5 Free Tools for Collaborative Game Development

Since its inception, Synersteel has been a collaborative studio. Every project we've done has had multiple people working on it. That means we've gone through our share of collaborative tools, sticking to the free ones as much as possible. Listed here are our top 5 tools, the ones that keep us running like a well-oiled machine.

1. Google Docs

Google Docs is a no-brainer. It allows multiple people to work on a single document at the same time. This has proved invaluable to us when we are typing up GDDs, plotting out the math for in-game abilities, or even just typing up meeting agendas. It supports word documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more. It's accessible from inside a browser and syncs across devices, so we can always stay up-to-date with any changes made.

2. Slack

Slack, in their own terms, is "real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams." It is essentially a messaging client that completely replaces email for internal communications. You can invite your team, create different "channels" to keep everyone on-topic, and enable tons of different integrations. Slack is perfect for keeping everyone up to date with whatever you are working on. Have a question for the artist? Just send them a message in the "art" channel, mentioning their name so they get a notification.

As mentioned, Slack has a bunch of integrations. Some of the more notable ones (which we use) are Google Docs, Twitter, and Dropbox. Google Docs and Dropbox allow us to send files to each other or to an entire channel. Twitter alerts us any time someone tweets @Synersteel, so we never miss it.

3. Asana

Asana is a task management app which, like Slack and Google Docs, has both a web and mobile application. It permits the creation of teams, projects, and tasks, so you can keep everything organized. 

As a studio grows, it becomes more and more important to manage tasks. This enables everyone to know what they should be working on at a given time. This does not necessarily mean that a few people "at the top" should be calling all the shots. It does mean that no decision is forgotten. Once a new mechanic is decided upon, one creates it as a task in Asana, assigns an implementer and due date, and forgets about it. Once the due date nears, Asana will alert that person about the task, at which point they can work on it. It's amazing the difference this can make on a studio's effectiveness.

4. Skype

Sometimes, it's easier to talk something out with a quick back-and-forth than it is to type it over Slack. This is where Skype comes in. It has traditional text messaging, but is much better suited for voice/video chat. 

5. Dokuwiki

Google Docs is great for writing documents collaboratively, but to store all of our information in it would clutter it. This is where a wiki shines, and Dokuwiki has a very simple setup and is easy to maintain. 

What's nice about Dokuwiki and Google Docs both being web applications is that we can collaborate in Google Docs and then link to it from the wiki. This leverages both the collaborative power of Docs and the organizational power of a wiki.

Those are our top 5 collaborative tools. We're always looking to increase our productivity. so if you have some other tool you think we should start using, by all means let us know!