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Author Topic: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)  (Read 6136 times)

LinkSavesHyrule

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Greetings everyone,

I'm very new here, so I'd like to nail down what does and doesn't make a project successful. I'd greatly appreciate any and all input, as I have very little experience with ROMhacking, but I do have experience in leading a successful team.

So, let's get started:

Please keep in mind this topic focuses mostly on translation teams, as that is what I have the greatest interest in doing.

Developing a team
Team chemistry is extremely important for any project. This is even more important when the team is made up of strangers on the internet who may not have any communication outside of message boards.

What successes have you had when creating a team?
Have you put much thought into it, or do you prefer to do a project in a style similar to, "Well, whoever wants to help can help, but I'll do most of the work."
Make makes a good ROMhacking team? Does a team consisting of a hacker and a translator work well? Would some projects need multipler hackers, or multiple translators? What about an artist? How small should a team be to be successful?

Communication
How do you communicate with your teams?

Are you mostly a solo act, only interacting with people on the forums?
Do you get to know your team? Possibly having phone conversations or even meet ups?
Do you keep in touch with your audience, or do you ignore them?

Structure
Now here's the big one. While I am excruciatingly inexperienced, I'd venture that this area is the reason why so many projects go into Limbo, fail, or take forever to finish.

Do you appoint one person as a leader for the project?
Is there a schedule?
Do you regularly have meetings with other members of the team?
Do you lose contact with members?
Do you keep in contact with the audience to keep them interested/aware of the project/progress?

Going forward
Do you think that you would be more successful and enjoy ROMhacking more if you were to be able to form a team that followed some set of structure?

While I'm learning Japanese I'd very much like to start translating ROMs. I know there are several series out there that are lacking translations, and that there are hundreds of enthusiasts waiting for a project to be done.

Personally I'd like to form a team that works well, has a high output, and lots of communication. I'd like to form relationships with hackers and translators so that I can be apart of a project and help to build an audience and community for translated games.

Thoughts?

Well there you go, some sort of semi rant about the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head for years. This Fall I start heavily studying Japanese before studying abroad there. I think this puts me in a good position to join a community like this and I hope I'm able to contribute well and be a positive member.

Sorry if this is all a bit unorthodox! I'm extremely unorthodox.

Bonesy

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2014, 09:24:53 pm »
I've generally seen big translation teams as more of an anomaly over the years and they generally tend to crash and burn or there's drama.

LinkSavesHyrule

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2014, 09:37:30 pm »
It's always so strange to me that drama erupts over these projects.

I think that's what makes it important to lay down the plan before things happen.
Maybe I'm just a sucker for structure, but I think there must be ways to prevent things from happening that way.

Thanks for your input!

Bonesy

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2014, 09:40:23 pm »
Do take what I said with a grain of salt, though, I'm more of an observer than a participator around these parts. If you wait a while someone with actual chops will hopefully pop by and give their advice.

LinkSavesHyrule

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2014, 09:44:02 pm »
That's what I'm hoping for.

I've got all the time in the world. It's a long ways off before my Japanese is good enough to act as a translator, but I figure I should get my feet wet now, learn the community.

Might as well combine two of my biggest interests together (gaming and language).

Gideon Zhi

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2014, 09:50:15 pm »
Developing a team
Team chemistry is extremely important for any project. This is even more important when the team is made up of strangers on the internet who may not have any communication outside of message boards.

What successes have you had when creating a team?
Have you put much thought into it, or do you prefer to do a project in a style similar to, "Well, whoever wants to help can help, but I'll do most of the work."
Make makes a good ROMhacking team? Does a team consisting of a hacker and a translator work well? Would some projects need multipler hackers, or multiple translators? What about an artist? How small should a team be to be successful?

In my experience, the ideal team consists of a hacker and a translator, possibly with a text editor as a third. Occasionally I'll ask for help for a couple of aspects but prefer to handle the majority of the technical work myself. I know where my skills lack, and I'm happy to ask for help if I think it'll benefit the project overall, but if it's something I know I can do myself in reasonable time I usually won't ask for assistance.

Communication
How do you communicate with your teams?

Are you mostly a solo act, only interacting with people on the forums?
Do you get to know your team? Possibly having phone conversations or even meet ups?
Do you keep in touch with your audience, or do you ignore them?

I keep in touch via twitter, IRC, AIM, email, whatever's easiest for the people I work with. Meetups are usually out of the question as team members rarely live within a thousand miles of each other. I'm my target audience, and I'm always in contact with myself, so there's that :) Occasionally I'll throw out screenshots for the general public to drum up some hype for a project.

Structure
Now here's the big one. While I am excruciatingly inexperienced, I'd venture that this area is the reason why so many projects go into Limbo, fail, or take forever to finish.

Do you appoint one person as a leader for the project?
Is there a schedule?
Do you regularly have meetings with other members of the team?
Do you lose contact with members?
Do you keep in contact with the audience to keep them interested/aware of the project/progress?
There's no schedule, there are generally no meetings (other than an informal "how's it going?") And there really aren't any leaders, because at least in all of the projects I've been part of everyone's contributions were equally important to the successful completion of the project, and everyone's too polite to appoint themselves overlord. Teams are usually never larger than three so an appointed "leader" is usually unnecessary. The SRW Alpha crowdsource is a bit of an anomaly; I'll talk about it at some point but as far as this topic is concerned it's an outlier and shouldn't be considered.

The fact is that these are hobby projects. Everyone has their own stuff - work, school, kids, relationships, sleep, relaxation, whatever - and they take a lot of time and effort. We devote some of our spare time and energy into this stuff, and none of us get paid for it. I don't know about anyone else, but I personally disdain the appearance of forced structure because when I or anyone else donates their time to a project I'm thankful enough for that and don't want to foist obligation onto them.

Going forward
Do you think that you would be more successful and enjoy ROMhacking more if you were to be able to form a team that followed some set of structure?

While I'm learning Japanese I'd very much like to start translating ROMs. I know there are several series out there that are lacking translations, and that there are hundreds of enthusiasts waiting for a project to be done.

Personally I'd like to form a team that works well, has a high output, and lots of communication. I'd like to form relationships with hackers and translators so that I can be apart of a project and help to build an audience and community for translated games.

It's a nice thought, but in my experience people just get irritated if when you start pushing them to meet deadlines. I'm happy for the relationships I've formed over the last fifteen years but I've only had face-to-face encounters with a small handful of the people I've interacted with because of the whole distance thing.

LinkSavesHyrule

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2014, 10:18:42 pm »
Wow didn't expect a response from such a well known hacker.

I really appreciate the feedback.
I agree, deadlines and such can cause a huge amount of unwanted stress, especially when projects are usually solely done during someone's free times.

Being that you feel like structure doesn't work, how do you guarantee that your projects are finished in a timely manner?

Let's say I'm a translator on a project, and the hacker I'm working with hasn't been communicating with me, or it's been a while since he's made any progress, and I'm sitting on all of my completed work.

What are the best ways to handle this? Would it be fair to, for instance, have all of the data for the project accessible to both members, so that if progress isn't being made I would be able to seek out additional help?

Or would simply communicating with my teammate generally be enough to motivate them into pushing the project forward?

I understand that there are a lot of "what ifs" and each hacker/translator is a different person, but I generally am afraid of starting a project that becomes vaporware because someone isn't pulling their weight.

Please note that I don't mean any harm in this, after all this work is free and life happens, but as that may be, the show must go on.

FAST6191

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2014, 04:48:57 am »
Most projects seem to fail when someone wanders in, figures out what text encoding and basic pointers are, jumps into epic 90 hours of main quest game where the game revolves around language jokes, possibly with a translator that has a solid grasp of kana and basic grammar but not much else.
However most would argue such things never had a chance in the first place, I agree there so I will ignore that.

Proper drama seems kind of rare, most of that would seem to come from games where there are high level tools and lots of people wanting to use it. Fire Emblem seems to be the worst there from what I have seen but Golden Sun and Pokemon do well too. That is not to say egos can not clash outside of that, far from it.

Most actual failures then usually happen because ROM hacking projects are not known for being long weekend projects, nor ones with all that clear cut milestones, and over the several months things take a lot can happen (spawning, break ups, hook ups, new jobs, illnesses, family illnesses/deaths... all popular). Even if you can replace someone their workflows up to that point might be hard to integrate with.

Speaking of workflows there is a phrase along the lines of "the last 10% takes 90% of the effort". Though I seldom see actual projects fall at the final hurdle it is often the 10% stuff that can trip things up before then -- as a hacker I do not care if there is some binary markup in the text and spending an hour to make a script to convert to something more readable is a pain, as a translator you may feel somewhat differently and if I step back from the hacker thing I can see that. Likewise that last 10% of text cutting can be hard if you have space limits.

Nightcrawler

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2014, 04:32:40 pm »
Developing a team
Team chemistry is extremely important for any project. This is even more important when the team is made up of strangers on the internet who may not have any communication outside of message boards.

What successes have you had when creating a team?
Have you put much thought into it, or do you prefer to do a project in a style similar to, "Well, whoever wants to help can help, but I'll do most of the work."
Make makes a good ROMhacking team? Does a team consisting of a hacker and a translator work well? Would some projects need multipler hackers, or multiple translators? What about an artist? How small should a team be to be successful?

These days, the best way to create a 'team' is to lead by example. Just start working, make your progress public, and see if others are interested joining in. Certainly a team of just a hacker and a translator can work well. Many projects were completed this way. In fact, more were completed this way then by larger teams. Every project is different. Some projects might fare better with multiple hackers or translators for various reasons, while others might not. It depends on who is doing what and if it can be efficiently and effectively.

It's usually always a poor idea to try to assemble a 'team' ahead of doing any actual work. This usually ends in failure because either nobody skilled wants to join your team (not wishing to commit to some random guy), or people who do join are like minded having done no actual work (and thus the sum of group output is low skill and low output). In a community of strangers that don't know each other, you typically need something to prove your worth first before other people will want to commit anything to you or join you. My advice is lead by example and start doing! The biggest doers typically draw the greatest following and available help. :)

Quote
Communication
How do you communicate with your teams?

Are you mostly a solo act, only interacting with people on the forums?
Do you get to know your team? Possibly having phone conversations or even meet ups?
Do you keep in touch with your audience, or do you ignore them?

Communication is typically informal in whatever form is convenient for the participants. As mentioned, any organized meet ups or meetings are usually not possible. Time differences, life responsibilities, and differing commitment levels make it difficult to plan anything specific.

I certainly try to keep in touch with my audience. Often times your audience may become your help pool, or open up avenues you never thought about. Not to mention, simple support from others can go a long way to get through more tedious aspects of the project.

Quote
Structure
Now here's the big one. While I am excruciatingly inexperienced, I'd venture that this area is the reason why so many projects go into Limbo, fail, or take forever to finish.

Do you appoint one person as a leader for the project?
Is there a schedule?
Do you regularly have meetings with other members of the team?
Do you lose contact with members?
Do you keep in contact with the audience to keep them interested/aware of the project/progress?

I mimic Gideon's words here. Too much structure, schedules, and appointing leaders is a quick way to get others to QUIT working with you! It just doesn't work when we are across the globe from each other, donating time for free, with varying commitment and responsibility levels. It's a hobby and it needs to stay amicably enjoyable for all parties to succeed. If there's any pressure or stress, people can just walk away.

You have to accept that your teammates may work at different output levels and different times entirely than you. You need patience. You may work on something solidly for a few months, while your teammate is unable to for awhile or vice versa.

Quote
Going forward
Do you think that you would be more successful and enjoy ROMhacking more if you were to be able to form a team that followed some set of structure?

While I'm learning Japanese I'd very much like to start translating ROMs. I know there are several series out there that are lacking translations, and that there are hundreds of enthusiasts waiting for a project to be done.

Personally I'd like to form a team that works well, has a high output, and lots of communication. I'd like to form relationships with hackers and translators so that I can be apart of a project and help to build an audience and community for translated games.

Thoughts?

Nope. I think more structure and constraints will push people away and leave you without a team. Even for myself, I donate all the work and time that I can. If you try and push more out of me, make constraints, or call it unacceptable, I will probably not be working with you any longer.

Of course with such limited structure, sometimes people just wander off into space and they may never produce any output. Some of that is just par for the course. There's many flaky, unreliable people out there that are eager to start and never finish. Sometimes people want to commit, but simply can't as their life becomes unexpectedly too busy. It's up to you to keep communication with them and dually determine if they can get the work they need done or you should just find somebody else.

We're all people and working together freely and successfully is a delicate balance! There's no magic solution that works for all!  ;D
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LinkSavesHyrule

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2014, 09:03:26 pm »
That's very insightful, thank you so much.

You guys are really helping me attune my thought process to this kind of atmosphere. It's all very interesting.

I'll keep in mind leading by example, I'll have to work hard.

BlackDog61

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2014, 04:03:59 pm »
For small teams, you can go a long way with no "structure". By that I mean - no contract, no written form of anything giving roles. But you need to build up a common understanding, and you need to find source of will for each person involved.

My own progress is a good source of joy, but I've always found joy to be twice tastier when shared with others. Bouncing ideas back and forth is also a good way to circumvent the harder parts of projects.

when it comes to larger groups, I have a different feel from Nightcrawler and FAST, though, and that may essentially be because my experience in this community is limited. I think it makes sense to have slightly more formal roles when a lot of people are involved. Or at least when a person joins, that there be some kind of discussion as to what he / she wants to do and how the team views it.

With the level of contributions we can see from people in this site, I'm still surprised there are not more jousts. Once you've invested hundreds (or even thousands) of hours, I think it is a normal human reaction to expect other people to mind your opinion on whether we should spell that name like this or not. It doesn't make you king. It doesn't give you more skill than you can demonstrate. But you do expect some questions to involve you, right?

I guess that's one of the aspects upon which I'd like to hear from the senior members of this site.

The other one is: how do you get skilled people to join?
I mean, going public is a two-edged sword. On the one end, you can enlist more help, get pats on the back. On the other end, you get tons of "when is this going forward" and probably the occasional "what the hell are you waiting for"?
Or is it just a matter of taking the best of what you get, and ingoring the rest?

What's your fuel to keep going?

Gideon Zhi

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2014, 04:56:59 pm »
I think it makes sense to have slightly more formal roles when a lot of people are involved. Or at least when a person joins, that there be some kind of discussion as to what he / she wants to do and how the team views it.

I think this is true no matter how large or small the group. It's less a question about having N members on a project and more about having N members whose contributions are valuable in some form or another. If someone comes along and wants to contribute to a project, my question is, okay, what are you going to contribute? If the answer is something along the lines of "I can BETA TEST" I think, "Yeah, well, so can pretty much everyone else on the planet. Why should I believe that you want to offer meaningful criticism and don't just want to get an early copy of the patch?" Or if someone comes along and says "I'm a good PROJECT LEADER" I think, "What does that even mean? What benefit do a romhacker/translator/editor trio gain from a manager type when they already know what they're contributing and if schedules are flexible and fluid?"

If anyone wants to be associated with one of my projects, they have to be able to contribute something meaningful to it. That's really all there is to it, from my perspective.

Quote
On the other end, you get tons of "when is this going forward" and probably the occasional "what the hell are you waiting for"?
At least once per week :| It's really, really annoying and is one of the reasons I haven't been posting many updates lately. Things have been going on in the background that I'd love to show off, but I don't want to give people the impression that the squeaky wheel gets the grease/kick, you know?

FAST6191

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2014, 05:22:47 pm »
On having my opinion heard... a wise person once said to me that you want to know what you suck at. In translation/hacking I suck at translation, I might know more than many about the culture or game series I am helping out with and would also go so far as to say my command of the Japanese language is enough that I could almost get on with things if you dumped me in Japan (and gave me a couple of weeks for a crash course). However I also know just how easy it would be for my face to contort into its best fish impression with just a few questions. Speaking of that I also fully expect that to happen to me as I start tearing into something new to me in hacking, in some ways I kind of seek it.
If I do feel strongly then I will try to present my opinion with the reasoning I took to get there, if someone then shoots it down with more reasons it is a sign you are working with good people. If it is not satisfactorily resolved my chosen editing tools tend to have a find and replace function, I have yet to have to do that for anything beyond choosing what songs I want a game to play all the time/at what volume I want them to play though.

Or if you prefer the slightly more pithy version then all that I have ever learned has basically only served to teach me how much more there is to learn.

How do you get skilled people to join a public/larger group? Though it is true of smaller/more private groups the bigger stuff is even worse here. The short version is you are selling me (or someone else) on the idea of your project and the game in question (though the game may be less important than the puzzle).
The start of that is a good title for your thread/email subject, something super generic will probably only get looked at if the post volume for a forum is not so high.
Demonstration that you have made some small amount of effort/that you are not looking for a handout. This can be hard, however I have never seen someone convincingly fake that amount of effort before asking for help (any hacker could make a convincing fake, however that is usually tempered by them enjoying the hack more than the result).
For the above if you can package it into a format where I can get right into it, or at least a suitable jumping off point, then that certainly helps. I might still start from scratch in the end but it does help.

"you get tons of "when is this going forward" and probably the occasional "what the hell are you waiting for""
You are supposed to pay attention to that?

LinkSavesHyrule

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2014, 08:32:43 pm »
Great feedback everyone!

In a similar vein, what exactly is expected out of a translator?

Is it enough that I be able to translate an entire script, edit it, and make sure that the sentences flow and fit into a context?
Or is it expected that I be able to alter fonts, and make sure that the lines are short enough to fit on the screen?
Or is this the job of the hacker, to make sure that they find a work around, like increasing the length of a line, or adding more line breaks, or adding an additional letter to the dialogue box?

I'm sure every game is different, but are there general skills that I should seek outside of being able to translate well?

Additionally, I'll be living in Japan on and off for the next decade. Should I look out for rare games and bring them to America, or learn to develop ROMs of them? Are there people currently looking for physical copies of games to use in the creation of ROMs? Or is that an entirely different area of expertise than these forums go?

Gideon Zhi

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2014, 08:53:18 pm »
Or is it expected that I be able to alter fonts, and make sure that the lines are short enough to fit on the screen?
Or is this the job of the hacker, to make sure that they find a work around, like increasing the length of a line, or adding more line breaks, or adding an additional letter to the dialogue box?

Generally this sort of thing falls on the hacker. Also generally it's fairly trivial. String length was one of the first barriers the romhacking community overcame back in the mid/late '90s, but once strings are freely resizable it becomes super easy to print whatever is needed, formatted however is needed. Font sizes (i.e. pixel width) are frequently another matter though.

In my experience translator's primary "responsibility" is to put relatively-accurate English text where once was Japanese; anything else (editing, for instance) is a nice touch but is otherwise fluff. Not all translators are superb writers, and as mentioned earlier it can be useful to pass overly literal text off to a third party for editing.

LinkSavesHyrule

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2014, 09:04:13 pm »
Awesome, well I think I'd like to be able to translate and also edit.

Language and writing are some of my best skills. Well, that might not be apparent on the boards though.

mrrichard999

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2014, 10:23:29 pm »
Would you be able to translate a few things for me? I got a few small projects I would like to do before school starts up again :)

LinkSavesHyrule

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2014, 10:26:22 pm »
Would you be able to translate a few things for me? I got a few small projects I would like to do before school starts up again :)

I would love to, but I'm not nearly far enough in my Japanese language learning.
I mean, I suppose I could try, depending on the length of the project.

What exactly are you working on?

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Re: How to make a successful project (Why projects succeed or fail)
« Reply #18 on: July 29, 2014, 12:44:45 am »
I'll send some stuff over to your inbox.