Dev Box Interview: SimAnimal’s Executive Producer Sam Player

SimAnimals Dev Box

It usually takes a small army to create the video games that we play, and, most of the time, all of the focus gets put on the game itself, and not on the people that came together to make it. Our Dev Box interview feature takes a look at some of the unsung heroes that have committed their lives to entertaining all of us. This week we are giving Electronic Art’s Sam Player a chance to answer some of our burning questions.

Name: Sam Player
Title: Executive Producer
What you do: I lead a team of extremely talented developers that creates games for various game platforms. I directly lead the design and production teams, along with the art director, and we are charged with setting the creative and visual direction for our titles. We work with our marketing partners to ensure that we are creating a game that our customers want, then we go out and present our work to media and retailers to get them informed about what we’ve created. And then we do it again!
Most recent game worked on: “SimAnimals” for Wii and DS. Before this project, I worked on a number of “The Sims 2″ Expansion Packs, including “The Sims 2: Pets,” “The Sims 2: Seasons” and “The Sims 2: Bon Voyage.”

1. What game has most influenced you, and why?
Actually it wasn’t really a game as much as a game system. The Sega Genesis was enjoying its heyday when I was a senior in college. It re-introduced me into gaming, as I hadn’t been playing much since the 2600 days. Playing “Madden” and “NHL Hockey,” coupled with a friend who was working in the industry — thus showing me that there were careers to be had in gaming — got me thinking about becoming a game designer. I got my first job in the industry 3 years later as a game designer on a baseball game and 15 years later I’m still here.

2. What are you playing right now?
Right now I’m scared silly playing “Dead Space.” But I have to do it when my kids are asleep, so it’s taking me a while.

3. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about game development?
The game is your boss. Yes, we all have managers who tell us what to do, but really the thing that we answer to is our project. Everything we do at work, all the decisions we make, all the effort we put in, should be about improving our game. The game is the ultimate judge of how good we are at our jobs.

4. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Let your people do their jobs. Game development is fun, and it’s easy to want to do everything yourself. But our talent level here is so high, that there are experienced people who can do the job just as well if not better than you can, so let them do it (and they’ll thank you for it!).

5. What do you think is the biggest problem current games suffer from?
Game developers try to do too much. It’s an easy trap to fall into over and over again. We want to get every cool idea you’ve ever had into your games, and it’s just not realistic for that to happen. We’d never finish. And more often than not, the games that try to do too much end up doing nothing well, and those titles find their way into the bargain bin quickly. Making decisions early to focus the team’s efforts on what’s really important and cutting out what’s not gives you the best chance of ending up with something that feels really good and polished.

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