Development directors?

by Rob Galanakis on 18/12/2012

I’ve worked with (for?) several development directors. Some have been talented individuals, some incompetent. But invariably, the role has (in my experience) been useless. I’ve always seen it as a needless position on the producer/PM hierarchy. And oftentimes an add-on position due to explosive producer/PM headcount growth.

I understand what creative/technical/art/design/qa/(product|game) direction is. I have no idea what “development direction” is. And if I do, I have no idea how it’d be beneficial. I mean, the few decisions like “we are using Hansoft for scheduling and backlog management” can be made at the project producer level, and most other ‘development direction’ I can think of negatively infringes on team autonomy.

Has anyone actually had success with the role of development director? Not just a super-talented individual who happened to do a good job, but an actual use for the role?

rob.galanakis@gmail.com

There are 5 comments in this article:

  1. 18/12/2012Adam says:

    I think this is just title hangup, honestly, and the more general takeaway is something like “roles whose responsibilities and value to the organization are not clearly defined are useless.” The only times I’ve encountered this particular title myself is in small organizations where something like “producer” or “project manager” doesn’t adequately capture the range of responsibilities, and usually in these cases everyone else is just “developer” or something. The titles are just arbitrary business card fluff–I mean, some cards that I hand people say “development director,” some say “lead developer,” and so on. What matters more is that the people with whom I work know my particular strengths and know when to come to me versus someone else when they need help.

  2. 18/12/2012Dmitry says:

    I have never met a person who can be called Development Director, but I have seen good examples of:

    1. Project Manager Assistant, who was in charge of checking the routine like plans/reports and responsible for proper meeting organization (agenda, fup, checks of was actually done after the meeting)

    2. Production Lead, who was responsible for creating|managing the art production (both internal team and external outsource individuals and studios) including synchronization with programmers and designers

  3. 18/12/2012Anonymous says:

    I call all of them “managers”. I do not care about the fancy names because they are not usually standarised through the entire industry…

    Probably, your “Development Director” is called different by other people…

  4. 18/12/2012Rob Galanakis says:

    Right Adam, but isn’t the title ‘Development Director’ inherently unclearly defined? Ie, what is that person supposed to ‘direct’? Isn’t ‘development director’ as a title a red flag that a person (or at least the role) isn’t useful because it fundamentally cannot be defined? (or can it?)

  5. 18/12/2012Adam says:

    I wouldn’t say it’s any less clear to me than “technical artist,” “game designer,” or “game programmer.” In my case, it’s a question of the level of granularity that matters as a function of a) social context in which I’m presenting myself and b) organization size. In some of the circles in which I traffic, it’s meaningful because it is a management role that is clearly different from other common directorial positions (e.g., Director of Research, Director of Curriculum), and a title like “producer” or “project manager” would be equally ambiguous in many situations (e.g., to a governmental agency, foundation, or other funding body). On the basis of organization size, it’s not sensible to discriminate more (e.g., Art Director, Technical Director).

    Basically, like any question of language, it is primarily a question of context. Would the title make sense to use with people who are professional game developers by trade? Probably not (though, as I mentioned, I think there are plenty of vague titles we use without batting an eyelash—I think I’d be hard pressed to not put my understanding of “game designer” into the same category as your “development director”). If I’m out of “Lead Developer” or “Programmer” business cards though, and I’m feeling lazy, then I’ll probably be “Development Director” or something like that, mostly because of the uselessness of titles in my situation generally (I’m not trying to apply for jobs, for instance). I’m pretty sure I’ve had dumber titles printed on my GDC badge before ;)

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