Communication Tips for Game Producers
September 5, 2006 Page 4 of 6
Communicating Project Status
Doing daily and weekly project updates to all interested parties is a must for a good game producer. One great way to do this is a simple e-mail summary each morning that calls out the hot issues on the project. One simple way is to use bullet points for each issue, and put the high priority issues at the top of the page, usually in red to help call attention to them. After the bullet points, it’s a good idea to add more detail to some of the issues as well as discuss lower priority issues. It is important to call out the issue as well as the IMPACT the issue will have on the project. See the following example:
Project Status Example 1
- Still waiting for Audio files from Publisher.
- “A” bug count is 300
- No response from marketing on manual edits.
Project Status Example 2
- Still waiting on Audio files from publisher: Alpha date in jeopardy if we don’t get files by end of week!
- 500 “A” bugs: need to be at less than 200 by end of week to meet Alpha.
- Marketing has not responded to manual edits sent two weeks ago: cannot go final until they arrive.
The main difference between the two examples is that the second example details how each issue impacts the project. It is important to show the impact of an issue, as that will insure the proper priority is being set. When sending updates always make sure to use as much detail as possible, but only as much detail as is needed to attack the issue. Be careful not to be TOO wordy in project update e-mails; executives don’t like to read more than 1 page. Also, make sure to stick to simple formatting. Everyone uses hand-held e-mail devices now, so using text reports will increase the chance that the status updates actually get read.
When doing the weekly project update, it’s a good idea to summarize the accomplishments of the week, and then the objectives for the next week. Remember: the status updates not only communicate needs, they also communicate project status. By showing what was accomplished each week, progress can be seen by everyone, which will help the confidence level of the team.
Finally, break out separate updates to different groups and filter out the issues that each group needs to focus on. There are 100’s of issues each day on a game project, and artists don’t need to hear about design bugs, and programmers don’t want to see poly counts. By filtering out the noise, a producer can make a clear, concise update to each group and help to keep them focused on just their issues. This also creates separate e-mail chains, which will make is easier to track the communication progress on these issues.
Communicating Project Needs
Communicating needs is somewhat different then communicating status updates. Project needs are usually communicated more then once a day and project needs have delivery dates attached to them i.e. “I need this model by Friday”. It is very important to specify a delivery date with every request. Most of the groups that the producer is making requests to have many other projects they are supporting. This means that each group will set priorities based on when the request needs to be delivered.
A typical case is when dealing with the Legal Department. The producer sends a contract to legal for review. Legal has 20 other contracts they are reviewing. How do they know which one is more important? If the producer does not provide a “need by” date, then the request will go to the bottom of the queue and who knows when it will get done. By clearly specifying when the request needs to be completed much of the guesswork involved can be eliminated, and the producer can get verification from the group that they can meet the request.
If a delivery date is not specified for the request, then it is impossible to determine if something is going to be delivered late! It also makes it impossible to track progress as there is no date being driven towards. Always specify what the “drop dead” date is and get verification from the group the request is going to. When a producer has this verification, hopefully in e-mail, then they have a tool they can use to track progress with.
Producers should make sure to follow up at regular intervals to get the current status of the request that was made. The producer should try to have some communication on a request every 24 hours or less. This usually means some sort of simple e-mail reminder along the lines of “Hey, just checking in on the request for the sales demo. We are still expecting to receive that on Friday the 10th. Are we still on track?” This demonstrates the value of having specified a delivery date when the request was made. It allows the producer to check up on the status of requests by verifying progress is still on track to meet the expected date.
By reminding people of the date something was promised, it encourages them to double check their progress to insure they will still meet the delivery date. It also allows the person to adjust their initial estimates if they now feel that they are not on track and will not be able to make their dates. By checking up on things daily, it helps the producer find items that are sliding quickly, so that a contingency plan can be implemented.
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