Communicating regularly and freely with the vendor is also absolutely essential throughout the entire development process. 3) Outsourcing Gone Wrong: Outsourcing a Casual Game is difficult and risky, and never a magic bullet. Often studios are unprepared to handle development efforts thousands of miles away, when they are used to working with developers seated in cubicles down the hall. Managing an outsourced project presents massive cultural clashes and the risk of failed projects, especially if the studio is not prepared to deal with the project overhead, and the upfront project management planning inherent in the model. For those that are prepared and willing to take the risk, there are rewards in efficiencies and costs. This session will examine all the things that can and will go wrong, before successfully having your “baby” (aka your game) raised by unknown people in lands far away. We will also discuss cultural differences and trends in outsourcing between India, China, Phillipines and Canada.

Delivered at Casual Connect Amsterdam, February 2008


Craig BrannonCraig Brannon (email) Craig Brannon has been involved in game industry for over 15 years, having designed and produced more than 20 published games. He oversees multiple production teams at Legacy Interactive and continues to be very much involved in all aspects of the game design and content creation in all of Legacy’s games. He has a proven track record in producing entertaining titles from well-known existing licenses (such as Law & Order and The Apprentice) as well as guiding the creation of Legacy’s original IPs (such as Emergency Room, Pet Pals and Zoo Vet). Dr. Brannon earned his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles.


Bjorn Book-LarsonBjorn Book-Larsson (email) Bjorn Book-Larsson – VP Development and Chief Technology Officer – Gameshastra Inc. Bjorn heads the game development business unit at Gameshastra, a global game development and game services company based in El Segundo (US) and Hyderabad (India). The company creates core and casual games on Wii, PS3, PC, Mac and various handheld devices, and provides 3D art and QA/Testing services for major global publishers. Prior to joining Gameshastra Bjorn was Chief Technology Officer at FUN Technologies Inc (LSE:FUN, TSX:FUN) a Liberty Media company. At FUN he led development of casual, sports, fantasy and sci-fi games across a wide range of platforms and devices and as well as implemented FUN’s tournament and prize game platforms for customers such as MSN Zone (today Microsoft Casual Games), AOL, GSN, Virgin Games, DirecTV and T-Online. In 2000 Bjorn co-founded – and as CTO architected one of the Internet’s first tournament game systems. Bjorn has managed game development efforts spread across seven offices in three different countries and has extensive experience dealing with diverse and complicated development tasks where both internal and external teams have to play nice with both code and each other. Bjorn holds a BS degree in Mathematical Sciences and Computer Science from UNC-Chapel Hill.


Chris NatsuumeChris Natsuume (email) Christopher Natsuume is a 12 year game industry veteran, with experience in design and production on PC, Xbox, Playstation 2, PC, and casual downloadable entertainment. Recent experiences include serving as lead producer for the international hit Far Cry and co-founding Boomzap Entertainment, a leading developer of downloadable casual games. Christopher holds a BA from the University of Texas and an MBA from the University of Washington. Christopher is extremely proud to be a supporter of Singaporean game development, and an active employer of some of the best talent in Southeast Asia.


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