Interview with a Design Lead
Jami Lukins is a Design Lead at Bungie and a Professor at DigiPen Institute of Technology. I was lucky enough to be able to interview her about ways Producers in the gaming industry can help to support and empower their teams, and the differences between lead roles and production.
To start, how did you get into the game industry?
I always loved games. My mother suggested I check out DigiPen and when I did I decided it was the school for me. I wanted to be a character animator. While at school I had to do the UI for our game and I loved it so much I switched to UI art.
I understand you've been in a leadership role at Bungie for some time now, I'm curious what differences you notice between producers and leads? For example, differences in skills, responsibilities, etc?
I think producers and leads have many overlapping skills (strong communication and messaging), but the difference is a lead is a creative inspiration and they don't require the same level of organization. They typically need to be craft experts in their chosen area. Producers don't need to be craft experts, but they do need SOME understanding of the craft they are producing for. They don't need to be inspirational or great public speakers but they do need to be highly organized.
What are the traits shared by the best producers you've worked with? What about the worst traits, any things producers should absolutely avoid?
The worst producers I've had are ones who actually want to be game designers. The best producers are ones who look at the team and a group of individuals with certain needs and make it their goal to help that person be the most efficient and happy they can be. The best producers not only keep the team on track to deliver but also keep the team health up.
I understand Bungie uses a form of Scrum, how has your experience with Scrum been? Does it generally seem to benefit the team, and what is the role of leads like you and producers in supporting the team using Scrum?
I like scrum a lot. It gives the team a lot of autonomy. I've never not worked in scrum though? I think Bungie's form of Scrum is the best I've had though.
Do you have any closing advice for producers, from your own perspective, on how they can best support and empower their teams?
The best producers I know have an intuition for spotting patterns. They have long memories. They say things like "Hey, we had a morale problem like this last year and the year before that and I think THIS is the cause of it." or "Hey, I know you need a new head but they won't hire another person off your word alone. Let me validate your need with some data!"
That concludes the interview, I hope it shined some light on game production! Please feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions!