While the role of producer might often be described as “herding cats” it is perhaps better described as “keeping all the plates spinning”. Every aspect of the production of a game comes under the purview of the producer, from staying on budget to meeting deadlines, via making everything feel and play right and ensuring the whole package looks great. There is an expectation that the producer will get the very best out of the production team, and do so without shedding too much sweat and tears.
Ian Gillespie is one of our producers, and he shares his point of view about the position he holds inside PikPok.
Are our game producers “project managers” in the traditional sense, or is there a more creative element to the role?
Realistically we do spend a lot of time performing typical project management tasks – looking at budgets, considering timelines, reminding people of tasks etc. But I would say that there is regularly a place for a producer to become involved in the creative side of things, particularly on a small team. Often at PikPok our teams are so small and multifaceted that for the most part it’s important to chip in and offer an idea or a solution to a problem if you have something valuable to offer. Producers being involved in this side of things only really becomes a problem when they use their role as a way to overrule team decisions without good reason.
Aside from oversight what do you think are the most important tasks that fall to you?
A producer basically needs to be the one that is focused on the big picture and tries to keep things heading forward. You need to be a spokesperson for the team, looking after their interests and making sure that there’s nothing that you could be doing that would be making it easier for them to do the job they’re there to do. Often you need to be a conduit between the team and external parties (whether it be a client or other members of the company). This means managing relationships of different kinds and making sure that the team is kept informed without them actually having to actively worry about such things on top of developing great games.
And which are the most enjoyable and satisfying aspects of what you do?
Working with awesome people is by far and away the best part of the job. We’ve got such a strong team here with so much talent. I love being able to work alongside them and do what I can to help get things done. I believe that the strongest part of any company is its people – the way in which they form friendships and work together to create something great. I love being a part of that at PikPok.
How is your role changing as the studio evolves?
In the past being a producer was primarily focused on the development cycle – pushing to create as good a game as possible, then releasing it either to a publisher or directly to market and out of your hands. “Fire and forget” essentially - you would be interested in how well a title was doing but unless you were working on a patch or an update, your involvement with it was minimal once the game was finished. As the studio has evolved the role of producer has extended into more of a custodial role that means being involved long after release that means more long term involvement in decision making for that product going forward.
Can you describe some of the challenges and advantages that you face in your role, with this new, ongoing development process?
The mobile space can be challenging in general – it’s so crowded and it can be tough to predict. I think having to try and mould titles to be more successful after release is a tough ask – there are so many variables and it can be daunting when you’re trying to keep a product relevant and successful. Though I think at the same time this can be the advantage to this new way of thinking. If you release an app and it doesn’t do as well as you’d hoped, you’re in a great position to knuckle down and work out what worked and what didn’t and try to make better decisions over time.