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NIGHTMARE... Outsourcing for cheap app development.

View Poll Results: Will 'What it Takes' pass the Apple Approval Process first time?
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09-29-2012, 06:35 PM
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Leeds, UK
Posts: 54
NIGHTMARE... Outsourcing for cheap app development.

Hi guys,

For the last 7 months we've been developing a social word and number game, called 'What it Takes', using developers based in India.

I'm not going to lie, the experience has been pretty horrendous.

However, despite the less than smooth experience (we've had to be extremely resourceful), we're only about a month away from releasing into the AppStore (we're fairly certain that any disgraceful workmanship has been improved / fixed / removed).

Anyway, the complexity of the game is similar to 'Words With Friends' or 'Scramble With Friends', and despite giving the development company an extremely detailed requirements document before agreeing contractual terms, they have consistently been unable to deliver, and as a result, the project is over 4 months late.

We're also releasing the game early without 4 milestones worth of functionality(!) so realistically, the project is actually about a year behind.

Have any of you guys had experiences (good or bad) with outsourcing for cheap devs? I'm interested to hear your opinions and experiences.

Similarly, if there is anyone thinking about outsourcing for cheap devs, i'd be happy to impart some of my wisdom gained by dealing with these morons for 7 months, who certainly don't have What it Takes.

09-30-2012, 09:30 AM
I've been doing outsourcing for more than a decade now with various countries (incl. India). Not actually with game projects but other development (large scale).
When companies start outsourcing development for the first time, it is always underestimated.
Outsourcing requires a lot of experience to manage the contractor and can only be done with clear objectives and even then requires perfect communication.
Also you can't neglect cultural differences nor timezones. India is generally more difficult than eastern Europe, for example. There's no simple rules to follow, get more xp managing offshores and improve your communication skills. Also try to establish a relationship with your contractor to improve cooperation. Good luck!

10-04-2012, 09:22 AM
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Leeds, UK
Posts: 54
Hi Mark,

I absolutely agree with this. Those are all techniques that i've managed to pick up along the way. The level of communication has to be of the highest quality, and you have to be totally explicit in your instructions.
I went into this outsourcing development process almost totally blind - seeing the cheap overseas prices as a miracle, and i certainly didn't think or believe that cultural differences would play such a big part!
Also, our devs employ completely different programming principles to what we are used to. Often, we'd fail to directly instruct them about certain aspects of the game (e.g. implementing asynchronous network connectivity), assuming that they would either a) do it the correct, commonsensical way, or b) do it the same way the Apple guidelines suggest, only to find that it had been done incorrectly a week or so down the line.

Anyway, it's been a struggle (and still is), but it's certainly been a good experience, and taught me a lot. I'm not sure whether i would outsource to India again (their programming speed simply isn't fast enough - even if the quality was fine), i'd probably try use a company based somewhere where the cultural and language differences aren't so great. Then again, if we have another project with an extremely tight budget, there probably isn't really any other way for the development to get done.
10-04-2012, 10:37 AM
We actually took it one step further, we actually created our own entity in India producing apps, websites, 2 D and 3D graphics. Basically we provided talented people with a fully furnished office and hardware. iLifeTouch has produced close to 100 apps and we are profitable after a bit more than a year in operation.

Our approach has been very different. We encourage creative freedom and just give the developers an outline and a product name. We brainstorm and they start to build. The building process helps us fine tune and add content as we move forward.

The developers respond because they feel that they are in charge of the project and the results are impressive. Our employees love working for us because the limitations that they are used to have been removed.

Very odd approach to dealing with India but it has been an amazing ride for all involved.

10-04-2012, 01:13 PM
Joined: May 2011
Location: India
Posts: 26
I'll only talking from my personal experience. I'm an Indian developer and have been in this field since 2008.

You should do a LOT of research before any dealing. Do a background check if they can deliver the project on time. If possible talk to the previous clients.

Try to get a more clear picture of behind the scenes by trying to communicate directly with the developers instead of the managers, almost everyone can understand English.

Check if they're handling the project themselves or further subcontracting.

Last edited by chunkyguy; 10-04-2012 at 01:20 PM.
10-05-2012, 08:36 AM
+1 to everything Mark said above.

I had a couple of failed outsourced projects as well. I thought I had the experience since I'm a software dev and dealt with offshore devs teams within larger companies. Ended up not working out, but finally found a firm that did solid work. I flew out to Shanghai to visit them and it was well worth the time and money.

If I had to do it all again, it's one of the first things I'd do. There's nothing like face to face meetings. Meeting the devs, seeing their offices, bs'ing over lunch were all great. I'm a real person, not just some random client from America.
11-11-2012, 02:20 PM
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Leeds, UK
Posts: 54

Thanks for all your suggestions and contributions to the thread. Flying to the country you are outsourcing to and proving that you are not just another faceless client is a good point. I've learned a lot myself from the whole process, which i'll certainly carry forward into the next project (if there is another), along with some of these suggestions - these should hopefully enable me to complete the project in the most efficient way possible.

Anyway, the project is finished and we're just awaiting approval from the App Store.

The project has cost us around $13,000 in total (including graphics, development, sounds, video), which is incredible really, considering the complexity of the project.

Our teaser trailer for 'What it Takes' can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPucPMBTd0o&feature=plcp

Have a watch and see what you think. We're extremely proud of the game, and for $13,000 (and a ridiculous amount of effort) we think that it was certainly worth the money!

Of course, if you're into word and number games, give our Facebook page a 'Like' (http://www.facebook.com/WhatItTakesGame)for news about the game and it's release date - it should only be a week now! The game is free, so everyone's a winner!

Thanks guys ,

11-11-2012, 02:30 PM
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Leeds, UK
Posts: 54
Oh, and BTW...

The app was rejected the first time of submission...

We had to allow people to play the Single Player mode of the game without having to create an account, as the information collected when creating an account is only needed when playing Online Mode.

A simple link on the account creation screen to Single Player Mode corrected this.

11-13-2012, 03:54 PM
Joined: Nov 2012
Posts: 17
I had an outsourcing experience with a company I used to work for, it was probably the worst experience iv ever had as a programmer dealing directly with the code they produced and having to try and make it work into the deadlines set by the publisher at the time while dealing with divergent design and demands.

Generally the problem wasn't with their code, which was of varying quality normally, but that's more a product of how they hired and not besmirching the area itself. The issue was with their management and ability to speak english, which most of them did not.

We had to buffer all requests, requirements, and communication through a non-technical director there who then somehow managed to mangle those in translation and it just was a heaping mess.

So the take away was, when forced to use an outsourcing house determined by your publisher if you have one, try and get as much direct access to the people actually doing the work, because they can be a good group of guys suffering under terrible management. A lot of the times if I did manage to get a hold of one of them within the team who knew good English and had a technical background, stuff got done.

Software Engineer - City State Entertainment
Check out our games: March on Oz!
11-14-2012, 12:35 PM
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: EU
Posts: 27

Interesting topic. The screenshots and video of your game look great!

How did you go about finding the developers in India?