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An excerpt from a game dev’s everyday life - in this case 11 Bit Studios producer Stanislaw Just who worked on games like Anomaly Warzone Earth, Two Worlds II, Funky Smugglers.

Stan Just, Blogger

February 12, 2013

8 Min Read

[The following are just bits and pieces from a different times and places that together aim to create a mosaic experience of a regular day in a certain gamedev role. Does not represent any real events!]

08:39 - I arrive to my workplace. I’m booting my laptop, making coffee, saying “hi” to some early comers. The office seems very calm at that time. No wonder why programmers like to work in the mornings. Sometimes it’s the only period of the day when you have a fresh mind and a quiet surroundings at one moment.

08:54 – Mails, mails, mails. Got one from Apple saying that they like our game and asking us for some banners at a designated sizes. Being featured always boosts teams’ morale. Since we have worked with a mobile publisher recently we’ve prepared those assets beforehand. That’s a quick one. Next. Some bugs are pouring in concerning our latest console version. Not fun. I’ll file it into our system but probably won’t do much more with it now. Making a console game update isn’t all that easy so we would have to have a really good reason to take up this task. On the upside, their certification process is very thorough so the chances of a major bug are relatively slim. Next. Some VO actor from Hawaii send us some sample recordings. Man… he clearly did not understand the note saying: “try NOT to sound funny”. I have to thank him for the effort though. Next.

09: 33 – Short stand-up meeting interrupts my correspondence review. There are only two weeks left for the prototype of our new game to be finished. Core team (3 people) is very excited to show to the rest what they were working on but at the same time a bit worried because of some negative feedback they’ve received last Friday from few people who played first two levels. The meeting was about clarifying the rules of the game in order to make it more understandable. It’s good that they did not ignore the problem at such an early stage. I wonder if they will be able to do something about it though.

09:50 – Got an invitation for a conference. This time it’s in Wroclaw but it seems pretty small. Nevertheless, my friends really wanted me to come and give a lecture. Plus, I have one of those New Year’s resolutions (and all others have already been forgotten) to keep sharpening my presentation skills. I guess I’ll go. It’ll be fun. 

10:05 – I like to read some positive comments posted under our game by satisfied customers. Things like “My daughter really likes your game, so I like it too because she’s quiet for hours while playing” make me think that our work translates into somebody’s better day. I tend to print out some of those texts and stick it on the studio’s kitchen door for the team to see. I’m not sure if it’s making my colleagues feel better but I guess it won’t hurt.

10:21 – Plan updates. I have to make sure that everybody knows what they need to be doing and how much time left they have but try not to be too insistent/annoying. Sometimes it gets really tough. For example, a programmer doesn’t have a lot specifics of a certain feature while a designer hadn’t had a chance to get round to think about them. Ultimately, what they can give me is a rough estimate based on a vague assumption. In my world it’s like a house of cards build on a swamp but I guess I won’t get any more out of them today.

12:34 – Lunch ordering time. Every time I gather orders from a few dozen people I keep remembering some interviews with a well-known game devs who were saying that while they work on their authority and position in the workplace, they also do not run away from such a trivial supporting tasks like ordering food for their teams. I can relate to that :)

13:42 – A meeting is being hosted. It’s about our nearest deadline. It turns out that our publisher did not like the fact that we command the same set of troops throughout the whole game. In their opinion there should be some evident progress visible for the player. We argued that it’s a mini-strategy game, not RPG, so the character evolution isn’t that crucial. But no. We had to do something about it. All in all, we agreed that we will be tinting the colors of troops’ clothes level after level. It seems a bit dumb for me personally but that’s not my decision to make.

15:03 – Localization team dropped me an e-mail with the fully localized app description.  I was anxiously waiting for that because we were about to publish the build on the store. Now that I have it I won’t do it just yet. That’s a desert of my job so let’s save it for later.

15:14 – Planning. Some changes have to be made. We all agreed that we need to throw more assets at UI implementation because this has become an unexpected critical path in the main project. That requires a bit of reshuffling from me. Switching to the next project. Here I failed to convince my team about the need of reassigning some key artists from making trees to creating the first two vehicles for the game. Their argument was that a forest plays a big part in the game so it needs a top-notch trees. Even if that means spending more than a month on researching the right tree quality…

16:34 – Got an e-mail from our sound engineer. He made a couple of new UI sounds but did not answer my question about environmental sounds. That may mean that he either dislikes the idea or just did not have time to sit on the topic. That’s predictable because outsourcers do not have a rigid working schedule. Until all the deadlines are met we are fine with a little elasticity here, but I have to remind him about that because we don’t want this task to slip too far, do we?

16:50 – More plan updates. When I’m thinking of being done at a certain hour I smile a little because it rather looks like 10 minutes of mail, then a talk, then a short phone call, then a talk with another person, then a remark for the whole team, another mail etc. But let’s say that around this hour I consider yet another round of updates for everybody omitted in the morning, those who should finish their tasks or those who are directly affected by the recent changes in the plan and should know about it.

18:15 – The day is coming to an end. Red sticky card keeps reminding me that I need to publish a game today. Setting up a release in Google Play is sooooo easy. I wish that consoles have this level of process simplicity. Pasting the description in a dozen languages is like dressing the cake that you are about to eat. Everything is done and tested. The whole process is over. Click “save”, then “publish” and it’s done.

18:35 – Late talks over minor tasks. Most of the people leave their low-priority things for this hour. Also many already went out so it’s quiet again. It is easy to hear any conversation in our open space area with only few people left out. That and all the “action” of the day triggers many talks. Almost philosophical chats about taking up a lead role, responsibility, estimation, future projects… I really enjoy that. It takes a lot of pressure off the team and substitutes it with sincerity that is sometimes absent in group discussions.

18:45 – Ok. I guess I’m done for today. Time to head back home.

19:59 – Sandwiches for supper. It’s surprising that one can get so much self-efficacy simply by preparing a meal. I mean, cooking in general is one of those things in which your work transfers into a very tangible result in a matter of minutes. If you consider that gamedev is working on visions, ideas and small functionalities that come together after 8-24 months getting an instant final result with a sandwich certainly is something different. :)

20:31 – Checking work mail from home. I know, I’m workaholic but consider that I’m operating in Poland which is 7-9 hours ahead from different parts of the USA. That implies a delay in any mailing contact which sometimes can be very annoying. For instance, if you are learning (like me) how to publish a game on a console you need to contact hardware manufacturers and ask about a ton of stuff. Five such “late” e-mails in a week and I’m speeding up the conversation by 100%.

21:33 – Reading a book. It’s really hard to concentrate. I keep revisiting all the major arguments at work. Thinking about alternative perspectives and how to address certain people differently another time. It takes only a few lines of mere work-related text to bring up in my mind one of many pipelines set up in the project. Oh sh**, when we discussed additional tutorials we forgot to include some text proofreading costs. I have to remember that tomorrow.

23:09 – Watching a movie. In the meantime I write some notes on my phone that I should approach one of the programmers tomorrow during a coffee break and try to express my appreciation of his work. I realized that he was constantly being bombarded by me with tasks and all he hears it “do this or that”... that kinda sucks. A few weeks in such conditions and he’ll hate me to the bone. No good comes from that.

00:31 – I go to sleep thinking: “That wasn’t such a bad day, but I can do better tomorrow.”

I wouldn’t trade this job for anything. I’m a producer. :)

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