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In addition to all the abstract qualities I described earlier, there are also a few specific skills you can learn in school or elsewhere: Project management techniques Project management is the delicate art of balancing the tasks that you have to do, the resources (both staff and technical resources) that you have to do them with, and the amount of time that you have Risk assessment and contingency planning are also vital parts of project management This skill is commonly taught in business school and in some software engineering programs, and there are many, many books on the subject Be aware, however, that every field is different and project management for games differs from project management for other software because of all the different types of assets and creative people involved Budgeting and scheduling As with project management, you can learn how to make budgets and schedules through books and classes Until you ve been in the game industry a while you won t know the rules of thumb to do it for game development, but you probably won t be asked to in an entry-level position All other game development skills No, I m not kidding As I said, a producer is a generalist You should certainly be able to play and test games It also helps to know how to use 3-D modeling and animation tools a little; edit audio and video a little; even program a little A key element of overseeing other people s work is understanding what those jobs entail In addition, producers often pitch in wherever they can be of help; the more you know how to do, the more useful you can be, especially at the assistant and associate levels
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Rob Fulop, a former boss of mine, used to say this about creating any kind of product: You can have it fast, good, or cheap: pick any two That about sums it up
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At a bare minimum, producers need to be familiar and comfortable with word processors and spreadsheet programs You can build a reasonable schedule for a project using Excel if there aren t too many people and tasks involved Beyond that, you will need to learn formal project management techniques and learn to use the software that supports them, such as Microsoft Project These tools have features that identify dependencies among tasks, compute staffing requirements, and help you keep track of progress After e-mail, Microsoft Project is the producer s #1 tool
C H A P T E R
Specializations
Producers tend to be generalists, because their work isn t based on a technical or creative skill, but on the ability to oversee a process and help it along in whatever way necessary However, there are a couple of specialized jobs on the production side of things
Technical Director (TD)
Producers seldom have the technical experience to judge the quality of computer programming, or a programming team, by themselves When a product is being developed out-of-house, someone at the publisher needs to be able to check the development company s code to make sure it meets software engineering standards, and to advise the producer on technical issues This person is a technical director sometimes called a technical producer or technical advisor A TD is usually a senior software engineer with a broad range of experience, possibly including some management However, within a publisher, on an external development project, a TD is not a managerial position It s primarily advisory, although it does come with some authority One of the TD s tasks is to check each milestone delivery to make sure that the code is up to snuff If it isn t, the TD can advise the producer not to authorize the next milestone payment In addition to examining the code and advising the producer, the TD also serves as an emergency resource for the developers With his experience, he can lend a hand where needed, helping to track down particularly difficult bugs and solving other technical problems He also recommends particular technical approaches or libraries of routines, and helps to get the developers coding resources and tools they may need Finally, a TD plays an important role in checking out new development teams that the publisher is considering working with He ll read the programmers r sum s, talk to them about their experience, and look over their gear and facilities He ll also examine the proposed technical design of a product that the developer is pitching to the publisher to see if it s really feasible or just pie-in-the-sky All this is critically important to a publisher who s considering investing millions of dollars in a group of people
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