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10 Tips: Increasing the Effectiveness of Producers
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10 Tips: Increasing the Effectiveness of Producers

September 27, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

3. Get to know external partners

When working as the producer on the publishing side, building relationships with the external development studio is a crucial part of the job. "When working with an external partner, constant communication is one of the key aspects, because you have no insights into the team so it is difficult to anticipate problems," says Thorsten Stein, an external producer at online games publisher Bigpoint.

"When I worked with our Korean partner on Maestia, we maintained communication via Skype on a daily basis. Due to the time difference, we only had about four hours in the morning to discuss any open issues, but we were able to catch up on anything that had come up while either of us were not at work."

Visiting external studios is also vital, he adds: "It is much easier to work together when you can pin a face to the voice and, as one of my colleagues would say, always take a look in the restrooms -- a partner that is not able to maintain them properly might also be lacking in other areas."

4. Make decisions and own them

"As a producer, you've got to make decisions," says Riggall. "Sometimes you'll be right, sometimes you'll be wrong, but you've got to make decisions. If you've got to go back and make changes because something's changed or you made the wrong decision, so be it, but you have got to keep things moving, make decisions, and drive things forward."

Darius Sadeghian, senior producer at Sega Studios Australia, creators of London 2012: The Official Video Game, agrees. "Producers can make mistakes. I've made mistakes, and admitting them to yourself, and amending, and moving on is really important. If you feel you've made a mistake, be honest with your team and halt work or move in a better direction if you have to. I've found that it is good to say when you've made a bad call."

5. Keep on track with show and tell

Regular "show and tell" meetings are an important way to keep the development process on track with larger teams, says Sadeghian. "It's important to make sure that your team is always aware of what you're trying to aim for, and what are the core pillars of your game," he says. "With London 2012, it was really easy sometimes to get focused on specific events and lose sight of the overall project vision and goals.

"We had a lot of staff -- sometimes as many as 85 people -- and I started to notice that the more people you had, the more they started to find their own personal vision for the game, which started to fragment some of the development. So we introduced more 'show and tells' as a way of re-establishing the vision of the game.

"You'd have a show and tell every Friday and go, 'Hey guys, this is what we're going to be doing and what we're aiming for'. That was a really good way of reminding yourself and the team of the goals and that steered it back to where it needed to go."

6. Solutions come in many guises

There are always other ways of solving problems, says RedBedlam's Finn. "Sometimes a programmer might want to think of a programmatic way of getting themselves out of a cul-de-sac they're in, and sometimes you need an idiot like me who doesn't understand half of these programmatical problems to come along and just say 'Well, we'll drop it then.'"

One example of this was during the on-going development of a new HTML5 version of dPals, the virtual social world for eight- to 13-year-old girls RedBedlam created for History & Heraldy. "The characters in the current version have dance moves that are all done in Flash. In order to animate those again in HTML5, we would have to do all the animations again, and it becomes really ugly from an expense point of view, because it uses up a lot of hours doing something that once the kids have seen the animation once is a bit 'meh,'" says Finn.

"We spent quite a bit of time thinking about how to convert the old assets, and then I had the sudden realization that we don't need this. What we needed to do was talk to the client and tell them that we can spend ages trying to do this, but what we really want to do is have a dancing mechanic where friends can put together a dance routine -- so why don't we do that and bin this? When I spoke to the client they said: 'Oh yeah. That's a good idea. We've been thinking the same thing.'"

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