When replying to requests from the publisher the producer should make sure to clearly communicate how the request will impact the project. Sometimes the publisher will ask for something they believe is a “small thing”. The producer must make sure to quickly tell the publisher how much that “small thing” will really cost. When there is clear and honest communication on design requests, it allows the publisher to make choices based on the whole picture. If the publisher really wants a certain feature, they need to make sure they are willing to pay the price. This is a great way to manage the relationship with the publisher and allow them to feel more in control of direction of the game. By creating this open relationship, it will be easier for the publisher and developer to discuss feature changes.
Producers need to be careful not to instantly react when a request from a publisher comes in. Sometimes the publisher is just brainstorming, and will toss a crazy idea they got from marketing. Don’t panic! Take a step back, analyze the impact of the idea, and craft a calm, sweet e-mail to the publisher explaining the impact of the project in a fully objective way. Usually when the publisher sees the price tag of their new idea, they will back off and try a less costly alternative.
Take the passion out of the issue. Creating games is a very passionate endeavor, and it is passion that usually makes games great, but putting too much passion into an issue can cause conflict. It is important to not take things personally: it is just a game after all. Too much passion in a conversation can cloud the true issue and cause people to fight an issue just because the other side is fighting. Taking the emotion out of the issue will simplify the problem and allow cool heads to work out a better solution.
Dealing with studio management can be both fun and challenging! Although studio management is on the same side as the producer, they are also the bosses and this can cause many issues for an unprepared producer. The boss does not want to only hear the good news, and many producers make the mistake of thinking this is the case. Good bosses want to hear how they can help the team: they want to know what is wrong, and what they can do to fix it.
The most important thing to remember when communicating with the studio management is to be honest. When a project has problems the best time to fix them are early, not later. If problems are not communicated to the studio execs in a timely fashion, they will not be able to react in time to help fix the problem. Also, when the studio managers have the same picture of the project that the producer and the team have, it makes it easier for them to communicate that status to others. Nothing is worse than making the boss look uninformed when they give inaccurate information to outside parties!
Each studio has a different structure, so studio management can mean many different things to different groups. Usually this means at least finance, HR, and the studio head. Some studios have their own sales and marketing department meaning even more stakeholders in the project. All of these outside groups exist to support the projects, so proper communication with them will give the project more resources. When communicating with studio management, make sure to be respectful when making requests. Usually the more managers, the more projects they have to deal with, so it is important to respect the managers’ time when making requests.
Finally, like all project communication, remember to keep good records of all requests and replies. Also, make sure to be careful when following up on requests to studio managers as they usually get annoyed with too many requests. Producers should ping studio managers less than once a day if at all possible, and be respectful in the follow up request. Instead of saying “I have not heard from you on this issue in two days”, keep the mails short and sweet with a simple “Hey, sorry to bug you, just checking in on this”.
A typical game producer lives in e-mail and will average over 100 mails a day. This is a lot of communication! Handling this communication in a clear and concise way will insure that everyone on the project knows how the project is going, and what their role in the project is. This will reduce “thrashing”: the back and forth that occurs when information is not clear, causing people to keep asking for “more detail” which slows the whole project down. By following the tips in this article a producer can clean up some of the communication that goes on and reduce the headache of managing so many moving parts. This will allow the producer to focus on what is really important: making a great quality game!