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I'm looking more for high level role such as producer/manager of the group making the tools for a content pipeline. This would be for a large AAA studio.

Also what kinds of tools are they creating?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Production management or technical management skills, or both, depending -- and experience.

Some studios don't clearly differentiate between production (in this context I mean the scheduling and pipelining of tasks across each internal team, assisting in bug triage and balancing, ensuring all team dependencies are satisfied, that your schedule is accurate and that you are trending towards ship) management and technical management (which I mean to be more about the architecture of the in-code systems that implement the tools), and so you'll probably need both, or at least to be focusing on whichever one of those interests you more. That kind of role is almost always sourced internally, though (i.e., by promoting existing programmers or producers) so your best bet is to get an entry level position in the approximate area you're interested in and work your way up.

Studios with dedicated tools teams generally have those teams because they require tools that are unique to their product's production goals, and so they're usually not building the same thing except in very general terms -- usually tools revolve around asset/content creation, management, and tracking. Especially with large, AAA titles tracking/reporting/metrics concerning content and content production can be extremely important due to the shear volume of data.

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Thanks Josh, great answer and just the information I was looking for. – BlueSixty Mar 16 '11 at 19:26

If you have to ask what kind of tools they are creating, then you won't be able to go straight into a job like that. That's if such a group exists, of course - not everywhere has dedicated tooling departments, and even if they do, they don't necessarily have a separate manager for that department (since most of the technology will be shared with the game developers).

I would expect the typical route into such a role would be to start as a tools programmer and be promoted up to a supervisory position.

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I do know that very large companies will have a group like that and have producer/managers. As @Josh had said, someone needs to be managing the tracking/reporting/metrics. I've found that a developer may not be the best fit for that type of role. People who like to write code, generally don't like sitting in meetings, looking at schedules, babysitting artists, etc... :) Thanks for the answer – BlueSixty Mar 16 '11 at 19:32
Some will, some won't. But with technical departments in technical companies, almost all management will be ex-technical staff promoted from within. Generic management skills are usually insufficient to manage such a specific technical area. Even a typical producer on the game side is an ex programmer, artist, or designer, simply because they know how the projects work in a way that an 'outsider' would not. – Kylotan Mar 17 '11 at 2:35
Oh... and you're right that that those of us who like code don't like sitting in meetings, looking at schedules, or babysitting artists - but that comes with the job unfortunately! Multidisciplinary skills are the order of the day as you move up the ladder. – Kylotan Mar 17 '11 at 2:37
Yep, I agree, there is a technical knowledge requirement from past experience as a developer. I know a lot of the great developer / programmers that I work with don't have, and could care less about, the skills required to lead groups. Was just pointing out that not everyone is suited for those roles. – BlueSixty Mar 18 '11 at 15:01
And that is exactly why they often end up stuck in precisely those positions. :) – Kylotan Mar 20 '11 at 0:08

I'd expect the primary requirement would be experience, if not specifically of the role you want at least some relevant game development / management experience. Have you tried looking around for available positions and seeing what skills they say are important?

Tools could be anything from basic texture converters to complex game editors that let the designers create the game like the Unreal Editor.

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