A Hipster's Guide to Producing
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
This piece will be for the new students around the world trying to get your first project out the door. It will be about producing, management and being a pillar for your team to rely on no matter what. All you veterans out there might want to find something else to read today.
Got your attention? Great!
I am writing this as a thank you for all the amazing help and guides this fantastic community have given me the past year or so. I am hoping this will be a stepping stone for others to be inspired to do the same in the future! keep sharing your experiences!
So who am I? Name’s Johan Ronner and I have just started my final year studying Media Technology at Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden. An education where we use games as a tool to discuss and challenge societal and ethical aspects in the world. Currently me and my team are in pre-production on our final project which is gonna be VR related, hopefully you’ll see results in the coming months. Our team is based of 5 people with very different skills that mostly covers all of it in game dev. A good number to strive for in my opinion. This blog will take a successful project of ours and break it down to find out why it worked out and by doing that hopefully serve as some type of learning tool for others facing the same situation. Remember I mentioned it was successful? What I didn’t say was that that was our FIRST success we’ve had as a team after roughly one whole year of working together. Yep we basically had around 7-8 failures before in various degrees. and that my friends, is lesson one for all of you. YOU WILL FAIL! A term you’ve probably heard from your teachers, read in a game-dev book or an article and it exist for a reason.
I’ll say it again so you’re definitely getting it. YOU WILL FAIL!
- Yes, we know but we’re gonna learn from our mistakes *as you all roll your eyes*
Maybe… yeah sure. You probably will but game-dev is fucking hard. Even the most amazing success stories you’ve heard had their problems too. You’ll never hear about them though. The terms “Fail Faster” is also associated with this, and while I agree with it my personal experience has been more in line with a sit down and discuss everything after a project/ important sprint. I kid you not, a few of our early problem we had in our group came down to the fact that the same style of aesthetics was discussed and agreed upon to continue developing on just to find out it meant entirely different things to these two individuals. A mock-up of a level, moodboard or concept art would had solved this completely and probably would have resulted in a much more cohesive game feel. So what’s the lesson here?
LISTEN! *navi voice*
Humans suck, I guess we built all this cool technology and all but damn we’re stupid sometimes. As creative people we want to express ourselves somehow. Some are better at this than others but we all have ideas that we’d like to bring to fruition. But have you ever participated or listened to a discussion where basicly both sides are saying the same thing just phrased it differently and totally gets on each other nerves. It’s so obvious many take it for granted but trust me on this. LISTEN what’s being said not only by your colleagues, friends, family but to everyone. Understanding is key.
- Yes, yes. We already listen to each other and solves our problems like normal people. *you all say again rolling your eyes, sighing*
But do you really? Ever heard of the 16 personalities test? Take it here please please please do this with your team. You’ll get a so much better understanding of your colleagues if you do it. (Tip, do a drinking game by guessing each other's personalities. Bonding exercises ftw!) Now I can’t possibly guess one's personality without ever meeting them but stereotypes exist for a reason. Hey gamers have a reputation of being cool introverts rather sitting at home at night playing some sweet Overwatch with our buddies rather than going out jumping in the same place at some nightclub to some bland top chart EDM group not being able to hear each other talking over the loud music. *Deep Breath Sigh* So what am I saying with all this? In the end this will affect how decision is made in your group and you all need to know that going in so everyone is at a comfortable place when hard decisions are made.
To bring this whole LISTEN argument home for y’all let me quote one of Rami Ismail talk’s regarding this topic.
- Picture yourselves a platformer. You win by getting the flag in the end, you collect coins along the way, have power-ups and jump on enemies. Which game am I describing?
We all agree it’s a Mario game right? but which one? Now take this example, change some variables and you have a colleague telling another colleague about how they should solve this problem they’re having in their game.The solution may be spot on and will definitely solve the problem. However the other colleague didn’t really understand what was described and had their own interpretation of what that statement meant. Communication is hard on it’s own but the first step of getting there is to LISTEN.
Now let’s say your team have absolutely no problem dealing with this at all. Great! that's amazing you’re all on the same level getting cool shit done. I am bringing this up because in my (very little) experience this has been one of our biggest time-thieves we easily could have avoided and by bringing it up I hope at least a few people might think twice before their next big decision.
NEVER GIVE A AWK WITHOUT A FIX.
This quote is taken from a pretty good read for aspiring producers called Multipliers by Liz Wiseman. Making a long story short it means to never say a thing should be changed if you don’t know how to do it. Make this one of your mantras, seriously. You all have enough on your plate as it is, going around changing every little detail they way you want is not a productive way to spend your time. Which is a awesome transition to my next point.
TRUST EACH OTHER
Again you’re all thinking
- WTF man this entire blog has been super obvious things, I thought we’d actually learn something?! *beginning to get passive aggressive*
Calm young padawan ( I am so not the right person to go all sensei on you right now). What you’d think all the great developers are doing are really not that special at all. They craft their tradeskills, communicate & they’ll fail too. You just need to keep at it. If something’s not working out for you, try something else, it’s ok. But what I really mean with TRUST is letting go. With a small student team it’s easy to get everyone involved in every freaking small decision. That’s not ok. you should be able to trust your colleagues to do the right decision in their field of expertise, since they probably know the most about it. What I am not saying is to never discuss it but there’s a difference and you have to find that difference out for yourselves since it’s different for every team I’ve worked on. You’ll find in a well working group if a problem arises no one needs to be assigned to deal with it, they just do it because they want to do it.
Now I feel like these are the basic 4 pillars you all will face at some point. Good luck I guess.
- Are you kidding me?! that’s it?
- Yep, that’s it.
- But you said you were gonna go through in detail how you and your team produced your first product?!
- I did. ( I now imagine the "mind-blown" gif going through all your heads right now)
- What are you talking about?
- All the topics I just brought up did have a significant factor in the development of our first successful project. It had many big unplanned roadblocks that we adapted to and eventually overcame. Even if it was somebody's fault we never blamed, we helped out and gained something from it instead. The end result was overwhelmingly positive, local news wrote about a ton of articles and because of it all we started a company together. Be smart about it, be a team
I hope this small summary gave something for you or your team to go on as you’re starting your journey as developers together. If you have any questions please feel free to tweet me. I mainly lurk on game dev stuff but love a good chat every now and then.
Also I fucking hate facebook.
Co-Founder of Tin Talent Studio