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Retrospective: A producer's guide to team buy-in

Exploring how a game studio's physical layout cultivates team camaraderie and efficient development.

Anders Erickson

June 27, 2024

7 Min Read
Image via Pexels user fauxels.


A game producer facilitates an efficient work environment by assigning tasks, clearing blockers, and planning schedules. However, all this work can fall by the wayside if the team isn’t invested in the vision of the game. But, in an industry full of creative and passionate minds, how do you get everyone’s interests aligned? The answer varies from team-to-team, there is no one way to establish a strong team culture, and that’s the fun of it!

Below, I reflect on my experience leading production on a 47-person carnival themed arcade racing game named Fastival. More specifically, on three ways in which my team modified the physical space of a studio to increase team morale and productivity.

Room Layout

One challenge when discussing room layout (in the context of game development) is the need to balance collaboration and distraction. How do you create a space in which people can easily work with one another, but not get in each other’s way? This question was on the top of my mind when it came time to restructure our studio’s space. Like a mad chemist, I spent a lot of time considering various special compositions. Who would work best with each other? What departments needed to be near one another? Which developers were the most talkative, which were quiet? Finally, I decided on a layout (pictured below) and proudly unveiled it to the team.


The three Track teams each had their own table in the center of the room. I placed them in the middle of the space because the track team was essentially the glue pulling the artist and programmers together. I placed the Race Logic team, who worked on lap counters and player positions with the UI team, so that the UI team could have assistance in getting their blueprints hooked up to art assets. I could go on and on, but you get the point- it made sense, it was efficient, it fit the team, or so I thought. This ended up being the worst milestone the team experienced throughout the game’s development. While this room layout is not the sole reason for the disappointing milestone, I knew something needed to change.

And so, moving into the next sprint (Alpha), I dusted off my Photoshop skills and tried my hand rearranging the room- again.


The key driving difference between the first layout and this new one was the focus on the team’s wants and needs. The three Track teams did not enjoy making tracks on an “island” – isolated away from other track designers. The designers enjoyed playtesting and comparing ideas with one another, so I placed the teams right next to each other. At Alpha, the artists had started to shift from proxies to textured assets, the look of the game was taking shape. Consequently, I moved the artists to the middle of the room where the whole team could walk by and admire the game’s visual progress. Did the physics team need to walk a bit further to talk to the track designers? Absolutely- but it didn't matter because the designers were happier (and as a result, productive) in their new location. The new layout paid off. The Alpha milestone was our most successful milestone and proved to be instrumental in us getting greenlit to publish on Steam.

Of course, it would be extremely naïve and arrogant to say my swapping of a few tables fixed every issue we had previously encountered. It definitely didn’t. Although, in the fast-paced atmosphere that is game development every bit of productivity counts.

I thought I had created the lean-mean productivity machine in my first layout. However, by gaining a pulse on the team, and being willing to adapt to their needs, we came up with a new solution that wasn’t as productive at face value, but ultimately saw the most success. The mutually beneficial space we created not only made work more fun but built a foundation of trust that aligned the team’s goals for the game.


Another great way to enhance physical space is to fill it with decorations to celebrate the team’s progress. This is a very practical yet often overlooked step. The team and I were so busy with other priorities that we let this slip. The room was empty and stagnant. This atmosphere bled into the team culture as our studio became a place where we just “clocked-in, clocked-out” rather than a space where we were creating something fun. This became even more of an issue when considering we were creating a vibrant and energetic carnival themed game. Our own studio did not reflect the product we were creating, and as a result members of the team began to lose faith in the game. Realizing this needed to change, I took it upon myself to make a trip to Party City. I’ll be honest, I was pessimistic. The idea of decorating seemed juvenile, especially given the carnival theme. Nonetheless, I found some party flags, banners and streamers, and with some help from teammates decorated the studio before the team came in the next day. I was shocked how such a small change made such a big difference. People lit up when they entered the studio for the first time. Suddenly the room itself was an embodiment of the game, Fastival. I played videos of various carnivals from around the world on the screens in the studio, it felt like we were in a completely new space. This decorative pass brought a second wind of energy to the team and played perfectly with the lighthearted spirit we were replicating in our game.


Projecting Progress

This doesn’t apply to just decorations, however. As we got closer to our Launch deadline and the work was waning, so was the energy of the team. This was a delicate situation to navigate as we needed to make a final push to get our game across the finish line, however the last thing I wanted to do was create a crunch culture and tarnish the team dynamic in the final moments. As lead producer I knew the tasks that needed to be done to get our game to the best quality possible, but I wanted to present those tasks in an engaging way. In response, I created a swim lane chart listing the high-level priorities. I projected this chart onto several walls around the studio. The chart was a living document, so as tasks were completed, I could move them through the various stages of production.



The chart served as a physical marker of progress, and a reminder that their hard work was contributing to the success of the game. To prevent this chart from becoming a stress inducer, and encouraging crunch, we gamified the process. Every time a task was moved from “In-Progress” to “Complete”, I would announce it, move the task on the screen, and the whole team watched and celebrated the accomplishments.  It was a small thing but making it a part of the studio environment not only focused the team on the highest priority items, but also gave them something tangible to rally behind. This all culminated in a great moment when on the final day of development, we were left with 0 remaining “To-Do” and “In-Progress” tasks. The collective joy shared by the team in that moment will stay with me for a long time.


There is no one way to cultivate a cohesive team and generate buy-in. Hopefully this blog gave insight into very small things you as a producer can do to break up the monotony, engage the team, and make a space in which people enjoy coming to work.

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