Mastering Collaboration with a Remote Game Art Outsourcing Team

 In the wake of the pandemic, remote collaboration and hybrid work models have become the norm. While the idea of managing a remote team might seem daunting, the advantages can significantly outweigh the challenges when approached strategically.  

At MLC, we’ve been a fully remote team since the very beginning, back in 2017, and we’ve discovered numerous benefits that can make the remote work experience not only effective but also enjoyable. 

The Bright Side of Remote Collaboration

  • Access to Global Talent: 
    By going remote, you break free from geographic constraints, opening doors to a diverse pool of talent with unique skills and expertise, and enriching game development projects. 
  • Cultural Diversity: 
    Remote work enables collaboration with professionals from various cultural backgrounds, injecting fresh perspectives into the creative process and yielding innovative solutions. 
  • Reduced Overhead: 
    Savings from eliminating a big physical office space and the associated costs translate into more flexibility with pricing, which has allowed us to pass on these advantages to game developers. This allows us to be an indie developer-friendly game art outsourcing option. 
  • Time Zone Flexibility: 
    A globally distributed team means continuous workflow possibilities, accelerating project timelines through round-the-clock collaboration and responsiveness for our clients. 
  • Focus on Results: 
    Remote work shifts the focus from hours clocked in the office to tangible results, promoting heightened productivity and contributing to positive mental well-being. 
  • Work-Life Balance: 
    Remote setups allow team members to achieve a healthier work-life balance, elevating job satisfaction and reducing turnover rates. Our team retention rate over the last 5 years is over 99%! 
  • Reduced Commute Time & Carbon Footprint: 
    Eliminating daily commutes enhances team efficiency and contributes to a greener planet by reducing the environmental impact associated with daily travel. 

Navigating Remote Collaboration: Strategies for Success 

Now we’ve established the clear benefits of working with a remote team, let’s jump into some effective strategies for managing game art outsourcing teams remotely, ensuring seamless communication, productivity, and creative synergy. 

Communication for Remote Collaboration

I’m sure we all agree nothing beats face-to-face meet-ups, but with a remote team how do you cultivate a sense of camaraderie and team spirit in a virtual environment? 
 
Communication is the key: 

  • Create a space for collaboration using tools like Slack, Teams or Discord. For our studio, we chose Discord and have set up dedicated project channels, alongside voice channels for “hangouts” or meetings. 
  • Prioritise video calls over audio for increased engagement and human connection. 
  • Set clear communication expectations early on, outlining when and how often updates are expected. 
  • Encourage open communication, and make it easy for team members to ask questions, seek clarification, and share updates. 

Tip: Try using Gather to bring your team together. We thought it would be a gimmick, but after using it daily for a year, the MLC office team has been brought closer together. One of the main advantages is the feeling that others around you are working. This psychologically helps to motivate and keep you accountable for your work, an important challenge of remote working. 

Remote Project Management Best Practices

  • Document processes, workflows, and best practices in a centralised repository to ensure consistency and provide a reference for team members.
  • Clearly defining roles and responsibilities ensures everyone understands their contributions. 
  • Develop a comprehensive project roadmap outlining milestones, deadlines, and major deliverables. Then share this with the entire team to provide a clear vision of the project’s trajectory. 
  • Find a note-taking system that suits you. Consider using a to-do list or blocking out time in your calendar for each task. This helps ensure dedicated attention to your projects, aiding in effective daily tracking. 
  • Utilise collaborative project management tools like Jira, Notion, Click-up, or Monday to track tasks, manage workflows, and maintain transparency. Give training for those not proficient in the tools you’re using. 

 Tip: We’ve found that there isn’t a software that really works for all aspects of game development – So we’re in the process of developing our own. Join the waitlist to get access when it’s ready. 

This is early prototype footage of MLC Pro

Overcoming Time Zone Challenges

When working with a remote team, it’s important to put strategies in place to ensure the workflow is efficient 

  • Leverage time zone conversion tools and schedule key activities during overlapping hours for real-time communication.  
  • Schedule important meetings, collaborative sessions, and high-priority tasks during these overlapping hours to ensure real-time communication. 
  • Implement flexible work hours to accommodate diverse team schedules. 
  • Prioritise tasks and set deadlines with consideration for different time zones. 
     

Tip: World time buddy is a brilliant resource for find best collaboration hours, particularly if working with people over several time zones. 

Empowering Remote Creativity

Not being with the team working on your game art can sometimes be a little disconcerting, however, empowering remote creativity involves leveraging technology, creating a supportive culture, and providing structured opportunities for collaboration and individual exploration.  
 
By implementing these strategies, a game development team can tap into a remote outsourcing team’s creativity and produce innovative and compelling game experiences. 

  • Use virtual collaboration platforms and interactive design tools that enable real-time collaboration on creative projects. Platforms like Figma or Miro allow team members to collaborate on design elements such as UI or art bibles in a shared virtual space. 
  • Recognize the importance of individual creative time, allowing artists dedicated periods for independent work without interruptions, this will result in more inspiring deliverables. No one likes to feel micro-managed.
  • Encourage cross-functional collaboration between artists, designers, and developers to bring diverse perspectives to the creative process – whilst also ensuring everything will be compatible when the deliverables are finished. 
     

Tip: Build a relationship with the artist you are working with, trusting them to have some creative input often results in much more impactful deliverables. The new perspective can lead to exploration in new directions your internal team may not have considered. As explained in this episode of the Deconstructor of fun podcast. 

Feedback and Iteration Processes 

Establish a robust feedback and iteration process that facilitates clear communication, collaboration, and the achievement of desired project outcomes when working with an art outsourcing studio. 

  • Establish checkpoints for feedback reviews to evaluate progress regularly to ensure the project is on track. Your producer will help with this. 
  • Avoid providing sporadic feedback and consolidate it into structured feedback sessions. This helps provide clear and consolidated guidance to the outsourcing team, reducing confusion and misinterpretation. 
  • Maintain open and honest communication throughout the iteration process, don’t be afraid to say if something isn’t quite how you imagined. 
  • Combine voice calls with text updates, this ensures tone and messaging aren’t misconstrued.  
  • Ensure the outsourced team knows who the best POC is for feedback rounds, this will reduce time wasting. 

Tip: Have separate threads or channels for each deliverable, this keeps feedback succinct and avoids confusion or things being missed. We’ve found Discord does this well. 
Also, to avoid confusion, allocate one member of the internal team to lead the feedback rounds.

Addressing Technical Challenges

  • Conduct collaborative debugging sessions where the art outsourcing team and in-house developers work together to identify and resolve issues. 
  • Share screens during video calls to demonstrate the issues and collaborate on potential solutions visually. 
  • Maintain detailed documentation for technical workflows, coding standards, file naming structures and asset creation processes. This documentation serves as a reference for the outsourcing team and aids in troubleshooting. 
  • For large projects, it’s worth investing time to provide technical support and training sessions to the team if necessary. This can include tutorials on specific software tools, coding standards, or best practices relevant to the project. 
  • Use version control systems such as Git to manage changes to project files and ensure that everyone works on the most up-to-date assets and code. This helps prevent conflicts and inconsistencies in the project workflow. 

Tip: Create a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing between the in-house team and the outsourced team. Encourage team members to share insights, techniques, and solutions to common technical challenges, creating a more cohesive and efficient working environment. Teamwork makes dreamwork! 

Maintain Work-Life Balance

  • Recognize and respect cultural differences related to work habits and norms if working with a team outside of your culture. Be mindful of diverse backgrounds and individual preferences for when and how work is conducted. 
  • Embrace a balanced approach to work to prevent burnout and ensure long-term team satisfaction.  
  • The games industry is over crunch! We know it doesn’t work, and it’s not healthy for anyone, so ensure your deadlines are reasonable and discourage excessive overtime if you notice it. 

Tip: Outsourcing studios will hear “I need this ASAP” a lot, be specific to ensure your deadlines are reasonable and achievable. 

Conclusion  

Embracing remote collaboration signifies more than just a passing trend – it represents a transformation in the way modern companies work. Leveraging the potential of working with an art outsourcing team remotely provides game studios with a powerful tool for rapidly scaling their teams with top-tier artists.

However, to safeguard against common pitfalls and maximize the benefits of this approach, it’s crucial to work as a team. Whether navigating communication dynamics, addressing project management intricacies, overcoming time-zone challenges, or streamlining feedback processes, these strategies will undoubtedly enhance the overall success of game development by truly adopting remote collaboration. 

Get in touch if you’re seeking an external team of experienced and highly talented game artists to join forces with. Whether you need to enhance your project’s visual appeal or bring fresh creativity to your game development journey, we’re eager to collaborate and help you achieve your goals.

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