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.