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Category Archives: General

Some days are better than others…

Sheesh.  Today has been a bit of a day.  My team are currently working on some fairly dramatic, last minute changes to a couple of gameplay mechanics.  It’s not a great situation to be in but we’re responding to some late user testing and it’s better to get this right now than not attempt it at all.  Today however, it’s all come to a head and people have got fed up with scrapping to make quick changes and want clear and accurate direction.

The issue we’re facing is that these changes have thrown our (best laid) plans out the window and we’ve spent the last two weeks running around like headless chickens trying to work out what we need to do and what knock-on effects they’ll have.  As a management team this is painful enough but with a full team of coders, artists and designers underneath us there’s pressure from them to get it right so they don’t end up with a load of wasted work.  Clear and accurate direction is desirable, but when you’re dealing with a last minute curve ball it’s not always easy or practical to do – sometimes you do need to be iterative and sometimes that’s going to cause people some rework.

There are no easy answers really. I need to do a better job with the direction so people feel they know what the next few weeks hold but I also need to give us space to work on the new mechanics to make sure they’re as good as they can be in the time remaining.  It’s going to be a case of doing a chunk of  hard work trying to make sure all the tasks are captured and tracked whilst making sure the people working on them have space for some input.  Not pissing too many people off in the process would be nice too.

Games eh?

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2011 in General, Management

 

The Publisher

Throughout this blog I’m going to refer to the publisher.  Often this will be a publisher in a traditional sense – someone like EA, THQ or Activision who is funding the development of a game with either an internal or external dev team.  It’s worth bearing in mind though that considering how successful a lot of devs are these days at self-publishing titles, the publisher can just as easily refer to developer themselves.

In many ways it doesn’t matter.  Wherever these people exist, the basic functions of a publisher need to be done by someone and it’s these functions that I’m generally referring to.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2011 in General

 

To each their own

You

Producing games is an art.  There are so many pitfalls, so many ways in which creating a super complex, massive, hulking piece of software can go wrong with no possible way of redemption that getting a game out the door is often a miracle in itself.  There’s useful best practice out there to follow but when all is said and done, it boils down to your personality as a producer and how you interact with the personalities around you that dictates how you and your team make a game.

That right there, in the paragraph above is the most important aspect of games production to grasp.  More important than whether or not you can talk for hours about MS Project, Kanban or Scrum.  If you’re managing a team, I want to know that you’re doing it as you – not someone you think you should be.  As a producer in the games industry, you manage very smart, very savvy and sometimes very passionate people and you’ve got to respect that. They smell a fake a mile away and they don’t like it.  Be honest, be true to what you believe and try to have fun doing it.

Me

I kind of got thrown in at the deep end in games production; I was given a project with more system SKUs than I had programmers and told to get on with it.  It was new tech for the company, it featured new platforms, it was mostly staffed by new hires and it was for a tiny, tiny, fricking excruciatingly small budget for a publisher that had ideas of hitting the big time.  Although we eventually managed to ship the game (just about) on time, it was a harsh learning curve and from that point on I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to improve my knowledge of games production.  Continuing to learn the mechanics of your profession is always time well spent but I went a step further and also spent months, if not years trying to make myself someone I wasn’t and that turned out to be a misstep.  I wanted to be tougher – a single minded vision holder, more of a dictator, more like Steve Jobs.  It turns out that this just isn’t me and I wasted a lot of energy trying to make smart people do things they weren’t convinced about because that’s who I wanted to be.

What I eventually discovered was that I actually already had the tools to be a good producer, it just wasn’t the producer I’d imagined.  I’m good at listening.  I’m a good diplomat and collaborator.  I’m really good at shouldering responsibility and bringing others along with me and that’s allowed me to produce a bunch of games on time, on spec and on budget at the same time as maintaining the respect of the people I work with.  I’m not saying that being a dictator is bad, it absolutely works for some people but it wasn’t me and trying to be something I wasn’t weakened me as a leader and an organiser.

Take Away

Whatever else I say in this blog, take away the solemn fact that you can learn all you want about pipelines and spreadsheets but if you aren’t comfortable in who you are, if you aren’t comfortable that how you think and what you believe can be used to make games and make them better then you’re in the wrong job.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2011 in General, Management