Content production studio Outso has turned to an unlikely inspiration in forming its development methodology
For those too young to remember, the concept of ‘Total Football’ was exemplified by the superb Dutch football team of the 70s. Each player was so talented he could play almost any position.
We at Outso have applied this philosophy to game development. We like to call it ‘Total Development’. We have adopted the opposite approach to the current trend of specialising roles in the team in which each developer has little or no influence on the development of both the game and company.
We have consciously chosen to work in field where we can keep the team relatively small and give them a huge amount of project development autonomy. We typically work on multiple projects, using the talents of our outsourcing partners when necessary.
Key to this strategy is what we look for in the recruitment of new members. We spend a great deal of time ensuring that we find people with a similar outlook to the rest of the company. They need to be smart, and have three vital ingredients that we believe make great developers; passion, commitment and discipline. It is then up to us to recognise that we have some very smart people and to treat them with the respect they deserve.
DELIVERING THE GOODS
This approach has led to the over-delivery in almost every occasion due to the commitment and passion shown by the team. Every project is notably better than the previous project. The flexible small team approach coincidentally leads to highly efficient development with hardly any money wasted, which helps keep the company highly competitive at all times.
In order to explain how this works in practice I’ll give a quick example of how a typical project works within Outso.
With the Assassins Creed Home Space, we firstly receive a short brief so the pitch team will research and fully understand the IP and needs of our partners. We then put together some very high level designs; these designs can come from anybody within the team and are tuned to the IP by the design manager.
Once into development the team is given free hand to take this initial seed and expand it into a fully realised game. Of course the design is checked at the sprint review stage and by both our design team and our partners. By having artists and coders with great understanding of gaming, this is possible, which is all part of the concept of Total Development.
Communication and responsibility is also central to the success of these small agile teams, and it is no surprise that all teams operate using pragmatic scrum with the producer coordinating the efforts of team and enabling them to succeed.
TRIED AND TESTED
Continuing with the concept of Total Development we have a very smart QA team that can perform multiple roles ranging from focus testing, video production, audio, customer experience analysis. Every member of the QA team can do multiple tasks as we choose to place the emphasis on the quality of the team rather than numbers.
A major byproduct of empowering the teams is that over the last few years the they have developed several embryonic businesses that are now expanding into fully-fledged enterprises of their own. Lockwood Publishing was created to publish a range retail items and in-house IPs on PlayStation Home. Playmetrix, which was created out of the necessity to monitor the behaviour of users within Sodium, is a world-class technology in the final stages of preparation to be released as a fully commercial product.
We believe the success of the company is in part having a smart and talented team members who can shape products and understand the importance of hitting dates.