Communication Tips for Game Producers
September 5, 2006 Page 5 of 6
One of the hardest parts of being a producer is figuring out what information to give to the team and what information to hold back till later. Sometimes there are issues that are not fully decided yet, so telling the team too early could cause unnecessary stress if the decision goes the other way later. On the other hand, the more the team can get involved in the decision making process, the more data the producer can collect which can lead to better decisions being made. The producer should get the input and advice of the leads when determining what is the best way to handle sensitive information by evaluating the impact to moral if that information is shared with the team.
Short daily meetings are a great way to update the team on the top issues and make sure everyone is moving in the same direction. As teams get larger, communication becomes more of an issues and finding ways to streamline communication is a key concern. The producer should have a leads meeting first thing every morning. This meeting should last less than 20 minutes and should have a simple agenda focused on going over hot issues and making sure those issues are being addressed. There will be both issues that the producer needs the team to address as well as issues the team needs the producer to address.
A producer will want to get updates on top bugs, tracking of core features, progress towards current milestone, and overall team confidence level. The team will want updates from marketing, sales, and the publisher. Daily meetings are also a good time to discuss any feature requests and how they impact the project. The goal of the meeting is quick information exchange: keeping everyone on the project updated, especially the leads that will then take that information and disseminate it to the team.
It is smart practice to end these meetings with a confidence level check: this is simply asking each lead how confident they are that they will meet the current milestone. This is usually expressed as a percentage chance of success and is an great way to check the pulse of each lead. If confidence levels are going down, it is important for the producer to find out why and start working on solutions to get people confident again.
Producers should also have a team meeting once a week. Fridays are a great time to hold this meeting and the focus should be: what was accomplished during the week and what does the team need to accomplish for the next week. This meeting will be about one hour as there are more people involved and more questions that need answers. For very large teams, it might be best to have a separate meeting for each large group, and then have a full team meeting once a month. It is very important to get the team together often to help encourage team spirit, and remind everyone that many people are working together for the same goal.
Communications with the publisher can be sensitive and needs to be handled with a great deal of tact. The publisher in many cases is paying for the game and has the right to stop paying whenever they are not happy with the state of the project. How the producer handles publisher issues can mean life or death for the project.
Producers should keep records of all project related communications with the publisher. The publisher usually directs the design of the project and the smallest request can have a very large ripple effect on the production of the game. Always keep every e-mail from the publisher, and use a simple organization system to keep things easy to review. One simple system is to build directories in Outlook for each publisher, then project, then SKU and move relevant mails to those directories. The producer should review these e-mails when new requests come in to look for contradictory information so they can communicate any issues to the publisher.
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