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User groups are a great way to meet local developers in your area, share tips and techniques, demo your projects and possibly find work at local studios. Since moving back to the UK and helping to form the Manchester Unity User Group I have discovered quite a bit about the trials and tribulations of running an effective user group. Here’s some advice:

User groups are a great way to meet local developers in your area, share tips and techniques, demo your projects and possibly find work at local studios.

If you have been to our Unity User Groups page and discovered that there is no local user group, all is not lost! This might be a great opportunity to establish a Unity User Group of your own.

There are a number of things to take into account when looking at establishing a user group. This is what you can do to get the ball rolling:

Measure interest
The first step is finding out how many folks in your area will be interested in a user group! This will have a strong bearing on the flavour and scale of your events, so it’s important to have an idea of what to expect. A good way to do this is to find other pre-existing game development groups in the area and join them. This can be in the form of local your IGDA chapter, game jam events or if you are at college/university, perhaps there are relevant classes that may have an interest.

Find a venue
Getting the venue right is crucial. If you anticipate a handful of interested developers, simply meeting up in a bar/coffee shop can be a nice relaxed way to start things off. However, if you expect a group that is a bit larger, you will need to consider a more dedicated space that can better cater to your needs. This is especially true if you’d like to give people a chance to present through a projector. Good places to start the search include the IGDA, local universities and hackerspaces.

Plan your first event
Depending on how structured you want things to be, it’s a good idea to have a specific plan. With smaller scale groups, grabbing a drink in a pub/coffee shop and hanging out in a corner works fine. Once you reach a point where the entire group is unable to huddle around a laptop or two, you’ll probably want to scale up the venue a touch and prepare a program. At the Manchester group we usually have one or two main presentations. Then, during the second hour, we open it up to the group, so that anybody can showcase what they are working on.

Online presence
Making your group easy to discover online is important. We found that many more folks than expected turned up to our first meeting just from some because we promoted the group on Twitter.

Choosing a platform to co-ordinate the group is also something that you need to consider, as the Manchester Unity User Group has evolved we have tried out a number of different systems. Initially we used Eventbrite, we are now using a Facebook group and are considering setting up a Meetup page, which proves to be a popular choice with Unity user groups in general.

Be sure to register your new user group on the Unity website.

In addition to that we also have a Google form that feeds into a spreadsheet for talk submissions, if somebody wants to talk at a meeting, we ask that they fill in the details on the form so that they are saved for ease of planning. Google forms and spreadsheets are generally pretty good way to get organized.

Beyond the first event
So, you’ve had a super awesome first event and are looking ahead to the next one. The first thing to consider is when you should hold the next meeting. The trap that we fell into in Manchester was effectively “too much too soon”. We reached a point where we were running low on news and projects to share. Me and Dan, the two main organizers, were also incredibly busy and didn’t have the capacity to give the group the time it deserved. As a result, we switched to alternating between a normal meeting and just a casual social meet up. We are now considering an ad-hoc approach where when we have a primary speaker who wants to share their projects, we arrange a meet-up around that headline session.

So, that about does it. If you happen to have experience of running a User Group, please chime in with your nuggets of wisdom in the comments below! Ultimately, there isn’t really a wrong or right way of doing things, so feel free to experiment with different formats and structures.

A few pictures from the latest Manchester Unity User Group Meet Up:

23 replies on “Building a User Group in your area”

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I live in India, West Bengal and even though there are few smaller studios who are working for both smaller games and outsourcing but there is a definite lack of user group where budding and experienced developers can meet to share ideas and since I’m learning game development in unity and have interest in starting my own, I’m not sure if it will be considered as an entrepreneurship but getting in touch with diversified members is a tough one. Thanks for the great idea.

I’ve heard about nice devs from Brazil… unfortunately with all the corruption scandals, few are looking at it right now. I work at the stocks industry and that Petrobras scandal really scared all the investors and consequently that has reflects on everything. With that class-action lawsuit, I think things are only going to get worse, specially because of the wide (specialized) media coverage and the fact that lots of other big companies are involved; all of them relying solely on shady, dishonest and fraudulent practices to do “business”. I feel sorry for the good people in Brazil. The country is going downhill from a financial standpoint and it seems corruption is the rule there.

Best wishes for your country.

Sou do Brasil \o/

in relation to the scandals in our country .. if the laws works like on the united states or other countries, I doubt that there would be corruption as there is here today.
The government rarely (if ever) supports companies. Why here the industries do not go too far forward.
The industry games here .. nothing to say ..
99.9% of the politicians here are corrupt.

Qualquer coisa emaaail ~>
Tenho alguns projetos lançados :P

You Sir, you have an open-mind and that is what takes (in a large scale :P ) to improve things in a democratic country. Most Brazilians I know seems to be in-love with the politicians and they kinda live in denial. I mean; they are not able to see that corruption is endemic in Brazil and that’s a big part of the problem.

Another huge problem imho is the invasion of the commies recently… I mean, the Communist Parties and the Labor’s Party are clearly communist (duh!) and they (along with their coalition) have the power to decide even a change in constitution (at least that’s what my teacher said) due their massive representation (Senate and Chamber).

That’s a big problem because the big investors are no idiots and you can be damn sure they are aware of that, and no sane investor is going to put 2 cents in a country going the communist way :P.

My regards to the commies in Brazil :D.

PS: I’m not American

Anyone in the UAE (specifically Abu Dhabi) would be interested in a Unity User Group? We already have 20~ish aspiring developers in our college game development club, it would be nice if we could find more people interested in Unity around here.

This is good idea. As it becomes easier to use Unity and more assets are available I can see Unity & pick your favorite school subject being a popular premise to make different Unity applications for school clubs and classes at a local level.

This is a great introduction on how to form a local developer group. I recently started a game dev group in my town, but I had not thought about adding it to the Unity User Group lists. We hold our meeting the first Saturday of every month to make scheduling easier on everyone. We meet for four hours, with a 30 – 45 minute presentation starting about an hour into the meeting. The rest of the time is for socializing, catching up, networking, etc…. And after the presentation we open it up to people to show off what they have been working on.

We average about 10-15 devs every meeting, which is great considering we are located in a small town in the Midwest of the US, about four hours away from anything you could even consider a small “hub” of the industry. I also agree with the idea of using Meetup, we started using it with our 2nd meeting and it has worked great. is our Meetup page, hopefully it can be an example of what can be done (although ours is still pretty bare bones right now).

Good luck to everyone wanting to start their own group!

Hey everyone, i’m just starting to use unity, but I have so many ideas. It seems like they aren’t possible with my lack of knowledge atm. I’m curious to know if anyone lives in the Kansas area that would be willing to work with me and help me make some games I had in mind. I’ve brought these ideas to many people and they all say they would love to play the game I have in mind. It’s not the common MMORPG, these are redesigned games that I think could bring new life to the gaming community. If anyone is interested please message me, that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Looks quite interesting. What if you want to form a group based not on area, but on specific topic you working, i.e. RTS, RPG games. This could make discussion of more specific questions, i.e. lessons how pathfinding works, what can be done to optimise existing solution, or just simply to discuss what we are busy with…

I got also interested in a topic-based groups, which could have meet-up in certain area, with possibility to extend group through online conversation (i.e. Skype webinars, discussions) to keep topic based questions in the front…

Is that kind of groups popular to use?

I don’t come across focus groups that only discuss rts / rpg etc type games only. They don’t seem popular at all.

One reason why Unity user groups are so successful is just the diversity of content, not everyone is presenting the same game and all share their successes and tips’n’tricks. You can really learn a lot at these events and meet some awesome people.

Sounds like an idea that could work for a one off theme to an event, perhaps linking it to a game jam with a similar theme prior to the event? That way there will be plenty to discuss and game jam post-mortems are always a great way to share solutions and approaches to a specific problem.

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