Advice For New Producers & Team Leaders?

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RosyInk27
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Advice For New Producers & Team Leaders?

#1 Post by RosyInk27 » Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:22 pm



Along with getting for realsies serious about developing my first visual novel, I've also found myself functioning as the "producer" (or creative director, whichever floats your boat) of a small team of wonderful folks!

So my question to you all is this: how did you get through the experience? What advice would you give someone who has just started out and to those who were in the opposite role, what was the best thing your director/producer/weirdo with a trello ever did during production that ended up making a positive difference?

Also, anyone up for some Extra Credits? :3
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Re: Advice For New Producers & Team Leaders?

#2 Post by Tyrantauranox » Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:01 am

As a producer for game projects, I spent most of my time finding and solving communication problems. Different departments might not communicate with each other, and the same might occur even between members of the same team. In one case, a 3D environment artist had to spend an entire day from each week manually deleting a huge amount of bad data from a level's scene file. I found about about it and asked a programmer to spend a few minutes writing a script for the 3D application that would take care of all the bad data in the scene file with a single click, and maybe three seconds of waiting.

Don't expect people to communicate, even if they're going insane from incredibly repetitive work. I've seen many cases where they'll just keep chugging along, rather than ask for help.

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Re: Advice For New Producers & Team Leaders?

#3 Post by Mammon » Tue Apr 18, 2017 3:08 am

I don't have that much experience with development management, but in case you're talking about a small project without the team members getting paid and you're the leader: (Any examples given are not from personal experience)

-Make a schedule for everyone and have them agree to it. Implement changes if you have to but make sure they saw and accepted it.
-Make sure everyone has a comprehensible list of what they have to do. Don't expect the artist to remember from a conversation you had some time ago how many assets and of what they had to make.
-If you've got a Discord chat or other format of communication, make sure to put all the important things that are said in a separate chat or PM that won't be snowed under, or even make a separate email. Not everyone will be on there several hours a day and can easily miss something said about their work or not being able to find it back.
-You cannot force your team a lot. Being through a chat without anyone having seen another in real life and there being no money, it's not as if you can fire them or impose real intimidation. If they don't respect you, you're completely powerless.
-Always start your critism with a compliment about their work. If your review is only a list of things they've got to change it'll sound like you think their work is not good. Make sure it's clear that you think it's almost as it has to be.

-The video said to never criticize your team, that's not entirely true.
--Especially during the sketch period should any problem in perspective and such be straightened out because no artist ever envisions the asset they're about to make the same way as the assignment is when the objective is expressed in words. Of course, a rough sketch by you can help.
--(P.S. try to get everyone to show you everything of theirs in terms of progress. A lot of artists won't show you the sketches, lineart and base color, instead intending to show only the finalised product. Changing anything is a lot more difficult at that point.)
--If there's two people working on one task like sprites, their work will have to look the same. Their styles can't match exactly, but at the very least the color scheme and size should be comparable.
--Which reminds me: Make sure everyone knows what size to work in. When working on feeling, few artists will work in a 1280x720 resolution resulting in their work missing a bunch of pixels in width.

I hope I gave some useful advice, if you have questions about anything more specific feel free to ask. Maybe I can help?
Last edited by Mammon on Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Advice For New Producers & Team Leaders?

#4 Post by Sonomi » Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:33 am

As a manager, you should absolutely write a contingency plan into your schedule that allows core features to make it to production. This can be done through adding a week or two buffer for every single thing that needs to get done, having backup volunteers who can take the reins if someone becomes unavailable, etc. Just overall being realistic about the fact that life happens and you need to plan ahead for hiccups with a vengeance.

Drawing a red line over things because time is short indicates a lack of prior planning, and perhaps a lapse of communication with the team, who should be able to tell you how long things will take so you can work that into the development schedule. "Vetos" can be understandably troublesome to team members, because proper planning would actively allow them more than enough time to implement those initial requirements and features. Artists are ninjas with graphics, writers are ninjas with words, composers are ninjas with music, and you as a manager need to be a ninja with calendars/scheduling!

There's a lot of crunch time development taking place in the video game industry, and I suspect the reason is inefficient management. Things don't have to be 100% perfect, nothing ever is; however, they CAN be quality assured and implemented when a good plan of action is constructed beforehand.

Long story short, be sure to add lots of buffer time. You can't go wrong with having the extra space and, if anything, leftover time can be used to polish the game.
Mammon wrote:-snip-

-You cannot force your team a lot. Being through a chat without anyone having seen another in real life and there being no money, it's not as if you can fire them or impose real intimidation. If they don't respect you, you're completely powerless.

-snip-
Not necessarily... If there is ever a lack of respect, especially for your time, I feel it is a good idea to address that with the individual or remove them from the team if that route was not effective. Paid or not, they really should not have volunteered to help if they were not going to appreciate the fact that these other people are taking time away from their lives to do this, and that they should not [intentionally] waste a second of it. Certainly not because "this is just a free game, so there's no rush." Heard that one before...

Imagine a scenario where you have 5 team members: 4 of them are meeting their deadlines like a champ, joining the group chat regularly, and putting out exemplary effort while person 5 is barely even reachable. They don't enter chats, they never really deliver their assigned assets, they force their teammates to wait or even bite the bullet and actually do their work for them. Because the project is lagging behind schedule [for no good reason]. I've been there and it's frustrating for everyone. That's where the manager comes in.

Being a manager means making some tough decisions and managing the team in a way that is beneficial for all personnel involved. If someone is not bringing good vibes to your project and they are unwilling to change their habits, it's perfectly sane to question whether they should be part of the team moving forward.

But definitely take note of what Mammon and everyone else has said here. Definitely great advice to keep in mind!
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Re: Advice For New Producers & Team Leaders?

#5 Post by Mammon » Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:38 pm

Sonomi wrote:As a manager, you should absolutely write a contingency plan into your schedule that allows core features to make it to production. This can be done through adding a week or two buffer for every single thing that needs to get done,
I would've added this in the tips too, if it'd work. However, I did add a fluff week for S&Y (Yes, a whole buffer week for a month long development project.) and it didn't do squat. While it was useful that the programmer had plenty of time with the available expressions to add in the expression statements thanks to the sprite artist sticking to her deadlines, anyone who won't make their deadlines will not be helped with a buffer from what I saw. Happened with both people who didn't make their deadline (without leaving the team).
If there is ever a lack of respect, especially for your time, I feel it is a good idea to address that with the individual or remove them from the team if that route was not effective. Paid or not, they really should not have volunteered to help if they were not going to appreciate the fact that these other people are taking time away from their lives to do this, and that they should not [intentionally] waste a second of it. Certainly not because "this is just a free game, so there's no rush." Heard that one before...
If there's a deadline, it can be difficult to throw out people who don't make their deadlines. Unfortunately, game development is not black and white enough to say that in all cases. While this would indeed be the best thing to do, tough choice as it is, there can always be circumstances that can cause difficulties. Throw them out too soon and you'll be cruel, wait too long and a back-up can't help you in time. It's a rather hard thing to do in real life, so keep the fire button in mind but know it won't be easy even if you do have the thick skin to fire people.
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Re: Advice For New Producers & Team Leaders?

#6 Post by Sonomi » Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:24 pm

Mammon wrote:
Sonomi wrote:As a manager, you should absolutely write a contingency plan into your schedule that allows core features to make it to production. This can be done through adding a week or two buffer for every single thing that needs to get done,
I would've added this in the tips too, if it'd work. However, I did add a fluff week for S&Y (Yes, a whole buffer week for a month long development project.) and it didn't do squat.
I agree that there really isn't a whole lot of wiggle room in such a tight deadline of 4 weeks. Based upon what you shared, extra time may not work for everyone. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to at least consider what could go wrong and slot away time to handle such matters in a collaboration with other people.
Mammon wrote:
If there is ever a lack of respect, especially for your time, I feel it is a good idea to address that with the individual or remove them from the team if that route was not effective.
If there's a deadline, it can be difficult to throw out people who don't make their deadlines. Unfortunately, game development is not black and white enough to say that in all cases. While this would indeed be the best thing to do, tough choice as it is, there can always be circumstances that can cause difficulties. Throw them out too soon and you'll be cruel, wait too long and a back-up can't help you in time. It's a rather hard thing to do in real life, so keep the fire button in mind but know it won't be easy even if you do have the thick skin to fire people.
You're right. It certainly can be a difficult decision to make. This is unfortunately one responsibility of a project manager. Ultimately, it is a manager's role to ensure that the project is moving along smoothly and on schedule. In my opinion, I wouldn't use the term "cruel" to describe firing someone, because that would mean there was no agonizing over the decision. Cruelty would entail a situation where you didn't discuss the matter to find common ground and simply announced, "You missed exactly one deadline. Sorry, but I have to fire you now." Not to be facetious, but this isn't the kind of situation that I'm describing! :)

You would and should absolutely try to work with the person in question before going that far, but what can you do when they will no longer contribute to the project and you are left with work that is not being completed? :oops: Please don't misunderstand me; I am not heartless. I'm simply speaking from personal experience when I say all of this, because I have been involved in both successful and unsuccessful collaborations in the past. The common denominator in the success stories is communication. And lack of communication kills a project faster than anything. Not only that, but it puts a strain on the entire team because one of two things needs to happen: A) a replacement is found and they need to be brought up to speed, B) some poor member of the team has to handle a greater workload. Producers might have a rough job, but there is good reason behind making decisions like those.

Which leads me back to contingency...because you don't want the workload to spontaneously fall to anyone else on the team when someone does leave. Earlier in my original post, I mentioned this:
Sonomi wrote:...having backup volunteers who can take the reins if someone becomes unavailable, etc. Just overall being realistic about the fact that life happens and you need to plan ahead for hiccups with a vengeance.
That may or may not alleviate your concerns regarding replacements. Actors have understudies for this reason. The best thing I can equate this to is the Secret Santa event that was hosted on LSF last December. It was similar to NaNoRenO in terms of having a short deadline.

Everyone was assigned a partner. They were asked to post their gift by the end of the month; however, people also volunteered to make gifts on the off chance that someone dropped out or could not deliver by the deadline. This was a contingency plan that gave everyone a buffer and ensured results no matter what. In terms of communication, every participant was required to check in weekly. So the idea of having regular contact was also spot on.

I honestly don't know for sure, because I have never been a manager; I've only worked closely with them. These are the things that I genuinely feel could have improved some of the situations we found ourselves in. As a docile person, I really don't have a thick skin in real life and I would hesitate to fire anyone. At the same time, it doesn't help anyone to have team members who are not working on the project, and in those situations I would reach out first. If this goes nowhere, then it's time to make a decision. It's not personal; it's only a matter of productivity.

Mileage may vary! Nothing I've said here is disaster-proof...
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