Recruitment Threads

There was recently a fun discussion in the discord about what recruiters can do to draw developers to their project. (It starts here, and I highly recommend you look through if this topic interests you!) Cat suggested I put my message as an article on the site, so I've cleaned it up a bit and put it here!


This is subjective! This is why it's an article and not a tutorial - makes it more clear it's a personal opinion, and opens up the floor for more discussion!

This article is intended to advise lead devs on how to recruit others, not to tell other devs to avoid certain recruitment posts. If you see a recruitment thread for a project that catches your eye, you shouldn't be stopped by "Oh, wait, this other guy says recruitments like this raise red flags for him, maybe I should skip it".

I'm going to be repeating this point a lot, but I just want to be very clear about it - when I talk about a behavior that makes me not want to join a project, it is not a moral condemnation of any user who's done this. I don't think they're a bad person, that they'll make a bad game, that nobody should work with them, etc., just that this certain behavior might turn potential recruits away.

About Me​

I’ve been in the Relic Castle community since around 2016, which was the tail end of the old forums! I’ve had a very strange journey with how I approached recruitment threads in that time.

  • Era 0 Tech (just entering) - “I have a fangame idea! I want to talk about it with people! I’ll make a thread!" I then received a DM from the mods telling me that “your recruitment post has a lot of ideas written out, but you did not attach any screenshots. You know you have to have a project started to recruit people, right?"
    • (Pokémon Glass as a concept turns 7 this year... guess when the last time I opened that project file was... I still refuse to abandon WIPs)
  • Era 1 Tech (early relic) - “I can write! I can playtest! I've just learned how to use the map editor! I'm going to see if there's any projects that'll take me and try to make a name for myself!”
    • One time I got in contact with a guy who was asking for a writer for his game. He had a title and a logo, but literally no story, or even base game concept as far as I could tell? I actually had fun coming up with the story (and still consider it one of my “I’ll totally eventually do it” WIPs, to a degree), but the fact that I was able to come up with it out of nowhere should have been a sign that he wasn’t putting in any work on his end - if he had existing work, I would have been writing a story that meshed with what he had so far.
  • Era 2 Tech - "I really feel like I'm understanding coding a lot more, what projects on relic could use a programmer? This seems fun, this seems fun, this seems fun," repeat until I'm suddenly in 10 or so projects.
  • Era 3 Tech (now) - I Will Not Fucking Respond to recruitment threads (and yet I still get personally DMed and won over by specific projects)
You'll notice a few glaring blind spots, haha - I've never actually written a recruitment post myself, and I haven't really made a habit of weighing recruitment posts. (While I certainly don't regret any of the projects I've joined, I had definitely joined more with the intent of "I wanna help out on a game" rather than being particularly discerning) But I think I've got a pretty good handle on what appeals to me in recruitment posts now!

My Personal Red/Green Flags​

An image split into a red and green half. Each side has a flag at the top and some quotes. The red side says "Will you work for me?",  "I need you to fill this role", and "Bump... Anyone there?" The green side says "Will you work with me?", "I need you to do these tasks", and "Bump... Here's an update!"

(Apologies to anyone with RG colorblindness - I was pretty deep into editing this when I realized the potential issue. 😅
Red is on the left, green on the right!)​

If I can't tell what you're contributing yourself, I'm going to be a bit cautious about taking your offer. There's nothing wrong with recruiting people to do things you don't have the skills for, or even people with your same skills just to split up the workload. But if every role on your project is covered by someone else, you might come across as "Just an idea guy" - you have fun brainstorming, but you leave the actual work to other people. Keep in mind, most people in this community have their own ideas for things they'd like to create, and there's never a shortage of projects to join. A good idea is usually not enough to attract recruits, because most people don't want to create your ideas for you.

By contrast, showing what you're willing and capable of doing is a great way to show that you're serious about your project. Even if you don't have the experience or expertise of others, being willing to put in the work is a huge part of development, and shows people that you're interested in collaborating, not just asking them to do it for you.

Another red flag is a post that's vague about the game's promises. Sometimes this is because the post lists common features in fangames, but doesn't get much into the details. A lot of fangames can boast "new Pokémon, a new location, and a new story" - but that's a scale that can range from jam games like Attack on the Space Station to big projects like Pokémon Sage. Other times, posts seem to pad out their advertised features with common plugins ("This game has HM items") or base Essentials features ("This game has the day/night cycle").

Some mechanics and plugins are worth mentioning because they do shake up game design! Like, if you're recruiting a Fakemon sprite artist, you'll want to mention if you're using Following Pokémon EX, because that means every Pokémon will need an overworld sprite. But if a plugin isn't something developers will have to work around, and it's not something you yourself contributed... why list it in the recruitment post?

Some of it goes back to that "What are you contributing?" question. If you're just advertising that you installed a popular plugin or followed the base Essentials tutorials, that doesn't really show a lot of work ethic. If you know that you want to create a region, but you don't have many ideas about the specifics, you're shifting that workload onto the mappers and tile creators. But another part of it is recognizing scope. If you're advertising that you added some plugins, and you're asking for more in-depth work like creating sprites or making maps, people might think that you consider those equal workloads, and expect them to produce work faster than possible, or to be able to take on a too-big task.

I actually have a funny story about not recognizing scope, and one that I hope further proves my point about how these issues are not a sign of being a bad developer.
When I was joining a bunch of projects, one of the games I joined was NocTurn's Pokémon Champions. When I got on, Noc actually hadn’t really had specific features in mind for a scripter to contribute, so he brainstormed a bit. One of his ideas became the Battle Foregrounds script, and that was a great task - it was easy to make, had a lot of fun potential, and he was even willing to make the graphic a public resource to share it.

His other idea was the PokéAthlon - which would have been a very apt inclusion to Champions, given the premise, but was also a massive undertaking, and I don’t think either of us really realized what a huge project it would actually be! (For the record, the Athlon is another “WIP I won’t discard”, and it’s got a decent amount of progress! But also it is definitely the sort of thing that would need a lot more work to get done, probably with some meeting-of-the-minds teamup with the other scripters in the community)

Noc is not remotely a "just an ideas" guy! At the time, he had one completed game and released a strong demo for Champions, and he's continued to put out great work, like organizing and contributing to the Fakemon Festival Pack. While we were considering the Athlon, he was right there with rips and sprite remakes!

It's just what happens when you're not aware of scope sometimes! (And I'm 100% including myself in the "not aware of scope" there!) Sometimes project ideas can range from "make a few quick changes" to "massive, months-long undertaking", and it's important to be aware of that!

Giving specific details can help not just with defining scope, but also the specific ways their skills will be applied! Some artists work better in certain styles, some musicians work better with certain soundfonts, some scripters find UI easier than battle mechanics, etc. Laying out the specific goals beyond just "new art/new music/new scripts" gives developers a better picture of what they're committing to, and can entice them more if it's something they have fun creating!

Posts that bump a thread just to bump it concern me on a couple of fronts. Firstly, I think it shows a bit of ignorance about time management and engagement when developing. I think I can say with confidence that there is no person out there who's like "I want to work on someone else's game project, but I'm only going to check Relic Castle's recent posts, I'm not going to go into the Recruitment subforum and look at projects." It's possible that there's someone out there who would be interested but hasn't seen your thread - but that's more likely because they’re busy in their day-to-day life, not because they had a chance to look at the post and just didn’t.

Secondly, if someone's frequently bumping their recruitment thread, I feel like that's a sign that they're not a very patient sort. Anyone who's worked with me on non-jam games knows that I'm horrible about timely responses, so if a developer's expecting fast work and regular check-ins, I'm probably not a good fit for their project. (And this is a point that can be super subjective - if you have the time and the drive, you might be actively seeking out projects with fast-paced development!)

On the flipside, I think posts that bump a thread with progress on the project are a great way more proof of your commitment to your project and its progress. It shows that you're committing to your idea, and it continues to show off your own skills and what direction the project is taking. You can also give progress estimates - while I wouldn't recommend holding yourself to a deadline, telling people "I think X part is Y% finished" is another great way to tell devs what the scope of their involvement would be.

If a project is still looking for writers to figure out the main story, I think they should be holding off most major positions, unless they've got a lot locked down already. If you're still not sure where your story is going, that means that locations, characters, and even Fakemon are still in a state of flux. There's no reason to ask people to do the work of creating them if you're not sure they won't eventually be discarded. What if your mapper spends time on a dungeon that you decide to cut? Or your Fakemon designer puts together concept art for the cover legendary just before its lore changes?

Recruiting writers in general is not a red flag! You could still need a writer to flesh out any number of things - someone to write NPC dialogue and flavor text, someone to come up with sidequests that won't shift the course of your main story, someone to translate story beats into gripping dialogue. And even if your story isn't finished, maybe you want to make sure it's integrated well with your other game elements, so you want a writer to discuss how you could incorporate character traits into visual designs, or think about the overall lore of the world. These are all great! My point here is only that your team shouldn't be working on an unsteady foundation, and to me, an unfinished main plot is the easiest way to throw things off-course.

I promise, this isn't meant to be elitist/gatekeep-y/etc., but I think the biggest green flag for me right now is an established reputation, where I know they're willing and able to bring a project to completion because I've seen them do it before. (The projects that have reached out to me personally had either a demo or a completed release that was being updated, so I knew it wasn't "Hey I've got a passing interest but don't want to do the work, will you do it for me?") This doesn't mean you have to be some big-name developer on par with Uranium or Prism, or have years of being in the community. I don't even mean "a full game" when I say "project" - there's plenty of resources out there that are great displays of skill and dedication! It just keeps coming back to that first point - show people you're willing and able to put in the work!

People still aren't responding... What can I do?​

It can be tempting to think that getting a team together is just a matter of marketing your project right. Everything on the internet seems to find some sort of audience, so if you just keep sharing, you're bound to hit someone eventually, right?

But the thing about recruiting is that it's not just an matter of finding people who are interested - you also have to find people that have the necessary skills and that have the time to contribute. And sometimes there's just not anyone out there who meets all that criteria! Everyone's got their own lives, and sometimes, even if someone's seen your post and thinks your ideas are cool, they're just not capable of committing themselves to a project at the moment. (Or maybe they're a would-be player who's just never taken up developing themselves!)

That's why you should never wait on new recruits to continue progress. If you're waiting on an asset like graphics or music, just throw in a placeholder and work around it for the time being. If you're wanting a scripter to implement a battle mechanic you thought up, just write down where you want to playtest for balance and come back to it later. Unless you've got a fully playable game, there's bound to be something you can work on by yourself in the meantime, be that mapping, eventing, balancing, etc. It might help attract new recruits - maybe people will be more willing to give time to a project that looks like it has legs, or seeing the ideas in action intrigues them more. Or maybe it won't! But the important thing is, your project hasn't been put on hold to just die off over time.

I feel like I've talked in circles and repeated my points too many times already, but just to sum it up again:
  • Show (don't tell!) people that you're putting in work, not asking others to do everything for you
  • Give lots of detail about the work - the scope of the project, the styles you're working in, and what's already been done are all great things to share
  • If your recruitment post doesn't go well, it's not a reflection on your project or yourself, and you shouldn't let that stop you from continuing to work on what you can!
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An Overly Ambitious Developer
Apr 21, 2023
Thanks for sharing your opinions. I find myself with the same viewpoints that you have when I finding myself browsing the threads. Glad I am not the only one who thinks this.