Games, Lames, and Dames: Producers Be Cool

Last week, I began to reflect on my experience at FIEA. So, my original blog went out the door. For an entry more meaningful for future designers.

FIEA’s Rapid Prototyping curriculum is very aggressive and fast-paced. If you blink, then you would have missed a pooh load of information. We actually gain knowledge about rapid prototyping through instruction, a plethora of resources, freedom to design anything, and a nonstop stream of prototyping opportunities. Feeling slight pressure to produce the best product, I learned sacrifice is a virtue worth developing and cultivating. My first sacrifice was sleep. I’ve never been to fond of sleep, so it was a simple decision to make. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

At 3:AM, I am up reading as much information as possible to strengthen my ability to obliterate production obstacles. As a producer, I need to be able to create an efficient system to design the best game possible within specified time parameters. Moreover, my first obligation is to make sure my team is completely satisfied and comfortable with the game idea. The only way to establish that comfort is to constantly ask for feedback about the idea and incorporate the ideas of the team into the game.

I’ve learned that open over-communication is necessary in making your team feel comfortable. I have to make sure that my programmer and artist are capable and able to deliver their pieces of the game design puzzle on time. I have to make sure that the artist understands the programmer’s capabilities and the programmer understands the artist’s capabilities. Then, I convince them to work in tandem on constructing the best game possible. Furthermore, I have to make sure neither the programmer nor the artist gets burned-out or broken in the game making process.

Many people think being a producer is a hack job. But, it is quite stressful when you realize that your team must be satisfied and comfortable. A producer must be concerned with the personal lives of his team because personal issues do spill into the workplace, and can adversely affect the team’s morale. A producer has to create and maintain a stable working environment. In a nutshell, the producer’s job overall is to make sure that the other team members do not worry about anything, except their task at hand. Any distractions or disruptions can halt momentum and destroy morale. Once morale is lost, then the battle to complete a game is uphill.

On our last rapid prototyping assignment, I watched some teams lose momentum and their morale plummet into chaos and desperation. Many of us, noob producers, are stuck in our ideas and never get around to actually designing the game until it is too late. A producer needs to be ten steps ahead of her or his team in order to be victorious in their game design. The worst situations snowball when a team loses momentum due to a producers inability to solve a problem in a timely manner. All producers should learn how to foresee any and all possible problems. In reality, I know it is impossible to foresee all possible problems that rise up in rapid prototyping, but a producer should be prepared for any problem- personal or professional. This ability to problem manage is called “cool.” I’ve seen producers lose their “cool” with their team. It isn’t a pretty sight. The team usually loses respect for him or her, thus causing the game to suffer. Believe me, that loss of confidence and loss of trust shows in the final product.

Note to all producers: Producers maintain your cool. It is not the job of the programmers and artists to worry about the overall design. That worry falls on you. I watched as producers get so caught up in their own tasks that they did not answer their team members’ problems. Programmers and artists do not appreciate a self-absorbed producer. Your programmers and artists’ gaming issues always outweigh your own, unless your issues have a negative effect on their work. A producer needs to show his team how much he cares about them before he or she unleashes unreasonable demands on them. Your teams efforts must be appreciated and respected. Producers are the coach and the cheerleaders for their teams. If you subscribe to keeping high morale and maintaining your cool, you will produce a good product.

As I step off my soapbox and face the calm before the storm, I wish all aspiring producers the best of luck in their productions endeavors. Remember, don’t get hung up on your production hardships, we all feel your pain. Be cool and overcome.

Games, Dames, and Lames: Games and Dames

I know this blog is somewhat tardy. But, it is better late than never. I’ve been celebrating the completion of my first video game. Yes, I broke my video game production hymen, and look forward to continue to supply the world with great interactive entertainment. The first round opened us up to a world filled with interactivity. Some developers really pulled through on their creations. “I Herd Ya,” an awesome game, felt like a great classic arcade game with smooth animation. It would be the equivalent of watching Billy Dee Williams sponsor Cristal. “Air Assault” left droppings on everyone’s head with its cartoony animation and feel. Now, we are back to the grind for some round deux action. With the bar slightly raised, all the artists, programmers, and producers are diligently focused on making emergent games better than the next team and the previous cohort. You could hear a pin drop in FIEA’s work zones due to all the intense silence and concentration. Occasionally, we hear an outburst of uncontrollable laughter and the whispers from team huddles. It is like every team is down by four points, 4th and goal with nine seconds left on the clock and no time outs. Everyone is working hard to succeed, especially the programmers. I do not envy their job. The programmers are here when I leave at the end of the day. They are here when I arrive in the morning. I leave pretty late, and arrive fairly early to school every day. So, I can only imagine their hours! They take the vision of us whacked out producers and make it a reality. Even the artists have the blues when they translate the producer’s dreams into reality. It is funny watching things go crazy in the teams. Things go crazy when you mix an overzealous producer with no guidance skills with an overworked programmer and an anal retentive artist. Thank the heavens that I have great team players that don’t suffer from these ills. Matter of fact, my development teams has been completely solid in communication, interpretation, and execution. Enough about “my” teams, you are reading this to find out the inside scoop on FIEA and the industry as a whole.

Well, in this edition of Games, Lames, and Dames, I really don’t have much to report on. Yeah, I remember I am supposed to talk about dames this time around. The only good news on that is my apartment complex is filled with professional dancers. No, not the kind that stare into mirrors and slide down gold poles, but the kind that stares into mirrors and dance on their toes. Yes, it is filled with a Ballet Troupe. I discovered this at a pool party at my apartment complex last weekend. Now, nothing is better than Italian Ice mixed with tequila, rum, and vodka, two kegs of beer, free food, and a good reggae band. Yes, the Park Place is a sweet place to live. As I was talking with one of the ballet dancers (we shall call her “Ms. Ballerina”). Our conversation started with cordial introductions, then it slipped into the “what do you do” realm. I said, “Grad student.” Then, Ms. Ballerina asked the only follow-up question possible. “What are you studying?” in a very interested and amused voice. With my chest poked out, I replied, “Video Game Production.” She grinned and said, “I love video games. I own a Nintendo DS.” What I have gathered from careful and thorough observation (past and present) is that more and more young ladies are appreciating the Dark Arts of Video Gaming. Not only that, gaming girls are hot! Yes, I said it. They are smoking hot. I know many young ladies that enjoy playing with my Wii. You know the Nintendo Wii. They own a DS, PS2, or Xbox 360. They play Halo, Madden, and Katamari Damacy. They play games like Okami and Grand Theft Auto. What makes them even hotter is that they talk junk as they beat you down in your favorite game. Let me pause for the cause— I like to give a shout out to Aktrez and the Girls Gaming Network for gathering hot girls that love games just as much as I do! If you are a girl that loves video games, then join this network of like-minded beauties: http://www.myspace.com/girlgamingnetwork. Furthermore, girls that are into gaming are very approachable and usually have a higher IQ than Einstein. So, the conversations seem to be exciting, educational, entertaining, and endless. They are not the awkward girls portrayed in the movies. They are more like Rachael Leigh Cook, Meagan Good, and Jessica Alba than Calista Flockhart. Fellas stop being lames, get up off your tails and go find you a gaming dame. There goes my plug about dames.

Well, I’m off to make another flash game. Until next week, you will have to nibble on this until I write another tidbit of gaming knowledge.

Honesty, the lost art

As I write this to the rain falling on the moonlit fountain outside from my balcony, I wonder where did honesty go. It seems honesty has become a lost art in our greater culture. I watch as all the major institutions lie about the smallest and most minute issues. From the government to religion to education to community to family, I listen to the lies spewed from those that care the most about us.

I hear preachers lie to their congregation on how to receive salvation. I listen to politicians lie to us about equality, freedom, and our other so-called rights. I also listen to teachers lie to their pupils about their abilities to learn. I listen to our community lie to us about our history, heritage, and our purpose within. Finally, I listen to family lie to me about their devotion to my success.

It pains me to wonder how enlightened we all could be if it weren’t for the lies that trap us from something greater. It hurts even more to know that the liar is the bearer of the truth. In order to tell a lie, you have to know the truth. Imagine a place when honesty was not a commitment, but a commandment handed down from the gods and goddesses. Life would be different. We would be sterner people. We would be more earnest. We would not have to preoccupy ourselves with deciphering fact from fiction. I’m not saying ban all fiction. Fiction allows us an escape from reality. It allows us to experience things beyond our scope. Heck, I’ve involved my self in four industries that monopolize on fiction– music, television, film, and video games. These four industries have groomed me into the cordial and charming person that I am today. Working in these four industries, I have made it a principle to remain honest and fair. Not only that, I’ve made it a point to never hold my tongue. Honesty, lack of tongue control, and wearing my feelings on my shoulder are not a good combination. Because in a room full of liars, you are the target for their misdirection. Their goal is to make your life miserable because you are not like them.

However, if you have mastered the art of honesty. Lies will not bother you. You will develop a sense of deductive reasoning to uncover the lies buried in the souls of people’s words. It is amazing what honesty can do. I wish our society would seize honesty and channel it in all facets of life.

Well, I’m going to stop rambling about honesty. Because even an honest man has room for improvement. I will be honest and promise you the reader another blog with more insightful information about my life or the lives that touch me.

Games, Lames, and Dames: Week 2

Okay. I’m here with my week in review. I could bore you with some flubber about how cool it is to be learning to design video games. But, you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t already know that! For reals, I’m here to spill my heart about my adventures in video game stardom. Yeah, I know you think I’m just playing Madden ’08. Beating dumb freshmen and taking their financial aid refund checks. I wouldn’t do anything like that?!?! Actually, I’m caught in an orgy of Rapid Prototyping the best damn Flash shooter game and making a sexy alien octopus while mind mapping a schizophrenic graffiti artist with an appetite for the ladies and government conspiracies. Yes, FIEA is the “pooh” like Winnie (I’m keeping it “E” for everyone and quite lame). It has only been two weeks, and we are in the thick of game design. Like any other code monkey operation, I’ve grown fond of my fellow FIEAns in all their uniqueness. Surviving in FIEA is like a sandbox video game. While not GTA, the profs are industry professionals that deliver some of the most difficult missions ever conceived. They are the Big Bosses that can crush your ego with one blow. So far, their industry antidotes are funny and insightful. I hope they keep the good stories flowing.

I can see FIEA producing monster video game developers to enter the real world. And, I can actually envision my cohort transforming into Mad Max meets Police Academy. I hope to experience a lot of both visions for your entertainment purposes. So, I have my game face on and ready to tackle all the obstacles in class and on computers and consoles. I will be shooting the “pooh” and reporting from the video game development frontlines like an opinionated schmuck with a blog. Oh, I am an opinionated schmuck. I won’t bore you with the lore of why my life is better than yours, so I’ll go back to playing Metroid Prime 3: Corruption while you wallow in your lame existence. So, I talked about the games and the lames. What am I missing, hmmm…. Oh, the dames! Maybe, I’ll talk about the dames next week. Are you ready for the madness? Until next time, I wish you Love, Peace and Soul…..

Disclaimer: Fictional names are used to replace the real names, places and things of the crazy events revealed in front of your virgin eyes.