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Postcard from GDC 2004: Production Keynote: Production Through Collaboration


March 25, 2004
 
Dave Perry

David Perry, president and founder of Shiny Entertainment, discussed the role, qualifications, and importance of the producer, informed by his experience delivering Enter the Matrix.

In his production keynote yesterday evening, Perry first admitted that word "producer" hasn't been in his title lately, but as the driving force at Shiny, and with over 21 years in the industry delivering 88 published games, he suggested that he does in fact have a valid perspective on the issue. Perry also pointed out that the term "producer" is defined in many ways, some generic, some misleading, but the producer of a game is the individual who really delivers the game, and who knows the name of every team member.

Bialystock and Bloom

Perry then noted that this is actually a great time to be a producer, with a tongue-in-cheek image of the Broadway play The Producers on the screen. Perry pointed out that publishers pick the person they trust most, when dealing with multi-million-dollar budgets. Perry pointed out that the key to taking advantage of this is to make sure that you're working on relevant games. Valuing hits is critical, and he cautioned against getting caught working on a game that shows any weakness at the start.

Perry went on to point out that a producer must have passion for the game he or she is working on. A publisher can nurture that by allowing the producer to focus on the one game, and not try to spread that person's talent and zeal across multiple projects, since that reduces the producer's ability to deliver that single quality game. From a publisher's standpoint, the producer needs to deliver:

  • High quality games
  • On time
  • On budget
  • With an audience

Perry then produced a voluminous list of the tasks and characteristics of a producer, illustrating the importance of business, interpersonal, technical, and team-building skills, underscoring the point that you need a complex person for this complex job.

Where Credit is Due

The producer must also be available to the community, for others to learn about the work being done. By doing so, they can establish themselves as the talent behind the games, setting up future opportunities. Perry referenced Jason Rubin's call for action at the D.I.C.E. Summit in Las Vegas earlier this month, in examining how publishers hide their key talent for reasons that make little sense (protection from headhunters). Perry mentioned a rumor that a major publisher was considering removing developer credits from games.

Looking at the example of his friend and colleague Neil Young, Perry noted that publisher EA does little to promote him, but somehow Young is omnipresent at conferences. Perry called on the audience to recognize that they are more than their job descriptions, and that they should hire a publicist like Hollywood celebrities and top authors do, and use agents to network to top talent for collaboration.

Perry then segued into a discussion on how to use branding to deliver results. He illustrated 17 ways to take part of a movie license, elements of a recording artist's album, and even public domain materials to help make your original game appeal through branding to buyers who flock to the familiar on store shelves.

Perfecting Your Pitch

Perry laid out several tips for producers on how to pitch, including:

  • Know what the publisher is seeking
  • Research the people you're pitching
  • Show your idea is serious and time-sensitive
  • Don't buckshot pitch
  • Don't pitch what you don't believe in
  • Don't pitch at 9 am
  • Make a movie trailer
  • Make macquettes to keep your audience focused
  • Attach talent

Perry's parting advice was to never perceive limitations. The audience responded with enthusiastic applause. Perry's presentation is available online at www.dperry.com.


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