As you've probably guessed from the topic title, another member of the team has stepped in to tell all to our community of Insiders, and what better way to do that than with another Day in the Life topic? In this latest delve into the day-to-day of a Sea of Thieves crew member, Jason ( @MoronicStraw ), who some of you may know from his PC update not too long ago, has decided to let you all in on what it's like to work as an Assistant Producer on Sea of Thieves. Take it away Jason!
A day in the life of Jason Cross
Job Title: Assistant Producer
“Producer? What do you produce?”
Thanks for asking! Producers produce a lot of things, if you were to ask an engineer, artist or designer they might say something whimsical. A producer differs from company to company, they fill an important gap which can alter depending on the solutions the project needs. A few words people may use to describe a producer; problem solver, communicator, lightning rod, project encyclopaedia, ambassador, jack of all trades, devilishly handsome (I may have added one myself).
Whilst a producer has many responsibilities, one of the largest is helping to prepare the roadmap for the development team’s goals. This means working with artists, engineers, designers and marketing to produce the project goals and scheduling what they need. Preparing the roadmap for Sea of Thieves is very exciting, it’s a dynamic roadmap based on the feedback we get from the community. This keeps us producers on our toes as it can change at any moment! I primarily assist the PC Experience team with their deliverables to ensure the correct resource is supplied, along with helping them achieve their tasks. I thoroughly enjoy analysing the PC feedback from the community then working with the team to see what we can implement and when.
“Every problem is an opportunity in disguise”, a quote by John Adams and a large part of any producers job. Producers have to be ready for any issue to arise and react with the best process to resolve the problem as quickly as possible. Problem solving is great fun. It means working directly with our test department to understand the issue, communicating it to a developer and assisting them in any way possible (often; “Oh dear Jason… I need more coffee”). With problem solving, communication is key, and communication is extremely important for any successful company. Producers have to ensure that communication always flows, keeping it clear and to the point whilst keeping all relevant parties informed. Some producers use e-mail for this, however, I find the personal touch produces clear results more efficiently. I take pride in the fact that I always make time to speak with someone directly. When communicating directly with someone you can resolve issues faster and read the persons mood; are they stressed, happy or confused and then use that knowledge to help them the best way I can.
Producers need to be the encyclopaedia of project knowledge. If someone needs to know when a feature will arrive, what a feature does, or who’s working on it, they ask a producer. Not only must a producer know these facts, they also need to understand them. Which means you need to learn to be a ‘jack of all trades’. Great producers often don’t specialise in an area, they teach themselves how each area of a project works at a high level so they can truly understand what it means to deliver a feature. This takes time to perfect but is an extremely useful talent for the developers as producers can ask less questions about delivery time, estimations and workload. Whilst producers do not specifically lead a team, they protect them. I like to use the analogy of the ‘lightning rod’. The ‘lightning rod’ is there to protect the team from outside issues. If someone comes up to a team with a new problem, the producer can analyse the issue and see if the distraction is necessary. The producer always has the interests of the team at the centre of their mind. They want to make sure the team’s morale stays positive whilst keeping efficiency high. This also means producers hold the blame for many decisions, which is perfect if it stops the team from being distracted from their tasks. I like to think of myself as an ambassador who can deliver information for teams whilst they stay focused.
Over time a producer builds a network of problem solvers, these are the people who they know will have a general idea of an issue, requirement or design without bringing a large group together. These networks are incredibly useful. I have a set group of people I can rely on for a quick bit of knowledge to resolve a problem and I’m pretty sure they now hide when I head to their desk each day! Whilst the producer has a large amount of responsibilities, an important one is meetings, meetings, meetings. Meetings are useful, they get key stakeholders together to discuss ideas and create actions. However, producers need to make sure meetings are always worth developers’ time. With the talented developers here at Rare we are really sensitive of using up their valuable time, so if a meeting does not utilise them efficiently, we simple cancel it. Often a talk over a coffee or a quick walk around the scenic grounds of the studio is enough to get the information that people need.
How did I get here:
I drove to Rare, like I do each day… oh you mean how did I get to be a producer? I started my career in test which was a fantastic way to learn the development process and work with everyone in the company. Whilst working in test meant you generally came to a developer with a bug and bad news, it did mean I got to speak to pretty much every developer in the company. This was a great segue to learn how to be a producer, I learnt everyone’s names, learnt how to communicate with diverse personalities within the industry and learnt the skills required to communicate clearly. This was a great start, but I knew from the beginning I wanted to be a producer and I needed to learn more skills to move into that role. In my spare time I took it upon myself to teach myself programming (C++), design a few games then learn to concept and model them.
I started by giving myself a challenge of making 1 game a month for 6 months which was interesting… I had a lot of failures, a lot of issues and a lot of very, very late nights. However I started to learn what it really took to create a game, what really goes into each step of the development process and how hard the real professional developers must have worked to achieve what they do each day. It gave me the drive to try and be the best producer possible so I could help these developers each day to achieve their goals! I knew communication was the next step on making myself an efficient producer, so I have started teaching myself a range of psychology skills which I have already seen help in my day-to-day work, but I still have a lot more I can do to improve.
Mornings for producers means catching up on everything that went on the day/week before and starting to plan what is happening today and the rest of the week. We review the previous day’s changes and ensure they have efficient testing. We then give the new features a high level check to make sure they are working the way design intend. Next is a series of quick catch-up with each team to make sure they know what to tackle today and review their progress from the day before. After this we can review what needs to get done and how we are looking towards our deadlines, then we can analyse if anyone needs extra support or a push in the right direction.
After the morning we have all the information we need to start getting things done. This means keeping developers on task, protecting any outside issues from affecting the team and helping to keep the developers focused on their current responsibilities. We then work on the many, many requests, issues and process changes that come in on a daily basis. This can be anything from new design ideas, community feedback, fixing processes or even writing a Forums post. When a feature is coming to its deadline we start looking at breaking down what is required for the next set of work, this involves sorting out a plan, timeline and setting up tasks based on the estimations from engineering, design and art. Then there’s bugs. These are slippery things, they aren’t specific to afternoons, but we spend a lot of our time sorting through them. Bugs are a by-product of any project and they do like to come up at inopportune times, but we work hard to make sure these are scheduled around feature work. Quality is extremely important here at Rare so we work every day on analysing each bug individually to see which developer can fix it and when!
Best part of the job:
Easy, the people! I love the fact that I get to work with these incredible artists, talented designers and intelligent programmers every day. They all have diverse personalities which means every interaction with an individual developer is different and the developers at Rare are awesome to interact with (Press X to produce). Another fantastic part of the job is getting to see a feature grow from concept to full implementation, getting the team to work together for this one unified goal and seeing it get completed and then the wave of feedback from the community, it’s an incredible feeling.