You talked about a time where the project needed producers to keep the creative leads many ideas in check and on schedule. Do you have any horror stories of the reverse, where a producer kept such a tight leash on development that it hurt development?

I’ve seen things like that happen before. In my experience, production problems tend to appear when the producer in charge focuses too much on enforcing rules and procedure for its own sake. The procedures aren’t too different from how other teams work, the difference is the level of enforcement of those procedures - like a designer and engineer not being allowed to chat about an issue or work out solutions informally without having an official meeting called by a producer to discuss the problem. One team I worked with ran this way.

This team was running a live MMOG and had very strict procedures in place, including a floor plan that siloed the disciplines into our own respective camps - the engineers, designers, and artists were all physically seated in separate areas away from each other. Everything we did had to go through the proper channels and in the proper order - a meeting was called to go over issues, tasks had to be broken down, prioritized, and assigned for the time frame, and only then could work on anything begin. Impromptu sessions where I could call an engineer I knew over to my desk to talk about an issue I just discovered were frowned upon. Issues I know I could fix quite easily within a few minutes or hours would languish for weeks because of the procedure.

This over-proceduralization wasn’t necessarily a project killer, but it did hurt morale and job satisfaction through the walls it constructed between team disciplines. While working on that project, I felt very much like a cog in a machine. I was only allowed to do the work that the machine assigned to me, and I could rarely work outside of the assigned lines. Leveling up and growing was also difficult because it was more difficult to learn from other disciplines except through extremely small and distant windows. You may have expected a story of a producer tyrant demanding design changes but I haven’t experienced that scenario myself. This isn’t a horror story about that kind of nightmare scenario, but the slow and steady grind of my job satisfaction slowly worn down into drudgery.

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