The diagram in Figure 1 (below) is a typical communication network for game development. There are two center points for communication: the publisher producer and the developer producer. Publisher and developer producers are similar, but this article focuses mainly on the developer producer.
The main difference between a publishing and a developer producer is a developer producer is directly managing the development team. A publisher producer manages the whole of the project, not just production. Publishing producers coordinate with Sales, Marketing, Ops, Console Manufacture and others to insure an overall good product. The publishing producer will also deal with QA and the final QA team at the console manufacturer. Publishing producers manage the project team through communication with the developer producer.
The developer producer mainly focuses on the production of the project and insures that all the different elements of production (Art, Design, Code, etc) all work together in harmony. It is important to note that if a producer is running an internal development team for a publisher, that producer is really a developer producer, and sometimes has to operate in both roles. This article is mostly about the communication skills needed for a developer producer, but much of this will also be applicable to a publisher producer.
The main lines of communication are to the development team, the studio management and the publisher. These three stakeholders are by far the most influential on the production on the game, so creating clean lines of communication with them will help to keep the product on track. The producer will usually have some external resources working on the project as well, but this communication is similar to the communication with the development team as these external resources are usually development talent. These communication lines are used for many reasons, but the most important are needs and status updates.
Needs are defined as anything that a group needs in order to get their part of the game done. The lead programmer will need more resources or new machines, the studio management will need to know how to take $100,000 off the budget. The publishing producer will need art for marketing, code for demos, docs for interviews etc. Every stakeholder in the project has tasks or deliverables that are needed in order to get the project created on time, and those needs are mostly communicated through the producer.
Status updates are just that: an update on the current progress of the project. The development team will want to know how the marketing effort is going, the studio management will want to make sure the project is on track, and the publishing producer will want an update on current bug count. Clean lines of communication will insure that these needs and updates are being clearly explained to the stakeholders so that they can provide the development team with what it needs to succeed.