Interview with Nobby Matsuo, Kingdom Conquest II Live Producer
There are many jobs in game companies that gamers rarely hear about, or maybe aren’t even aware exist. That doesn’t mean they’re not important or vital to a game’s success. One of these roles is the Live Producer. Live Producers focus on the vision and life of an online game, guiding it along its path to success, and ensuring that the various teams stay on-track through its life cycle. For Kingdom Conquest II, this person is Nobby Matsuo, and he’s agreed to sit down with us and talk about his profession.
1. Can you give us a brief idea of what your job is here at SEGA?
I’m the Kingdom Conquest II Live Producer for the Western territories. I work as one of the conduits between the Western operations team and the dev/operations team in Japan. More specifically in regards to questions, issues, suggestions, requests, information sharing, and… sometime rants, from both sides, to make sure the game is operating the best it can in our territories. Being a Producer, its my job to facilitate processes and direct communication between the real talent (community management, game master, executives, PR, brand management, QA, localization, and the ops/dev team in Japan) to help them make the game really shine. I’m usually in the background and don’t pop in unless an issue arises or needs to be averted; I troubleshoot until the problem is taken care of, then get out of the way to let the talent do what they do best.
2. How did you come to work at SEGA? Did you always want to work on games?
I’ve always had a passion for games, but I didn’t always want to work on them. In college I majored in biology, got my degree, then ended up producing games. It was purely by chance I arrived in the game industry. A summer job in my 3rd year in college testing Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation 1 changed my career plans.
Since that summer job, I had a fantastic experience being part of the team that brought additional Squaresoft titles like Final Fantasy Tactics, Saga Frontier 1 & 2, Xenogears, Front Mission 3, etc. to the U.S. audience.
Skipping ahead by a decade or so after working on several dozen games across a couple of game companies, I jumped at the chance to work at SEGA.
3. From your perspective, what does the typical life-cycle of an online game look like?
For the sake of brevity, up until it’s initial launch to the public (whether that be alpha/beta or full launch), it’s not that different from an offline game.
You have your proposal, design, prototype, alpha to beta, localization/QA, then launch.
It’s really different after the game hits the public where the content of the game continues to evolve, sometimes dramatically. You’re frequently monitoring performance and player behavior. It’s not a ‘fire and forget’ process where you ship the game and hope and pray the decisions you made up to that point were right, because you can’t make anymore changes. The strategy is different now where you’re constantly course correcting and looking for ways to further engage your audience.
The business concept is a bit different for offline as compared to online games, especially the games that are F2P (Free to Play). As an analogy, it’s like going from producing a product for the store shelf to actually running/managing the store itself. Hence, the term “games as a service.”
So, now you have all the steps I mentioned up to launch iterated at each update, at a much, much shorter cycle. Basically, at each content update for the game, you’ll have gone through a full cycle, so it can get emotionally taxing. It never ends, that is, if all is going well.
Now that the game is launched, you’re focused on player feedback, in-game feedback, and basing a lot of what you’ll do next on such data.
4. What’s the difference between a Live Producer and a Dead Producer?
Typically, one has been around longer than the other, but there have been exceptions. In all seriousness, if the project and team are working really well, with no issues, you won’t be able to tell whether you got one or the other.
5. What kind of advice would you give to someone looking to work on games, or in your position specifically?
This is a common question, and the typical response is to start early working on your own games, samples/portfolios, etc. It’s certainly the case for disciplines like programmers, artists, designers (audio, art, gameplay), but it’s not always the case for producers. The roles and responsibilities of a producer can vary between companies and even across teams. A passion and interest in games is a definite plus, but our backgrounds, experience, and education vary wildly.
You’ll be varying parts of a cheerleader, project manager, accountant, diplomat, spokesperson, student, teacher, and always the shepherd.
My advice for a producer-in-the-making is to get into the industry in any way that’s available to you, and absorb as much experience that you can in every role you take. You can bet this experience will add to your ability to excel as a producer since you’ll have your hand in almost every aspect.
6. What games have you worked on aside from KCII?
Aside from the Squaresoft games I mentioned, I’ve also had the pleasure of working as a producer for the Nintendo-based Naruto games for many years. It was great learning everything about the lore and technical details of the entire license. If you’re familiar with it, it’s deceivingly deep.
7. We like to ask a sort of silly question in every interview, so bear with us: If you could spend the rest of your life only playing one game, which game would you choose?
There’s not one game that I’ve played any notable amount of time that could keep me faithful to it for the rest of my life. There are too many good games from the past, present, and future.
But that’s a lame answer, so how about I answer it in the following manner:
Favorite game from the past: Fallout (1997)
Favorite game for the present: Pay Day 2
Favorite game for the future: Titanfall
The game I was most impressed with when it came out: Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum
As a producer, I’m in awe of pretty much every aspect of that game.
8. Who would win in a fight: a mechanical, weaponized bear or a Street Shark?
Street Shark, of course. They had their own TV show. 50% man, 50% shark… 100% win!
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KC2 on Amazon
Last edited by Atavist; 11-05-2013 at 12:18 PM.