Interview

PUBG Mobile producer Rick Li on getting into games and adapting the battle royale from home

"The number of hardcore mobile players is rising and games are becoming increasingly complex"

PUBG Mobile producer Rick Li on getting into games and adapting the battle royale from home

The games industry plays host to a colourful cast of diverse individuals, from artists and coders to narrative designers and studio heads.

The skills to pull off these roles, however, are complex and differing, with each position requiring mastery in its field.

To highlight some of the brilliant work that goes on behind the screen, and help others who may be keen to dive in, PocketGamer.biz is reaching out to the individuals who make up the games industry with our Jobs in Games series.

This time we spoke with Tencent Games developer and PUBG mobile producer Rick Li about the many trials and tribulations faced in his journey into games, alongside how the battle royale has kept on top during the pandemic. 

PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?

Rick Li: My name is Rick Li and I’m the producer of PUBG Mobile. Currently, I am primarily responsible for product development and overall planning. I also lead the research and development (R&D) team in its continued efforts in providing high-quality content to players worldwide.

I gradually climbed the ranks, getting to experience various levels of responsibility in both the industry and my company.
Rick Li

How did you first get into games and how did you progress into this role?

I hadn't really decided on entering the games industry before graduating from university. I majored in computer science and technology and was into coding and programming, spending much of my time learning and thinking about software R&D and management.

After graduation, I applied for a position at Tencent's Interactive Entertainment Group, completed several rounds of testing and interviews in a single day and received an acceptance letter that same night. I took my first step into the games industry that day.

I gradually climbed the ranks, getting to experience various levels of responsibility in both the industry and my company. After participating in the development of many products, I was eventually promoted to my current position.

Is it something you ever imagined yourself doing?

No, it wasn't. It never occurred to me; I imagined something completely different. When I first started out, I was tasked with game server R&D. My goal then was to become a framework designer and lead a team in creating a complete server for a game within three years. Come to think of it, I started reading volumes of books relating to software development in university.

To this day, I've never thrown away a single book – I last counted over 100. It goes without saying that I am who I am today because of my love for software design and development, and my passion for games.

What did you study (if anything) to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?

Be committed to your job, work with others wholeheartedly, have a passion for gaming, and be willing to accept change and actively learn – these have been the key factors in my development.

I have always valued learning to improve my technical skills. Driven by my initial goal of becoming a framework designer in three years, I was transferred to a new project one year into the job, where I was responsible for overall framework design and the development of various key systems.

As of May 2021, PUBG Mobile has accumulated more than one billion downloads. Image credit: Krafton.

The gaming industry is constantly evolving, with technological updates and iterations changing with each passing day. Cutting-edge technologies of the past are industry standard today, and new forms of innovative gameplay and content are constantly emerging.

For those who are interested in a career in gaming, only spending time on the things you're interested in or studying the mechanics of classics and masterpieces may not be enough. You also need to keep learning and researching, experience games for yourself, and learn to think ahead.

What part of your role do you find most fulfilling?

The most fulfilling and meaningful part of my role is the opportunity to help the members of my team reach their true potential and provide breathtaking experiences to our players.

Game development is a team effort that encompasses pre-launch planning, artwork, and programming, as well as post-launch market analysis and operations. The fruit of your efforts is generally unknown until product or version launch, so as a producer, you are required to make a lot of decisions and lead your team in the right direction to meet your goals.

Game development is a team effort that encompasses pre-launch planning, artwork, and programming, as well as post-launch market analysis and operations.
Rick Li

Leading your team into the unknown and reaping the benefits of your expectations are the most fulfilling and meaningful parts of the job.

Tell us what your typical day looks like in a nutshell?

Ideally, I'd wake up early every morning and go for a 10-km jog. I'd then have breakfast and start the workday, which consists of reviewing product data, reading social media comments, and public sentiments; meeting with team members to discuss relevant matters and attending meetings.

There'd be the occasional business trip or full-day of meetings. Finally, I'd watch a movie or play some games to end the day. If time and conditions permit, I'd read for an hour or two before turning in.

What do you think are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of your role?

I think the most interesting point is to have the opportunity to lead the team to realise some ideas and finally present these amazing ideas to players around the world. The downside may be that you feel that there is not sufficient time during the day so you have to multi-task quite often.

I think the most interesting part of my job is leading a team that develops various ideas into reality, eventually presenting them to players all around the world. The downside to this again is that there sometimes isn’t enough time to complete them all, forcing you to juggle multiple tasks at once.

Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?

The public view of the gaming industry is gradually changing for the better as games become even more ubiquitous and we are able to witness more people experiencing the joy and uniqueness of the media. As an operator in a global market, we can see clear discrepancies in views of games in regional markets at different stages of socio-economic, cultural and mobile internet development.

I think that changing people's negative perceptions of games can only be changed through the continuous efforts of all parties in the industry to fulfil our social responsibilities. We need to promote the positive impact of gaming, and meaningful narratives, in everything we do and face complex issues such as addiction head-on.

What advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?

The entire industry is currently advancing at light speed. The number of hardcore mobile players is rising and games are becoming increasingly complex. For those who aspire to make a career in the industry, regardless of what genre you choose or where your interests and passions lie, my advice is not only to have a certain degree of expertise, you also need to be exposed to various fields, which can help a lot in getting ahead.

The speed at which video conferencing software exploded last year is a testament to the complete digitisation of communication.
Rick Li

People typically have a preference when they first enter the industry, but the gaming market is constantly changing. You must keep an open mind and a humble attitude, and, more importantly, be willing to learn and absorb different aspects of knowledge.

At the end of the day, you must be passionate about gaming, open to change and willing to learn. Those are the keys to success.

How has remote working impacted the role (if at all)?

Last year, we participated in many global collaborations. The pandemic obstructed us from meeting in person for the whole year and not being able to physically interact with others has been challenging.

Although operations have largely been moved online, there is still a substantial amount of information lost in virtual meetings because you aren't able to pick up facial cues and body language as quickly as if you were in a physical meeting. Of course, many game companies now carry out global partnerships. Not only are meetings virtual, but many collaborative functions have also been moved online, such as the use of online documents.

These changes have greatly enhanced our project management and communication performance, but they’ve also raised the bar for organisational requirements and responsibilities, output requirements of all online collaborators (e.g. higher delivery interface resolution etcetera) and demand for teamwork.

PUBG Mobile has continued with various partnerships and events during the pandemic - including one to celebrate the film release of Godzilla vs. Kong. Image credit: Krafton.

The speed at which video conferencing software exploded last year is a testament to the complete digitisation of communication. The pandemic really impacted global collaboration and internal workflow – many of our physical presentations are now carried out online, and I'm fairly certain that the transition from offline communication to online communication is an irreversible trend.

People have now experienced the convenience of online communication, which saves travel time and cost and greatly enhances communication efficiency and frequency. As technologies continue to advance, communication that is more convenient, more frequent, more instantaneous and more interactive will inevitably become mainstream. To conclude, I believe that we are entering a new era of communication and collaboration.

Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?

For each thing, you need to look up the best and most versatile solutions in the industry, think about differences between solutions and develop it into a habit. I wish I’d been taught from the beginning to look for the best solutions to each industry problem I came across, compare their differences and then turn what I learnt from them into habits.

Finally, what other advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?

I would say play games like crazy – but while doing this, study how to play them well, why they’re fun, and how they’re designed and realised.

Deputy Editor

Matthew Forde is the deputy editor at PocketGamer.biz and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @MattForde64 talking about stats, data and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.

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