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A Quick Interview with Laura Fryer, Industry Veteran at Xbox

Arnox

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For those who don't know, here's her portfolio. The TL;DR is she's worked on many heavy-hitters for Xbox and has a hell of a lot of experience in both the games and console side of things. She's since made a few great videos about her experiences at Xbox on her channel.

Interview Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXRZkFxmUjo&lc=UgzK9fsjC8YTkzQwW594AaABAg

Arnox said:
What would be your dream for the next Xbox console if you could take it in any direction? Do you think that Microsoft's old approach with the original Xbox of being the best of the best at a higher price than the competition is the way to go?

Linked to that, with your extensive past experience, what would be your opinion on what should set apart the home console in 2024 from a PC? What advantages should a gaming console have over a PC besides cost?
Laura Fryer said:
Great questions! The main advantage of a console is that it's a closed system. In theory that means everything just works. You don't have random software impacting the game. Easier to develop and test. I'm not sure consoles have a future but focusing on content people love is always a win. :)
Arnox said:
Thank you! I only have just two more questions then I'll let you go.

The debate about physical ownership is getting more and more fierce these days. Do you think that Xbox could and should be doing a lot more on this front? If it was promoted as a feature for the next upcoming Xbox console, do you think that a renewed focus on physical ownership and forcing publishers to have a game fully complete and playable offline on day 1 of a game's launch would really set the Xbox apart from its competitors?

The second question is, what is your view on splitscreen? Do you think this move away from it in the current console landscape is justified? Do you think Nintendo is getting more sales partly because of their plethora of games in their catalog that support splitscreen or is it, in the end, a non-factor for console dominance?
Laura Fryer said:
My personal preference is physical ownership and split screen, but I haven't reviewed data showing how far these features move the needle for most gamers. I do think higher quality at launch, sets a game apart.
 

Houseman

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What does an "Executive Producer" or a "Program Manager" even do? Have meetings? Make schedules for the actual artists/programmers/writers? According to Wikipedia, the artist Jay-Z was a executive producer for NBA 2K13.

She probably has a good high-level perspective where she can see how all the different parts of the game industry works, but I don't respect her title.
 

Arnox

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What does an "Executive Producer" or a "Program Manager" even do? Have meetings? Make schedules for the actual artists/programmers/writers? According to Wikipedia, the artist Jay-Z was a executive producer for NBA 2K13.

She probably has a good high-level perspective where she can see how all the different parts of the game industry works, but I don't respect her title.
A producer is someone who basically keeps everyone in line. A good producer will ensure that goals are met while also making the team happy. Extra Credits did a video on this over a decade ago that was pretty good. It's old but it's still probably fully relevant even now. Sufficeth to say though that they are very important.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUkcz2taCiw)
 

Houseman

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lolwut? Do you mean no creative/technical skills?
Correct. Being able to communicate, schedule, draw up summaries and reports, and the rest is all basic knowledge stuff that any normal person can do with relative ease after a high school education.

But of course, programmers and artists would rather not do that job, hence, the middlemen
 

Arnox

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Correct. Being able to communicate, schedule, draw up summaries and reports, and the rest is all basic knowledge stuff that any normal person can do with relative ease after a high school education.

But of course, programmers and artists would rather not do that job, hence, the middlemen
But it's a lot more than that though. It requires good communication and social skills plus major constraint and discipline. Just watch the EC video and you'll get a good idea of what it all entails.
 

Phiwise_

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What does an "Executive Producer" or a "Program Manager" even do? Have meetings? Make schedules for the actual artists/programmers/writers? According to Wikipedia, the artist Jay-Z was a executive producer for NBA 2K13.
It can vary a lot depending on organization and office politics, but when done right good producers are essential to coordinating the skills and time of a large and varied pool of experts so resources aren't wasted and the pieces of the project come together without friction and they can focus on applying their own skill well without distractions. Asking why workers need producers is like asking why a skilled surgeon needs nurses and anesthesiologists. It's to increase their reach and efficiency manyfold, especially if they're working on a whale instead of a human. Consider this bit from The Mythical Man-Month:

The director may be boss, and the producer his right-hand man. Robert Heinlein, in The Man Who Sold the Moon, describes such an arrangement in a graphic for-instance:

Coster buried his face in his hands, then looked up. "I know it. I know what needs to be done—but every time I try to tackle a technical problem some bloody fool wants me to make a decision about trucks —or telephones—or some damn thing. I'm sorry, Mr. Harriman. I thought I could do it. " Harriman said very gently, "Don't let it throw you. Bob. You haven 7 had much sleep lately, have you? Tell you what—we 11 put over a fast one on Ferguson. I'll take that desk you 're at for a few days and build you a set-up to protect you against such things. I want that brain of yours thinking about reaction vectors and fuel efficiencies and design stresses, not about contracts for trucks. "Harriman stepped to the door, looked around the outer office and spotted a, man who might or might not be the office's chief clerk. "Hey you! C'mere. " The man looked startled, got up, came to the door and said, "Yes?" "I want that desk in the corner and all the stuff that's on it moved to an empty office on this floor, right away. " He supervised getting Coster and his other desk moved into another office, saw to it that the phone in the new office was disconnected, and, as an afterthought, had a couch moved in there, too. "We'll install a projector, and a drafting machine and bookcases and other junk like that tonight, " he told Coster. "Just make a list of anything you need —to work on engineering." He went back to the nominal chiefengineer's office and got happily to work trying to figure where the organization stood and what was wrong with it. Some four hours later he took Berkeley in to meet Coster. The chief engineer was asleep at his desk, head cradled on his arms. Harriman started to back out, but Coster roused. "Oh! Sorry, " he said, blushing, "I must have dozed off. " "That's why I brought you the couch, " said Harriman. "It's more restful. Bob, meet Jock Berkeley. He's your new slave. You remain chief engineer and top, undisputed boss. Jock is Lord High Everything Else. From now on you 've got absolutely nothing to worry about— except for the little detail of building a Moon ship. " They shook hands. "Just one thing I ask, Mr. Coster, "Berkeley said seriously, "bypass me all you want to—you'll have to run the technical show—but for God's sake record it so I'll know what's going on. I'm going to have a switch placed on your desk that will operate a sealed recorder at my desk. " "Fine!" Coster was looking, Harriman thought, younger already. "And if you want something that is not technical, don't do it yourself. Just flip a switch and whistle; it'll get done!" Berkeley glanced at Harriman. "The Boss says he wants to talk with you about the real job. I'll leave you and get busy. "He left. Harriman sat down; Coster followed suit and said, "Whew!" "Feel better?" "I like the looks of that fellow Berkeley. " "That's good; he's your twin brother from now on. Stop worrying; I've used him before. You 'II think you 're living in a well-run hospital. "

This account hardly needs any analytic commentary. This arrangement, too, can be made to work effectively. I suspect that the last arrangement is best for small teams, as discussed in Chapter 3, "The Surgical Team." I think the producer as boss is a more suitable arrangement for the larger subtrees of a really big project. The Tower of Babel was perhaps the first engineering fiasco, but it was not the last. Communication and its consequent, organization, are critical for success. The techniques of communication and organization demand from the manager much thought and as much experienced competence as the software technology itself.
A producer is someone who basically keeps everyone in line. A good producer will ensure that goals are met while also making the team happy. Extra Credits did a video on this over a decade ago that was pretty good. It's old but it's still probably fully relevant even now. Sufficeth to say though that they are very important.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUkcz2taCiw)
Oh man, I remember those days. I still recall that they uploaded on Wednesday, because I was so excited at the time when it was "EC video" day, and to discuss new videos and see other postings on th EC forums. It's good to see some stuff from the old team still holds up, as opposed to the people now wearing their brand like a skinsuit.
 

M0nke3

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Nice one Art. Even though it was a short interview, it's interesting to hear their take nonetheless.
 
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