Came up recently on TCE. I finally figured out a concise definition of the job role being filled by the “good/great” Tech Directors – someone who’s worth every penny of the $150k salaries they command:
“Figure out the worst things that go wrong which nobody is specifically to blame for, and make sure they don’t happen”
The point with TD is that 9 times in 10 you have a hierachical company structure:
…with the setup that responsibility flows DOWNWARDS (companies where responsibility flows UP are very rare in games industry, IME. Nice idea but very few companies have the culture to obey that ideal!).
So … e.g. … anything that the PM’s don’t think of, and don’t delegate to one or more leads … gets completely ignored/forgotten.
This is a gross generalization – in practice, people lower down tend to notice if something’s missing, and apply pressure up the chain until someone takes it on, or take it on themselves.
That works for small stuff. But the big stuff – especially something that needs two disciplines to fix, or that is too much workload for one person to “absorb”, you need someone with management power (i.e. the authority to take people away from pre-existing tasks).
That’s where the [X] Director comes in. (X = Technical, Art, Design, etc)
TD, AD, etc have the sweeping power to get different departments to collaborate, or to persuade a Producer to relinquish some of their team for a week to get a “more important but so subtle you didn’t see it yet” problem fixed.