I’ve been a Producer here at Lionhead for almost 4 years and until Pete asked me to write this blog post I’d never really taken the time to sit back and think about all the things I’ve done. Since I joined the Fable 3 team it feels like we’ve been in a nonstop, unrelenting whirlwind of projects from shipping Fable 3, Fable 3 PC and Fable Heroes to now approaching the release of our most ambitious project to date Fable: The Journey.
I guess the first question to answer really is what does a Producer at Lionhead do? This is a question I get a lot (all too often from the more comedy inclined members of The Journey team), all joking aside though, when we aren’t fuelling the team with late night grub or shrugging off delusional requests to fetch some biscuits the production team have a very wide array of responsibility, from the general day to day management of project deadlines to working with external businesses on things like strategy guides, merchandise and trailers. From my personal experience at Lionhead the one absolutely key responsibility of a Producer that covers every single area of production is communication. Communication is vital to everything we do, sure we spend months buried in spread sheets concocting the ultimate plan that claims a project will finish on time and within in budget but when it gets down to it communication is the best tool we have to ensure our plan turns out the way we hoped.
As everyone knows though plans love to change when you least expect it. Lionhead runs a very large team when at full capacity on a project with over 150 people on site here and across the UK as well as many more working overseas at Microsoft Game Studios, so when something like, oh I don’t know… a major new feature needs adding to the game!? Production need to act fast. Let’s say for example a new creature boss fight needs adding, and it will hugely improve our game as a result. A boss fight just about affects every department we have and effectively communicating this sudden change that was never planned for is often the difference between a poor boss fight and an amazing one. Production need to be very flexible with any plan or change that occurs in a project, the boss fight for example needs to be designed by our designers, drawn and created by our artists, animated by our animators, given AI by our coders, set in the world by our level designers and scripters and finally brought to life by our audio team. If communication fails in just one part of this chain the quality of the boss fight will suffer and the players experience will be less than we intended.
Towards the end of a project like Fable: The Journey when everything is all coming together we enter a full game review phase, this is where solid communication and fast action play the biggest role. Department leads and producers review the (almost) final product in fine detail and pick out all of the things we would like to and have time to polish in order to release the best quality game possible to our amazing fans
Lead Designer Mike West and myself have spent the last three months locked in a room eating copious amounts of pizza and playing Fable: The Journey over and over and over and over again. This is by far the most exciting part of a project where you get to see the whole thing finally come together! Everyone is so busy over the course of the games creation building all the specific parts of it that we rarely as a team get to see the end product before it’s time to release it to the world. Over the course our descent into dietary hell Mike and I have agreed, disagreed, high fived, hugged and screamed our way to over 800 items of polish for the game and every day we play a new version we see huge quality improvements.
Fable: The Journey utilises Kinect in a fresh and inspiring way, if you are heading over to Comicon or PAX Prime this year please stop by and check out Fable: The Journey for yourself, you won’t be disappointed!
Thank you for reading, hopefully I’ve left you with only one question… what does a Producer do?!