Earlier this week I had the chance to get hands-on with The Sims 4, and while I was there I got to speak with Graham Nardone, the Associate Producer of the game. We spoke about a variety of topics, including what his position is like, how the development team handles feedback, and what will entice owners of The Sims 3 to upgrade.
PS: First off are you able to give us an overview of what being an associate producer actually means?
GN: Oh, sure, a kind of ‘day in the life’! A lot of what I do is interesting because producers kind of have their hands in everything, so you know- working with the artists, working with the engineers, working with marketing to do events like these. So I think production’s actually really fun in terms of just being hands-on with everything. In terms of day-to-day responsibilities a lot of what I do is get very hands-on with specific features, so at Associate Producer level you’re looking at different aspects of the game, you have things assigned to you and ultimately the way that feature goes out the door is your responsibility. So you’re setting the quality bar, acting as a sort of advocate for our players and making sure that it’s fun, it’s polished, it feels good to play. That’s kind of on us as producers to, you know, make sure it’s good to go. One interesting assignment I had on this project is, I get to run something called “change review”, and that’s our period after pre-production, where we set aside a chunk of time and we say “We know we’re going to want to iterate, we know people are going to see this and get hands-on with it, and there’s going to be feedback and things we want to change” and so with that chunk of time we set it up and as feedback and requests come in we stick it in there, and we evaluate and decide what’s going to make the final cut. So being able to run that entire process was kind of a really interesting place to be in this project. It was a bit more difficult than expansions (because I came from The Sims 3) because the lead up to announcing those was much later than it would be for a base game like this, so we got to get so much more feedback, and feed that back into this process. It was fun just being a part of that.
PS: The Sims has a massive community, with so many outlets for people to talk about things, so how do you filter through all that to find stuff that’s useful?