he role of producer is often overlooked, not just in the game press but
even, sometimes, within the game industry itself. The stars of the video
game industry are its lead programmers, lead artists, and lead designers—
certainly not its producers. After all, who is the producer but the person who
leads and manages the project? And how boring is that?
When a project succeeds, resulting in a highly successful product, it’s the
team or the star who gets the glory. When a project fails, though, it’s the pro-
ducer who gets the blame.
There is much more to the role of producer than one might think. Producing
is not only about managing a schedule or crunching numbers in a budget. The
producer usually shares in the vision of the game’s design, ever mindful of how
that game must appeal to the game-buying public. The producer has to be able
to talk the talk with programmers and marketing people, to talk the talk with
executives and testers, to talk the talk with artists and salesmen. The producer
needs to be conversant with the legalese of contracts and the puffery of ad cam-
paigns. The producer can reduce a huge game design down to a few bullet points
or expand a germ of an idea into a lengthy manifesto.
Both good cop and bad cop, both parent and teacher, the producer plays a
number of roles donning a number of different hats, throughout the production
of a game project. The producer is truly the person in the middle—the focal
point for all communication, coordination, and management in the creating of
a game.
The producer, at one point or another, will be in touch with all kinds of
people in the lifecycle of a game. From the business executive who obtained the
IP rights to do a licensed game, to the designer who’ll turn it into a game design.
From the studio VP who assigns the producer to the project, to the customer
support rep who’ll field end-user queries about installation problems. From the
movie star who lends her voice to the game, to moms and grandmothers who buy
games for their kids. From the distributor who wants to know why he should give
shelf space to this game instead of that other game, to the junior programmer
who’s upset that his idea didn’t get implemented in the game. From the tester
who’s found an obscure yet fatal bug, to the freelance artist who wants a sexier
credit listing in the game. The producer has to be diplomatic, persuasive, com-
promising, unyielding, hardnosed, and friendly.
Yet, as important as the producer is to the success of a project, it often hap-
pens that the producer receives no training whatsoever for the job. He usually
starts by being thrown into the deep end of the pool without formal management
training. He is promoted into the role and is expected to learn by doing, to learn
by osmosis, or to just know what to do intuitively. Our beloved industry sees the
importance of training for its programmers, artists, lawyers, and marketers—but
not, so it seems, for its producers.
The widespread lack of producer training has resulted in many project melt-
downs. Every year, the halls of the annual Game Developers Conference re-
sound with horror stories of projects gone awry. Postmortems are written only
about projects that get finished, so the very worst war stories usually go undocu-
mented in the literature.
The industry might not train you. But this book should help. Heather
Maxwell Chandler is one of the good ones. She’s been there, done that. She
knows whereof she speaks. Read this book all the way through and keep it nearby
as a handy reference.
Tom Sloper
Game Designer, Producer, Consultant
Sloperama Productions –

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