Category Archives: Management

Some Rules for Games Production

Before I leave the world of work-for-hire games production for something a little different, I thought I’d jot down a bunch of guidelines I’ve encountered over the years that help with making games.  These are especially true when making games for publishers or similar clients and whilst I’d imagine anyone out there with a lot of experience does these anyway, they might just jog a few new thoughts.

51 Random Guidelines for Making Games

1)      Hit your milestones.

2)      I’m serious, hit your bloody milestones.  Get the work done with a good 20% of the milestone left for bug fixing and ephemera.  Plan with these deadlines in mind.

3)      Start every project with the belief that you can make a great game.

4)      Start every project with the goal of getting it out on time and under budget.

5)      Great games and on-time delivery aren’t mutually exclusive if you make careful decisions and employ good production methods.

6)      Prioritise your work.  Take into account your design team and your stakeholders’ wishes here.  They’re both right, they’re both wrong, you need to help them find accord.

7)      Mediate.  Your most important job is preventing talented teams from tearing each other apart.

8)      Don’t forget about audio.

9)      Budget and schedule for the pitch process

10)   Understand your game’s vision and sell it to the rest of the team at all times.

11)   Understand your game’s vision and sell it to your stakeholders at all times.

12)   Manage your relationships.  Be courteous to all the people you work with or work for.

13)   If you’re working with a publisher, get in contact with the brand manager on your game and get them on your side.  They have the capacity to torpedo you in the final stages of dev.

14)   Aim for a healthy profit in everything you do but don’t be short sighted.  A well-executed but barely profitable job can extend your company’s portfolio and be just as valuable as a result.

15)   Remember that it’s okay to ask for more money when your stakeholders ask for more stuff.

16)   Make sure you’re developing your team. Personal reviews are important two-way conversations between you and the folk who keep you in a job.

17)   People like to be rewarded with control over their work. Give people goals but let them work out how to achieve them.

18)   Use pre-production to build something, even if you throw it away.  If you finish pre-pro with nothing but a bunch of beautiful documents you’ve done it wrong.

19)   Documents are not very useful if you don’t keep them up to date.

20)   Keeping documents up to date is an absolute bitch so make fewer documents.

21)   Prepare.  For meetings, for conversations, for the start of every day.

22)   Sometimes you need to micromanage stuff. Do it for as short a time as possible or it will kill you and your project.

23)   Be prepared to pivot when things need to move in a new direction.

24)   If you’re making a big change be prepared to spend a vast amount of time convincing the team that it’s the right thing to do.  It’s vital you bring them with you.  Do this with one-to-one’s, email, IM – do this with your general presence on the team.

25)   Be aware of the wider market – your job goes beyond the current game you’re making and the games you like to play.

26)   Be aware of your team’s limitations and guide your project accordingly.  Aim to push your team but don’t rely on unrealistic expectations.

27)   You are primarily a facilitator.

28)   Don’t rely on new tech until it’s proven out.

29)   Talk, and encourage your team to talk. I’ve never seen a team that’s buzzing produce work that’s late or subpar, EVEN IF ALL THEY’RE BUZZING ABOUT IS A FUNNY CAT ON THE WEB.

30)   Get QA on board as early as you can afford them

31)   Don’t ignore the bug list.

32)   Understand your game’s brand.

33)   Asking for help is okay.  You are at your weakest to your team when it becomes clear you don’t know what you’re doing, NOT when you’re asking for help.

34)   Get really good at listening.

35)   Ignore the haters on the Internet (unless they’re right).

36)   Become a great storyteller.

37)   Make mistakes and make them early.  You’re not trying if you don’t fuck something up.

38)   Learn from your mistakes.

39)   Keep your word.

40)   Remember that there are times when your stakeholders are NOT actually trying to screw you.

41)   Become a sales person.

42)   Admit it when you’re wrong.

43)   The little stuff matters.

44)   If someone asks you a question and you don’t think you know the answer, remember that it’s okay to say that you’ll get back to them.  Just make sure you do get back to them.

45)   Understanding the personal motivations of your stakeholders is important. It helps you get to the bottom of the why, which is important for when you start to work on the how.

46)   Work on your presentation skills.

47)   Tell the people above you what’s happening on a regular basis.

48)   If you work for a bunch of dicks, make sure you log these conversations by email

49)   Sometimes, any decision is better than no decision.

50)   Sometimes thinking things through first makes more sense.

51)   Enjoy it, you’re making games ffs.

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Management, Production, Project Management


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?

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 2, 2011 in General, Management


To each their own


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.


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.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 1, 2011 in General, Management