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Charlie Oscar's Creative Process - Hiring/Team Structure

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It's been a while since we posted anything, as we're still busy with the upcoming release of Spire of
 

Charlie Oscar's Creative Process

November 12 · Issue #3 · View online
In this newsletter, we share the details of our creative process – as we look for better ways to make great games happen.

It’s been a while since we posted anything, as we’re still busy with the upcoming release of Spire of Sorcery. Though “upcoming” is a pretty flexible definition: it’s quite likely that we’ll launch in Early Access around March of 2019, even though it feels like it’s almost there.
Today, I’d like to use this issue of the newsletter to provide details about the full-time job opportunity that we now have at the studio – and to share details of our overall team structure, so that you can see how we make games happen (which is probably different from other teams).

Why We Are Hiring Now?
Charlie Oscar was set up in the middle of 2013, with full production of Gremlins, Inc. kicking off in early 2014. We shipped Gremlins, Inc. in Early Access in late 2015, with the full release in the spring of 2016. It then took us about a year to release a number of DLCs, as well as a ton of content and feature updates, before we were able to catch our breath and slowly start on the studio’s second game.
The design and pre-production of Spire of Sorcery started in the middle of 2017 and we expect to enter Early Access a bit faster than with our previous game, benefitting from the experience of prior teamwork.
The single most valuable asset of our studio is our game designer, Alexey Bokulev: the success or failure of our games depends on the quality of his vision and on our execution. But where execution happens in the open – we comment on each other’s work every day, and seek solutions together – the process of game design happens entirely inside Alexey’s bright head.
Alexey Bokulev in April 2015, holding the design notes for Gremlins, Inc.
Alexey Bokulev in April 2015, holding the design notes for Gremlins, Inc.
Certainly, he discusses things with us and sometimes incorporates our suggestions into the game; yet ultimately all of us are committed to risk with years of our professional lives on the assumption that if we properly follow Alexey’s vision, then we will ship a superb original game.
For a long time now, we’ve been asking ourselves: how can we maximise the efficiency of Alexey’s work? His areas of expertise are:

  • game design (systems, formulas, values)
  • directing our backend engineer on development of tools
  • writing code (converting game design concepts into C# scripts)
  • sharing references, giving feedback on all aspects of creative assets
  • giving feedback on everything else (from pricing to trailers)
He is irreplaceable as far as areas 1, 4 and 5 are concerned; he is hardly replaceable in area 2 (because this is a done deal by now, water under the bridge); as to area 3 – which he hates the most, by the way – we had to wait for all the tools to be completed at first, as well as the first hundreds of scripts to be written as a reference, before we could think of assigning this chunk of work to someone else.
At this time, a few months from the launch in Early Access, we finally feel like this is doable – and if we do manage to find a colleague for Alexey, then our team’s efficiency will have a significant boost thanks to more of his time being spent on design rather than scripting.
And this is why we’re hiring now!
How Do We Work?
In 2015, we launched our first game Gremlins, Inc. that by now has over 500K players, with millions of sessions played around the world. If you ask me now, I wouldn’t advise anyone to try doing such a project as their first game, because the stress level was pretty high. Perhaps there’s an easier way to get the same experience!
At the same time, thanks to this project, we found our own “secret recipe” for how we can manage to run a live ops project with continuous updates with a team of just 5 people:

  • communication
  • coordination
  • cooperation
  • contribution
  • commitment
For example, when a server in Singapore crashes overnight (an unlikely situation), all of us are committed to resolve this – on the community front, on the tech side – and all of us are in touch as we coordinate the resolution. When I call our backend engineer, he’s there for me, at 3 in the morning. When I’m paged by our community manager to contact the server cluster, I’m sending that email immediately, and communicate the current status on our studio’s Slack for everyone to follow.
A typical exchange on Slack (channel: #sos_features).
A typical exchange on Slack (channel: #sos_features).
Everyone shares their work in progress to coordinate production on all sides, and everyone’s welcome to contribute by providing feedback or taking over a task that they think they’re good at. Our best work is the result of our team’s cooperation, where one person poses question A, another person suggests solution B and yet another person comes up with solution B2 that’s a further improvement on the idea.
Work in progress on alchemic properties: everyone's helping Rita with comments.
Work in progress on alchemic properties: everyone's helping Rita with comments.
Fortunately or unfortunately, we are bad at managing people, so we end up working only with people that are self-driven. You show up at the office when your peers need you – and when you can’t, then you work around to make sure that others are unaffected. We coordinate our holidays to avoid causing problems to each other, and above all else, we try to help other team members to be as efficient as possible.
The same applies to the talent that we cooperate with, externally: the translators that we work with, ask all the questions that they need in order to deliver their best. And when they feel like they need more context, they go to Steam Forums and the game’s Discord server to get the community feedback at its source.
Current Team
At the moment, we continue adding features and content to Gremlins, Inc. while preparing Spire of Sorcery for its closed beta, and then release in Early Access. Our core team is 7 people:

  • Alexey covers game design and writes scripts (which we hope to take off his hands soon), providing both vision and execution on this front;
  • Andrey covers UI/UX, creating art assets and writing code at the same time, as well as helping with art direction and managing the production process;
  • Paul is the backend engineer responsible for our dev tools, as well as for the server side of our projects;
  • Rita creates all of our concept art and provides art direction for the new project, additionally helping with UI when needed;
  • Monika wears a lot of hats: she creates parts of the UI (both concept and final assets), she does all of our animation work, provides direction for music and sound effects, and also manages localisation pipeline of both games;
  • Sergey started as the studio’s community manager, later taking over localisation pipeline for communication (as well as some translations) as well as stepping in to assist Alexey with game design for the new game;
  • finally, Sergei – that’s me – covers most of communication, directs the production process and takes care of the business side of things (managing accounting and ops, among other things).
In addition, we work with Inga (accounting) and Alma (ops) who help us stay focused mostly on the development side, so that when someone in the team travels or needs to file a tax return, we’re able to rely on their help in minimising the workload on the shoulders of the creative team.
In terms of everyone’s background, we’re from LT (4), RU (3) and UA (2).
Charlie Oscar's terrace in the summer (we built our own office in 2017).
Charlie Oscar's terrace in the summer (we built our own office in 2017).
Job Specs: Engineer/Junior Game Designer
Finally, here’s the specs of whom we’re after these days:
Position: Engineer/Junior Game Designer [full-time]
Project: Spire of Sorcery (Early Access Q1 2019, full release Q1 2020)
Location: preferably in Vilnius, though working remotely is also possible (if you decide to relocate to Vilnius at a later point, we’ll be happy to help).
Requirements: C#, English and Russian languages (highly desirable)
Scope: work with Alexey Bokulev, our game designer to translate game logic into game code (C# script)
How to apply: please shoot us an email to introduce yourself, then complete the test (details on the picture below).
Opportunities: the game is a few months from release; everyone in the team is experienced and has shipped games before; we don’t like stress much; Vilnius Old Town is a nice place to be.
Challenges: communication is crucial; will need to learn on the fly; we like live ops and we keep a high tempo of updates before and after release.
Test for Engineer/Junior Game Designer position, in one picture.
Test for Engineer/Junior Game Designer position, in one picture.
If you know someone who is a good fit for our team, please let us know!
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Charlie Oscar Interactive Entertainment UAB, Malunu 6B, Vilnius, 01200 Lithuania