Ask anyone at Rovio and they’ll tell you – our people are awesome. Rovio is brimming with knowledgeable and talented mobile gaming professionals working in all disciplines of mobile game production, who come from over 50 nationalities. We’re going to be chatting with a different Rovian every week in a rapid-fire interview to get a glimpse of their life at Rovio.
Today, we’re talking to Neha Joshi. After studying computer science and working as a programmer, Neha made the switch to gaming and found her calling as a producer. Twelve years down the road, Neha is a live ops expert and a senior producer at Rovio keeping the train on the rails, the ship on course, and is helping lay out the roadmap for Angry Birds Journey. Let’s hear a bit about her personal journey in game production.
What is your job title, what does that mean?
I am a senior producer for Angry Birds Journey, and in my opinion a producer is somebody who, apart from executing the vision, does everything. I think the important part is making sure that the team is aligned and they know that we are working toward a milestone. I am working together with the game lead and others to create a roadmap that can then be executed.
But that’s not the only role of a producer. A producer is also someone who is a guardian of the team. They want to make sure that their team is able to function without any hindrances. There are a lot of tasks that come along with building a game and the producer makes sure that the team has all of the information and tools they need and they don’t get overwhelmed or sidetracked.
A producer can wear various hats during the course of game development. Since a producer generally is not an expert by themself, the focus is in making sure that experts get to do their best work. As a producer, I have done everything really – from managing tasks and people to ordering and picking food for the team, from fixing people’s work machines to chasing IT to get licenses. You name it and I have done it!
What does a typical day look like for you?
On average, half of my day goes into meetings and half is spent planning and organizing our daily work. We have a short daily standup meeting with the entire team where everyone can see each other for 10 minutes, and everyone can talk about what they’re doing. I typically take notes during that meeting in case I have to check up on some things and that usually gives me an idea of what I will do that day as far as what are the tasks, what do I need to follow up on.
Then I look at the roadmap to see what is coming up. I might sync with the QA lead if we have a release coming, I might talk to the designers about a feature which is in development. But every day is different, that’s the best part about working in production.
Have you always been interested in gaming or did that come about from your career?
I grew up in India, and when we were kids, video games were not very popular. We were mostly playing outside with our friends. I think the only video game I ever played as a child was Mario and it was a new thing. You had to go to a parlor and there was usually a long queue, but fortunately I knew the owner of the place so I could go play when no one else was playing. Other than that, the only time I really got into a game was on Facebook when Wooga had just released Brain Buddies in 2009-2010 and I was into it. Then I started playing Farmville and all of those early Facebook games that were getting popular.
How did you end up working in games? What has your journey been like?
I’m an engineering professional by education. I have a bachelors in computer science and engineering and I worked as a programmer for my first two years after university. It then occurred to me that probably this is not my calling, and that’s when I moved to games. Zynga was just setting up their offices in India back in the day in 2010 and one of my friends was working there. He referred me and that’s how I landed in gaming.
Facebook games were very popular back in those days and Zynga was doing well with games like Farmville and Cityville. The games were made in the US and they were run in India so we were heavily driven by live operations. The company was growing tremendously at the time as well. When I joined I was the 93rd employee and by the time I left, there were 400+ people. I was there for three years, working on four titles before moving to Finland in 2013.
I joined RedLynx, who had just been acquired by Ubisoft and they were about to launch their first Trials mobile title, Trials Frontier. They had soft launched by the time I joined so my role was to help the live ops producer setup all of these live operations pipelines, and since I had just come from Zynga, I had the knowledge of live operations and was a good fit for that. I did that for two years and I moved to work on South Park Phone Destroyer. That was a great experience because it was the first time I worked on a game from scratch.
I spent five years on South Park Phone Destroyer, building and managing the team, releasing the game, and then running live ops for the game. Then in 2019 I went on maternity leave and returned in 2020 before deciding it was time for a change. Rovio had an opportunity and my colleague from Ubisoft, Timothy [Coolidge, Design Director], had joined Rovio, so I came over with him.
I joined Angry Birds Friends, who were looking for a producer. After working on AB Friends for six months, I went on my second maternity. I came back from maternity leave in February , and joined Angry Birds Journey, where I’m now a co-producer with the game producer. Here, I’m back to focusing on live operations which I’ve been doing since the beginning of my career in games.
What made you switch from engineering to game production?
While I was working at Mcafee as a programmer, I came to realize that I don’t enjoy programming much, and I started looking for other options. Then a friend of mine joined Zynga and told me how much fun it is. There are artists, programmers, and designers working together and it sounded interesting. I thought why not give it a try and move out of programming for a change.
I joined Zynga India as a QA engineer, and soon I was given the opportunity to manage Fishville. I was quite intrigued by the work and a few months later I officially moved as a producer on Empires and Allies.
What made you want to join Rovio?
I had been at Ubisoft for 7 years, working on one project for 5 years, so I felt it was time for a change. We were also in the middle of a pandemic and a lot of things were happening so I thought why not. Let’s see what’s available.
How do you like Finland?
The first year was hard to be honest, but Finland has this thing that it grows on you slowly and then it is very hard to leave. Life in Finland is easy and safe. Everything is taken care of. Everything works. People are honest. And once you have kids, it’s even harder to think of moving somewhere else. Right now it’s my comfort place.
Favorite thing about Finland?
The work life balance is probably most important, especially right now when we have a young family. I know I can switch off work and just be at home and not worry about it. Also with young kids, I feel very assured that my kids are being taken care of as well in daycare as they would be if they were home with me. Those two things right now are super important.
What surprised you about Rovio?
I think it’s the overall culture of the organization and the way business is done here. Rovio is a very big name worldwide, but when you look at the actual number of employees carrying that brand forward, it could actually come across as a surprise. That and the efficiency of Rovio’s IT department :).
What are you excited about on the horizon?
On Angry Birds Journey, we have a packed holiday season coming up. We have a lot of stuff going on from this month until the end of the year. We have a very busy calendar, and there are a lot of interesting things coming in Q1 next year as well. Lot’s of holiday season vibes.
Most important question – who is your favorite Angry Bird?
I like Red!