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Top six production mistakes
by Samuel Rantaeskola on 10/04/13 07:28:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Every good producer should have the goal of not being a bottleneck. To do so he must avoid fire fighting mode at all cost, but that is really hard. Pretty much every producer that are coming from the production lines taking on the production role will go through an evolution. The first staggering steps will exclusively be focused on fixing the problems that are right under the nose. As the producer matures he will realize that the same problems pops up over and over again. It's time to lift his eyes up and start fixing problems before they become a fire.

The longer he works as a producer, the farther ahead his eyes will be focused. 

Here are the things that I see as the common rookie mistakes as a producer, these are the things he needs to move away from to able to lift his gaze towards the horizon.

1. Viewing people as resources 

This is the most dangerous thing a producer can do. He puts himself in a mastermind position and expects himself to be able to use the resources optimally to produce the game as effeciently as possible. This requires a expert knowledge about every discipline, which no one has. The experienced producer will rely on the team members expertise to identify and solve the current problems. He will not see them as pieces in a gigantic jig-saw puzzle.

2. Not explaining why

A producer that cannot explain why the team is working a certain way usually doesn't understand it himself. Given the understanding for why, it is important for the producer to get the team onboard by explaining why, not only how. This way the ways of working are more likely to run by themselves, without the producer having to run the show. The producer can then focus his attention on improving ways of working in collaboration with the teams.

3. Tasking

The tasking producer most likely also see people as resources. It might seem like a great idea to continuously feed people with work, so that the team is dilligently moving forward. But as with point one this relies on perfect understanding of every problem in the development, which never is the case. The experienced producer will help the team by providing goals the teams can work towards. How to get to the goals are the teams' domain.

4. Managing communication

When the producer is acting as a courier to handle communication it's a sign of 1) a messy organization structure 2) lack of trust for the teams. The experienced producer will at all cost avoid being the middle-man, as this is a sure-safe way of becoming a bottleneck. 

5. Not celebrating

When the team meets their goals and deliveries as expected (or near), it is important to take a breather and celebrate. Without celebration of success development can easily become a death march where there is no sense of progress. 

6. Not pushing back

It's hard to say no, but that's one of the things a good producer must be good at. He needs to push back when designer are continuously changing their minds, when publisher are pushing for the impossible. The producer must accept the fact that quite often he will be seen as a pain in the ass by creatives and external partners, but he will be appreciated by the team for his efforts.

There are plenty of more things that a producer can fail in, but getting the things above right is a good step towards evolving past the initial stages of producing. 

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Katy Smith
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Nice write up! I know that #5 has always been an issue with the teams I've worked on. You get so caught up in making something awesome, you forget to notice that you're making something awesome! :)

Rasmus Rasmussen
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Good read - a nice reminder of some of the essentials, not just for producers, but any kind of team lead position, really.

Ty Underwood
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I would love to see a "do" list as well as this "don't do" list.

Jordan Pailthorpe
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Agreed! Would make a great follow up article. Although this really helpful basic advice for new producers.

Rasmus Rasmussen
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There was recently a 2-part series on the qualities of a good producer. I highly recommend it. Part 1 can be found here:

Vinicius Couto
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That's a good article as well.
And it's interesting, because they seem contradict each other on points 3 and 4.
It goes to show how complex a producer's job can be.

Samuel Rantaeskola
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Ok, I will sit down and do something like that. However, the do's are alot more complex than the don'ts. Unfortunately nature has made us so that we learn from mistakes rather than "good behaviour".

Samuel Rantaeskola
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Here is a follow up post on the topic:

Florian Garcia
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Nice article. I believe it almost sums it all but I would suggest a 7th point: Don't try to be the creative force behind your project. As soon as time/money/creation are all in the same hands, nothing good will get out of them.

Randel Reiss
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I agree with Florian.

Even EA adopted a seperation of the project management role from the creative competitive role and now supports a Development Director for the former and a Producer for the latter.

Samuel Rantaeskola
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Fully agree, there needs to be two equal forces battling for the two aspects. I wrote a post on that earlier:

Arnold Hendrick
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Based on my 30 years experience designing and producing computer games, I entirely agree with Samuel's points in this article.

In-depth study professional knowledge of project management and agile methodologies reinforces the above points. Just because management tools provide various methods for organizing time, money and resources to predict possible outcomes doesn't mean actual solutions or real events will match those theoretical constructs. Predictive tools provide guidelines for how to allocate time, and are only as good as your past data collection and the estimation skills you foster in your teams.