Making a game nowadays is much less complicated than one might think.

Home Office

Hello, Kai here. The pandemic has forced many of us to transition into home office, and that includes the games industry. It’s been about a year since I started to work from home, and I wanted to share a little bit of insight about how daily operations look like.

Let’s start with the hardware first. Because we’re not developing for consoles yet, the only dev kits we need are a PC and mobile phone respectively. And since that’s all you really need to develop a game to begin with, it snugly fits on my glorious desk. Behold:

I power my entire setup off an Alienware M15 which used to be my daily driver when going to an office to work was still a thing. That, and a Thunderbolt dock to stick all the cables you see into. The space on the right was originally meant for a new desktop PC, but with the GPU market being what it is, I just use it to stash paperwork.

I work as a product manager by day for a mobile game studio and sit in video calls most of the time, hence the fancy-pants webcam alternative. No, it doesn’t make you a better dev, but it does allow you to flex on people during standup every day without even saying anything. The rest of the lighting setup is off-screen, and I mainly use the stream deck to control it.

Last up is my LG 49WL95C, and I highly recommend this behemoth to people who use two FHD monitors. It offers the same real estate but without the awkward gap right in front of you. I’m also using an app called PowerToys to customize my snapping zones, giving me a 16:9 main zone in the center and two 8:9 zones on the side. Extremely convenient!

And that’s… the entirety of the Kreidenwerk GmbH company headquarters here in Switzerland. (Please help us make this game a success so we can have an actual office tour one day.)

Collaboration

Now, COVID and home office didn’t really impact the development of Legion Hearts directly. That’s because none of us devs happen to live in the same country, and we relied on online tools to collaborate from the start. Here’s how it works:

We primarily use Slack to talk with each other and share memes screens, while Email is relegated for freelancers we talk to once a month. Our project management tool is Trello, and we exchange designs through G Suite or the occasional Miro/Figma board when we need live feedback. Lastly, we use Git for version control – think of it like a shared save file for the Legion Hearts Unity project that everyone has access to.

Now, this may sound like bog-standard stuff to other developers, and that’s because it is. Game dev on a scale like ours requires no on-site infrastructure to function, which is why it was so easy for this sector to transition into home office. It’s the management and coordination part that’s a bit more tricky in a remote setup, and we’ll cover our production process more in-depth in another post. Stay tuned if that’s your cup of tea!

Staying Healthy

Now that we’ve covered the logistics, I’d like to cover the things I do to try and stay healthy. I’m fortunate enough to live right next to a forest with great jogging paths, and I make sure to take frequent breaks to get my body moving.

While I do have a standing desk, I mostly got it for the convenience. Standing might be moderately better than sitting, but the biggest issue of office jobs is the not moving part and a piece of furniture won’t solve that. Looking at you, LinkedIn hipsters.

One gadget I do recommend is the Ring Fit on the Switch. It essentially gamified exercise and worked wonders on me. Making exercise a routine is the biggest hurdle for most people actually wanting to exercise, and I think this app made it wonderfully easy by removing all the mental and physical barriers most people get hung up on.

Next up is mental health. Seeing your coworkers, being able to grab a latte together and having random office chit-chat before and after meetings is what made work fun to me. Video calls, while better than looking at some lifeless avatars, didn’t replace that.

As a result, I struggled mightily with feeling isolated and lonely as my work colleagues made up most of my social circle. In the end, I decided to leave my former job in Iceland 6 months into the pandemic as I began to feel seriously depressed. While I’m still doing home office here in Switzerland as I write this, the difference of being able to hang out with friends and family in a familiar place makes a world of difference.

Last up is drawing a clear line between work and not work. It’s an unfortunate trend that I see fellow devs fall into – replying to mails on the weekend and typing on Slack at 9pm. Blurring the lines makes me less productive while working and more stressed while relaxing, so I clock out with intent – peer pressure be damned.

It’s the same for Legion Hearts with me – I see it as an extra hour of work after finish my day job. Passion project or not, it is work that I clearly separate from my free time. But that’s just me – what was your experience with home office and how did you tackle the challenges? Curious to hear from you!