Warner’s Fryer: “Producers don’t always know what they’re doing”
Laura Fryer, general manager of the three studios that comprise Warner Bros Seattle, has said that studios should be built around creatives rather than producers, who "don't always know what they're doing."
Fryer, who made the claim earlier today at the Develop conference in Brighton, is well positioned to comment: before joining Warner in early 2009 she was an executive producer for Microsoft Game Studios, and oversaw development of Gears Of War and its sequel. While she maintains it is an important role, Fryer observes that the producer's need to have a hand in all areas of a game's development can sometimes mean that decisions are not necessarily made by those best qualified to do so.
"People in this industry don't have producers and still ship games fine," she explains. "I can get an axe and cut through a wall, but a saw works better. I like saws, and I like producers.
"In the beginning, we only needed a coder. But then we realised it was good to have a specialist for art, and a specialist for music. The producer role is very valuable, but they don't always know what they're doing. They need to serve and support the team."
While the recruitment of higher-profile project leads can help raise awareness of a game, Fryer believes those positions should be the last to be filled. "Build yourself around your creatives," she says. "Designers, programmers, artists: they're your molten core of talent, and they’ll form themselves around the game. Production and management needs to form around that."
In her talk, Fryer – who was a founding member of the Xbox project at Microsoft – looked at where creativity and business imperatives collide, and how best to manage that collision. The single most important tool to do that, she says, is "an incredibly powerful tool, and like most powerful tools, it's very dangerous. Faith.
"You think about how games are made, and you can do everything right, but you don't know. I've watched entire companies driven into the ground over faith. At the same time, I've seen faith do amazing things. When they introduced the Xbox internally, a lot of people were like: 'This is such a bad idea, we shouldn't do this thing.' Faith can be amazing."