Monumentalís David Tolley on better harnessing outsourcing
With more studios owning their own satellite studios in emerging countries, Develop asks Monumental’s David Tolley about how integrating foreign teams within your own company can bring benefits far beyond traditional outsourcing…
How many people do you have working at your Indian office?
We currently employ a team of ten artists. The studio is made up from a good cross-section of skill sets, but in addition to their specialties we vary the work between the team to keep it fresh and interesting. The team structure is pretty straight forward and is headed up by our art lead, who is responsible for day-to-day dealings with me in the UK
Now we have proven to ourselves that the off-shoring model works, we are preparing for a phase of growth and hiring teams to work over multiple projects.
What sort of jobs are they specifically doing as artists? Is it high-level work?
As with our UK-based teams, we use the full range of skills available in India which makes them integral to our titles in development. Currently they are working on high-end game assets for one of our console based projects. It’s a popular misconception that overseas staff are used for donkey work, but I’ve spent years rallying against that.
A few years ago it was common to send only certain types of work out of the studio, but with big developments in communication, plus the fact that overseas staff are gaining experience, it has become possible to delegate much of the high-end work to these studios too. Again, this type of approach needs the support and understanding of a strong core team in the UK which is essential in helping to manage the art quality and pipelines.
To what extent are they integrated with the team back in Nottingham?
Our offshore team works closely everyday with our main office in Nottingham, so we just see it as an extension of our team here really. The success of the studio depends solely on the relationship it has with our development team, and the support internally from the UK is fantastic. On a day-to-day basis I can pinpoint any problems and deal with staff directly – the work our Pune studio has produced is the legacy of a strong supportive team here.
Integration is something we take very seriously. I personally visit the studio every month or so and often take a UK staff member with me depending on the project or stage of development. We’ve also flown the Pune guys across here to spend time with the development team and basically get a flavour of the games they are developing.
What do you think are the benefits of having your own studio in India as opposed to outsourcing?
Running our own offshore studio has given us a number of distinct advantages, but really the chief gain is that the team is working solely for us as an expansion to the UK studios. Having an experienced team who is familiar with our tools and processes is a major advantage in that we don’t need to retrain or re-educate the staff when moving to new projects. As mentioned, we’re planning on growing our offshore team considerably this year, but certainly still plan to use external outsourcing to some degree, mainly because of the immediate benefits of scalability.
How do you find recruiting talent in India – is there a large skilled workforce for you to draw on?
I had already worked in India and knew a few good guys from my visits there, so it was really just a case of contacting some people and going from there. Now we’re more established, I have a good network of contacts and there’s never a shortage of good artists enquiring about us. A few years ago it wouldn’t have been easy bringing together a solid team of artists, and the few experienced guys available were obviously drawn to the big outsource companies in India.
At the moment we’re finding it easier to recruit experienced talent in India as opposed to the UK, a fact we knew would be instrumental in us opening up a studio there.
Obviously we look for strong artistic employees who can make a big contribution to our games – not cheap labour. Currently, there are a few good things working in our favour which lets us recruit the best staff – working for a UK company certainly has good kudos, as does working for a developer that gives the guys great insight into game creation, and producing quality games across multiple genres and systems keeps the work stimulating. There are also a lot of talented guys eager to break into the industry and I’m currently working with a number of institutes on developing and opening up real-world opportunities to help exceptional graduates break into gaming.
How much knowledge about running a studio can be ported over from the UK, and how much do you think needs to be tailored for the Indian culture?
There are differences, but it’s certainly not a negative thing. Basically we’re a UK company so that’s the way the business is run in the Indian studio. Everything we do is planned with the Nottingham team in mind. It’s a huge culture shock working in India initially, but there’s really only one way to develop games, so inside the office it’s business as usual.
We do, however, have a lot of respect for the Indian way of life and see it as a great cultural addition to our studios as a whole, with certain things tailored to the Indian way of working. The day-to-day running of the studio is surprisingly smooth considering the distance and time difference, but this clearly comes with choosing the right staff and the ongoing familiarity of processes. Anyone who’s been to India knows the unique kind of atmosphere the country has – it’s creative, colorful and passionate; and the growing interest in emergent technology makes game development an obvious draw for lots of young professionals.