Develop online話題:遊戲製作人到底都做些什麼

本文原作者:James Batchelor

Develop網站記者同來自大大小小遊戲工作室的製作人聊了聊他們以前很少聊到過的——他們在遊戲開發中主要扮演的角色是什麼?

來自UK遊戲工作室Chilled Mouse的Lana Zgombic提到當她被家人很朋友們問到關於工作內容的時候,她總是無法給出很明確的答案。大部分的Develop網站讀者都對遊戲聯合制作人有一個大概的瞭解,不過除了那以外的工作內容呢?

她說“我就告訴他們我主要是做管理的。不過事實上我做的可不止這麼簡單,但這樣說他們好理解。畢竟比起列舉出你要管的所有細微之事,直接說你在做管理就簡明多了。他們會想象你可能就是都在做Excel電子表格——雖然說有時確實要做,不過我們的工作可比這複雜得多了。”

Zgombic是在Develop網站和Testronic公司的邀請下來到布萊頓的七名製作人之一,他們受邀來聊聊他們工作中扮演的做角色內容。他們對該職業的描述達成了共識,儘管這種高度概括聽起來特別冷:製作人就是來確保項目能達到質量標準並按時完成。

Jagex Seniro給了一個更令人滿意的定義:“如果遊戲的開發過程是一條河,那我們的工作就是確保這條河流能源源不斷地流向正確的方向。假設河流裏面有卵石,我們就要在還沒有人撞到它之前把這塊卵石移開。我們不僅要了解現在發生的事情,還要對將來要發生的事有所預判。”

Auroch Digital製作人Peter Willington補充道:“我們的工作就是讓有才之士能在工作上將本領發揮得淋漓盡致。一個好的遊戲製作人就是滿足人才需求,讓他們有最佳的工作狀態,由此給公司帶去所需價值。”

Dave Cox曾經在Metal Gear firm Konami擔任過製作人,現在是Mercury Steam的高級遊戲製作人,他將遊戲製作人在描述作協調者和溝通者。

“遊戲製作人就是爲開發團隊服務的人,不要弄反。這是屬於人事的工作範疇:股東、年輕的美術人員、工作室負責人等等,你需要一個一個地來處理他們之間的關係。所以善於與人打交道也是人的一個很重要的屬性啊。”

“有時我擔心的是製作人會被高看作項目管理人員——甚至遊戲工作室本身都會這樣誤會——但是事實上製作人做的可比那多多了。但要想把這些工作內容表述給別人有時還挺困難的。”

Gobo工作室的製作人Andy Walker描述遊戲製作人就像交流“蜘蛛網”的網心:“你需要在管理層、交付成果層、客戶層和遊戲團隊層之間的起到調節作用。你需要讓團隊知道他們該做的事,保護他們免除一切不好影響——甚至要考慮到工作室人員的僱傭和解僱問題。

Curve Digital製作管理人Sophie Rossetti強調了該職業在人際方面技巧的要求很高:“能夠找到人們身上的閃光點並加以重用是再重要不過的了。並且你的管理風格得根據你合作的對象做出調整。”

producers (from develop online)

producers (from develop online)

制定解決方案

這個職業的角色主要是爲了解決問題的。當遊戲出現重大問題的時候,團隊都會向製作人尋求幫助和指引。Crowley說作爲製作人有一個訣竅——就是橫向思考那些問題。

他說“很多人帶着問題來找你,那問題對於他們來說就好像世界末日了,一切都要分崩離析了,有一種天都要塌了的感覺。不過要能夠看出問題到底出在哪,然後給出沒人想到的可選方案,這對整個項目的順利運行有着至關重要的作用。”

Walker補充說:“一個項目管理的反饋就是一個解決方案,而一個製作人的反饋則更傾向是在降低質量、增加用人以及做出改動之前,給你提供了500個可深入探尋的選項。這就像是在給難題找到好出路的感覺。”

所有的專家們對壓力管理都表示很關鍵——不只是團隊的壓力,還有製作人自己的。保持清醒的頭腦對保持團隊的冷靜有深遠影響,這能提醒整個團隊把眼光放得更遠。

Willington還說“冷靜的現實主義絕對是非常關鍵的。沒錯我們是在做藝術——不過這種藝術是一種商業化藝術,有截止日期的藝術,這種藝術可能會涉及到很多金錢因素。我們共識的藝術家們都想要儘可能多的時間進行創作——但我們必須保持一種現實主義的態度。”

Cox還補充道:“遊戲製作人能在項目開發中保持一顆商業頭腦、在商業現實下驅動項目的運轉真的很重要。因爲有時團隊最後可能會在某個他們特別熱愛的遊戲特點上僵持特別久,而你這時就要催促他們移步向前繼續完成項目剩下的部分。”

儘管這看上去好像整個團隊特別依賴遊戲製作人,事實上是反過來的——製作人需要確保他們跟合作團隊能建立起緊密的關係,而這對項目問題的解決也是有所幫助的。Creative Assembly開發管理人Mark Sutherns這樣告訴我們:“你必須確保你最後不是住在象牙塔裏,天真地覺得你可以脫離團隊存在於他們之上。團隊的成員們是最能提供有效幫助的人,所以如果你理解他們,知道他們能力所在,那有了問題也就很好解決了。”

“要保持積極的心態。如果你看到屏幕上顯示的東西很棒,指出來讓大家一起觀賞。我喜歡這麼做——這能幫助鼓舞團隊士氣,讓他們知道彼此的工作成效。其實就是試着在你走過某人桌子前面的時候對他做個展示就是了。”

Rossetti說:要想定期跟團隊來解決問題需要的不只是人際方面的技巧,還要能有個“對話存儲空間”,這可是大有益處。

她解釋道:“記住某人兩週前不經意說的話在不久之後會有大用處,特別是當一個程序員說‘我可沒說過這話’你就可以篤定地反駁說:‘不,你說過。’”

對一切瞭如指掌

在這個承包商以及遍佈世界的遠程工作室合作時代,遊戲製作的管理變得非常複雜。所以作爲遊戲製作人,能跟團隊在同一棟屋檐同一個房間裏,交流會變得容易許多,也正因此,遠程員工的事務處理需要一個效率極高的遊戲製作人來辦才行。

“面對承包商最讓人頭疼的是必須讓他們得自己管理時間——如果他們說沒法在一個星期內做到某件事,你就必須催促他們把時間安排得更緊湊些。也因此給他們的時間期限要提前。在跟承包商的合作上我們能做到的也就這些了。”

而對於跟遠程成員溝通方面,Crowley指出現在有工具可以解決溝通問題的了——多虧了像Slack、Skype和Google Docs這樣的軟件,我們再也不用花幾天的時間來傳真遊戲代碼或者坐飛機繞上大半個地球進行會面了。

“現在可以通過視頻通話進行面對面交流並能夠跟進他們正合作的在線文檔之類的文件,這是意義非凡的一件事。那些工具改變了我們對一些事物的看法。”

Walker還補充說,太遙遠的距離會導致更多的問題:“如果你有員工在澳大利亞,美國等等,你就對會議時間的安排有諸多限制,不然有時你醒着的時候,你的團隊有一半的人都還在地球的另一端睡着呢。”

這樣的距離也會讓遊戲製作人對每個團隊的進度跟進變得更困難——這次來的每個專家都認同了進度跟進的必要性。僅僅有個大概的瞭解對於製作人來說是遠遠不夠的,他們必須熟悉地瞭解自己的產品以及產品狀況。幸運的是,有些人會很自然地驅使自己去做這樣的瞭解。
Zgombic承認說“我其實非常愛管閒事,喜歡去看看每個人都在幹什麼。不過這樣做真的很重要,因爲這意味着我可以根據他們現在所做提前做規劃。我認爲我不會喜歡和其他製作人合作,因爲我沒法及時瞭解他們的每個團隊手頭正在工作的內容。我喜歡讓一切盡在掌握之中。”

Crowley補充說要在較大型工作室做到這點雖然會比較困難,但仍舊重要:“當手下運作的是一個80到100人的大型團隊,我得知道這層樓的每個人都在做什麼。你也許會覺得如果公司再大點的話我扮演的角色不一樣了,那你就錯了。我還是得了解每一件事——隨着你的成長,問題規模會擴大,而你仍要保持對一切事物的掌控。”

Willington指出,製作人對這些信息的掌握就是他們對工作室履行的責任。“你還要和終端用戶和媒體就遊戲內容進行交流,很多情況下你就是工作室的代言人,因爲對於人們想提出的問題,你是最佳回答者。製作人是記者採訪的最佳人選。”

變化越來越大

在很多方面,遊戲製作人的角色在過去幾十年遊戲行業的發展中變化非常顯著。Sutherns回想起來,曾幾何時他在前往預發行的里程碑的路上,除了E3表現和demo可玩性,別的什麼都不用擔心。

他說“如今,隨着直播show展媒體平臺的發展,遊戲在可玩階段上提前了很多,因此那些里程碑就不同以往了。我們要保證遊戲在早期階段就具備好可玩性、穩定性以及可展示性。對玩家羣衆來說這是件好事,而遊戲開發者因爲要儘可能快地將遊戲的穩定性和質量展示出來,所以我們也能沾光提早很多玩到自己的遊戲。”

Walker相信數碼革命將會讓里程碑完全消失:“很多遊戲公司都會向數碼發行和實時操作轉型——而這是完全不同的兩種情況,因爲你所發行的東西必須是一週又一週地留在那裏的。”

遊戲製作人是一個時刻保持靈活性的角色,並且這個角色要根據團隊開發面向平臺的不同而時刻進行調整。

根據Zgombic所述我們瞭解到——社區和開發者之間的障礙一直是個僵持不下的問題,這給遊戲製作人帶來了新的挑戰。

“有那麼多的搶先體驗遊戲,有那麼多的開放式遊戲開發,而我們的工作就是儘可能地去聯繫上那些社區來得到他們的反饋。這些反饋非常寶貴:因爲終究我們是在爲他們做遊戲,這樣一來他們也能得到遊戲開發的參與感。”

放眼未來,Sutherns指出雖然遊戲製作人已經看到了遊戲行業的巨大變化,也知道這種變化隨着遊戲業的發展只會愈演愈烈,但沒有什麼產品問題是專家們無法解決的。遊戲的開發總是需要有那麼一個人來保護這條遊戲之河暢不受卵石阻礙自如流淌。

Sutherns這樣說道“我們已經在技術上和商務模式上做過相應的改變了,作爲我們這個角色,在未來要時刻保持靈活性,還要能夠時刻調整自身來應對任意不同的開發平臺。”

“這就是這個角色的有趣之處:總有那麼一類人會被這種瞬息萬變的行業吸引着,想要站到這個領域的至高視點來感受看看。”

你可以成爲一個製作人嗎?

我們還問了諸位專家對於想要入行當遊戲製作人的人有沒有什麼建議。

Mark Suthrns(Creative Assembly):“進入到遊戲工作室中儘可能快地學習經驗,無論是什麼那個等級的內容都要學——甚至從傳統的QA等級內容開始都可以。這樣你很快就會知道製作人這個角色是否吸引你了,因爲你將會想知道其他的團隊手頭正在做的是什麼以及到時候要如何把它們組成這個完整的遊戲。總之就要多管管閒事,這是一個人能不能做製作人的很標誌性特徵。”

Peter Willington(Auroch Digital):“永遠別自大。保持謙遜,讓專業人士帶領項目。當你處在這個項目蜘蛛網的中心時真的很容易就自我膨脹起來,但是事實上這個項目裏的每個人都跟你一樣重要。”

Dave Cox(Mercury Steam):“該聽時聽,該說時說。要信任自己的團隊讓他們瞭解問題該怎麼解決,也要對他們坦誠讓他們知道問題出在哪。如果你自認主管老大,那事情不會順利的,因爲團隊會讓你的生活處於水深火熱之中,還是跟他們一起找問題吧。通常解決方法都是團隊成員找到的,因爲他們比我們更瞭解自己有什麼問題。”

Sophie Rossetti(Cruve Digital):“永遠別搶着第一個給出回答。你身邊的成員在不同方面有着各自的經驗。你不可能每個方面都懂都知道,所以試着多問些問題,把答案留給專業人士來回答。”

Conor Crowley(Jagex):“你必須做好心理準備接受自己對項目的貢獻可能永遠衡量不出來。從技術方面來說,你什麼也沒做——儘管沒有你在那的話,誰也做不出任何東西。如果你想要的是個人榮耀感,那這個角色肯定不適合你。”

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Develop sat down with producers from studios of all sizes to discuss their central – but seldom discussed – role in a game’s development, and ask what’s next for their ever-changing responsibilities

When Lana Zgombic of UK studio Chilled Mouse is asked by friends or family what her job is, the answer isn’t as simple as she would hope. The majority of Develop readers will have a general understanding of what an associate producer does, but beyond that?

“I tell them it’s mostly a manager position,” she says. “It’s so much more but for them to understand, it’s simpler to say you’re in charge of things rather than listing all the little ways you help. They think all you do is Excel spreadsheets – which sometimes, yes, I do, but there’s so much more.”

Zgombic is one of seven producers Develop and Testronic invited to Brighton last month to discuss their role. The consensus was a fair summary, albeit a cold one: the producer ensures a project gets done, on time and to a standard of quality.

Jagex senior producer Conor Crowley offers a far more pleasant definition: “If development was a river, you’re making sure it’s constantly flowing in the right direction. If there’s a boulder, you’re moving it out of the way before anyone hits it. There’s an element of understanding what’s going to happen in the future rather than just what’s happening now.”

Auroch Digital producer Peter Willington adds: “It’s about helping talented people do their very best work. A good producer gets to know what those people actually need to be the very best and bring the value required to the company.”

As a producer, there’s an element of understanding what’s going to happen in the future rather than just what’s happening now.

Dave Cox, currently senior games producer at Mercury Steam and formerly a producer at Metal Gear firm Konami, describes producers as facilitators and communicators.

“The producer is someone that serves the team, not the team serving the producer. It’s about dealing with people: stakeholders, junior artists, studio heads and more – and you need to be able to manage those relationships one-to-one. So being a people person is one of the most important attributes.

“What worries me is sometimes producers are looked upon as project managers – even by their studios – but they’re so much more than that. Getting that across to some people is a bit of a challenge sometimes.”

Studio Gobo producer Andy Walker describes the role as being at the centre of a “spider’s web” of communication: “You’re the intermediary between management, deliverables, clients and the team.
You need to let the team get on with what they need to do and protect them from everything else – even to the extent of studio concerns like hirings and firings.”

Curve Digital production manager Sophie Rossetti emphasises the need for strong interpersonal skills: “Finding where people can shine and bringing out their best skills is really important. You have to adapt your management style depending on the people you work with.”

 

PRODUCE A SOLUTION

Central to the role is problem solving. When larger issues with the game arise, it is the producer that the team turns to for guidance. The trick, says Crowley, is thinking about those problems laterally.

“So many people come to you with an issue that, to them, seems like the end of the world, everything’s falling apart, the sky is actually going to crash down around us,” he says. “But being able to look at that and think about how things actually work, then offer an option that nobody thought of, is vital to keeping everything running.”

Walker adds: “A project management response is one solution, whereas a producer response is more to offer 500 other options that can be explored before you start cutting quality, adding more people on or changing things. It’s about finding smart solutions to hard problems.”

All of our experts agree that it’s vital to manage stress – not just the team’s but also your own. Keeping a cool head can go a long way to calming your team, and reminding them of the bigger picture.

“Level-headed realism is absolutely key,” says Willington. “Yes, we’re making art – but it’s commercial art, art to a deadline. There may be a more monetary factor involved. The creative people you work with may want to make the best thing you can – we’ve all worked with artists who want ten days, not five – but you need to have a realistic attitude.”

Cox adds: “Having a commercial mindset and keeping the team focused on the commercial reality of shipping something is really important. Because sometimes teams can end up naval-gazing about a feature they really love and you have to urge them to move forwards with the rest of the project.”

Sometimes teams can end up naval-gazing about a feature they really love and you have to urge them to move forwards with the rest of the project.

While it may seem like the team relies heavily on the producer, the reverse is just as true. As a result, producers need to ensure they have established strong relationships with the teams they work with. This also helps with problem solving, says Creative Assembly development manager Mark Sutherns.

“You’ve got to make sure you don’t end up in an ivory tower where you think you exist above them,” he says. “These are the people that are going to help the most, so if you understand them and what they’re capable of, often the solution you need is right there.

“Being positive helps. If you see something great on a screen, make a point of it and gather people around. I love doing that – it helps the morale of the team, they know what each other’s working on. Just try doing a show and tell at someone’s desk as you walk around the floor.”

Dealing with teams on a regular basis to solve problems requires more than people skills. Rossetti says there are advantages to having a “conversational memory”.

“Remembering what someone said two weeks ago about something off-hand can be so useful later on,” she explains. “Especially when a programmer says ‘I never said that’. And I can say: ‘Yes, you did.’”

ON TOP OF THINGS

Managing production becomes far more complicated in an age of contractors and even full studios working remotely. It’s naturally easier to communicate with teams in the same room or building as you, so it takes a particularly efficient producer to handle staff working further afield.

“The most difficult thing with contractors is they have to handle their own time,” says Zgombic. “If they say they can’t do something in a week, you have to urge them to manage their time better. They had the deadlines in advance. We can only do so much when working with contractors.”

When it comes to communicating with remote workers, Crowley observes there are tools that solve this problem. Thanks to the likes of Slack, Skype and Google Docs, the days of faxing code around the world or jumping on a long-haul flight are long gone.

“Being able to speak to people face-to-face through video chat and make sure they’re collaborating on things like online documentation is invaluable,” he says. “Those tools have changed how we look at some things.”

Walker adds that greater distances cause more issues: “If you have a guy in Australia, the US and so on, you’re limited on when you can have meetings because otherwise half the team’s asleep.”

This also makes it harder for producers to keep track of how each team is progressing – something our experts all agree is essential. An overview is not enough as producers need to know their product, and its condition, intimately. Fortunately, some people have a natural inclination to do just that.

“I’m quite nosy and like to see what everyone’s doing,” admits Zgombic. “But that’s very important because it means I can plan ahead. I don’t think I’d like to work with other producers and not know what every other team is doing. I like to be on top of things.”

Crowley adds that this can be tougher at larger studios, but it’s still vital: “When you’re running a team of 80 to 100 people, I know what every single person on the floor is doing. You would think that as your company gets bigger your role would start changing, but it doesn’t. You still have to be involved in everything – the problem just scales as you grow, and you need to keep on top of it.”

Willington observes that this knowledge takes producers’ responsibility out of the studio. “You also communicate what your game is to the end audience and to the press,” he says. “You are often the face of your studio, because producers are best placed to have those answers to any questions people might have. We’re the best people for journalists to talk to.”

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

In many ways, the role of the producer has changed considerably over the past few decades as the industry has evolved around it. Sutherns recalls a time when the only pre-launch milestones he had to worry about were E3 appearances and a playable demo.

“Nowadays, with livestreaming and showing the game in a playable state much earlier, those milestones have changed,” he says. “The game has to be playable, stable and demonstrable really early on. It’s a great thing for the gaming public, and for devs, because it means we’re driven to show that stability and quality as soon as possible. It also means we can play our own game much earlier.”

Walker believes the digital revolution has removed milestones completely: “A lot of companies are moving towards digital distribution and live operations – and that’s completely different because once you’ve released something, it’s got to be maintained week after week.”

A producer is a role that will always remain flexible, and will always adjust to the platforms the teams are developing for.

The barriers between community and developer have also never been lower – this brings with it new challenges, according to Zgombic.

“There are so many Early Access games, so many open developments, and our job is to talk to the community as much as possible and get their feedback,” she says. “That’s very valuable: after all, we’re making games for them and they get to feel like they’re involved.”

Looking ahead, Sutherns observes that while producers have already seen drastic changes and there’s more to come as gaming continues to evolve, it’s nothing production experts won’t be able to handle. Someone will always be needed to ensure the development river keeps on flowing, boulder-free.

“We’ve reacted to changes in technology and business models before,” he says. “It’s a role that will always remain flexible, and will always adjust to the platforms the teams are developing for.

“That’s what makes this role so interesting: it attracts the type of person who wants to be involved in an ever-changing industry and see it at a top level.”

 

COULD YOU BE A PRODUCER?

We asked our experts what advice they have for any would-be producers considering the role

Mark Sutherns, Creative Assembly:
“Get experience in the studios as quick as you can, at whatever level – even starting at the traditional QA level. You’ll know pretty early whether the producer role appeals to you, because you’ll want to know what other teams are up to and how the game’s coming together. Just being nosy is a sure sign someone has what it takes to be a producer.”

Peter Willington, Auroch Digital:
“Always leave your ego at the door. Be humble and let the experts guide the projects. It’s easy when you’re at the centre of the web to feel like you’re super-important, but actually everyone else around you is on exactly the same level.”

Dave Cox, Mercury Steam:
“Listen as well as talk. Trust your team to know what the answers are to the problems, and be honest with them about what the problems are. If you think you’re in charge, that’s not going to work. The team will make your life hell. Find solutions together. Usually it’ll come from a team member because they know their shit better than we do.”

Sophie Rossetti, Curve Digital:
“Never be the first one to give an answer. The people around you have a lifetime of experience in each discipline. You couldn’t possibly know all that, so try to ask more questions and get the experts to give the answers.”

Conor Crowley, Jagex:
“Get ready to never be able to measure your own contribution to the game. Technically, you do nothing – although when you’re not there, nobody else does anything either. If you’re looking for personal glory, you’re in the wrong role.”(source:develop online