Black Caviar Games is a mobile and PC game developer and publisher founded in 2019. Initially, the company didn’t have an office at all, with all employees working remotely. A full-fledged working space only arrived in March 2020, but the lockdown made the devs switch back to WFH.

Mikhail Pimenov talked to Evgeny Antonikov, game director of Black Caviar Games, on how the WHF model affected the development.

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Evgeny Antonikov, game director of Black Caviar Games

Mikhail: So, working from home. Great way for a studio to save money and for employees to build a more flexible routine. Have you struggled, though, to maintain the level of productivity?

Evgeny: To work from home, an employee must have very good personal organization skills so as not to be distracted by many factors: from the refrigerator to pets.

For the developers it’s even more difficult. The quality of the Internet connection is important to always be in touch and work with a large amount of information on the network. Ensuring that you have the equipment you need to work at home is also a challenge, especially when it comes to recording, for example, soundtracks for a game. In addition, there’s often an issue of different time zones. And that’s not all.

The office means atmosphere. At a distance, whatever one may say, it is not so convenient to communicate with colleagues. There is no sense of closeness, which greatly affects the general climate at the company.

We are now successfully combining both formats. Whenever possible, employees work directly from the office, but there are also qualified specialists from other cities who, for one reason or another, can’t move. They take part in development remotely.

Our experience suggests that you can choose the format that is convenient for you, but only if you are confident in your organizational structure. Discipline comes first!

Tell us about your experience relocating employees.

One of the main challenges for game studios located outside of big cities is the relocation of employees. Most developers here in the CIS prefer large industry hubs: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev or Kharkov. In Krasnodar, where BCG is based, it is more difficult to find specialists, but we’ve found a way out.

Applicants are not huge fans of relocating. “Everything suits me in my home region”, “I don’t want to live apart from my relatives”, “Family is against”, “High costs of moving and housing” are just a few examples of objections we often here.

At the same time, studies show that 35% of the surveyed professionals are ready to change the city as part of their career development, and another 56% can’t give a straight answer, but they are ready to consider proposals from the employer.

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If your company needs to relocate job seekers, it is important to understand what you can offer. Not only do you need a positive response from an employee. You also want to ensure they are willing to stay with you long-term.

You can’t just lure people with high salaries alone. Devs are now also interested in what project they have to work with, in their future team and conditions.

Corporate culture is also important. People are now taking a more responsible approach to their emotional state, so we created a comfortable atmosphere inside the studio. We spend time together playing games, having dinner, celebrating birthdays. Everyone’s opinion is important for us, whether we are discussing what kind of tea to buy for the office or finalizing the concept of a future game.

You said multiple time zones also poze a challenge.

Evgeny: Yes, this can really be a serious problem for the company, but I believe we have found a solution.

The main problem of the difference in time zones is how difficult it is to discuss urgent issues that need to be solved here and now.

Today, people from more than 20 cities work at our studio: from Khabarovsk to Kaliningrad. It’s not a two or three hours difference, it’s eight hours!

In order for the development to proceed according to the schedule, studio managers build the asynchronous work model for employees, breaking the project into tasks in such a way that everyone performs their individual duties independently of the others.

Working across time zones requires careful planning. Different tools help here. For example, we have a corporate calendar, where meetings are marked according to the time zones of the team members. Another way to organize your employees’ work is to use task planners. Choose programs that are clear and easy to use for all participants.

Do not forget that the most important thing in working in different time zones is strict control by managers or department heads.

Thank you for the interview.

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