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Legacy:Making Mods/Despotism Or Communism

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Communism or Despotism[edit]

Whether or not a mod team needs a leader has been the subject of some fairly heated debate. This is likely to continue. So, should mod teams have a "leader" or not? It depends.

Probably the best way to determine whether a team needs a leader or not is to start without one. When there is no specified leader in a team of people one will emerge naturally. It's possible that a group of people will emerge as the team "leader". Even in teams that claim to have "no leader" there will be one or two members that are ultimately consulted to resolve disputes. However, if you feel you really need a declared stance on the matter read on.


A team where one single person calls all the shots without any input from the other team members is a true despotism. Quite often that person will be brilliant at what they do and convinced that they are truly better than all of the low-life incompetants they have within their team. This type of person will aim to get the mod released at all costs and (assuming the team lasts that long) will crow about how wonderful they are to all and sundry.

Despotisms only work well when the despot is capable of implementing the entire mod vision themselves, and can work like a machine to accomplish their goal. Mod teams with a despot in charge never get bogged down with unresolved issues as decisions are made quickly and finally. Teams like this do tend to have a higher turnover of members though.

There are watered down versons of the despotism though. I've taken to calling these benevolent dictatorships. The "team leader" of a benevolent dictatorship generally feels a sense of responsibility for the mod and the team. They are happy to make a final decision but will listen to (and actively seek) input from the team members. Depending on how self effacing the team leader is this sort of team can progress (or should that be regress) to the communist model over time.

The single biggest advantage that a depost team model has over a communist one is that these teams never get bogged down with lots of little unanswered questions and un-made decisions.


In a communist team all members have equal importance. All important mod decisions are made collectively. The underpinning of a communism is that each team member has a deep respect for all of the other members of the team. If this breaks down then the communism will tend towards a benevolent dictatorship.

Apart from getting bogged down with unanswered questions one of the other problem communisms suffer from is lack of direction. Although this is related to the unanswered questions problem it is subtly different. Because every team member has an equal say in the final state of the mod it can suffer from an overwhleming overflow of good ideas that get imlpemented in a haphazard and incoherent way. A clear design document will resolve this.

Communisms can also suffer from a lack of production. A communistic team can slip into a pattern of sitting around talking a lot rather than actually producing a mod.

And finally a quote from Mychaeel taken from the original discussion.

If you need a leader, there's no question that you ought to have one. There's just no way you can tell that you need one before you have even gathered a team, and of course you would choose your team's members (given that you're the one who tries to create a team for a certain project) not only by their technical skills but also by their teamworking abilities.

Somebody joining a team does well listening to the other team members to find his or her place in the team. At the same time the other team members must realize that by inviting somebody into their team they also share responsibility for the mod with the new member. In an environment like a game's modding community people committing their time and skill for a certain project have a right to expect that they're an equitable member of the team they joined. (Some might not expect that and, in fact, be glad if somebody tells them what to do. In that case the rest of the team can tell them what needs to be done.)

If some (or almost all) of your team's members don't have enough maturity or teamworking experience to be able to effectively discuss and settle matters of disagreement, somebody has to assume authority to make those decisions. That authority must be accepted by the rest of the team, and it is hard to sustain that acceptance for anybody being self-absorbed in a "leader" position and/or lacking any actual (technical) skills that are crucial for the mod's success. Nobody becomes a "leader" by virtue of being called one (or calling him/herself one). Nobody who is a leader needs to be called one. See also Mod_Authoring/Some_Advice_To_Start_With: "Never join a project whose idea man or leader has no obvious development skills."