game, game. repeat.

What I Do These Days

Sat 14 February 2004

I made it past my 1 month anniversary at EA and I thought it would be good to reflect a bit on what I’ve learned and what I’m up to. I continue to be wowed by the people I work with. I’m surrounded by the best of the best and it’s at once exhilarating and humbling.

I’m a Production Intern on an unannounced title which is in the middle of pre-production (the design/early prototyping phase for those of us coming from biz software). I’ve been working roughly 10-12 hours a day, 5 days a week…plus a good amount of time I spend working and thinking on stuff on the drive, on the weekends, etc. At this early stage in the project its not really necessary or expected that I keep these sort of hours…often Mike Olsen (Lead Designer) and I are among the very few to be found on our floor after 8p. But I’m having fun and I want to do a good job, so I figure its the least I can do to show my commitment to doing the best job I can do–and when it comes to production, design, and project management there is always more to be done. One Friday at 8p as my boss left, he told me to go home as and go bug whatever girl I’ve got waiting for me. I smiled and thought to myself: I’m dating my job until I’ve got a game under my belt… I’m applying all these hours at work to several things:

Project Management

I help project manage a handful of work groups. We have a number of groups setup to R&D areas of the games design (like player mechanics and AI). These groups gather people from each discipline (engineering, art, production) to work through unknowns in the design and offer solutions that inform how we go about making the game. Games have an enormous number of systems competing for limited hardware and production resources–the work groups investigate how to create a game that offers the innovations we want while balancing our constraints. My role is to encourage and direct conversation within these groups towards a set of issues that need resolution. Additionally I work with Lisa Clark (Project Manager) to make certain that bottlenecks and cross-work group issues are highlighted and communicated between the affected groups so that they are addressed dealt with in their proper turn. Sexy, huh? ;) Bottom line is that we are running an R&D organization and effective communication and a common understanding of what we need to get done is critical to doing a good job and getting the job done on time.

*Intranet/IT Dude

We have excellent IT resources for desktop and corporate infrastructure at EA, but team communication tools like an Intranet are more the domain of individual teams and how they prefer to work. I’ve put together our intranet, complete with document management and discussion functions, in order to make collaboration that much easier. And since I’ve got a bit of an IT background, I’ve been pitching in here and there with some of our other IT stuff. This is a chance for me to show of some of my talents and value to the team and buy myself the opportunity to learn about areas of production that I dont provide as much value in yet. And its pretty fun to see people getting some good use out of it–having the right tools can make a big difference and I think as the team grows the Intranets usefulness will grow as well.

*Visual 40k

The first two areas of responsibility offer me tons of exposure to all the intricacies that go into making a game. But the Visual 40k is a bit more producerish and is that much dearer to my heart. The idea is to produce a visual representation of the entire game we are making at the 40,000 foot level of detail–just enough to help us walk someone through all the features and the first level of underlying systems. I’m just starting to work on this and it looks like its going to be a lot of fun.

*Design Doc Management

In order to make a game of the scale that we are planning we need solid design docs. These docs serve as the foundation for discussing our common vision for the game with the entire team. They are laborious to write, but they come in real handy…just the other day Mike was explaining a feature to David DeMartini (Executive Producer) and he was skeptical we could pull it off–until Mike whipped out the design doc showing that we had thought it through. It was a cool demonstration of the value of our design docs. I’ve observed that ideas that start in our head go through some serious rework in between being thought up, discussed, and then written down. The docs are like our first prototype. And as with any game, we have tons and tons of ideas, systems, assets, and issues to think through, design, prototype, and write down. Just writing a comprehensive list of everything that needs to be documented, organizing them, prioritizing them, and deciding what kind and level of detail for each topic can be a daunting task. And it’s mine. :) This is another item I’ve just started to plow into and it’s pretty cool. Part project management, part design, part production, by organizing and researching the list of docs I will learn a ton about how the game and our schedule will come together.

On top of all that, I’m starting to come out of cave mode so that I can resume my social ways and meet a number of people I’ve been wanting to meet at EA. Besides that, I’ve got plenty of people to just say hi to and stay in touch with! Heh heh, my life is choices between various fun things to spend time on. :)