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Needing Information and Advice

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Let me begin by thanking you for looking into this post, it is greatly appreciated. I am currently a student in a game design program and have almost earned my bachelors. I am posting because I am passionate about this industry and greatly wish to be successful, and to help in achieving this success I would greatly appreciate some information and advice from any seasoned professional in this industry. I am asking that any professional who is willing to answer a few simple questions to fill out the questionnaire below. I would appreciate responses to every question asked, but if you are at all uncomfortable answering any question please keep in mind that you are in no way required to do so.

It should be stated that gaining this information is actually for a school project. So my intentions are purely academic.

I would like to add that it is my aspiration to become a game producer, as I am just as much a businessman as a game designer. And to help in facilitating this I plan on continuing my education and getting a masters in business.



1. What is your name? Title and surname are adequate. (i.e. Mr. Smith)


2. What position and/or title do you currently hold in the game industry? (i.e. art director, audio technician, etc.)


3. How many years have you worked in the game industry?


4. What are some titles that you have shipped which you would consider notable?


5. As I said before, it is my aspiration to become a game producer, and to help in achieving this I will be pursuing a masters in business (possibly through night school). I also plan on finding a job in the industry and working while going to school in order to gain at least two years of experience by the time I graduate. Would you consider this a wise course of action or would you suggest something else?


6. If you answered yes to question 5, and keeping my career goals of a producer in mind, what would be the wisest entry-level position for me to pursue while going to school? (i.e. art, QA, etc.) And why? Please note that the position of a programmer is not an option with my skill set.


7. In any afore-mentioned entry-level positions, how much can I expect to earn as a yearly salary? And how many hours a week can I expect to work?


8. I currently have several games and numerous art assets in my portfolio. Keeping my career goals of a producer in mind, what should I push in my portfolio to speed myself along that road?


9. It has been suggested that gaining a job outside of the industry in the form of a management position might be more beneficial to me than getting a grunt job such as QA. The only problem I have with tis logic is that it gyps me out of time which I can claim as industry experience. What are your thoughts?


10. Do you have any advice or comments that you would like to add?


Thank you for taking this time out of your busy day. Your help in this matter is deeply appreciated.

[Edited by - jthompson166 on July 21, 2010 1:24:19 PM]

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Why not just post the questions here? You are much more likely to get a response. I doubt there will be much they would tell you in private that they wouldn't do in public.

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I suppose I can. I'll give it a little while first, because I highly doubt anyone will answer every question I post publicly.

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1. See sig.
2. Independent designer/producer and university instructor.
3. Over 25.
4. Complete list is on my site.
5. Yes.
6. That's for you to decide.
7. See the latest game industry salary survey ("View Forum FAQ," above).
8. Just the best stuff.
9. Yes.

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Thank you, Tom. I appreciate the reply. But I am confused on your answer to the last question. What is it that you would like to add?

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He is basically saying "Yes, I have comments to add but you didn't ask me to write what they area".

1. See portfolio in sig.
2. Was in the industry until very recently. See CV in sig.
3. 3 years and 9 months ish.
4. All of the ones I worked on so far.
5. Trying to hold down a full time job while studying sounds incredibly difficult. If you can pull it off, it be good for your CV. Not sure if I consider it 'wise' though.
6. Have you got skills in any other area of discipline?
7. Depends on the role and location. There are salary surveys kicking about that you can look at.
8. The one that gets you a level entry role. Eg, if you are going for an artist role, then Art related material. Level Designer, levels. etc.

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1. Ben Sizer.
2. Software developer.
3. 4.
4. We don't really work on 'shipping' titles per se.
5. Qualifications + experience always help in life. I don't think there's any prescribed route to being a 'producer' that is shorter or more guaranteed than the route you suggest.
6. I would say that you need to consider where you want to work and who for. Games companies don't have a uniform set of roles, nor are their hiring policies consistent.
7. Pay varies wildly by role and location. I'd say you would expect to work 40 hours a week, more on occasion.
8. You need to show evidence of production. To me. that means time and resource management primarily.

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Thank you, Yaustar and Kylotan.

In terms of what my other skill sets are. I have enough software experience to (theoretically) break into an entry level art position. Or QA is always an option. I also have design experience and projects that I've managed, but that will, probably, help me little at first. It's something that I think I'm just going to have to play by ear, and see what comes along. I have a generalized degree so that should help in breaking into any entry-level position.

I do realize the difficulty in working full time as well as going to school, and that's something I've been mulling over. That's why I'll really have to look into what kind of part-time job opportunities are available, if any.

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Quote:
Original post by jthompson166
What [advice] is it that you would like to add?

Read, read, read.
Start with these:
http://www.sloperama.com/advice.html
http://www.igda.org/games-game
http://www.gamasutra.com/
http://www.industrygamers.com/ (subscribe to daily newsletter)

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Quote:
Original post by jthompson166
That's why I'll really have to look into what kind of part-time job opportunities are available, if any.

In the industry? I haven't seen any myself. You could try to look for a 'work from home' role but I expect them to be very few and far between.

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Thank you, Tom. Those resources will definitely come in handy.

Yaustar, maybe I'll just have to go through some kind of part-time night school program for working professionals. I know there are several of those out there.

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I'm still looking for responses from industry professionals. I would welcome a reply from anyone working in any capacity in the industry.

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1. Adrian Walker. I'm not really a 'title' sort of person.

2. Producer

3. Coming on 3 years

4. I've contributed to the development of 9 kids/family friendly games. My current pair of projects, Sesame Street: Elmo's A-to-Zoo Adventure and Sesame Street: Cookie's Counting Carnival, will be on stores in October.

5. An MBA is definitely a selling point, but not a necessity. I have a BS in Computer Graphics Technology. I've met a number of Producers who don't have a degree, but worked their way up through QA instead. The only part time game development job you'll be able to find is possibly a QA position.

6. There is no definitive path. Some Producers come from art, some from programming, some from design, some from QA, and heck, my current Studio Director started out as a Web Developer / Community Manager. QA would certainly be the easiest to get into. The important thing is that whatever you do you need to make sure to kick ass at it.

7. Game Career Guide. Open it in a new tab or just right click and save as. This is the latest edition of the Game Career Guide, published by Game Developer. It provides all sort of info on salaries and 'breaking in'.

8. Producers manage teams. You need to be able to well, demonstrate leadership ability / experience. You also need to demonstrate you know how to get things done and understand the complete development process. There is no one way to do this.

9. Not really, unless you have more specific questions?

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Thank you, Adrian. That was profoundly helpful. I'm glad to get the input of a current producer in the industry.

You're right that many producers either don't have a degree or have simply a bachelors. But an MBA is looking more and more appealing to me. If only in an attempt to future-proof my career. It's my belief that as the industry matures the value of a formal education will become more and more apparent, and I would hate to be out of a job someday because some young hotshot with a masters took it.

That's awesome that you had the opportunity to work on the Sesame Street games. I would love to get into the family-friendly aspect of the industry. I feel it's a consumer base that is not fully taken advantage of, or attempted poorly.

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I'll bite, but I don't want to disclose too much information.

1. What is your name? Title and surname are adequate. (i.e. Mr. Smith)

pass

2. What position and/or title do you currently hold in the game industry? (i.e. art director, audio technician, etc.)

Technical Director


3. How many years have you worked in the game industry?

10

4. What are some titles that you have shipped which you would consider notable?

Lots - mostly to critical but not financial acclaim: sega soccer slam, NHL Hitz, Need for Speed Hot Persuit. More recently for larger first party developers at my current studio.

5. As I said before, it is my aspiration to become a game producer, and to help in achieving this I will be pursuing a masters in business (possibly through night school). I also plan on finding a job in the industry and working while going to school in order to gain at least two years of experience by the time I graduate. Would you consider this a wise course of action or would you suggest something else?

Do you want to be a producer or a designer? Be clear - some studios call designers producers, which is wrong IMHO. If you are interested in being a producer (ie. administer the schedule, make sure people show up for work, work with the publisher) then go for the MBA if you have the strength. Unfortunately, getting an MBA while working in the industry might be difficult (exhausting). My suggestion would be to spend time getting management experience in a similar industry: software development, QA management, larger team-based organizations. From there, try to break into the industry with management experience. The MBA is something you can get under your belt later, once you've build up some real career experience. I don't think anyone other than our studio head really needs to know that much about business - more about soft skills, mentorship, risk assessment, teamwork and general scheduling strategies.


6. If you answered yes to question 5, and keeping my career goals of a producer in mind, what would be the wisest entry-level position for me to pursue while going to school? (i.e. art, QA, etc.) And why? Please note that the position of a programmer is not an option with my skill set.

See #5 - don't focus just on the games industry. Not only will it suck up all your spare time, you'll not gain a lot of useful experience being a tester. Contrary to popular belief, I feel the stigma of being a tester in a company will haunt your resume for the rest of your career. The impression is that anyone who is willing to do the frustrating job of testing can get a job in QA, so what makes you special now that you have it on your resume? I've seem people come to the industry ice-cold experience wise and get hired of testers because of that stigma. I'm not saying it's fair - but it's true. If you can, you'd be better off trying to get an unpaid internship as an associate/junior producer, or designer. People in QA seem to just be on a three or four year journey where eventually they drift off into something unrelated.

7. In any afore-mentioned entry-level positions, how much can I expect to earn as a yearly salary? And how many hours a week can I expect to work?

Intern? None. QA? you won't work yearly; it's all contract work and low wages. In either case you'll work 40+ hours a week, plus weekends for QA, as long as your contract lasts. If you look for a job outside of the industry, you'll make more. It's going to depend on the market you live in.

8. I currently have several games and numerous art assets in my portfolio. Keeping my career goals of a producer in mind, what should I push in my portfolio to speed myself along that road?

All the good stuff - keep it small and succinct. If you are looking to be producer, highlight those examples where you managed the group, or facilitated dialog. If you did scheduling or task breakdown, highlight that as well.

If, on the other hand, by Producer you mean Designer, then highlight all the design-related tasks.

Don't put anything in there that uses unauthorized content (ripped, or copyright) and make sure it is solid. If you put executables in there, put videos of the game running too, since I won't ever run an untrusted exe.

9. Do you have any advice or comments that you would like to add?

If, by Producer, you mean Design, call it Designer from now on. In the film industry, it is a bad sign when Producers start telling the Director how to make the film - we need to break that habit in this industry as well.

If, by Producer, you mean team management, then I would suggest reading up on all the different management styles (agile, scrumm, etc), and then throw out any conviction you might have that any of those are right - it's a dance where you work collaboratively with your team and sometimes management styles change. Furthermore, gaining the trust of your peers comes through gaining their respect by being honest, accountable and transparent. Producers fail because they cater to the boss instead of their team. No game can be made without the producer - true - but without engineers and artists no producer can keep his job for long.

Best of luck.

S.

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Thank you, Sphet. That was very detailed. I appreciate the obvious effort.

And I do mean management when I say producer. I have never heard of anyone equating design with producing, although there are line producers.

Your take on QA is very interesting, but the problem with the current market is that there isn't much else out there for someone with little to no experience.

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Quote:
Original post by jthompson166
Thank you, Sphet. That was very detailed. I appreciate the obvious effort.

And I do mean management when I say producer. I have never heard of anyone equating design with producing, although there are line producers.

Your take on QA is very interesting, but the problem with the current market is that there isn't much else out there for someone with little to no experience.


I think that's why I would encourage you to look for opportunities outside the industry. Management experience of any kind is more useful than none. In fact, in our studio, the majority of our producers come from outside the industry and they are good at their jobs.

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That's an excellent point, and I'll definitely take it to heart. Management experience should be priority for me right now. If anything, I should be able to fall back onto work such as QA.

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To be a producer, you really really really need video game experience. QA experience is excellent for that. It's really really hard to break in as a producer with nothing but external management experience. I know a lot of producers who started in QA. I don't know any who started as managers in some other industry. Did you read the producing FAQ yet?

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Quote:
Original post by Tom Sloper
To be a producer, you really really really need video game experience. QA experience is excellent for that. It's really really hard to break in as a producer with nothing but external management experience. I know a lot of producers who started in QA. I don't know any who started as managers in some other industry. Did you read the producing FAQ yet?


Tom, it must be different where you work. In our studio, and the studio I was at before, a producer really needs management experience, scheduling experience, and people skills.

In my opinion, a good producer understands how to work with the other area leads (technical, art, QA, audio, design) to establish whether the quality bar is being met. The area lead is responsible for quality & scope. It's the producers job to make sure the project gets done on time and on budget.

jthomson166, you'll find opinions differ. Why not contact some local studios and see what they have to say?

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Quote:
Original post by Sphet
In our studio, and the studio I was at before, a producer really needs management experience, scheduling experience, and people skills.

You can get that and display that in QA. Most producers do.

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Original post by Sphet
Quote:
Original post by Tom Sloper
jthomson166, you'll find opinions differ. Why not contact some local studios and see what they have to say?


I'm definitely seeing that. And I think that's excellent advice, especially since I'll probably be trying to break out in my current area first.

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