Metaverse Game Studios’ Producers: the Efficient Management of the Decentralized Team
Game Producers at Metaverse Game Studios, Vlada Kumova, and Alina Gurinova, told us about the production process behind the title Angelic, how they manage the work with remote artists and discussed the most beneficial for their studio collaborative tools.
Vlada Kumova, Game Producer at Metaverse Game Studios: Hi, my name is Vlada Kumova, I’m a game producer at Metaverse Game Studios. For 4 years in the game industry, I worked as a game designer and producer on several mobile and PC projects. I started my journey with Metaverse Game studios when I was looking for a PC project which would have some unique gameplay and blockchain elements in it. And I was really happy when I became part of the Angelic team.
Alina Gurinova, Producer at Metaverse Game Studios: My name is Alina Gurinova. Previously I have covered different roles in production, from assistant to production manager. I have an extensive background in all types of media and this year I decided to switch to game dev. I have joined Metaverse Game Studios as a producer. Our company is a startup, so all of the previously gained skills are useful, as you need to wear multiple hats.
Role of the Producer in the Games Companies
Vlada: I believe that the role of a producer varies a bit from project to project, but in general game producer oversees a game’s entire development cycle, ensuring each department is completing their work on time and delivering a quality product. I and Alina are working on different parts of production. I’m mainly responsible for the Art and Gameplay parts, working closely with Engineering, Game Design, Hard Surface, and Concept Art Teams.
Alina: As a producer, I manage and follow up on the project’s development strategy and processes for the Animation, Cinematics, and Marketing teams. Check and report on the team’s efficiency by aligning it with the roadmap and partnering with third parties. I would say it is a mix of defining strategy, coordinating departments, and representing the project inside and outside.
Structure and Nature of Decentralized Team
Vlada: Our team is completely remote, which means we don’t have any physical office. In fact, our office is a discord where all the main communication and meetings are happening. All of our team members are working from different countries and even continents. The biggest part is located in Europe, so we are trying to align our working hours to CET. But we are taking into consideration each of our workers’ time zones so they can comfortably work at hours which suit them the most. The only important part is to be able to participate in our daily meetings and be reachable in case someone needs help.
Alina: We are following Scrum methodology: 2–4 weeks sprints work-frame, daily standups for the feature teams, and another one just for leads and producers. All communication is going through Discord. Mainly, we utilize 2 software Miro and Assembla to share the iterations, receive feedback and track the progress.
The Main Challenges Managing a Remote Team
Vlada: Here we need to be honest — not everyone is able to work remotely and it’s extremely important to find the right people who will not only be good artists but also have some self-discipline to manage their own time with a minimum of control from the outside. Of course, the producer is one of the key figures in making sure that the work of the artist will be completed in time and that a person is free of any blockers and has his own tasks to do. Sometimes it can be challenging because you simply can’t go to someone’s PC and check what they are working on. It happens that team members are not informing anyone that they won’t be reachable for some period of time or the work seems to take longer than expected. It’s a bit more time-consuming to control people and reach all of them through Discord, that’s why you always must work on building trust and sense any potential issues beforehand to schedule a call and try to solve them.
Alina: I think a major challenge or I would say a risk even in the remote team is to fall into a micromanagement mentality by over-controlling teams in general and each team member in particular. Placing the right tracking mechanisms can certainly help to minimize it.
Collaborative Tools for Art and Business Tasks
Vlada: One of our main tools for Artists is Miro. It perfectly suits all the needs of visual people. We utilize it for any kind of strategic planning for our milestones and goals, progress tracking for characters, and props, and of course for brainstorming. We managed to customize it the way that each board belongs to a certain type of production or department so we can easily guide through it to find any asset we need for Marketing or Video production purposes.
Alina: As a project management tool we use Assembla. It helps to break down massive pillars into smaller tasks and facilitates progress tracking. We’ve spent some time providing clear examples of how a ticket should look, what should go in the title, and what kind of links we provide in the description to make every task look as intuitive as possible. These might seem like small detail, but when you have a huge board with many tasks, it is crucial that everything is visually digestible.
Interpersonal Problems and the Tips to Deliver Clearly the Message
Vlada: Of course due to the decentralized nature of our work sometimes we have some communication issues. It’s not always easy to easily deliver your message to someone and be sure that it was understood in the right way. Also, some people might find it difficult to build strong connections between team members.
We have some certain rules implemented in our company to prevent it:
- Each of our team members is recommended to turn on the cameras at each of the meetings. Of course, nobody is obliged to do that, but it’s really important to see the people you are working with.
- We are trying to have some informal meetings where we are just talking about our personal life and playing some games together. It helps to release some stress and also perfectly works for educational purposes, since we can have an overview of the current game market and learn something from other projects.
Alina: Interpersonal communication is a huge part of a producer’s job, and of course sometimes we deal with problems. My tip is to create a safe environment for every team member, so they are able to speak openly and share which are blockers of any nature. I try to ask essentially how I could help, how the team could help to solve the issue. Another important thing is to lower anxiety levels in the team. The anxious producer is a bad producer! I am joking, producers can be anxious but it is crucial not to show it to the team and spread the idea that you have it under control.
Tips and Tricks for Managing the Team and Providing a Feedback
Vlada: We are always trying to keep a synchronized vision of how we see the game and its visuals with the Art Director, Producers, Leads, and Artists. Miro helps us a lot in that because we can brainstorm together, and leave comments and overpainting so that anyone even after the meeting can get back to it to check which kind of product we are expecting to see in the end. It’s also really easy to compare your own work with previously created assets since they are all placed together on one board.
Alina: There are a lot of software and methodologies for that, and of course, many of them are extremely helpful. But in my opinion, a common understanding is built by 3 things:
- breaking down massive volumes of information and addressing it to each team
- constant communication with team leads
- providing transparency on every type of request by explaining a bigger picture
Advice to studios thinking about decentralized production
Vlada: I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that you should build your team really wisely considering not only hard skills but also soft skills and discipline. And also, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of informal team-building events. I would say it’s even more important than if you are working on-site, where it’s way easier to have some time for informal conversations and small talk. Producers and Leads must dedicate some time to this kind of activity and it will increase team spirit and boost productivity.
Alina: Decentralized production works with discipline and people availability, it is crucial to have calls and discuss plans for the day. And there should always be a place for “How are you” and a joke. Also, corporate events are essential, I would recommend putting this practice in place and giving your team a chance to have quality time together.