The games industry plays host to an excellent cast of colourful and 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.
As such, seeing a game come together is a beautiful thing akin to a puzzle as an overall picture becomes whole.
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 has decided to reach out to the individuals who make up the games industry with our Jobs in Games series.
PocketGamer.Biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?
Ioannis Lefkatditis: I am the product owner (lead) for Space Ape’s Transformers: Earth Wars. In this role, I’m responsible for all aspects of the game and the running of the development team.
As a product owner, you must know how the game performs and use that knowledge to figure out what the game needs, what you should be working on next as a team and what the future game roadmap should look like.
When running the team, you are trying to ensure that team members can go on with their day-to-day work with no issues and that they are happy in what they do.
You are also responsible for organising the team, which involves writing user stories, breaking down features into tasks and running sprint-related meetings.
How did you first get into games and how did you progress into this role?
I started working in the industry as a QA Tester in a test centre and then shortly after moved to an embedded tester position in a development studio.
Since then I’ve worked as a lead QA tester on a number titles at various companies before ending up at Space Ape three years ago.
At Space Ape I was working as a lead QA for Transformers: Earth Wars before the game launched.
Alongside my QA duties, I liked to keep track of everything that was going in the game and help organise the team, suggesting improvements in our processes because I felt this would help improve the quality of the game.
If you have the will and drive, there will be opportunities to get to do what you are passionate about.Ioannis Lefkatditis
Due to the above I was trusted to assist our previous game lead and cover for him when there was a need.
When he moved to another team, I was offered the opportunity to take over as a product owner.
Is it something you ever imagined yourself doing?
In a sense, I always wanted to help run teams and improve their processes.
I just never imagined I would get to do that while being responsible for the whole game.
What did you study to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?
I did a BSc in Computer Science which was mostly useful in learning how to program but not that useful for learning how to make games.
My MSc course in Computer Games Technology was much better in that aspect, but again the focus was mostly on programming.
If I continued on the path to be a games programmer, I believe those courses could have been helpful, but for my role, the only useful part was giving me a better understanding of how games get made.
What helped me the most was getting into the industry even as a QA tester and eventually managing to work in a development studio as an embedded tester.
From then on, if you have the will and drive, there will be opportunities to get to do what you are passionate about, from game design to production roles.
What part of your role do you find most fulfilling?
The most fulfilling part of my role is getting to help come up with new game features and leading them to successful completion and release.
There is definitely a misconception that as game leads we don’t listen to our player’s needs or feedback, which is not true.Ioannis Lefkatditis
I also enjoy getting some positive player feedback and seeing the community enjoy your hard work.
Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?
There is definitely a misconception that as game leads we don’t listen to our players' needs or feedback, which is not true.
I personally read our players' comments and suggestions every day and try to understand them more.
Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, the complexity of some of the requests and other priorities may mean it could take some time before you’re able to deliver on those requests.
Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?
You hear all the horror stories of how you need to work long hours and have no life outside the studio to launch a game.
This can be true in some of the companies and you start to believe it when you begin working in the industry, but it doesn’t have to be so.
I would advise someone that’s interested in being a game lead to get to know everything he can about a game.Ioannis Lefkatditis
I’m glad to see that a lot of games companies are now starting to change this mindset and have come to respect their developers’ free time, without a drop in team velocity and productivity.
I wish I knew this when I started and pushed back on all that crunch time and needless overtime.
What other advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?
I would advise someone that’s interested in being a game lead to get to know everything they can about a game.
They should understand both the economy and the mechanics and why they are designed to work the way they do.
The other most important thing is to show an interest in how the team works, question if things are being done correctly and suggest ways to improve processes when you see there is a need to.