As veteran producer, I have first-hand experience with development teams viewing me as the “enemy,” more intent on following some schedule rather than making a great game. While this is not the case, it is hard to overcome the team’s perception because I am often trying to motivate the team to work harder and/or faster to ensure the game meets its scheduled ship date.
Producers don’t want to be the bad guy (or gal) who is only focused on the bottom-line, but when they are trying to manage a chaotic project with a shifting schedule, increasing scope, and variable resources, they often have to resort to doing what is best for the schedule in order to meet the demanding deadlines common in game development.
Add to this a team of creative people who are reluctant to concretely define game features or implement any formal project management processes, for fear of stifling creative energy or losing the ability to change major features, and the chances of putting out a great game on time, without crunch, start to diminish.
As games increase in scope and the teams increase in size, producers need to implement more formal project management methods in order to keep track of what’s going on. Formal methods have met with resistance in the past because there are a lot of things that simply won’t work well in game development (such as the waterfall method).
Schadenfreude Interactive shows how chaotic game planning can be.
Also, some developers feel that a cookie-cutter process stifles the creative environment of game development, or that people will get bogged down in filling in paperwork, instead of working on the game. However, there are many valuable methods and processes that can be modified for use in game development and won’t require the team to dramatically change their day to day working methods. In some cases, the team or individuals may choose to change their methods once they learn how helpful some of these processes can be.
In order to successfully implement some type of formal methodology, the producer must explain to the team why the method is necessary and get buy-in from them, otherwise the process will fail and further convince the team that formal project management won’t work for game development.
Getting team buy-in is something that won’t happen overnight, and the producer should focus on incremental changes in order to get make the team comfortable with the changes and to achieve the best results. So, what are some elements to change and how can the producer get the team enthusiastic about these changes?
One of the most important things a producer does is listen to his or her team. The team wants to have a say in how the game is developed, since they are the ones who must actually code the AI, create the character models, design the multiplayer features, and test the game.
If the producer tries to force the team to comply with a new way of doing something, and cannot explain why the change is being made, the team will resist the change and become frustrated and less productive. Therefore, it is important for the producer to create an open environment where people can discuss why they prefer to work the way they do, and how they think their working conditions can be improved.
For example, an artist may prefer to work late because he is constantly asked questions or going to meetings during the day, and is most productive after everyone has gone home. In reality, his work load is probably normal, but he can’t use his working time wisely because of the constant interruptions.
So if producers are able to identify specific issues that impact people’s working time and discuss these with the team, it is likely the team will come up with some new processes that will improve the work flow of everyone on the team. This way, the team is an active participant in solving the issue, with the producer acting as a facilitator, instead of a dictator.