Working remotely is something the entire world is rushing to get used to right now, but for some, it's already that way.
Lots of companies and developers have found success working virtually, carrying countless projects from start to finish from the comfort of their own homes.
Boomzap is one of those companies, and creative director Chris Natsuume joined PGC Digital this morning to discuss working remotely, how to make it work and what really matters when you're managing a project entirely online.
Natsuume has been making games for 25 years and working remotely for 15 of those years, and had tons of insight to offer on building a functioning and successful virtual studio.
Refining the process
Natsuume's first point was that making the switch from brick and mortar studio to remote studio means that your process has to be redefined. The things that may have worked in one building may no longer work if the surroundings change.
"As you go through this process of change, stop trying to replicate your old ways of working," Natsuume said.
"Reinvent the way that you work and focus on actual tasks that need to get done. Ask yourself if meetings or socialising needs to happen or whether that was just part of an old working environment."
When working remotely, a team of people is split into two dimensions, according to Natsuume. One of those is space; everybody on the team is now working in different surroundings and it pays to be aware of that. The second is time, because similarly, teams could be working on different timezones and personal schedules.
"Everybody doesn't have to work at the same time," Natsuume added.
"Instead of forcing everyone to be online at the same time for arbitrary reasons, just create something that everyone can see at different times when they're able to."
As you go through this process of change, stop trying to replicate your old ways of working.Chris Natsuume
Natsuume highlighted three main points for productive documentation. They need to be collaborative, concise and current. There's a huge value in making sure everyone can easily access the information they need, and ensuring that it's always easy to follow and up to date.
This way, team members can avoid what Natsuume called "the water cooler conversation". In a physical building, some members of the team may start chatting about features or updates in a small group and then that information is not passed on to the full team in a valuable way. Natsuume explained that having everyone communicate publicly means everyone stays on the same page.
"Everybody on my team communicates on Slack in the appropriate channels, publicly," he said.
"It's about making sure everybody gets a piece of information regardless of when they see it."
Develop a rhythm
To conclude, Natsuume discussed the importance of establishing a rhythm for a studio or team. This doesn't necessarily mean replicating the same working hours or structure, but focusing on how information is communicated.
"We have a daily build every single day, everyone knows where it is and what time it happens," Natsuume explained.
"We also all have daily tasks, so when you start work, you set out to everyone what's going on and what you'll be doing so everyone is aware."
Natsuume also mentions core hours, not for working, but to make sure that there's a significant portion of the day where all team members are contactable.
"Core hours are 10 - 5. They're not set working hours, but hours that I can expect to reach someone. I don't care if you're sat at your desk or sat at the dentist, but those are the hours that people need to be reachable.
"As long as you're getting your daily or weekly tasks finished at some point during the day or week, and reporting the progress back, that's what matters.
"If everyone is following these steps, then everything else comes together."