This week's Breaking Into The Industry takes another look at the Producer role, this time in the context of our Play4Free group. Join us as we walk through a "typical" day with Eduard Roehrich, and decide if this coordination-oriented career is right for you.
Where did you grow up and where are you now?
I grew up in Nuremberg – a medium-sized city in southern Germany – but after moving around a bit through the country I’ve ended up in Mainz, which is near Frankfurt.
How did you end up working at EA?
Through a combination of talent, ambition, and luck, I'd say. Considering that I have only around two and a half years industry experience in this field, I was probably in the right place at the right time.
I was a Junior Producer at a browser game company called Bigpoint in Hamburg, which was my first full-time job in the games industry. I only had a one year contract there to produce a casual game. It was actually quite exciting and fun. The game got pretty successful as well, but I wanted to work on games targeted more towards a hardcore audience because I felt that I could do an even better job on those.
And then there happened to be this opportunity at EA...
Let's talk a little about what you do at EA. What part of EA do you work on, and what do you do within that group?
I work in the Phenomic studio, which is part of the Play4Free group, and I'm the Producer of the games Lord of Ultima and BattleForge.
And what does a Producer do? I've noticed that the same title can mean different things in different groups.
Yeah, that's true. It also depends on the development state of your games. My games, for example, are both live online titles, meaning that I have a role similar to that of many other Producers in regards to time, quality, and budget. However, I also interface a lot with external teams such as Marketing, Public Relations, Community Management, and so on. On the one hand, we have feature updates, promotions, player competitions, and such things on a regular basis, and a lot of information has to get to the right people. On the other hand, there is a constant stream of feedback coming back to us from the active players through various channels which I discuss with my teams on a regular basis.
What's an average day like for you as a Producer here?
I don't think there's a Producer in the games industry that has an “average day.” I mean, there are a few constants, like my daily stand-ups with the development team, or regular feature kick-offs and presentations. But apart from those few things, every day is usually unique, which is one of the things that make this so exciting – and hectic – at times.
Take today, for example. I started my day by waking up in a hotel in Vancouver, having breakfast, packing my things, taking a taxi to the airport, and taking a nine hour flight to Frankfurt. An hour after landing, I got my luggage and taxied straight to the office.
Since I was away for a week, there were several topics that members of my team wanted to discuss with me. The first thing was to prioritize the most important topics and take care of them, but before I could start working on those, I got into a discussion with a developer and the studio GM (General Manager) about the run books for BattleForge. Run books are documents we provide to the Network Operation Center that have details about pretty much everything that can go wrong with our live servers and how to react to and escalate those issues.
After that, my 15 minute daily stand-up with the Lord of Ultima team started. I got an update on the current development status and gave the team an update on what I did last week.
Then I had two meetings. The first was about some pressing issues in the community – our valued players – which need attention. We decided on a plan of action together with my DD (Development Director), QA lead, TD (Technical Director), GD (Game Designer), and CM (Community Manager).
The second one was about a new way for us to manage marketing-related requirements which we will use in the future to track all tasks related to creating marketing assets for Lord of Ultima, BattleForge, and Command & Conquer Tiberium Alliances.
I can imagine how your days can vary lots. Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be a Producer like you?
I believe that the most important thing is probably to try developing an instinct about what kinds of games people like to play. As a Producer you're going to be asked to make a lot of decisions, and ideally you should make as many of them as you possibly can with the gamers’ interests in mind. This is just a small part of a big puzzle, but there is a lot of helpful advice out there and many puzzle pieces to be found.
So you would say you need to be a big gamer?
Yes, I would. Absolutely. Just look at all the top people at EA. They're all gamers and it's one of the things I love most about this company. And I believe it's one of the main reasons we make such amazing and critically acclaimed games across all labels.
What about schools? Is there a certain area of study that is useful for a Producer?
Naming a specific school is difficult, as a lot depends on which part of the country or even which part of the world you're from, but there are certain fields which are useful. For example, you should get a basic insight into as many fields of game development as possible, like coding, art, game design, QA, project management, sound, etc. You're never going to be an expert in any of them, but you're expected to bring all of these people together to create something extraordinary, so you'll have to understand what these highly talented people will be telling you in order to make informed decisions on what to do.
The same applies to external teams such as Marketing, Public Relations, Partner Management, and such. Try to understand the people, the challenges they face in their daily job, how they can help you, and how you can help them so that you can make sure they get the material and tools they need to make the best out of your game.
Last question: What games are you playing right now?
I enjoy playing action oriented RPGs such as Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and I just started playing Mass Effect 3, which is mind-blowingly awesome!
Thanks again for doing this.
Thank you Lucian.
Is there a specific video game job you’d like to know more about? Let us know in the comments! Plus, check out last week’s interview with Audio Director Elise Baldwin for more insight into the industry.