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Implementing Training: The Secret Of Winning The Development War
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Implementing Training: The Secret Of Winning The Development War

July 2, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

[How can game developers successfully implement ongoing staff training? Blitz Games (Sneak King) art director Nash discusses how the UK developer went about it in this in-depth Gamasutra feature.]

The games industry is maturing - fast. The technology playing field is leveling and the old days of game engine wars and outsourcing one-upmanship are dead and buried. The golden partnership of effective production pipelines and innovation is and has always been the key to chart topping glory. The only question is, how do you achieve both within the pressure cooker of the production environment?

Staying on any cutting edge requires people to learn and adapt on a moment-to-moment basis. Formal training using standardized educational structures is the key to building effective production processes and fostering innovation.

Though this may sound obvious for an industry that relies on continual training, we have yet to truly recognize and embrace the techniques and benefits that training affords other more mature entertainment industries.

Creating, rolling out and evaluating a training program almost always proves to be a time consuming and costly process. At Blitz Games we have walked the path of introducing a formal internal training program by creating the Blitz Academy.

The academy acts as a hub for all training efforts, and in many ways raises the profile and importance of learning within the company, and to some extent, wider industry.

Nearly all studios do utilize some training, mostly in the form of impromptu ideas exchanges and in some cases the use of external trainers. External training, however, is often expensive and not wholly suited to the very individual needs of a studio or project.

Though some external training is excellent, other sources such as identifying skills and trainers within the studio, or attending world-class conferences such as GDC, can prove very beneficial.

Aside from the core production "hard" skills of art, code and design, training "soft" skills, such as those for communication and management, must form part of a balanced program - thereby complimenting the team-oriented game production environment. The return on investment for training will be significantly higher if the skills people are formally taught can then be re-communicated informally by individuals in the production environment.

Developing the Organizational Structure

One vital cornerstone of any successful training program is its organizational structure. The vast logistical overhead of any training program cannot be underestimated - therefore, any proposed program should be managed and administered in a clear way by people whom have the skills to do so. The Blitz Academy, for instance, falls under the jurisdiction of the human resources (HR) department.

With this in mind, try to aim for a central organizational point of contact in the HR department.

Quite apart from just having the time and skills to administer all of the training efforts, the good people in HR are also able to make sure that the training program dovetails nicely with the personal development programs of individuals as well as the needs and goals of the company as a whole.

The biggest point to make, however, is that although the HR department can coordinate the training efforts, HR staff generally doesn't have the job knowledge and/or inclination to identify the skills that require training, the individuals whom should be taught, or indeed the selection of trainers.

This information needs to come directly from the development teams themselves, so other provisions in the structure need to be made. One of the best ways achieve good results is to set up working groups consisting of senior members from each discipline that meet up regularly to consider and collate the relevant details to pass on to the HR department.

Additionally there should also be a spontaneous suggestion system that allows anyone in the studio to make recommendations for training at any time.

Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

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