I had my first interview with EA today. John Vifian gave me a call at the appointed time and we talked about the job of Development Director (DD) at EA Partners (EAP). It was fun talking to him–he has some great experience in the industry.
The DDs report to Exec Producers who report to Tom Frisina. As I understand it, DDs at EAP represent the publishers (EA’s) interests on a project by helping guide the studio EA has a partnership with; ideally to help them take a successful game and turn it into a successful franchise. That involves the omnipresent budget, schedule, and product/quality balancing act for which the DD is ultimately responsible. It sounds a lot like a publisher-side Producer role as I’ve seen them at other publishers. The DD at Maxis is a bit heavier on the technical side of things and is internal to the studio, so EAPs DD seems a little different. I think I recall John mentioning that the role is somewhat new for EAP, but I’m not certain if I remember that correctly.
We also spoke about my reasons for wanting to work in game production and whether EAP would be a better fit than a production role on a game. Frankly, they both sound like a lot of fun to me! On the one hand, I love driving business and working with partner organizations to get things done. What EAP does is a lot of what has drawn me to consulting over and over, but with the added bonus of working on games as the product. On the other hand, I also love being on the ground, helping shape a piece of software into a full fledged product, which is more the role of a studio producer. I think I cannot go wrong applying for production jobs in EAP or elsewhere in EA. :) I tend to lean slightly toward EAP-style production over studio-production, but theyd both be a great time in my book.
Looking For 3-5 Years Of Game Production Experience…
We interwove a discussion of my background while we spoke about the DD role in general–we seemed to arrive at a consensus that I’m a fit for DD in every way except for my limited game production experience, so were thinking of ways to ramp me quickly in that respect. After I got off the call I thought about the ways I’ve been working to get up to speed on game development so far and I came up with a few things:
- I’ve befriended a number of producers, 2 developer CEOs, and a number of other industry veterans whom I speak with regularly in order to gain a better understanding of game production. I’ve also joined the IGDA’s committee on Quality of Life and I’m contributing to a whitepaper and a panel at the next GDC. In that capacity I’ve begun interviewing producers, developers, testers, and artists about their experiences…it’s been an invaluable learning experience.
- I have read most of the production articles on Gamasutra and I plan on rereading them before my first day of work. I’ve also started on the postmortems. Between these two sections I’ve found some helpful insights into the issues specific to game production. I’ve found a lot of parallels where my experience will apply well and I’ve had the chance to identify a number of areas I want to learn more.
- Other books on my reading list before day 1 of work are: Game Design: Theory & Practice, Game Architecture and Design and Masters of Doom. Besides being a quick learner (I love learning, it’s one of my hobbies), I happen to be a very good book learner and these books have been praised for their insights into game development.
- I’ve spent the last several months becoming familiar with the game industry itself–how it works, who the players are, where the money is, and where the tea leaves appear to be pointing. I feel I have a solid beginning grasp of the business which I expect will help me understand what my boss and my boss’s boss are trying to accomplish.
- Being a lifelong gamer, it’s no big sacrifice to buy and play a few more of the latest games. ;) Lately I’ve been playing The Sims, SimCity 4, Battlefield: 1942, Homeworld 2, Fatal Frame, Battle Realms, Jedi Outcast, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and American McGee’s Alice not only for my personal enjoyment, but also with a critical eye towards how they are built, why they are or are not fun, and what their target market is. I’ve started a notebook where I record the high points and low point of each so I can apply what I’ve learned to future projects.
It does sound a bit salesie unfortunately, but I wanted to follow up promptly so I just did the brain dump–I emailed these to John shortly after our call. I’ve thought of a number of ways that I’ll be able to work on it once I’m on board, but I’ll save that for my next interview. John tells me the next step is to setup a call with the Craig Alexander, the hiring manager. Craig sounds like a very busy guy though, and I didnt get the impression they are trying to fill the spot to meet a deadline, so I’m guessing I’ll hear from him sometime in the next few weeks.