Name: Dan Croucher
Role: Lead Producer
Time at Roll7: 11 months
Favourite classic game: Final Fantasy Tactics
Pets: None… yet.
Good afternoon, Dan!
So, because you’re a Lead Producer and you’re so involved in so much of what we do, I feel like I see a lot of the results of your work - can you tell me a bit about what you do from your perspective?
Yeah, it’s an interesting job, you really are just in everything - you’re working out how to make the game, what the different bits of it are, how long they take, who does what, project management, talking to the publisher if you have one, releasing milestones, fixing any problems for people as they come up (and finding ways to have people fix each other’s problems too), sorting out everything from legalities to QA to translation, and of course looking after everyone.
… is there anything you don’t do?
Haha - it’s a pretty involved role. I think the big thing as a Producer is you’re doing all this organisational stuff, which is really important, but you also need to take the time to be a cheerleader for the quality of the game, and make sure everyone is happy and focused on doing good quality work.
Yeah, it’s a really heavily social role, I can definitely see that in your interactions with the team. In light of that, I wanted to ask if and how you felt that your job has changed since the onset of Covid-19? Obviously we were working remotely nine days out of ten even before Covid, but do you feel that going totally remote has changed the dynamic?
You know, it’s interesting - when I started at Roll7, I hadn’t ever worked remotely - well, ok, I had once for a bit but it was a very small team - and I was a bit apprehensive about it, given the number of people I was going to be dealing with. It feels like a hard ask to manage production with so many people and so little face-to-face contact. But once I actually got started, it really wasn’t an issue. In a way it’s been a similar thing with Covid: I was pretty concerned about it but it’s had much less impact, work-wise, than I’d feared. I think in both cases this is a testament to the effectiveness of our online communication - we have lots of video chatting throughout the day, and people also work out their own way to make sure they have the discussions they need.
I think it’s definitely helped that all the core team leads (and quite a few others) knew each other before the lockdown, and had had that chance to meet and establish relationships in person. The team is already full of these amazing, super motivated people, so the main thing for me is just making sure communication is really good. But actually what I’ve realised over this time is that although my role requires lots and lots of talking to other people, there are a huge number of the roles that involve very little of that. For those people, not having that fortnightly day in the office can actually be a benefit - instead of being pulled into meetings that go on for longer than they need to because, hey, we’re here all day, might as well, they’re able to keep their meetings concise on zoom and get back to doing other things!
I will say, I think it’s been tougher on new starts who’ve joined during lockdown than it has been on those who were already here - it is definitely harder to establish that initial working relationship online. And I think that for everyone - new and old - it’s definitely good to meet up sometimes, just for people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. But I think that at the moment, while we can’t do that, we’re definitely doing well and keeping communication and morale up, which is great.
Do you have any tips you would give to other managers of remote teams?
Alright, yeah, I think I have three main tips I would give:
Let people work in a way that suits them. The great benefit of remote work is that people are free to find their ideal work conditions. Some people will be talking with you every day, some once a week - some people need an hour long video meeting, some people will want just quick chats and direct messages.
Find ways to connect - share some silliness on slack, have an off-topic chat where people can get to know each other and build those team bonds up.
First impressions are super important - when people join, take the time to talk, show them the big picture and let them know what they’re doing from the off.
So what was it that initially inspired you to get into games?
You know, I think it was just something I was always interested in - I played them a lot, I used to hang out on the internet talking about games, I got involved in a fanzine, I would meet up with people to play… and then I did an Art Foundation course, and then a degree in Psychology. I guess as a degree it wasn’t really relevant, but it teaches you discipline, how to write, and how to find information, which are all pretty key skills as a Producer.
Was that what made you want to get into production?
That was sort of an accident, really. I’d been interested in games for a long time, of course, so at first I thought maybe I wanted to do art - I still draw a bit, but it wasn’t enough of a strength to land me a job. So my first job was in QA, and then I took a break and went travelling, and then I came back to the same place and worked as a designer for really small games. Because the games were so small, I had to do a lot of the organisation and project management - and I ended up really enjoying it, and from there I moved into being an Assistant Producer at Relentless Software.
You definitely need an organised brain for it - being good at spreadsheets and planning is a must - but I think that my experience in art and QA and design have all been really helpful. As a producer I don’t like to ask people to do things if I don’t know what I’m talking about, so seeing all those different disciplines when I started out in the industry was really important, for sure.
So what tips would you give to somebody looking to get into a career in production?
Well, first off, if you know you want to get into Production, you have a big head start! Lots of people want to get into games but don’t know exactly what they want to do - they just love games. That’s really the position I was in at the start of my career. But if you know what field you’re interested in early, it will help a lot with things like degree choice. Other than that, I’d say try to work with other people and make your own games - reach out on forums or on discord, chat to people who are making stuff and see if they need somebody to help organise for them. Production is tough, because unlike a lot of other disciplines you can’t just make a game on your own. But I think that reaching out and finding people to work with is, in itself, great production experience - you’re making something happen out of nothing, that’s very much a skill you’re going to need! And if you do manage to get involved in making something, try to get it self-published or released somehow once it’s done. Being able to follow a job through to the end is a real skill.
Ok, and one last question - what’s your favourite thing about working at Roll7?
Right at this moment? I think it has to be the flexible working policy which means that I get to leave work early today and go pick up my new puppy, Margot.
A puppy?!! That’s so exciting! I think it’s lucky that you didn’t mention that until the end of the interview, or it might have turned into an interview all about puppies instead! Thank you so much for talking to me, and please send us all some pictures of Margot just as soon as you can!
Thank you! I will do.
The Roll7 Team
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