Keith Fuller, Speaker for IGDA Leadership Forum Shares Thoughts on Game Industry Production Practices

We’ve all heard the horror stories about employees of game development companies being forced into large amounts of overtime in order to meet, or miss, a deadline. Who can forget the reports of the terrible working conditions and unpaid wages at Team Bondi? It’s a shame to watch any person have to take the brunt of forcing these high-production titles out of the door. It’s no surprise when we hear about 60, 70, or 80 hour work weeks during “crunch time”, and I can only imagine the strain that it can put on a marriage or a new family.

In a recent interview with Keith Fuller, founder of Fuller Game Production, he attributes his decision to start a production consulting company to a specific instance during mandatory “crunch time” developing a AAA game.

It was late one night… and the guy to my left, a level designer, is fixing the scripting in one of his maps instead being at home with his fiancee helping to plan the wedding that’s occurring in a couple of weeks. And then I look to my other side and there’s a Senior Technical Artist, and he is working on the art in a map to bring up the framerate instead of being at home with his less than two week old daughter.

When you hear and see situations like these you can’t help but want to see a change for the better. Fuller Game Production is designed to help take the stress off of game studios and their employees by going in and managing the production and project management aspects of development.

A study conducted in February and March 2011, by Keith Fuller, sheds some light on many production practices and opinions of a number of development studios. In our interview, we were able to discuss some of the results of the study and how Keith’s company is equipped to alleviate these burdens from game studios.

In just a few short days Keith Fuller will be speaking at the 5th annual IGDA Leadership Forum in L.A. in order to discuss the results of his study with the attendees. He plans to address the findings showcased in his article featured on Gamasutra as well as another 40% of the results that were a little more ambiguous in nature.

The questions posed at the end of the survey proved to be more open-ended and will require more feedback from the studios who agreed to remain un-anonymous, and from participants in the audience. He hopes to attract some industry involvement by allowing people the opportunity to give their insight on the results and perhaps give feedback on their own studio’s practices.

Expect a large part of the discussion to focus on one very specific point addressed in the second question of the survey. When participants were asked, “Name the area in which your company excels the most,” a majority answered by saying Production was their studio’s strongest attribute, but absolutely no one responded by saying that Mentoring/Training, or Company Leadership were strong attributes of their company.

On the flip-side of that question, participants were asked what they would like to see improved the most, and Company Leadership received twice as many votes than any other single question.

While this doesn’t provide definitive data, Keith believes that many companies are lacking in either proper leadership, or the realization of that leadership within the production process. Keith said, “there are a lot of situations, especially in a comparatively young industry like game development, where you can get put into a leadership position not because you have the skills necessarily, but because you may be the best person available, or they just need to have somebody.”

Keith believes that organizations need to address these issues and hopes that involvement with the IGDA Leadership Forum, and his session in particular, will open their eyes to the possibilities that his services can provide.

For those not familiar with the IGDA Leadership Forum, it is an annual conference held in Los Angeles that features industry leaders and professionals from all over the world who speak in various sessions that last throughout the weekend. This years Leadership Forum is on October 27 & 28, 2011 and is being held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel, LAX at 6101 W. Century Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA.

Keith speaks highly of the IGDA LF and states that it’s imperative for anyone who is, or is working to become a leader in the video game industry. “It’s absolutely a phenomenal experience for someone who needs more exposure in the industry,” Keith says, “but also to be able to learn from a lot of the thought leaders in the industry.”

Don’t think that the IDGA Leadership Forum is only for leaders or those aspiring to be one; this conference is equally as beneficial for someone who may have just taken an entry level position at a studio. Keith sums up its benefits by saying, “You get exposure to what is of critical importance to people in leadership…you get to see and hear from people in those positions talking about what’s important to them, and you get a sense of their knowledge, their background, their training, and the sorts of things that they still need in their position.”

So whether you are an entry-level game tester, or the CEO of a multi-million dollar game development company, there is plenty for you. Take time out of your busy week to rub elbows with the best in the industry, and if you can’t make it out this year then mark your calenders for next year. Make sure to visit Keith’s discussion on Friday, October 28, at 11:00 A.M. called “Industry Survey Results on Improving Production Practices.”

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