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Siliconera Sounds Off: The Advantages Of A Small Development Team

0 The games industry is inhabited by all kinds of developers, both small and large. While there’s definitely an advantage to working with a sizable team when developing a big-budget game, oftentimes, a smaller creative unit allows for much greater flexibility and communication. Perhaps this is why so many retro games are revered even today — because being the creative vision of a smaller group allowed for a more well-executed and more focused design that held up over the years.


Recently, as part of a larger interview, we caught up with Manfred Linzner, co-founder of Shin’en Multimedia — a team of five, known best for their work on portable shoot-em-ups Iridion and Nanostray — to find out a little about their development process and team.


While the full interview will be published on Siliconera in the days to come, following is the conversation pertaining to team size and process:


Ishaan: There’s something to be said about having smaller teams. In a way it almost feels like, sometimes, a smaller team results in a better executed game, since communication isn’t an issue.


Manfred: A key benefit of our small team is the rapid iteration and, as you said, the easy communication. It’s simply a law of gamedev that a team of a 100 people is not four times more effective then a team with 25 people. With many people you always get into a lot of discussions about which direction to go. With a small team it’s much more easy to have the same vision.


Ishaan: Could you tell me a little about the team and division of responsibilities? What are the roles you’ve established?


Manfred: From a very distant view we have three coders, one "graphician" and one musician. When looking more closely, the jobs blur much into each other. For instance, our graphician can also do a lot of stuff with script-coding in Maya. One of our coders is a great musician as well. Each one is doing level design. Many graphical FX and some shaders are also done by the coders. Responsibilities shift also with projects. And in the end i really think we have some great talent here at Shin’en.


Ishaan: That sounds like an incredibly flexible team. I assume it also makes prototyping and trying out different ideas easier, since everyone at Shin’en seems multi-talented. What kind of games is the team usually interested in pursuing? You’ve really expanded the genre slate of late with your WiiWare titles…


Manfred: Prototyping is extremely important to us. Usually, we give two weeks to a new game idea. In two or three days, we usually then have a playable prototype of the basic idea. Then we polish the idea for the rest of the time and test out all input from the members.


In general, we are pursuing games that look and play fresh. On the other side, we really have a sense for old retro genres. That gives often quite interesting results. Finally we always pick up ideas for games that we would really like to play ourselves on the target platform.


Look forward to the full interview with Shin’en in the days to come!

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.