Category Archives: Game Producer

What is a game producer, and what’s expected from game producers? Go through this category and you’ll get a better picture about game producer qualities, requirements and job description.

Words to Avoid

Note to self:

When telling people when something gets done, there’s some words that need to be avoided, words such as: “soon” or “asap”.

These words carry close to no meaning. What “soon” means. This year? Next month? Today? In 2 hours?

Same thing with the following: “it’s not a big deal” or “it’s not much work” or “it can be done fast”.

These also have no meaning. Is “fast” or “not big deal” equal to 2 week? 3 Days? 1 month? 2 hours?

Instead of saying “soon” say “today” or “tomorrow before 4 pm”.

Instead of saying “not much work” say “it takes 2 days”.

Producers Are Like Cry Babies

As I have my own baby project going on, and as I’ve witnessed some producers actions (and happen to be an indie one) I came to conclusion that producers are almost like babies.

situation baby producer
needs diapers yes yes (based on how much bullshit you can pick from his talk)
says incomprehensible stuff yes yes (obvious)
is the boss yes yes
is agile yes yes (at least think his team is doing “agile development”)
craves for attention yes oh, yes (some even put out public blogs to make them feel important)
cries for attention yes yes
eats most of the time yes yes (lunches, lunches, lunches)
cries yes yes (see below)
Thinks that you promised something when you said that “This is only a gut feeling estimation based on total guesswork. In no way this should be used as a promise to anyone. This task might take 3 days, or not. Most likely it won’t. In fact, most likely it will be something totally different I think. I cannot promise that I can get you that toy/feature in time and you should not even think that this can be completed in 3 days.” Yet after 3 days (s)he comes to you crying “but you promised!!!” yes yes (i’ve witnessed this happening)
is cute yes hardly

Besides the cute-factor, I think the evidence is pretty solid.

Producer-Human-Producer Dictionary

Sometimes it’s difficult to understand the communication between producers and other people. Luckily, I’ve made a handy guide for people that explains in clear terms what the producers really mean when they are talking to other people.

What producer says What he really means
I’ll do it right away. I’ll forget it as soon as you leave the room.
That’s interesting. Couldn’t care less.
That’s really interesting. I have no clue what you are talking about.
Sorry, I’ve been busy. Your issue is not important.
Sorry, I’ve been really busy You are not important.
Why it takes so much time to code? I don’t trust you.
This can’t take so much time to program. You are an idiot.
This is important. I’m in charge here.
Should be better if we’d handle that issue in some other time Stop interrupting me.
We can bring that issue up in the next meeting, now it’s not the time. Shut up.
We need to get this thing finished asap. We’re screwed.
It’s time for the performance review. I have no clue what you guys have been doing this year.
Very important point, thanks. Shut up.
*Nodding* Shut up so I can talk.
Sorry, can’t talk now, I have a meeting starting in a minute Don’t talk to me.
Yes. No.
No. No.
This is what our project needs. I’m clueless, but in charge.
It’s not a problem, it’s a challenge. I just read a new book about leadership.
That negativity isn’t helping us. I’m the only one allowed to whine.
How would you rate my performance as a leader? Anyone want to get fired?
You guys have done a great job. You guys have done a great job, expecting to see much more in the future.
Tony was a troublemaker, it’s good for the team that we fired him. I hated Tony.
Our project is 90% finished. Only 90% more to go.
We got some great feedback from our testers. Our game sucks and is filled with bugs.

Feel free to add to the dictionary.

The Cost of Things

Is your team tracking what stuff really costs? Here’s some things to ponder:

  • When I shop at grocery store (we go there bit over once per week), I multiply the price with 50. For example, if soda costs like 2 euros, I multiply it by 50, so that I know that it really costs me 100 eur (per year). After that, I think if I really need that soda (answer is yes: I get 2 bottles)
  • In team meetings – let’s say 5 guys having 2 hour meeting – things can become pretty expensive. If it costs like $50 per hour (just random number), then having 5 guys in 2 hour meeting costs $500 bucks. Before having a meeting instead of thinking “we should have a meeting” you could ask “is this meeting worth $500 bucks?”
  • When thinking about features, multiply the weekly salaries, and you can easily come with number like for example $20,000 (for some teams, again just one random number I picked from the hat). Now, when you think about adding features (and hear that it takes one week of your team’s time – $20,000 cost) you might want to ask “do we really want to do this”?
  • And numbers get bigger and bigger when going in larger scale projections.

I don’t want you to get paranoid about anything and freeze (do nothing because everything costs). I just want to point out that sometimes it might be a good idea to think about where the time & money goes.

Do You Make This Mistake When Delegating Tasks?

I discussed with one (non-game developer) guy who had got assignment to “be at this place at 10:00″. After getting this piece of information, the guy was also told “it would be good if you could come little earlier”.

“Little earlier”? What does that mean? Is it 5 minutes earlier? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? Why not simply say “be here at 9:45″, that would make the task more clear.

Same thing can happen in game production. Sometimes a programmer might ask “we can do this minimum quality, but do we need to do it with higher quality?”, to which game producer replies “Do the minimum level, but it would be nice to get higher quality.”

“Would be nice”?

In this situation, the programmer didn’t know what to do, and when he asks for help he gets confusing assignment and probably goes home to burn some ants with a magnifying glass to release stress.

If the producer is the one who makes decisions, then he is the guy who needs to say for example that “Do the minimum quality” or “Do the higher quality”. Or, if he needs to think about the resources he could say “Do the minimum quality, but if creating higher quality takes less than 3 days then proceed”.

Giving specific details is really important to avoid any confusion.

(And to help ants to survive.)

Something That Every Game Producer SHOULD Do

“Should.”

That word belongs to the category called “doom words”.

Producers who use the word “should” in their work, are taking steps towards doom.

Whenever a producer says “Here’s something we should do” nothing good really happens. Saying “that is something we should discuss” is equally bad. Hearing the word “Should” is something that makes people feel bad and something they forget pretty fast. If somebody walks around the office saying “what the team should do” isn’t really helping the project.

A producer that has good ideas that “should be used” is annoying at best.

So… what should the producer do?

Instead of using the word “should” producers could for example:
1) Decide how things are done and put them into action right away.
or
2) Suggest a date when decision for certain matter is done or agreed.

Forget “should”.

You really should consider this – for the sake of your team.

Web Software for Teamwork

You want start a game development project, but you are unsure on the ways you are going to manage it. As an indie like you, I also don’t have cash for consultancies or ERP software packages! So here goes a fair number of web-based tools to help you managing people.

DotProject

This is one software with a bunch of features for project managing and team collaboration. It works pretty much like traditional management software (MS Project and Primavera). It has a forum, a shared calendar for events and meetings, and an also shared contact list. The main weak point is the lack of AJAX-like functionality – so, unlike Gmail, for example, you have to reload the whole page each time you want to update it.

Like MS Project, it is a complex piece of software, but a very good one. I’ve used DotProject for 2 and a half years, and now I’m moving to either Overlord or Teamwork. I came to conclude that I don’t need much complex functions for 4-8 developers teams. But that will depend on your producing methodology as well.

Overlord

A managing system focused on game production, used by GarageGames. It is a great system, simple but effective for our goals. Has Web 2.0 capabilities, and has the source opened to you after buying, so you could add your own modifications afterwards.

Teamwork

  • http://www.twproject.com/
  • Needs Installation? No, though a license for download-and-install is available.
  • Free? Yes, for small companies (up to 5 projects and 10 developers). For bigger ones, 8 euros per month for each user. No source available.

This one is new to me, and I’m still evaluating. Unlike DotProject and Overlord, it is a ASP-business model, so you don’t need to install anything – just create the account on their site and use it. It has lots of functions, and seems as complex as DotProject – but uses Web 2.0 controls that can really improve tasks visibility and usability for team members. And getting to know what everyone else is doing is very important thing to keep team members motivated.

Useful (and free) Software

These are software not intrinsically related to project management, but can help you on specific needs. With WikiMedia software, you can keep your internal documentation updated, interactive and easily available for the project team. You can also configure that just some users can modify the Wikis (game designers, most of times).

phpBB is a widely-known forum tool. You can use it as a knowledge database, issue-tracking system, and – above all – an interactive tool available for the players!

The WordPress blog system of this site is available for download! You can configure blogs for each members of your team, make a general “project” blog, or use it as your site main under-laying system (like we did on Interama site).

To Clone Or Not To Clone?

Jake from Grey Alien Games arouse a subject on their blog, regarding the differences on cloners vs. idealists on casual game design. To clone or not to clone, that’s the question! I think it worths to make a post on this subject.

I think the Cloners vs. Idealists subject for casual game market can be evaluated from another perspective: cloning is less risky. Of course you will have a smaller piece of the pie, since there are so many clones like your game, and the game will sell well for just a couple of months. But cloning IS less risky also, after all you are selling something that is already proven successful. For no other reason EA releases the same games every year.

The Risks

Innovation is way more risky, and much more costly – it will take more time to get to a both innovative and salable gameplay. Maybe years: consider Bookworm Adventures and The Sims. Producers will have to throw away many prototypes, and can’t be sure when exactly will have that design that will nail when implemented on a final form.

Since casual games focus on gameplay experimentations can really postpone milestones and delivery dates, and that means more months maintaining infrastructure and salaries – the final cost may skyrocket from first predictions. Even more risky, the public might not like it at all! Consumers do like more of the same, and tend towards concepts they already know and are familiar with.

The benefits

However, the final game, for its uniqueness, can outsell any ultra-polished clone and have a trully extended lifespan. Consider Peggle, Chuzzle and Diner Dash – titles that have been selling (and will sell) for many years. Hell, Bejeweled is five years old and still sells so much!

Even better, it might create new consumers who aren’t used to play much games, but for some reason got atracted by a new concept. Juan Gril exposes here how innovation on gameplay can create genres/markets by turning non-game-consumers into new players.

The Important Decision

Deciding on cloning or innovating could end on a clear economical choice:

- Will I take the safer path and sell a fair number of units for one or two months, but with a somewhat already built fan base?

- Or will I invest time and money on a more innovative and potentially more profitable project, but risking on ending up with something not fun enough (poor sales) or that will demand more money and time than predicted?

8 More Game Producer Questions Answered

I was asked to some game producer questions earlier, and here are the rest of the questions and answers.

Question #8. What makes you tick?
Something like this.

Question #9. Who or what has been your greatest influence in the videogame industry?
Hmm… maybe it was the time when I discovered “C64 BASIC programming” book in the library.

Question #10. Do you see role of the producer changing in the future?
Yes, I’m sure it will change – although I cannot tell how it will change. Whatever happens, the important part is to embrace change.

Question #11. What advice would you give to an aspiring producer?
My top 2 tips would be:

1) Do what you have passion for.
2) Never give up.

See also game producer interviews – there’s plenty of information from many producers who have loads of experience in game production.

Question #12. What is your favorite videogame? And favorite that you have worked on?
Same answer to both questions: this one.

Seriously: the game project I’m currently working on has always been my favourite, and hopefully always will be.

Question #13. What makes a game producer tick?
Tough one… depends on the producer I think?

Question #14. Education, qualities, attributes or skills of a Producer
Check out breaking in the industry. It contains massive amount of information from AAA producers: it will tell you what kind of skills and qualities are necessary – and what kind of meaning education has.

Question #15. Top Producers in the game industry – your opinion
The ones who keep the team going forward. The ones working without making a big fuss about everything. The ones whose names we probably won’t even see.

7 Game Producer Questions That Need Answers

I received an email with several questions, and here’s the first 7 answers for those questions.

Question #1. How have producer roles changed over the last two decades?
According to Wikipedia, the first time “game producer” title was used in 1982. From the interviews and discussions with other producer, I’ve come to conclusion that “producer” means different things on different companies. The role definition lies somewhere between “manager” and “leader”. I believe the role is more likely to change between companies, than perhaps between time.

Question #2. The current fight over which titles to greenlight….?
Hard cold business decisions.

Question #3. What makes a good developer?
See what people smarter than me have answered. I think in my mind it boils down to getting stuff done.

Question #4. Who are famous producers in your opinion? Why?
I don’t think this is a matter of opinion – it’s matter of fame, and matter of defining producer. Any producer who has put his name in his games must be famous ;)

Question #5. Who is your favorite producer? Second favorite? Why?
I don’t play favorites, but if I have to choose, I’d pick “Me, me”. He is the guy I have to bear with every single day.

Question #6. What are some of the changes brought about by the marketplace in the way the production process takes shape?
This is extremely large question to answer. I can give you some changes that in my mind are changing the marketplace, but these are just examples.

First of all I think digital delivery (downloading games via Internet, without going to shops to buy games) is a huge thing. It will change the marketplace for good, and DRM (digital rights management) are playing a big role here: copy protection must be done so that it won’t annoy the player. Another thing is the raise of casual gaming. Naturally the console wars (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii… and others) are changing the marketplace. For example, companies need to figure out which platforms to support, and whether to make games for consoles or not.

There are more reasons, and I let our community members to give more examples.

7. Why would game development teams fail without producers?
If by producer we mean “manager” or “leader”, then one could ask why teams would fail without leaders. This is pretty good question, and I think teams might survive without having a clear leader in the team. In theory, if the team members are all working towards the common goal – it might work. Leaders are there to keep the team together, help team members to make their work, resolve difficult situations… and somebody has to do that. It doesn’t mean that team would need a guy whose work title is “producer”, but naturally somebody needs to know where the game development should be going.