Behind the scenes with the people of PlayStation

Ben Andac

You hear from game developers a great deal here on PlayStation Blog, both as guest authors and in interviews. But while game developers are of course at the very heart of what makes PlayStation tick, there’s also a huge network of supporting players who work together to help bring you the games you love.

I’m talking about the wizards who design beautiful box art, the video specialists who craft eye-popping trailers, the producers who pull out their hair to keep projects on track, the amazing minds who localise your games into umpteen different languages, and so on.

So, every Saturday for the next few months, I’ll be shining the light on one such unsung hero, finding out exactly what they do, eking out a few words of wisdom for those of you with aspirations of working in the games industry, and generally giving you an idea of what goes on behind the scenes here at PlayStation.

Kicking things off is Ben Andac, who works here at SCEE HQ as a Producer in our sexier-than-it-sounds Strategic Content division. Take it away Ben…

When and why did you join PlayStation?
Ben: I originally joined PlayStation at the launch of PS3 back in 2007. After several happy years here I went to Asia and improved my language skills before returning to PlayStation again last year (bringing a love of Sake and Boba Tea with me). I joined because PlayStation.

What exactly do you do at SCEE?
Ben: I believe my title is “Producer of Awesome”, so that says it all right? My background is in development, as a game and level designer, and I’ve really enjoyed those experiences. Design requires a number of technical skills and more nebulous traits such as great communication and problem solving, which led me into consultancy and then into this role where I essentially act as a facilitator for other developers who want to work with PlayStation.

As part of this, the other main part of my job is simply to go out to game jams, indie meets, and events like PAX to talk with creators and find out what they love, what they hate, what they would like to make, and how I can make it easier for them to do so with PlayStation, now and in the future. This can range from very specific tasks such as helping them with game design to talking them through scary-sounding legalese and submission processes. I also have to make tea for them.

What’s the best thing about your job?
Ben: The happiness I feel helping developers get their creations out and into the hands of loads of people. On that note, it’s also the people I work with – #baus, Shahid, Lorenzo, Spencer, and so many others I can’t list. Wait, I do want to thank Pippa for bringing me the lovely Finnish chocolates I asked for, and Lisa and Nainan for the best Christmas gift ever.

What’s been your proudest or most enjoyable moment at SCEE?
Ben: So far: being part of the PlayStation 4 launch. Pretty sure I’ll be looking back and telling my grandchildren about it like a broken record until they decide to stick me in a home.

What was the last game you played, and what will be the next one?
Ben: Currently playing OlliOlli. Next will be [REDACTED]… I mean, TxK. There are so many I’m looking forward to this year to be honest: Velocity 2X, Broken Age, Samurai Gunn, Hotline Miami 2, Infamous: Second Son, Road Not Taken, Transistor, Galak-Z. Beyond those, whatever Naughty Dog, The Fullbright Company, and Jon Mak are working on next (Sound Shapes is probably my favourite Vita game ever!), Metal Gear Solid V, No Man’s Sky, and I’m personally most excited about Hyper Light Drifter. Straight into my veins please.

I’m fired aren’t I?

Port1

What advice can you give to someone wanting to break into the games industry?
Ben: A few things. Firstly, and this applies to whatever industry you hope to work in: Be nice! Most industries are quite small and people will remember if you’re a dick; the games industry is no exception.

Secondly, be patient and try not to get frustrated if it feels like things aren’t happening or panning out for you exactly the way you want. Sometimes it requires being in the right place at the right time, so rather than stressing over the minutiae of your CV (although saying that, make sure there are no spelling errors in your CV or cover letter!) just get your head down, work hard, improve yourself, and do a good job. No matter the role, the environment, or the people around you – the right people will notice if you’re doing a good job, and the opportunities will just come.

For games specifically, it really depends on what you want to do as you can specialise in a number of fields – art, programming, or design – but simply if your goal is to be a developer the best thing to start with is just learning how to code (C++, Lua, C#) and learning how to use game building tools that are available for free (such as Unity, GameMaker, and PhyreEngine). You don’t need to become a coding wizard (tangent: listen to Idle Thumbs!); it just takes a few months to pick things up and start making your own games – it’s really an amazing thing!

If you’re interested in production then the only thing you really need is to be an organised person; be able to multitask and be empathetic. Taking some courses in project management and learning agile production/development methods such as Scrum won’t do any harm.

This is getting long now; we can continue in the comments section. Thanks for reading. Bye!

26 Comments
10 Author replies

Great interview looking forward to the rest, loving OlliOlli (apart from the crashes) and can’t wait for Tempest TxK

Hey these are pretty great. Looking forward to seeing and hearing from more of the people I follow on twitter.

The job is producer at SCEE’s Strategic content division and the role is basically to keep developers happy. Are you the guy then who knows why CS:GO was never released in the EU region or why there’s a delay between US and EU releases? Do Sony have a Strategic Content division for each region? Isn’t that a messy and unfocused way to run a global business? Wouldn’t SCEE be better off with a employee at the Strategic content division that keeps their customers happy?

Bizarrely structured company.

Do Sony have a Strategic Content division for each region?
Not really, we’re the only ‘Strategic Content’ division globally; but there are people in similar developer relations roles in the other regions. Each group looks after devs in their own region, and we all keep in touch with each other to find out what the other regions are doing and what cool projects they have.

I hope that the “[REDACTED]” was a Vita game. Maybe inFamous Vita? Please?

I really think SCEE and SCEA should be merged together and be only one company giving service to both NA and Europe. Having different sales and different PS+ games is getting annoying – right now there’s an Assassins Creed sale on NA PSN but of course I already bought the games themselves on the January sale here (had the games but no DLC) so I can’t get the DLC on sale there.

Microsoft and Valve don’t have a problem with serving both NA and Europe as one company with the same sales. Why is it such a problem here?

@Jarskaaja, Sony doing this SCEE and SCEA services because some reasons. There are some rules/regulations in europe countries so its not possible to service both equally in most of the times in their services like PS+ etc., and currency exchange. Well, PC hardware is not completely Valve and they just provide their services in Steam and users can opt in/out because PC is not meant only for Games and consumers purchased for, but Playstation hardware is only meant for games and they have some regulations to follow. And xbox is not doing sales like PS+, deals most of the time and they also follow have some regulations.

Offtopic, can’t log in on Explorer anymore, what’s the deal? :s

Nice to meet you Ben. And some sweet advices for those interested in the industry.

@Fred
When will you introduce Lorenzo? Shahid and his “Bauss” made me curious what kind of person his. #LorenzosCV was awesome! :P

Thank you!

Truly, LorenzosCV is a thing of wonder. ;)

8.2

Lorenzo is indeed a gent! I’d love to have him on the blog at some point!

‘strategic content’???

no offence ben, but unless the ‘strategy’ is to have a barren ps4 store, a broken mess vita store, overpriced content, a lack of promotional incentives (see scea), poor responses to comments/queries, etc, i’d say that you’re hardly a ‘master of awesome’.

Perhaps, by the time your grandchildren are born, there might be some decent content for the ps4.

he he.

It’s a good thing I didn’t call myself a “master of awesome” then! :P

I’m sure you’ll find some decent content you enjoy before then! And sincerely, we’re doing our best to work with talented devs who will bring great content to all the PlayStation platforms; all the while trying to improve all the services you’ve highlighted. Thanks for the feedback dude.

Can someone help Farsight “…get their creations out and into the hands of loads of people.”, by fixing the PS4 season one 1 bundle discount on the store?

It’s only been broken since it went up on December 18th, so no rush…

10.1

I’ll get you an update first thing monday.

11

Yup, so very fed up that just because I bought a single Pro pack I cannot buy the Pinball Arcade discount pack. Even if I COULD buy it, well lost out on the extra 10% discount because NOBODY was able to buy it during the offer period.

I can’t believe its proving so hard to add an if/or clause to the store logic.

While your job sounds great it’s strange having a ‘strategic content division’ in SCEE only. Sony’s online structure just sounds like an absolute mess. It must be really difficult for a developer to release globally on a network that varies so much region to region.

I’ve given up with buying stuff online because of stuff like the Sound Shapes 1 year 50% off discount what was annouced and appeared on 360 and PC but not on playstation.

Thanks Fred. Get’s a bit frustrating when it drags on for so long, and seems to be a pretty simple fix.

Ben is it essential for employees to have started in development and worked up? I only ask as I have ended up studying history at Uni instead of Game Design as I didn’t want to limit myself to much but would very much like to work in some form of management/business position in the future at Sony, preferably SCE! Having high goals does no harm ;)

Lastly have you ever had a member of the Sony European Grad Program enter your sector? (Yes a bit off topic but just wondering)

Love this sort of content! Looking forward to future pieces.

15.1

Hello! It’s not essential at all so I wouldn’t worry about making the wrong choice or anything like that.(History is a great subject too; I came very close to picking it at Uni myself!)

Yes, lots of people come through via the graduate program!

All the best on your course and hope to see you in the future. :)

Project2insanity 01 February, 2014 @ 21:09
16

We get a very welcome behind the scenes which people have requested yet the comments are half full of trash!? Just a suggestion, Fred, but more moderation may be a good idea to keep things on topic. I can’t imagine we make guests feel very welcome at times. To anyone who disagrees- this was, indeed, a guest contribution and not a ‘vent your frustration’ column.

@Voodoo341; You asked questions presuming you knew the answers just to decry SCEE. I cannot remember ever seeing you make a constructive contribution. I do, however, recall you saying you weren’t going to renew your Plus subscription after being ‘mistreated’ as well as saying you’d cease commenting after it ran out previously. Says a lot right there. Always wanting to bite the hand that feeds.

@Podyman; I honestly respect your opinion about the icon but seriously, dude, give it a rest. You are forcing your same opinion down out throats to the extent of being hypocritical. PS3- we have a Singstar icon. PS blog- we have a Podym...

Show full comment

We get a very welcome behind the scenes which people have requested yet the comments are half full of trash!? Just a suggestion, Fred, but more moderation may be a good idea to keep things on topic. I can’t imagine we make guests feel very welcome at times. To anyone who disagrees- this was, indeed, a guest contribution and not a ‘vent your frustration’ column.

@Voodoo341; You asked questions presuming you knew the answers just to decry SCEE. I cannot remember ever seeing you make a constructive contribution. I do, however, recall you saying you weren’t going to renew your Plus subscription after being ‘mistreated’ as well as saying you’d cease commenting after it ran out previously. Says a lot right there. Always wanting to bite the hand that feeds.

@Podyman; I honestly respect your opinion about the icon but seriously, dude, give it a rest. You are forcing your same opinion down out throats to the extent of being hypocritical. PS3- we have a Singstar icon. PS blog- we have a Podyman comment. See my point?

16.1

Agreed. Let’s keep it on topic folks. If you’ve got questions/suggestions which aren’t directly for Ben – please feel free to post in my usual Sunday recap and I’ll do my best to answer them there. Thanks everyone.

17

My goal was to be a developer but sadly my c# and c++ skills are terrible now due to learning new things. Still know my Java tho but not as good as I used to be.

Oh, great! I would like this kind of posts more often!

Hi, Ben! I just saw your interview (I’m studying hard for the exams), but if you are still around I have a question for you… I am getting near the time for my internship and I would love to do it in the game industry, especially with PlayStation… what would you suggest me to do in this case?

P.S. I would like to be in the programming field, as a natural consequence of my studies ;)

18.1

Hi! Assuming you study programming / computer sciences, I would suggest sending your CV and a cover letter explaining your status (as a programming student) and your desire to intern at a game studio. Most studios are keen to bring in new programming talent, particularly smaller development teams; so just apply to as many places as possible in your area. If you have examples of your code to show all the better. You may be asked to do a programming test too; nothing to difficult at this stage, just a basic one to check that you really know how to code.

All the best with your exams!

Hi, Ben!
Thank you very much for your answer! :)

Yes, I am a computer engineer, so I know very well programming, and a lot more than that… I also have some knowledge in computer graphics, which I think is essential to work on games… I already have a bachelor degree and now I’m near the end of my master…

I will do my best with the exams and then I’ll start applying (I also have a couple of games to show) ;)

Thanks again and have a nice day!

thanks for the reply ben, apologies for mistake.

@fred. interesting interjection there. the commenters that project quoted were far from off-topic. vodoo asked about the set-up of ben’s occupation (and ben replied, thus validating the query) and podyman asked about singstar (a product) and the decision to make it mandatory for europe (as opposed to optional in u.s.), a decision that was surely ‘strategic’.

who else should he ask, given that you yourself cannot answer.

interesting too that you vindicate a commenter calling for these queries to, in future, be moderated when neither comment was rude or off-topic.

Certainly a welcome innovation on the blog. So many times we hear from project leads and CEOs that we forget there’s a whole army of people in less publicly viewed roles, working away to bring us the content we’re looking for.

Ben, you’ve mentioned a few Vita games you’ve really enjoyed, and I love the system as well, but it has been a frustrating time for us with a limited number of new releases and high street stores minimising or scrapping their Vita displays entirely. You mentioned that part of your role is to go to content creators and assist them in bringing their titles to the PlayStation.

How hard have you found it to crack the Catch 22 scenario that’s formed for the Vita – that the console really needs high profile, quality releases to boost system sales, but a number of content providers have been unwilling to commit funds to developing games for it, or localising existing Japanese games due to lack of system sales.

If it’s frustrating for us, the consumer, seeing great ...

Show full comment

Certainly a welcome innovation on the blog. So many times we hear from project leads and CEOs that we forget there’s a whole army of people in less publicly viewed roles, working away to bring us the content we’re looking for.

Ben, you’ve mentioned a few Vita games you’ve really enjoyed, and I love the system as well, but it has been a frustrating time for us with a limited number of new releases and high street stores minimising or scrapping their Vita displays entirely. You mentioned that part of your role is to go to content creators and assist them in bringing their titles to the PlayStation.

How hard have you found it to crack the Catch 22 scenario that’s formed for the Vita – that the console really needs high profile, quality releases to boost system sales, but a number of content providers have been unwilling to commit funds to developing games for it, or localising existing Japanese games due to lack of system sales.

If it’s frustrating for us, the consumer, seeing great titles going to other platforms or having to import them Japanese only, as I’ll be doing with Sword Art Online, I can’t imagine what it must be like for yourselves.

21.1

That’s a really good question. It has been difficult but over the past couple of years the profile of the Vita has improved a lot; there are more high quality games from independent developers and third parties, and some truly great games from WWS (such as Tearaway!). I honestly think it’s hard to argue against the sheer number and quality of games on the Vita now and that has been reflected in better sales and better attach rates (i.e. the number of games people are getting on the system).

Saying that there’s always more work to do to make the Vita even better and bring everyone the games they want, and hopefully you’ll see more of that in the coming year. One of the things that our team in particular has been vocal about is trying to bring more JRPGs to Vita and we’re doing our best to make this happen. Thanks!

I would love to see more two-sided sleeve/artwork in games. The ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Classics HD reversable artwork was amazing! Are we going to see those more at least in games published by Sony?

And I hope that SCEE localizes more Japanese games for PS4 and Vita than in last gen. There is a market for Japanese games, look at Demon’s Souls for example.

TeddyBearTwinkle 04 February, 2014 @ 02:21
23

i bet the next xbox will be called xbox number 2 and you can control it sitting on the toilet and anyways the ps4 has over taken the xbox one so its xbox one ps four

:D

TeddyBearTwinkle 04 February, 2014 @ 02:22
24

oh and Ben Andac has a cool last name :)

Really liked his tips at the end. It was a good reading. :-)

25.1

Thank you; glad you enjoyed it. :)

26

Awesome interview. So, Ben helps to bring games to PlayStation. Could you bring games like Tomb Raider The Division or Watch_Dogs to PSVita?

We close the comments for posts after 30 days.

Edit history