Developers weight in on the ideal methods for running a studio effectively

Rigid management structures can be ‘disastrous’

Applying a team management structure that is too rigid and relies too heavily on theory can prove disastrous for a game developer, says Tarsier studio director Peter Lubeck.

Speaking to Develop in a newly published interview, a number of developers, studio heads and HR specialists offer their advice on the best methods to run a game studio effectively.

Lubeck said that, in his studio’s case, Tarsier had tried to compensate for rapid growth by applying a rigid management structure. He explained that while it was a good place to start, the studio had to become open to adapting how it managed its team.

“I believe having a structure that is too rigid or based too heavily on theory can be disastrous,” said Lubeck.

“In our case, we tried to compensate for our rapid growth from a small, inexperienced studio by applying a rigid structure based on theory of project management methodologies and the like. While that is as good a place to start as any when you don’t know what you’re doing, I believe you need to be very open to adapting your structure as you go along.”

Goodgame Studios head of human resources Hendrik Mainka went on to say that a flat management structure, as increasingly seen more often in the game industry at studios such as Valve, Blitz and Gearbox, helped establish an atmosphere of creativity and inspiration at the online game developer.

He added that this method also helped provide a healthy work-life balance for staff and prevented periods of crunch at the company.

“We highly value our employees because we know we wouldn’t be as successful as we are without these gifted people,” said Mainka.

“We entrust everybody with autonomy and responsibility, everyone is able to make a difference here from day one. We think of ourselves as one team, not in terms of status, and try to establish an atmosphere of learning from one another and inspiring each other.”

This isn’t to say a management-led studio is a bad idea for all studios. Stainless Games production director Ben Gunstone said it could be just as disastrous for some studios to provide too little direction as it is to stifle creativity with rigid management.

“Common mistakes come from either too little or too much direction from the top levels,” said Gunstone.

“It can be just as disastrous to provide too little direction – presuming everyone knows what they are doing – or too much – presuming no one knows what they are doing. We also hear lots of stories of development teams expanding massively and too quickly and this can lead to an existing company culture dissolving.”

For more advice on how you can manage your studio, you can read our full feature on the matter here.

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