Tribe of the Accord DevLog - Recruitment

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Shaun Michael Stone
Shaun Michael Stone

Hello, and thanks for joining me. My name is Shaun, and in this post, I will walk through my process of finding the right people to help me build my game Tribe of the Accord. This involves my search for various roles such as animators, artists, writers, music composers and programmers.

Developing a game involves various roles that one person rarely does, although not unheard of. Eric Barone, the creator of Stardew Valley, learned and did it all himself, which is astounding. He is a huge inspiration for many indie devs. I wouldn't put myself in the bracket of being able to do everything; well, I could, but it wouldn't be to the standard I would like, so in light of this, I chose to outsource the skills I lack. I'd say my main strengths are that I can manage projects quite well, and I'm a software engineer by trade, so I can quite easily pick up a programming language and start building things. I've become more of a salesman and recruiter, too, trying to pitch my game to the talented people out there as something that may interest them. Something fundamental to me when taking someone on is that they are sold on the idea, they stick around and get excited, and they share a similar passion and understanding of what I'm trying to achieve. I can tell when someone is just in it for a money grab, or their interest and support are ephemeral.

One area I wish I were good at is art and animation. I tried doing a lot of it growing up, but it never was to the level of skill I'd hoped. Fortunately, there are so many great talented artists out there, all ranging in different styles and aesthetics. Apart from the obvious challenge of recruitment, my experience in finding the right artists that work on different areas of the game and ensuring they keep to a specific art direction has probably been the most challenging part of it all, as I've iterated a few times to get to where I am now. It's also challenging finding 'that' artist or animator who can nail the style you're looking for.

My approach to this was constantly browsing pixel artists on Fiverr, Twitter (Now X) or Reddit, reaching out to them via DMs, and essentially trying to pitch my game to them using my game design document as evidence of its maturity. They are always getting contacted about these 'game ideas' that could be a fruitless thing in someone's head. With my game design document, I can demonstrate to them I have thought it through quite significantly, and the video demos and documents sometimes speak for themselves.

One thing I always found with some of the most sought-after and talented artists is they are always swamped - either working on projects of their own or working for some big studio that can throw cash at them, which is not ideal when you're an indie with a limited budget. I'd get comments like, 'Game looks great, but I'm not available for months', or 'Me and my friends are working on our own full time, so can't help, sorry!' I'm very fortunate to have finally found some great pixel artists and animators that are sold on the game, understand what I need and are now making that a reality. I am fortunate that they persist with the work I have for them.

Writing is also a very challenging area for me. I can write myself, but I still prefer a collaborative approach because your ideas alone are limited and can be enhanced or improved by other creative writers, so long as you find the right people. There are many areas to consider, such as character development, good pacing, consistent dialogue, and a solid plot with much conflict and tension. Based on my research, writing needs a lot of attention. Some of my favourite games have very complex and interesting stories, and this is what I want to achieve too. Tribe of the Accord also has a novel adaptation, allowing me to plan the events in the game better - so it hopefully all ties together. I've brought in a writer to formulate some of the main events in the story and elaborate more on my original idea, as well as bringing in a few editors to take on the work done already from an unbiased viewpoint. I've also had some help with ideas for game quests, and I've been leading the story direction throughout, as it's easy to diverge from the original idea.

It would be rude not to mention how important music is in the game. Visuals alone are not enough. Music is an immersive tool that establishes the tone of the story being told, playing with your emotions; making you feel happy or sad. It can set the mood whether you are resting at night at the campsite or hunting wild predators. I'll be discussing this in more detail in another article, but it was vital for me to find the right person that could capture that emotion and setting or ambience of the stone age. I put out a lot of jobs asking for a new soundtrack on websites like PeoplePerHour and Reddit, and there were so many tracks that came through that just didn't capture what I was looking for. My preference was flutes and drums; in my head, that felt right for this franchise. After months of searching, I finally teamed up with an excellent company called Omnisound based in the Netherlands, and they understand what I want, so I'm excited to continue working with them.

One role I struggled to fill was the level designer. All skilled-level designers are working for big companies, and most of the freelancers I've contacted in the past were 100% focused on 3D-level design, which is the norm. 2D doesn't get much love which surprises me, but in the end, I found a brilliant level designer who loves the project and has done a fantastic job. I designed the world map myself and the associated levels, which is very laborious and time-consuming.

Finally, I will end with programmers. This would be the most costly role of this project, and luckily I have the skills to carry out most of the work. However, there are some weak areas of mine, specifically around behaviour trees, algorithms and maths. In cases like this, I would outsource a solution, such as Dijkstra's Algorithm used to do the procedural generation of levels, formulating a random path from the start room to the end room, with a few restrooms in between. I decided to go more of a linear path for the world but to get the best of both worlds (literally), although I introduced caves which can be entered that are procedurally generated.

Recruiting is hard. It's a mixture of good timing, luck and finding the right people in the right places. A lot of times, I have got it wrong and had to get work re-done to correct it or decide the work done is good, but it could be a lot better. If you are looking for talent, try and build up a good plan for your game and decide the theme you want early on; that way, you can target the right talent for the job. A game design document has opened many doors of opportunity for me, as freelancers can read through it and understand what the game is about. It gets them both excited and motivated to help you achieve what you have set out to do.

Book Adaptation

The book adaptation of the game is available in the following stores:

In the next post we will be talking about the Game's Linear World.

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