What a producer does can be a mystery to those outside a project, in any segment of the entertainment industry. Essentially, producers are leaders and facilitators who keep their entire team on the ball. In game development, the producer of a game is responsible for ensuring that the product is delivered on time, on budget, and with as few headaches as possible.
The game producer is among the highest positions within a game development studio and works closely with the creative director to see a title through to completion. While the creative director has artistic control, the producer’s job is focused on five main areas: facilitating communication, planning development procedures, establishing schedule milestones, monitoring the budget, and supervising staff. Dozens, sometimes hundreds of people work simultaneously on separate tasks that, when combined, become a finished video game. The producer is there in part to ensure that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing. If the AI programmer and physics programmer aren’t communicating with the level designers and animators, the resulting game will be a bust. Also important are clearly defined processes for approving assets and delivering those game elements through the pipeline from one stage of development to the next. The producer is responsible for publishing those processes and informing the staff.
Artists don’t like to rush the creative process, but video game development is a business and as such must operate under strict deadlines. Time and money are directly related in the creation of a product that may cost millions of dollars to produce over two or three years. The producer must meet regularly with team leads to monitor the money being spent and achievement of established milestones. If benchmarks are not being met, he or she will step in to help identify obstacles that are impeding processes and work with senior staff to apply solutions, whether that be improving the tools the artists and programmers use, adding staff, or better scheduling development time. All of this information is reported by the producer to the studio heads and publisher of the game (if not published in-house) to keep all stakeholders in the loop on the title’s progress.
Skills & Education
There is no specific educational requirement, but a master’s degree in game development, computer science, game design, or a related area is beneficial for this senior-level role. Producers are not required to have experience as an artist or programmer, though the knowledge is helpful. More important are strong leadership and communication skills. A game producer must be highly organized and proficient at identifying priorities among numerous competing deadlines. This person should have a good technical understanding of the game development process, 3-D art and animation software, and current-generation consoles. Courses in statistics, business management, finance, and accounting are also useful.
What to Expect
Game producers typically rise to this position after at least seven years of professional experience within a game development studio or with a game publisher. In this model, producers are former game designers, game writers, artists, or programmers, and thus have the associated skill set. However, it is becoming more common to see producers who have a master’s degree begin their careers as project managers or assistant producers after an internship with a developer.
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