Miguel Nogueira: Concept Artist

Hi. My name is Miguel Nogueira and I am a concept artist and designer at Frictional Games. My job is to create art for concepts that we might or might not add to the game. The point of concept art and design is planting creative seeds in others through the means of art, to spark debate on the suggestions, and to bring the concepts to life from sketch to product.

I love horror and fiction, so when the opportunity to join Frictional as a freelancer game in August of 2017, I was too flattered to say anything but yes. And in October of 2018, I joined the company as a full member.

As a video games maker, I naturally played a lot of games when I was younger – almost to an unhealthy point. As a 7-year-old kid, this box that I could play on without going outside, or without touching physical toys, was like black magic or voodoo to me. The first game I played was the very first Wolfenstein 3D, released back in 1992.

I wanted to reverse engineer the game. While trying to do so, I broke the computer and got grounded so many times that it wasn’t even funny. Fixing a computer or operating system error was not only hard in the early 90’s, it was also expensive… But I was fascinated by it. The 7-year-old me had a plan to one day master video games.

Besides that, like any true 90’s kid, I owned many cheap consoles that ran Super Mario, Bomberman, Duck Hunt and all that other fun stuff. But they weren’t that inspirational – I thought of them as merely a hobby or a fun way to pass time. It was only when I got back into computer games that the immersion really kicked in. Eventually, I got the desire to be a part of the vanguardist front of the current game making age.

While in college, I was still playing a lot of games. I was studying graphic design and multimedia arts, so video games actually inspired me to come up with shapes, colors and designs. Around that time Dark Messiah and the Metal Gear Solid series were what glued me to the screen. There was something about Dark Messiah specifically, its environments, ambience and designs, that was so magical, but at the same time so haunting. It really drew me into the tales of primordial myth – the ones that make you ask what if?

I got into horror way late. I was just looking for ways to relax with films or, so didn’t get the hype of media that would scare me or stress me out instead. But later on, I realized that there was also good horror out there, like there is in any other genre, full of mystery that unveils slowly. And then there’s, you know, the cheap stuff.

Getting into concept art

Ever since I was that 7-year-old, a part of me had subconsciously wanted to break into the creative field of concept art. I first found out about it when I was 15, and it was thanks to DeviantArt. Back then, around 2005, the site was at its prime, and the only good place to discover and share art. All the art there was mind-blowing, but there was something about concept art that I really loved.

Then in and after college I experimented a lot with fine art, graphic design, graffiti, typography, and other design fields. But it wasn’t until I saw some robot designs by Darren Bartley and Nivanh Chanthara that I stopped and thought: “This is what I want. These people look like they’re having a lot of fun doing those. I want in.”

College itself was tricky for me. When people ask me if it helped me to get a career in games, I’m still on the fence. There was a love-hate relationship going on. On one hand, college provided me with inspirations that I will keep my whole life. It taught me about the European vanguardist artists and how their approach changed the art world, about the importance of the industrial revolution in arts and crafts. I learned about how public installation artists draw attention to their work, and so on. There were classes on graffiti and expression, typography, fine art… and those lessons are priceless. They were a nudge in the right direction. Without someone to teach me about them, I would not have found out about these topics for years.

On the other hand, to get any jobs, I had to lock myself in a room and put hours upon hours into practicing art. It’s something you just have to do to get to the next level of art, and it’s something college just doesn’t quite nurture.

So I cannot give a definitive answer on college. I was either fascinated by the subjects presented at classes or hated myself for being there instead of sitting at home and practicing drawing.

After college, I took a year off to work on and perfect my craft: drawing, painting, designing… After that I took on whatever freelance job I could find, then found work at indie studios, and gradually ended up at more known studios. This was a turning point in my career, because I realized I was playing in the big league now. One day you’re someone’s groupie and the next day you’re working with them.

Every time I connect with a studio or professional I’ve respected for a long time, my energy meter is filled for a long time. I feel the burst of stamina and will to work out of nowhere, like an energy blast. It’s my muse, really. It is the reason I’m fortunate to say that every day may turn out better than yesterday.

And then one day Frictional contacted me because of an email I had sent a long time ago, saying they wanted me for a work test. I passed, and so the journey in Secret Project #1 began. I didn’t know it yet, but it was about to be a wild ride!

My life at Frictional

I started at Frictional as a full-time concept artist. All the briefings were cool, interesting and creatively demanding. Working full-time meant I could work on what I liked all day. There was never a day where I thought gee, I wish I could work on something else instead. Soon I was working on props for pretty much all the levels on the project, then moved to characters, then environments – and now I do pretty much anything that comes my way.

When it comes to my work, I try to bring my sense of graphic design into the aesthetics and my experiences into storytelling. I also like to think in analogies, metaphors and jokes, which I like to sneak into the designs. I feel like every concept has capacity to be something more than just itself or what it looks like at first glance. So I try to add some substance, work on aspects of what the concepts stand for, and make sure they’re not too literal or easy.

Besides that, I love studying and getting all into different subjects, as there is more chance of finding valuable things the deeper you dive. I draw diagrams, study anomalies of human DNA that can be used in monster designs, consume culture and subculture, capture accidents to use in a different context, experiment and drift, love my experiments as I would an ugly child, delay criticism and judgement.

I do a lot of work where I’m focused on details and injecting story elements into the props, environments and other bits of the world. While working, I have recalled some of my memories related to Dark Messiah. In the game there was a statue in a haunted necropolis that you could choose to interact with. It read something like: “Here likes cursed so and so. For his crimes against the king, let his torment be eternal.” It is a really trivial detail and I am probably among the 1% of players that noticed it, but it just added a lot of believability to the world.

A lot of these romantic ideas and memories I have about games are blurry at best and inaccurate at worst. But they are something I gravitate towards when making my art. I study what other games have done well, find out why these things work, then adapt the formula to my own work.

I could go on about my favorite comics, films and games. But to be honest, every time I pick up a new book, game or film, there is a possibility that it will leave me with a long-lasting memory. And for me, that is very exciting.

Like most people at Frictional, I work from home – and in my case it happens to be the sunny Porto in Portugal. Here I have my work sanctuary, aka my office, where all the art making process happens.

My desk and setup are something I’m proud of. It’s just tech, but because I built it myself, there’s another level of affection I have for the tools. It must be a nerdy thing. Besides the obvious hardware my setup sometimes has a book or a magazine on graphic design, a ball or a fidget spinner to play with while I’m analyzing references or trying to focus mid-brainstorming. Simply reading a couple of paragraphs between drawings or throwing the ball at a wall for a few minutes is enough to get all the parts of my brain working again.

Which leads me to my last point: I want to close this with advice to aspiring video game artists. Sometimes us industry people are too serious and forget to have fun. We forget we’re making games. A lot of times artists tend to copy what is popular in the industry, which is fine, but there is also a whole world out there to get influence from. Following in line with the entertainment industry will only get you so far. I find that the art that I actually stop to look at for more than three seconds is the kind of art where the artist is communicating something unique to them, something only they can say – not a copy of a copy of a copy.

The bandwidth of the world is much broader than what you can get through your internet connection or TV set. Get some inspiration from unlikely places: graffiti, typography, furniture design and fashion, nature, travel… Everything has the power to amplify what knowledge you already have and show you entirely new avenues of exploration.

That’s it! Thanks for reading!

If you’re interested in following my work, you can find me here:

insta: https://www.instagram.com/miguelnogueira.art/
twitter: https://twitter.com/ignitionchemist
site: www.miguel-nogueira.com
artstation: https://www.artstation.com/migno

Gregor Panič: Gameplay Programmer

Who am I?

Hi there! I’m Gregor and I’m a designer and programmer at Frictional, which means I’m responsible for all the fun events in our levels. Okay, maybe they’re fun just for us.

It’s me! And the sign on our door, printed on an A4 and a little crumpled…

I’m a more recent recruit, having joined around September 2016. My job description, gameplay programmer / designer, is purposefully vague. While I mainly work on level scripting, I also spend time on AI, gameplay systems and level design. I also worked on our collaboration with the Tobii Eye Tracker, which I will talk about later. The great part about this is that my work never gets stale and almost none of my days feel the same.

I’m originally from a little known country called Slovenia, but I’ve recently moved to the land of the vikings to become one myself. Or, in other words: I moved to Malmö around two months ago and now work from our fairly new office.

My setup at work – right next to the fanart wall! No deskmate yet, though. :'(

I absolutely adore our office and go there pretty much every day to socialize with and get inspired by my co-workers. I’m also the one who nags everyone with occasional movie and gaming nights, where we usually grab some snacks, relax and watch a horror movie (obviously), or games like FIFA and Jackbox Party Pack!

Background

I can’t really remember the time when I first started playing games. I do know that around the late 90s my dad brought home an Intel 80186 PC one day, thinking he would use it for work. He was wrong. After he showed me a couple of MS-DOS games and I realized I could make things move by pressing buttons, I became glued to that PC. My parents didn’t manage to pry me from it, so I’ve been playing games ever since. Not on the same machine, obviously.

I played a lot of games, but didn’t touch the horror genre for the longest time. I still remember having vivid nightmares and being unable to sleep whenever I saw something remotely scary on television. When I was older, however, a friend of mine bought me Amnesia as a “gift”. It was a dare, of course, but because I didn’t want to disappoint my friend, I played through it. It was just as scary as everyone was telling me, perhaps even more so.

But while I was playing it I also realized that it was about more than just scaring the living hell out of me. It managed to fully immerse me in its world and story, which I had not experienced to this degree before. This is how I got introduced to the horror genre, and to Frictional, which would later impact my life more than I could have possibly imagined.

Making games has been my dream ever since I can remember. Given how much fun I had playing them, I thought it would be great if I could make my own – which is why I always liked messing around with settings, seeing what I could do with cheat codes, and figuring out damage formulas so I could get an advantage. It wasn’t until I got sucked into a game called Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, however, that I actually made my first array into creating my own content. I made lightsaber hilts, maps, and even modified some scripts to make the game play like I wanted to.

Unfortunately, growing up in Slovenia there was no real game dev scene there, so I forgot about my dream. It simply never occured to me that I could make games for a living. However, since I was already using my computer so much, I thought it would be fun to work in IT. So I learned some basic C++ programming in high school, then went to a computer science university where I learned a lot more about programming and software in general.

For a long time I resigned myself to becoming a web developer, taking some summer jobs and part-time work in that field. The job became more and more mundane and boring, until I finally realized that I couldn’t do it long term, and that I had to find something more fulfilling. That is when I remembered my dream of making games, how much fun they brought me and how great it would be to be able to help someone else have the same experience. I already had a lot of programming experience, so I became determined to join the games industry.

I immediately quit my part-time job and started working on my first small game. I wanted to do everything on my own so that I would learn all the intricacies of game development. A year or so of studying and work amounted to Welkin Road, a little puzzle platformer with grappling hooks.

In Welkin Road you use your two grappling hooks to solve movement-based puzzles.

While I was in the process of finishing Welkin Road, I started looking at potential studios I could join. That’s when I saw a tweet from Frictional, mentioning that they were looking for a designer / programmer. I didn’t think I was ready, but I figured this was my only chance to work with the company, so I sent my resume in anyway.

To my big surprise they offered me a work test, to see whether I was suitable for the role. I gave it my best, but after I sent in my project I tried to prepare myself for the inevitable let-down. Instead I got a positive reply and an invitation to an interview. The final decision came a couple of weeks later.

Spoiler alert: I got the job.

Given that I was a big fan of Amnesia and SOMA, the decision to accept was a no-brainer. However, it took me quite a while to properly register that I had fulfilled my lifelong dream. A year and a half later I realize how lucky I am to be one of the few people who can wake up on Mondays with a smile on their face.

After joining, I immediately started working on my introductory tasks aimed at learning the new tools. I joined at the same time as Max, so we bonded over struggling to understand all the new stuff. When those tasks were done, I started working on my first real project: designing and implementing eye tracking features in SOMA, which I will talk about in more detail in the next section.

A while after I was brought on, the company started looking to set up a studio in Malmö. I already knew that if I wanted to make games, I would most likely have to move, so the decision to move to Malmö didn’t take me long to make. Finding a place to stay took a while, but I eventually managed to find a nice apartment and settle in, in no small part thanks to my incredibly kind and welcoming co-workers.

The setup in my new home in Malmö!

FIRING LASERS (more commonly known as Eye Tracking)

As promised, I will now spend some time talking about my adventures in eye tracking. After receiving a unit from Tobii, I first tested it with a bunch of games that already had eye tracking support. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was a particularly useful use case study, since it had a robust implementation and used the eye tracker in interesting ways. I was initially very surprised at how well the eye tracker worked in that game, and how seamless and intuitive it was to use without putting any strain on my eyes. This gave me the confidence that we could use this to enhance SOMA.

Once I got a feel for what the technology was capable of, I read through Tobii’s SDK documentation and code samples to figure out how it all worked. In simple terms, the Tobii eye tracker provides a continuous data stream of screen coordinates that represent the location on the screen the user is looking at. Think of it as firing 60+ laser beams per second from your eyes to your monitor. Bring it on, Cyclops!

After I was done feeling like a superhero, I looked into how we could use this in our own engine, HPL3. Since Tobii’s SDK was easy to use, integrating it into HPL3 wasn’t too difficult, especially with the help of our engine programmer Peter.

With the technical aspects more or less dealt with, I started thinking about the design of our eye tracking features, and how we could best make use of this technology to enhance the game. This included brainstorming sessions, quick prototyping and a lot of feedback from the rest of the team.

It quickly became clear that while controlling and moving stuff around on the screen with your eyes is fun, it becomes tiring and uncomfortable really fast. For a good experience, the player must never be actively thinking about using their eyes. Instead, the game should react to the player’s natural eye movements and try to enhance the experience. A negative side effect of this design principle is that unfortunately quite a lot of features become very subtle and hard for the player to notice consciously, despite having an overall positive effect.

The white circle is where the player is looking.

Another interesting aspect of designing these features was how eye tracking could be used in a very immersive first person horror game. Horror games often rely on where the player is looking to trigger certain events, which always means a certain level of uncertainty about whether the player actually registered what was happening on the screen or not. With eye tracking, this uncertainty became very minimal, which meant that the timing of a lot of the events in SOMA naturally improved.

In the end, we ended up with a number of eye tracking features we were happy with. The most noticeable ones are extended view, which makes the viewport pan towards where the player is looking, and the ability to control the flashlight with your eyes. A number of enemies also react to the player’s gaze, such as the flesher monster becoming aggressive when looked at and teleporting when the player blinks, or the deep sea diver stopping when the player maintains eye contact.

Other features are much more subtle and designed to enhance immersion and mood. For example, staring at creepy and gory scenes zooms the screen slightly, giving the impression that Simon is in a trance or shock-like state and can’t look away. When the player looks at enemies, the screen distortion effect intensifies to further discourage players from looking at them.

Additionally there are some really secret ones, such as Ross’ distorted computer messages appearing exactly when the player blinks, to further reinforce how Ross is inside Simon’s head. My personal favorite, however, is a subtle reaction from K8, the incredibly friendly and helpful swimbot, which gives the player a small opportunity to communicate with it.

The developer showcase of eye tracking features.

In summary, working on eye tracking has been an incredibly fun and rewarding experience both because of the challenge, knowledge gained and the creative freedom. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy firing lasers with their eyes? The end result hopefully enhances the SOMA experience, even if just a tiny little bit. So if you have the PC version on Windows and a Tobii eye tracker, consider giving an even more immersive version of SOMA a go!

The official trailer for eye tracking in SOMA.

Eye tracking is just a small part of my work at Frictional though, as I’m currently working on one of our next projects. I’m already really proud of what we’re creating and I’m happier than ever with my choice to follow my dream of making games. We’re all really excited to be able to share more of what we’re doing, but until then we’ll just keep doing our best. This also reminds me it is time for another gaming night, to keep our spirits up!

Quality Frictional Humour™ from a recent Jackbox Party night.

Alex Camilleri: Gameplay Programmer

Who am I?

Hi, my name is Alex and I am one of those people on this planet who make games for a living. I joined Frictional Games almost a year ago as a gameplay programmer & designer, and I am currently working on [REDACTED].

Despite my warm Sicilian blood, I ended up living in this beautiful yet terribly cold place called Sweden, where I obviously work from.

Background

I got exposed to videogames as a kid, watching my dad playing Lucas adventures (that Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis intro sequence will forever be impressed in my memory) and – like most people these days – I just spent a lot of my free time playing games.

I remember that when I was really really young I would draw labyrinths on paper and let my best friend play them as I was adding moving traps and enemies on the go. It was a complete nonsense but I think it’s the earliest somewhat-interactive thing I’ve ever made. It was pretty fun.

During my teenage years it was really clear to me that I wanted to work with games, so I started doing game journalism and with two friends of mine I would spend nights playing games but also making terrible prototypes, studying some programming in our spare time. My first playable game was obviously an extremely generic shoot-em-up with horrible graphics and some keygen music slapped on top.

Figure 1: On the left: me eating while being bored to death with my new programming book. On the right: me probably being overly excited about making something shoot a bullet into something else. I’m also wearing swimming trunks for some reason.

I eventually decided to move to the Netherlands to study and get my bachelor’s degree in Game Design and Production. Living there was a great fun and allowed me to be part of an active gamedev community. I went to gamedev events, met many developers, expanded my network and opened my one-man-company called Kalopsia (hi Josh Homme!). I also joined a lot of game jams, one of which landed me an internship at Guerrilla Cambridge doing some level design on RIGS: Mechanized Combat League for PSVR (at the time the Morpheus prototype was just a bunch of lenses and cables put together with tape).

I ultimately started my own small but very personal project called Memoir En Code: Reissue, which I eventually released on Steam/Humble/GOG (totally not a plug). I worked solo on that project for quite some time, and after the release I felt the need to change gears and work in a team again. A friend of mine told me there was an opening at Frictional Games, and how could I not apply to the company that made SOMA?

Fun fact: after I submitted the work test I travelled to San Francisco for GDC17, and Thomas and Fredrik were there as well. We did not meet in person though, and I ended up spending most of the conference thinking about the test; it was actually a bit stressful and distracting! I found a partner for a new solo project that I was planning to make in case stuff didn’t work out, but I got a positive response from Frictional and I obviously agreed to join the team.

I’m not crazy after all.

What I do

During the first weeks at Frictional I spent my time learning the tools and the overall work pipeline. This resulted in me creating a short psychedelic game where you put out fires by peeing on them, while Slayer music plays in the background. It’s probably the best thing I have made to this date.

At the beginning there was a lot of stuff to learn and take in. But to be honest that was the entire point why I pushed myself into a new environment; you can’t really become a better developer if you don’t expose yourself to new stuff.

After I was done with the intro tasks I quickly jumped into production, working with Aaron (we are officially called the A-Team). He works from the UK, but we have a very clear line of communication; we are fairly independent, but we are always in sync, which is working out very well for us.

I spend most of my days scripting events, moving a door 0.25 units to the left to improve visibility and making that sound play with 0.5s delay because it just feels a bit better. The rest of the day is spent drinking tea with my desk-buddy Max and mostly hoping that nothing breaks. I have also spent some time making small changes to the debug tools we use, just to make the pipeline a bit smoother or a bit more comfortable. I juggle between working from the office and from home, depending on the amount of isolation my brain needs. Being able to do that is a big privilege that has a very positive creative impact on me.

Figure 2: my workstation at home. I have the same desk at the office and the same type of chaos ruling over it.

Stuff that I like

Since designing games is a complete dream-job, I try to keep myself busy by doing other creative things on the side. I spend quite some time doing photography, which I enjoy quite a lot. When I travel I always bring my a7ii with me, practicing and slowly improving over time. Aside from that, I also very much enjoy making music. Some months ago I got a Teenage Engineering OP-1 which I am having tons of fun with, and I am now playing a bit of ukulele.

I guess I won’t be happy if I don’t mention my biggest love. I have a deep (and almost unhealthy) love for anything Kojima makes. Over the years my love for his games went a bit overboard (I am the person behind the Metal Gear Timeline which you should totally check out if you are new to the saga) and now I ended up with a corner of my apartment being completely dedicated to his work. I keep adding stuff to the cabinet and now I probably need a new one after I got some new loot from my recent trip to Hong Kong. I fill my existential void with Metal Gear stuff, I need a doctor.

Oh, and you can find me on Twitter as @AlexKalopsia!

Figure 3: My babies.

Max Lidbeck: Gameplay Programmer

Who am I?

I’m Max, and I do gameplay programming and design. I joined Frictional about a year and a half ago, and I’ve been working on one of our super secret projects since.

Yours truly.

For the first nine months or so I, like everyone else, worked from home. Last summer we got an office set up in the heart of Malmö. Since then the amount of days I spend working from home has reduced greatly, though I still do it from time to time.

Setup at home and at work.

These are my two workspaces, the first one in the office and the other one at home (which is rather bare bones right now, moved in just a couple of days ago!). They’re quite similar; both the computers and the chairs are the same kind. I wanted to be even more consistent and get the same type of desk as the office one at home, a decision that was ultimately overruled by my better half (apparently it doesn’t go with the rest of the decor).

Background

Games have always been a big part of my life. Most of my time growing up was spent either playing games or talking about games. But, for quite a while, my family didn’t have a PC. Which meant I was stuck playing all sorts of old, weird games on rapidly aging Apple computers. One of my earliest gaming memories consist of repeatedly failing at air-hockey, losing to a hideous pig-man in Shufflepuck Cafe on my dad’s old Macintosh.

Eventually I scraped together enough money to put together my first PC, in front of which I would stay rooted for the following years. In addition to playing, I spent a lot of time creating custom content for games with my friends. It was always quite basic though, as I hadn’t learned any programming yet.

For a year or so I studied film and media studies at the university, with a diffuse goal of wanting to work in games down the line. One night my girlfriend gave me a push, and I applied for a three-year game development program at Blekinge Institute of Technology (BTH).

My years at BTH were a mixed bag. On one hand, we had a lot of freedom and got to work on tons of small projects, which was very fun and super rewarding. On the other hand, some courses felt like they were only marginally related to game development. Working on side-projects during your spare time was crucial. I got through it all by finding a good group of like-minded students that I stuck to for the entirety of the education. Our final project was a side-scrolling adventure game called Far Away – you can watch the trailer for it on Youtube.

Perfectly in sync with graduating, I stumbled across a job opening at Frictional and sent in an application. Over the following weeks I answered some additional questions, did a work test and finally had an interview. A couple of days before I would hear from Frictional, I got a job offer from another company in software development. I clumsily explained to them I was waiting on another offer and asked for a few more days. Finally, I got an email from Fredrik and Thomas offering me the job. It was a no-brainer, and I happily accepted.

What I do

My first few weeks at the company consisted of completing a list of introductory tasks, to learn more about the tools and the engine. This was a lot of fun, and culminated in the creation of a silly mini-game where I got to put everything I had learned to the test.

After I had completed the introductory tasks I got to work on Safe Mode for SOMA, which was something I was really excited about — contributing to a game I truly thought was great. From the get-go, we felt it was important to maintain the monsters’ threatening presence in order for their new behaviours to gel with the overall tone of the game. We couldn’t just disable their ability to harm you; doing this would end up breaking immersion (imagine repeatedly throwing a toolbox in Akers’ face and him just standing there, taking it). Instead, we tried to focus on how to best tweak each monster’s behaviour in a manner that suited that particular encounter. For instance, some might eerily walk up to you and size you up, and can even bluff charge you if you’ve strayed too close. To further enforce the behaviours fitting with the world, we decided that if you were to actively mess with monsters (like invading their personal space for too long, hurling trash at them and so on), they should still be able to hurt you, just not kill you. Overall it was a very worthwhile experience, and I’m quite happy with how it all turned out.

Now I’m working on one of our secret projects. As the gameplay programmer/designer workflow has already been described in previous posts I won’t go into detail, but my days in general are spent designing and scripting events and scenes, as well as programming gameplay systems.

The office

Additionally, I thought I’d talk a bit about the differences in working from home compared to working in the office. We’re also gonna do a proper office tour later on, so stay tuned!

This is where the magic happens.

This is our office! Currently, we’re around seven people occupying this space, probably with more to come. It’s quite seldom all of us are here at once though, but there are usually a few people around. And on the off chance that you’re here by yourself one day, fear not; there’s always the noisy, seemingly stiletto heel-wearing, tap-dancing travel agency crew upstairs to keep you company (seriously).

So, it really isn’t all that crowded here. But, seeing as most of us don’t work from the office, we often have meetings over Slack. It can easily get annoying for your desk-mates if you keep babbling on and on in various meetings throughout the day, which is why we’ve set up a separate meeting room. It also moonlights as a test room, complete with a TV, some dev kits and a monster webcam.

The fact that the company is split into people working from home and people working in the office could potentially lead to complications, such as communication issues. In order to prevent this we’ve made sure that all important decisions and discussions still happen over Slack, to keep everyone in the loop. So far this policy has worked well, and the transition has been quite smooth.

In the end, a typical day of work in the office is very similar to one at home. There is of course the added social aspect of working in the same physical space as you colleagues, which is great, but if you one morning feel like you’d rather stay at home and work, you can. Having this option every day really is quite luxurious.

Other than this, and the requirement to wear pants, the routines of working in the office and and working from home differ very little.

Meet Fredrik, our executive producer!

Although it’s been awfully silent here for a while, all of the Frictional Games’ team is working hard on new things. Unfortunately, we can’t share anything with you at the moment, but yes – there’s two projects in the pipeline, and we are very excited about both of them.

In 2015 SOMA was published after years of hard work, followed by the release of both SOMA and Amnesia: Collection on Playstation 4.

But everyone who’s ever worked on, and shipped a project, knows there’s a deep void that will present itself as soon as the confetti has landed and the champagne bottles are emptied. 

This is when you need some magic in order to kickstart the team again. It’s time to start generating ideas, work on concepts and make sure everyone finds his or her place in the project. If you happen to have not only a producer, but an executive producer on board, this is the perfect time to make the most of it. And here’s where Frictional Games is lucky, because since late 2015, there is such a person on the team, and it’s about time to get to know Fredrik Olsson a little bit better.

So, who are you, really?

Well, I guess I like to think of myself as a fun-loving and easy-going guy who strives towards creativity on an exceptional level. Over the course of my career I’ve learnt, about myself, that I am not truly happy unless I am involved in something that sets out to break boundaries and creates something truly unique. Games have been one of my main interests ever since my father brought our first gaming console, an Intellivision (yes I am getting old!), into our lives already in my pre-teens. I immediately fell in love with games as a concept and it stuck with me and developed further through basically all of the upcoming technology generations (Commodore 64, Atari ST, PC, Atari Lynx, Playstation, PSP, PS2, XBOX 360 and now eventually PS4). I guess I didn’t see it at that time, but clear signs that I was destined for the gaming industry was already there in my early teens. In addition to the late nights playing games, I spent a tremendous amount of time learning the first version of 3D Studio (without access to a handbook or tutorials) and creating 3D art and animations.

At the age of 17 I started realizing that the gaming industry was where I needed to be and I started looking for the next step to realizing that dream. At that time however, educations focusing on game development was basically nonexistent, and my personal development went on a slight detour. Having spent 4,5 years at the University studying “System Science”, I got a job at the Swedish branch of Toyota’s forklift business where I quickly got the position of International Project Manager. My role focused on the implementation of system support for the order, sales and marketing processes of the European sales-subsidiaries of the company. Even though the experiences I had at Toyota was very challenging and rewarding it was eventually the high amount of travelling that made me leave. Travelling basically every week was taking its toll on me and more regional positions within that company didn’t seem as interesting to me as the more international ones. Feeling forced to look for new challenges elsewhere I quit Toyota and became a team manager and business consultant at a medium sized IT consultancy company in Stockholm.

It was after little more than one and a half year in the IT consultancy business that it happened. One of my old bosses and friends at Toyota got tired of hearing me talk about this idea for a game that I had carried with me from my teens, and he started pushing me into doing something about it. He probed me on the idea and business model and together we fleshed out a business case for it. We eventually reached a point where our technical knowledge wasn’t sufficient and in order to assess the idea from a technical perspective we brought it to one of my brother’s oldest friends and he, quite surprisingly, displayed a very strong interest in the project. Before I knew it, in the year of 2007, I had quit my well paid job in the IT consultancy business and, together with my brother’s friend, set out to pursue the strongest of all my childhood dreams. Together, with financial backup from my father’s small company and with the facilitation of offshore outsourcing in Ukraine, we created an online multiplayer turn-based football game (!) called Footballidentity based on the vision of being able to play the role of a football player in a realistic football world fully populated by other users. The project has been a hell of a ride and a character-defining experience, for me personally. It’s a truly unique concept and when we started out we had no idea of how it would be received by the world. But now 7 years after the initial release the thing I cherish the most is all the love and dedication we’ve seen from the community (even if it never grew into any huge numbers). It’s been amazing to see how something that was originally an idea for a game that I had dreamt of playing myself, managed to create some extremely strong and long lasting sensations for all those that gave this unusual 11vs11 player experience a shot.

In 2014 Footballidentity had turned quite out-of-date. The user-base had started deteriorating and we didn’t have the resources needed to continue develop and modernize it. Several investors were showing interest in what we had created. They were especially impressed by the very long lifespan of active users (many users are still playing since 2009-2010) and the size of the sharks (multiple users spent as much as 1000 EUR on additional features even though the game was free to play). In the end the uniqueness and lack of similar games resulted in none of the investors having the guts to invest in us and we had to face the music and realize that the game wouldn’t be going to the next level. So me and my co-founder decided to pursue new challenges (while maintaining the football game on our spare-time), and in May 2014 I took a job as a producer at Tarsier Studios in Malmö. This was an extremely interesting time as I, for little more than one and a half year, got to work with an extremely talented bunch of people, as co-producer (together with Media Molecule) on the Tearaway Unfolded project and later also a short period on, the soon to be released, Little Nightmares title.

In 2015 however, the opportunity to take on the role of Executive Producer here at Frictional arose and it was an opportunity I just had to pursue. The role and the character of the company felt like a perfect match for me. An environment where my personality and experience would come to be of best use and Frictional Game has been my home since the 1st of December 2015.

So, from having dreamt of working with games as a youngster, my career took a somewhat unusual detour before eventually landing me back in the environment where I’ve always felt I belong. You might ask if I ever feel that the 7-year detour was a waste of time, but I can honestly say that I feel the absolute opposite. Working in more traditional and mature industries (forklifts and IT-consultancy), in differently sized companies (from 8000 to 60 to 2 employees) and having started my own small studio have given me experience that I cherish an awful lot in my everyday work. I think it has played a big part in forming me into the person, employee and coworker that I am and a more “straight” career within the still very immature gaming industry would have made it a lot more difficult to build up the backbone mentality and frame of reference that fuels my way of work and way of thinking, every day.

That’s my life story right there! I guess I could add to that by mentioning a few cornerstones that seems to always guide the way I approach work. The most distinct ones I’d say would be professionalism, creativity and humour. Professionalism; always try to do the very best you can and approach people with helpfulness in every situation, even if it might not always seem to be your responsibility to help out. Creativity; not only strive for creating something unique but also try and approach problem solving and opportunities with creativity and openness to taking new paths. Humour; I believe that a workplace where humour, joking and lightheartedness is regarded as unnecessary or even obstructive, is never going to reach its full potential. In my mind those aspects (without them going overboard of course) are key to establishing prosperous working-relations and good communication within a team, something that in turn leads to efficiency and quality in the long-run.

Tell us – what was your first impression when you started working at Frictional Games?

The same day as I started working at Frictional, the co-founder and creative director at the company, Thomas Grip, was going to give a talk about game design at an event here in Malmö. It was a perfect opportunity to get to know him a bit better so I decided to attend that talk. A few days after that I remember saying to someone that I felt I had learnt more about, and had gotten a much more interesting perspective on, game design during my first day at Frictional, than I had gotten in all those years running up to that. I’d say that’s quite an awesome (but rare) first impression when kicking off a new job! Those feelings have only continued growing from there, and that’s not only thanks to Thomas but also thanks to the brilliant, dedicated and often exceptionally strange minds of the rest of the team. I am not exaggerating when I say that I get amazed almost every day about the quality, creativity and efficiency that the team displays, whether it’s in concepting, environment art, design, writing or sound.

Another thing that struck me early on was the fact that the team seemed so in sync even though the whole team was distributed all over Sweden and Europe. Not only with regards to the daily routines and communication on Slack but also when it came down to the creative ambitions and mutual understanding of tasks and goals. From those perspectives it all felt a lot more like a well-oiled machinery than I had expected to find before starting. I felt that the only thing missing was a bit more structure, some clearer processes and a tad more transparency, especially when keeping in mind where the company is heading and the challenges that lies ahead.

GDC 2016 with the team

What can you say about the future of Frictional Games?

Frictional is going through a really interesting phase right now. The company is becoming a “two-project studio” with two projects always running simultaneously and seamlessly alternating between pre-production and production. Apart from having to grow the team slightly, something that has taken (and is still taking) a lot of our focus, there’s also a strong demand for a change in team structure. Instead of having one person master-minding basically everything from high level design down to specific level-design we are putting in place a structure with a dedicated leads-team (for high level design, story and art direction) and something we call task-forces (for level-design, scripting- and art-implementation). Responsibility and influence over the game is being distributed out to every part of the team (even though the leads team always have the final say) and we like to look at it as utilizing the collective brainpower of the whole team instead of only that of a few individuals. All of this might sound easy on paper but it does in fact create a lot of new requirements when it comes to processes, communication, transparency and knowledge sharing, and they all need to be fulfilled without smothering the awesome creativity that already resides within the team. It is safe to say that this is a challenge that’s not to be taken lightly, but one that will generate tremendous value if managed successfully. Being able to run two projects in parallel of course carries a strong financial value in itself, but more shared responsibility, multiplied creativity and a higher degree of communication and collaboration, is bound to result in an improved output both in quality and productivity. Not to mention that less dependency on specific individuals will make the studio less fragile.

What would you say has been the best thing that happened since you became a part of Frictional Games?

Well, many good things have happened since I started here 😉 but if I had to pick one I’d probably say it’s related to some progress we’ve made when it comes to defining the company and what we want to become. A challenge we’ve been facing is the fact that the studio has been suffering a bit from a minor identity crisis. Even though some (hidden) guiding principles have been feeding the work of the studio for some time now, those have not been distilled, clearly defined and communicated as a vision. This has resulted in a certain degree of hybridism in our creations, something that has not only complicated development but also made it difficult to package and market the games. SOMA is the most clearly shining example of this as it sits as a mixture of horror and philosophy. The game has gotten it’s strongest appraisal not from the horror aspects of the game, but from the strong philosophical design, story and narrative. Perhaps the game would have been better off with a clearer focus on the philosophical theme. One might even assume that some people, who would have otherwise appreciated the philosophical theme, will never get to experience it due to them being discouraged by the horror stamp that the game has gotten. I’m happy to say that we’ve made some truly promising progress in this area lately. We’ve recently managed to nail down a clear vision (for the studio) that goes in line with where the studio has been heading and that vision is already fueling (and to some degree dictating) the direction of our ongoing development.

David Satzinger: Art Lead

Hello, my name is David and I’m the “General Purpose Visual Design” person at Frictional Games, and Art Director on one of our new projects. I’m one of the newer members of the team, with only a bit more than 3 years at Frictional under my belt. Originally I joined as a graphic designer to make in-game logos and GUI graphics for the company. My first release with Frictional was Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, for which I made lots of 2D assets.

Before I joined Frictional Games I worked as a freelance Graphic Designer on a few small indie ventures, but mostly paid my rent by painting cherries and lemons for a local slot machine company. I got the job through a friend who was passing their customer on. That is a nice habit in my opinion: if you part with a customer who was nice, pass them on to someone else. The job itself was well-paid and everyone was nice, so I could have just stayed with them for the rest of my life and been content and grow old or something. But ultimately my ambitions got the better of me and in my free time I helped out on indie projects like Kinesthetic Games’s Kung-fu Superstar or Pulsetense’s Solarix. Usually I’d design graphics or do some promo art. Chatting with former Lionhead member and head of Kinesthetic Kostas Zarifis gave me the confidence to make a push for a proper games job. I wrote to about 5 studios a week to see if they’d take me in as a freelance graphic designer or concept artist and Frictional Games answered!

This is my workspace. Normally it’s more cramped on that desk, with a ton of books and notes (and aspirin packets from the dawn of time), but I don’t care enough to bother about keeping it clean.

Before that, I worked for a German TV thinktank, doing a lot of prototyping and pitch writing in different areas. Since I am probably forever bound by contract I can’t really get into any details. In broad strokes it involved creative writing for advertising campaigns, building prototypes in various game engines, concept art, animation, and lower management. Apart from a small flash game (that only went online for the duration of a small Christmas event) and an intro sequence for a local but now defunct  TV show, the pitches and prototypes are rotting away in some corporate dungeon. Nevertheless the time there was important to test my skillset and train for later jobs.

In between I had short gigs in advertising, teaching Photoshop, doing small illustration commissions and giving life-drawing classes (nothing is quite as entertaining as making stuck up people in their early twenties look at real-life genitalia) . But my first real jobs were as a cleaner and dishwasher in Austria after I dropped out of high school and pretty much tried to be the nightmare of any parent or teacher. Fellow artist and partner in crime Anne Pogoda invited me to Berlin and pushed me to apply to a design academy. I got a student loan and finished with a major in art direction and photography a bit more than half a decade ago. Shout out to my AD and photography teacher James Higginson, who gave me the push to go for the hard stuff and taught me not to be content with my own inner status quo.

I don’t really have stuff left from my childhood but these two sketchbooks are from around 2004 and 2006. I was hugely into drawing around that time. My favorite game was Morrowind and together with others we’d create simple mods for it. This was actually the first time I ever thought of creating games. That interest in messing with existing games quickly expanded to Quake 3Doom 3 and so on. When I got away from game community forums and into specific art communities I strayed away from gaming and put most of my focus into illustration for a long time.

That was nice for a while and helped me build some basics. Sadly I was never quite happy with the community, because it started to reek of community vendettas, strong attitudes, and increasingly weird views on the reality of the industry . So I looked at other stuff and the design academy helped with that. Every now and then I still dabble a bit in modding, though. In a nice example of everything repeating itself I got the opportunity to help out the people of the Skywind project with some concept art two years back. Sadly, there wasn’t enough time to get really involved.

A big part of my training was doing a lot of studies from old masters, from life, and the usual “one sketchbook page per day” thing. Lots of repetition to develop an instinct for things. What this approach often lacks, however, is the development of an actual understanding of what you do and what you could do or how to combine things. I’m not a fan of painting for painting’s sake. That all looks pretty eventually, but I think the really interesting stuff only gets created if put in context with an overarching goal or to solve a problem. Essentially, it’s the same as in resistance training – you need more resistance to become stronger.

Nowadays I don’t draw that often anymore or have any significant private projects. However most of Frictional’s projects hit close enough to home that I don’t feel bad about that. I’ve got a big interest in a lot of different things (like animation, 3D, photography, etc.) and have sort of become a jack-of-all-trades. Of course my more specialized skills have taken a toll under that, but in the long run it’s allowed me to have a much wider toolset to attack problems with. Oddly my online presentations are still heavily focused on illustrative skills and probably give a false impression of what I actually do (because of my own laziness. I treat my online portfolio the same way I treat my desk apparently 😛 ).

As for my design philosophy, I really like working with thematic contrasts in a lot of my work. For me it creates a lot of tension where opposing parts are touching each other. Also in my process is always a step that is essentially “doing something else and letting the subconscious worry about the work”, which is something I learned from one of my academy teachers. He advised to do a lot of research and brainstorming and then basically to go out and occupy yourself with something that had no obvious connection to the work. Without knowing it, you’ll create connections or draw inspiration which mutates into something that fits your project. I find this especially useful for a lot of high level design problems such as finding a stylistic direction.

Another huge part for my process is the actual research itself. This usually goes in 3 steps. First, I go to Google and Wikipedia and filter through various forums and blogs to get an idea about the broad strokes and common knowledge of certain things. Then I’ll invest money to buy textbooks on specific topics (if I look into a culture, I get a book about the culture, etc.) and sometimes I’ll also buy various objects like models of machines or tools. The last step is actually going to places. Sadly this isn’t always possible but actually being in a place you research gives you a profoundly better understanding of what you’re dealing with. Don’t go to Google for 10 minutes and take 3 pictures from the image search. That is sloppy and will make your final product less good than it could be. Minimal research leads to design that easily can end up as the lowest common denominator and which has been done to death by other people already. Dedicate a good portion of pre-production to research if possible!

Working in teams is great. For most of my career I’ve been working in teams or looking to work with teams. It doesn’t matter if these people are your friends or if you hate their guts, the creative exchange and working towards a common goal will almost always be more beneficial for the product than going in solo. This is especially true if you can’t show your work-in-progress to the public.

Lastly it always helps if you can bring something personal or biographical into projects. This and research will help to make your product feel more authentic. It’s better to create a simple thing that is comfortable with its own identity than something pretentious.

I like to draw inspiration from a ton of different things, so it might not make sense to list anything in general. At the moment I’m trying to learn a bit about history and engineering, so most of my ideas come from that. Also I recently rewatched the old Berserk anime and so of course would love to do a grimdark fantasy project with a strong focus on interpersonal relationships at the moment (GRIFFIIITH! D: )… until I see something else that’s amazing and want to do something in that vein. I tend to lean more towards darker subject matter which is a bit more experimental and usually something that plays a lot with different kinds of emotions and symbolism.

What else? I like weird and loud music, movies and lifting weights. But enough of me, let’s talk work! Here are some images, and I’ll go a bit into the process behind them. All of these are typical day-to-day work and not the polished stuff we release for marketing reasons that looks all polished (for some of that you can go through my SOMA folder on DeviantArt). Many of them represent the start or middle of a process.

Here is a sample of work I did alongside the big projects. These are assets for the Mac version of Penumbra and Amnesia as well as for the Penumbra Collection. Other stuff included making icons for different applications, creating assets for online stores, working with outsourcers on ARGs, worrying about corporate identity and so on.

Here are some of the steps the title logo for SOMA went through. Given the time this is a preferable process. Of course the game also contains a ton of ‘one-shots’ where you only have a day or maybe just an hour to come up with a solution (I think the Haimatsu logo was one of those). This one was mocked up in Photoshop and later vectorized.

Often when ideas crop up or if we need to find a solution to a problem, Rasmus and I will produce a lot of sketches for brainstorming to home in on what we feel is a good direction. On this you can see ideas for the Robothead, Omicron, the train movie and Catherine.

Next to all the hero props there’re usually a huge number of small items spread across the levels. Many of which you can grab and toss around. If memory serves right, we designed around 200 props over the course of a month at one time in production. All things considered, we’re still a very small team and Rasmus and I are the studio’s only in-house concept artists for most of a project. Even the best planning can go sideways sometimes, and then you’re stuck with a three-people task for one guy. It’s a good thing we came prepared with an established style that’s easy to do, so we were able to make very simple drawings and trust in our outsourcers to interpret things correctly. (This is definitely not always possible. In one of our current projects we can’t do that, and need to apply a much higher quality in the prop concept art. As a matter of fact, the 200 props mayhem was a very big exception.) For example, these are almost all isometric, do only feature flat shading, almost never feature specific texture or material hints, are very uniform in shape, etc.. Then you can do 10 a day quickly and focus on standouts like logo designs or repeating details. These would then be passed on into the hands of our great outsourcing team.

Doing these was actually the very first task I ever did for Frictional. These are actually traced from photos of my own hand.

Like the title logo, the terminal graphics went through a lot of iterations until we arrived at our final version that you see in the game. Note how it used to be a lot flashier. There were also often animated pre-visualizations made to check in advance how things look in motion. In general I prefer to do an animated mockup for technical designs (be it terminals or props).

Another important part alongside testing out iterations through mockups is to actually start putting things into the game. A scripter would implement the graphics in the game and do a first pass on the interactions so I could look at it and do iterations on my graphics or ask for changes. This back and forth is essential for us.

Speaking of back and forth, one of the tasks I liked most during the production of SOMA was to go in, take screenshots of early level builds and overpaint them, suggesting additions or changes. Then the level designer and artists in charge would also bring in their ideas and changes.

Another thing that I did a lot during production was creating isometric concept art. These are very quick to do. Since we are a small team it was easy for us to focus on a visual direction and to keep everyone on the same page. In most cases a black and white isometric design was enough for the level designers and artists to do something great. This only really works when the general style is already set though, or nobody will know what colors and materials are appropriate.

Okey, time to show you some stuff that was discarded during production!

When the flashier GUI designs were still a thing, a lot of the other designs followed that same style. These are some of the examples before we decided to go for a more down-to-earth look.

Now here’s something from our Alpha/Vertical Slice. Instead of the Ark being a supercomputer shot into the emptiness of space, it was actually meant to carry some “uncorrupted” WAU to the asteroid. There the WAU would grow a mass driver engine and push it out of the way. This didn’t fit well with our central themes so we removed it.

Hope you enjoyed the article! We’re working on some amazing things right now and hopefully we’ll be able to share some of it with you soon! If you’re interested, you can hit me up on Twitter @davidsatzinger or Instagram. I mostly post about random stuff or sports though!

People of Frictional: Samuel Justice

Who Am I?

My name is Samuel Justice. I became audio lead here at Frictional Games in February of this year. However, I’ve been directly and indirectly involved with the studio for 3 years. I work from home in a place called Worthing in England – a small seaside town that’s fairly sleepy.

Background

When I was about 10 or 11 I started to get almost unhealthily obsessed with videogames; this carried on throughout my teens. My mother played piano and my father the bass guitar and both enjoyed listening to a lot of music, so I was always surrounded by that as well. 

During high school the obsession with games shifted from playing them to developing them. I would sit and help make Half Life 2 mods and levels whilst watching whatever documentaries I could find about game makers. This became my own little escape. When I left school I went to college to do standard A-levels. College in the UK is unlike the USA – in the UK you can finish high school at 16 and study for 2 years at college, then move on to university. I hated what I was doing and after 5 weeks dropped out and joined a music production course, as I had no idea what I wanted to do longer term. It was during that course that I developed a passion for audio production and sound. And then it clicked! The obsession I had with making games and sound finally could cross paths, and I began to venture into sound design for games.

So during the nights and evenings I experimented, plugging sounds into these mods and seeing what my experiments produced. I joined a few modding teams during this time (Off-Limits, Nuclear Dawn and Iron Grip The Oppression being just a few that I helped sound design). I got really lucky and landed a small contract out of college through my mod links which sustained me for a year. After which I had no money left and saw vacancies in the police – the pay was okay and I saw it as a way to continue doing what I loved on the side and it was great because I was able to afford audio equipment with the pay as well! Not much, mind you.

I continued working in the police for a few years but never fully embraced it – it had never been an ambition of mine. About two years in I started to enjoy it more, and began to think that maybe the police was my calling after all. But I was wrong.

A source modder got in touch and asked if I’d do audio for a title of his. I worked on that, and then the next title, and suddenly I was springboarding from one title to another. 3 months later I made the choice to leave the police: as this was what I was so desperate to do that I wanted to grasp the opportunity!

This led me to finding myself being audio lead on Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and working with Frictional for the first time. I then joined the fantastic audio team at DICE in Sweden and worked on Battlefield 4 and a number of its expansions. After 18 months at DICE I was feeling quite homesick so I decided to return to the UK. Jens had taken the reigns of maintaining Frictional Games as a company, and there was a gap that needed to be filled. I jumped on board knowing that SOMA was an extremely unique title and something that’s going to be quite special. I’d been working on SOMA in the background during my work on A Machine for Pigs. So even though I have only joined the studio full time recently, I have been involved in the title from the early stages.

And that brings me to today… here…  typing this post to you guys.

Life at Frictional

What does an audio lead do on a daily basis at Frictional Games, I hear you ask? No? Well, tough, I’ll tell you anyway.

The bulk of my time is working directly on SOMA and making sure we can deliver the best-sounding game available within the timeframe. But I also manage the small band of Frictional Audio compadres. We have one sound designer (the great and mysterious Tapio Liukkonen), an intern/junior sound designer who goes by the name of Mike Benzie and composer Mikko Tarmia who are all working extremely hard to make sure SOMA sounds great. 

So my time is also split managing their workloads, giving feedback, listening to their feedback and ideas and keeping the lines of communication wide open which is vital when working for a virtual studio.

Once those duties are taken care of I love to get my hands dirty and dive right in and create and implement sound for the game. To a lot of people sound design is a dark art – they understand the process of pointing a microphone at something. But how does it go from that raw recording to a big sound effect… and then how does that get in to the game?

The best analogy for creating a sound is to compare it to cooking – in-game sounds aren’t made from single source sounds, but instead mixed from multiple sources. We’ve created the SOMA sound library at Frictional which contains a large number of custom recordings for us to use as our ingredients.

So, when you have a library of ingredients, the second phase is to think and to ask questions. You need to gather an understanding of the sound you want to make. What kind of environment is it in? What kind of story do I want to tell with this sound? What other sounds does it effect?

Once this is done, the next stage is one of the most important – just listening to the source material. We use a program here called Basehead that is our SFX database and auditioner, for this we can type in (like Google) the kind of sound we want, and it’ll search the SOMA sound library and give us results (we also have to name the files, which makes it vitally important that they are named correctly and comprehensively). This is the “picking ingredients” stage. Once I’ve selected a few sounds that I think are interesting and which could convey the story I want to tell, I’ll drop them into my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). I use a program called Nuendo – there are a lot out there (ProTools, Cubase, Logic, Fruity Loops etc. etc.)  and they all do the same basic thing. Using Nuendo I then manipulate each ingredient until I have something that resembles the sound in my head.

A typical SFX session, each coloured block is a different recording!

Now how do we get this in game? I’m sure many of you reading this are aware that Frictional has a proprietary engine and toolset called HPL (version 3 is being used for SOMA). However the audio side is handled by third-party software called FMOD. HPL and FMOD talk to each other and FMOD provides the toolset to import the sound and attach parameters to it (such as volume, how far away the player should hear it, should it have in game echo etc.). Once this is done, FMOD encodes and generates a file that HPL is then able to read – and we trigger the sound from that file using the scripting system in HPL. Thanks to the fact that HPL updates script on the fly, it makes it very easy to tweak a sound in Nuendo, drop it into FMOD and test it in the game without having to restart anything. Workflow chain is absolutely the most important part when it comes to implementation – otherwise it can take hours just to test a single sound.

This image shows the logic within FMOD for underwater movement sound – this is just one type of movement on one surface!

So there we have it! Now leave me alone: I need to go away and make sounds that will contribute towards a national diaper shortage.

Peter Wester: Engine programmer

Who Am I?

I’m Peter Wester and I have been an Engine Programmer here at Frictional Games since late 2011.

I work from my apartment in Stockholm, Sweden. I used to have a nice big desk, but after getting a PS4 Devkit it has become cramped.

Background

My gaming interest started as a kid when my parents bought a Sega Megadrive and I became obsessed with Sonic the Hedgehog.

On my 12th birthday I got a program called Multimedia Fusion. It was a 2D game maker that didn’t need any coding knowledge. Instead you placed objects on a canvas and gave them existing behaviors to get them to move or collide. I used this to try and recreate my favorite 2D games. The most memorable one was a GTA clone with the goal of killing as many civilians as possible before the timer was up.

This got me interested in how games were made and I started to look for tools to modify other games. Me and my friend would replace all the voice acting in Worms with our own recordings or make custom maps for Counter-Strike.

It wasn’t until high school that I got into programming. After taking a programming course and learning basic C++ I downloaded the Doom 3 SDK and tried to understand the code; eventually I started helping out on a few overly ambitious mods that never got close to being released.

After high school I applied to a game development education at Stockholm’s University. It didn’t turn out to be the best education, but I met a lot of people and started making games from scratch. Three years later me and three of my friends dropped out and started a game company.

Phoenix Spirit – Our second game

We made games for Android and iOS and I was in charge of game design and programming. After releasing two games we got the chance to go to China and meet up with a contact and start a subsidiary there. We made some money and got a few awards but after two years we decided to shut down the company to focus on other things.

Mana Chronicles – Made by our Chinese subsidiary

I started looking for a job and saw a blog post about Frictional hiring an engine programmer. Knowing that Frictional had their own engine and that I wanted to focus on programming I decided to apply.

What do I do?

As an Engine Programmer I take care of the code that makes up the foundation of the game. The game is built on top of this. We’ve separated the engine and game code; this means that the engine can be used for multiple different games. In fact, most of the engine code used for Amnesia: The Dark Descent is still in HPL3 (our latest engine version) and could run the game with a few tweaks.

What an engine needs to provide is different for each title. For instance, SOMA requires a way to simulate physics, to render a believable 3D world, to play sound effects and to support fast iteration of level creation. My job is to make sure all those exist and work as they should.

An Engine Programmer’s job can be broken down to two basic parts: adding features, and supporting existing features. Adding a new feature takes about 1-2 months and goes something like this:

When I added Depth of Field to the engine I started out by researching the subject. I read up on tech blogs and research papers to find the best implementations of Depth of Field. I decided to try out two versions, an expensive bokeh version and a more standard blur based one. After implementing both and getting feedback I decided to go with the blur based version since it was cheaper and fit with our underwater aesthetic. Once completed I added script functions and made a helper class so that the gameplay programmers could add it where it was needed.

Depth of Field – blur visible in the background

Some tech features also need to work in the editor. When I’m done with such a feature I hand it over to Luis who later adds it to the editor in a user-friendly way.

The closer a project gets to the end, more of my time gets spent on supporting and improving the code. This could mean fixing bugs that have been reported or optimizing code to make the game run faster.

I’ll test the game on different hardware and make sure it runs as fast as it should. If it doesn’t I’ll try and figure out what’s causing the game to be slow and then find a solution to that problem.

Steven Redmond: Gameplay Programmer

Steven Redmond is not currently working at Frictional Games.

Who Am I?

I’m Steve, another newcomer to the ranks of Frictional Games from the foggy British Isles. I joined around the same time as Ian give or take a few weeks and, like both Ian and Patrik, am responsible for level and gameplay scripting. 

I’m originally from London, having moved out five years ago and settled in a small village in the Midlands. I’m married and have two daughters who I have to keep out of my room for at least 8 hours a day. So essentially, as an adult about to hit 30, my days involve sitting in a corner of my bedroom on the PC playing with editors and programming languages while trying to keep the family out. Life has a funny habit of coming full circle sometimes!

But before we get on to that, here’s the photo of my workspace:

Until recently I had a tiny desk!

Background

Most of my career up until the past few years has been spent as a Linux systems administrator both as a contractor and full time with ISPs. I started out using computers as a child when my dad gave me a hand-me-down VIC20. All my friends had games consoles, but I was never allowed one. Instead my dad would set me code tasks to complete which would earn me my next upgrade. I went through a C64, Amiga and then on to various low-end Intel-based PCs until I was old enough to get a job and buy my own.

My dad’s friends were completely eccentric hacker-types and he’d take me to visit when I was young. I grew up around people who had hacked valve amplifiers with the cases off and custom-built motion sensors on the doors to their bedsits wired up to a very loud car alarm sitting on top of a bookshelf. There was a semi-constructed motorbike indoors on the first floor of a residential building in Willesden, with lots of computers humming away running Linux all to the sound of Pink Floyd. Hearing my dad and his friends talk about computers and electronics was like listening to some sort of alien language. I didn’t understand a word of it, but I wanted to.

At secondary school I met one guy in particular who I’m still good friends with to this day – Robert. We’d copy our QBASIC games on to floppies to swap at school, learning from each other. During this time we also discovered the editors that came with Duke3D and would share levels we had made. Because of Robert, I got heavily in to adventure games and survival horror. Since I didn’t have a games console, I had no access to all the games played by cool kids. I was able to run an emulator though. Robert let me borrow his Resident Evil 2 Claire disc and I got hooked. It had all the stuff that we liked in adventure games, obscure puzzles, and it also had this really interesting mix of action and survival. Robert didn’t have a memory card, so he would always play these games through on one run without saving. This got us speculating about horror games where you weren’t armed and had to survive using just your wits. Of course since we were young, this was just a dream. We’d have to wait for some smarter people to make that game for us.

After school I ended up going straight into work. I started out in PC repair and went through various support roles before spending about 7 years or so as a Linux Systems Administrator. However, that all came to an end when jobs ended up being cut. The timing was pretty bad: we were expecting a baby, and my fiancée and I were some distance apart – she was finishing up her work contract. I did the sensible thing, moved closer to her, and decided to start down a new path.

I started out writing a shmup using XNA, teaching myself C#. Then I got a job as a game tester at Codemasters. There I met a 3D Artist called Ben, who sold me his PC so I could play more up-to-date games. He wouldn’t shut up about one game in particular – Amnesia.

I downloaded the demo and that was pretty much it. This was the game I wanted when I was back in school. It was moody and grim like other first person games I’d grown up with and it made me use my brain. I bought it and after gritting my teeth and getting through it, then went back and took a trip through the halls of Penumbra. I realised that I cared more about story in games than I’d believed. I wasn’t averse to a good story in games, it’s just that it really mattered how well it was presented and whether there was synergy between plot and gameplay. It was a bit of an eye-opener.

After leaving Codemasters, Ben and I decided to have a go at writing games like this. We survived for a while on contract work while trying our own thing, but none of our bigger projects came to fruition. I could handle the mechanics, but it all felt very shallow without solid design. I kept restarting projects trying to get the formula right; but eventually Ben had to move away, and I had to find full time work. So although it never went anywhere, I’ve still got bits and pieces of prototypes  lying around spanning Japanese folk horror, Asimov sci-fi and dark cyberpunk.

Some remnants that I found kicking around.

Then I stumbled across a job post for Frictional Games; the ideal job, but it took me a while to summon up enough courage to apply. I got stressed out a lot during the long application process and on multiple occasions as the process went on I gave up and told myself I hadn’t got the job, retiring to the bathtub for a sulk. But each time I’d get out of the bath to an email telling me I’d gotten further in the application process. I guess that was to be expected when applying to an indie studio renowned for crafting suspense?

As I got through to the last part of the application process, things took a turn for the worse. My grandmother who I was very close to passed away. I also had a wedding very soon, so things were all over the place. I had to ask to push the interview back which was yet another worry on top as it’s rather unusual to request such a thing during an application process. However as you may guess, the story has a happy ending. I woke up on August 9th ready to get married, and checked my email – I had a job offer. So that turned out to be a pretty good day.

What do I do?

Most of my work is at an extremely high level using the in-house editors created by Luis and AngelScript, the scripting language we’ve embedded. Just like Ian and Patrik, I’m responsible for setting up the events that you’re going to encounter in the game and ensuring that everything in the environment is hooked up correctly. At the moment I don’t do any C++ stuff, but since I’m surrounded by a lot of smart and experienced programmers, there’s a lot of opportunity to learn.

Since other bloggers have already talked about the process of creating the levels and the events that make up our levels, I thought it would be fun to go a little deeper in to what it’s like to actually work on an event and some of the cool features in HPL3 that facilitate this high level approach to creating the game. I sometimes play with the older Amnesia toolset in my spare time, so it’s quite easy to spot where things have improved.

So let’s jump right in to some of the really big differences. One of the most used tools in the scripter’s arsenal is the Area. In Amnesia, you needed to place down an area with the type set to “Script” and then in order to hook up a simple player/area collision you’d end up with a section of your script file that looked a lot like this:

void OnStart()
{
     AddEntityCollideCallback("Player", "AreaOne", "CollideAreaOne", true, 1);
     AddEntityCollideCallback("Player", "AreaTwo", "CollideAreaTwo", true, 1);
}

Now with HPL3 while you can still add and remove collision callbacks and connections at runtime the process is certainly a lot tidier and easier to maintain with regards to setting these things up at the start.

Your old callbacks such as PlayerLookAtCallback and PlayerInteractCallback can still be found under the Basic Callbacks tab but, as you can see, a lot more has been added in HPL3. To set up a basic collision trigger to use in script, we simply have to specify the entities that we want to take into account for the collision and the function name that we want to have called in script. Keep in mind if you have a number of entities that you want to collide with this area, we support wildcards. So if you have a bunch of red cubes you want the player to throw in to a basket, the entities field would have cube_red* and then this works for all matching entities. Lastly, thanks to the handy “Copy” button, we can automatically copy and paste a skeleton method into our script:

bool CollideAreaOne(const tString &in asParent, const tString &in asChild, int alState)
{
     return true;
}

The boolean return type lets us control whether or not the callback will be removed once it has executed, just like the old callback system. The alState parameter tells us whether the player has entered or left the area – there’s no need for multiple functions. Say we want all the lights to turn off when the player enters a bathroom and for the player to remark on just how creepy it was when they exit the area and then disable the callback – we can now do all this inside a single function using a combination of the return value and the state parameter.

bool CollideAreaOne(const tString &in asParent, const tString &in asChild, int alState)
{
     /////////////////////////////
     // Player enters the bathroom 
     // (When alState==1, we've entered the trigger area.)
     if (alState == 1)
     {
          Lamp_SetLit(“Bathroom_Lamps*”,false,true);
          return true; // Allow the callback to run again
     }

     /////////////////////////////
     // Player exits the bathroom and remove callback
     // (When alState==-1, we've left the trigger area.)
     else // alState will be -1
     {
          Voice_Play(“CreepyBathroom”);
          return false; // Remove the callback
     }
}

Obviously while this is one of the most basic events you can script it should hopefully demonstrate that with this new approach it’s a lot easier to be able to write your scripts in the order you mostly expect events to happen without having to move around in the file too much. This, along with many other improvements that follow the KISS principle, makes HPL3 a lot easier to work with than its predecessors.

Another thing that’s particularly useful and considerably easier to implement compared to HPL2 is the timed sequence. Perhaps you remember trying to write an intro sequence and ending up with something that looked like this? Certainly if you’ve ever looked at some of the existing maps you’ll recognise this approach and have probably based some of your own scripts around it:

void TimerIntro(string &in asTimer)
{
     string sEvent = asTimer;
     AddLocalVarInt(sEvent, 1);
     bool bPauseAtStep = false;

     float fEventSpeed = 1.0f;
     switch(GetLocalVarInt(sEvent))
     {
          case 0:
             PlayGuiSound("scare_baby_cry.snt", 0.3f);
             fEventSpeed = 4.0f;
          break;

          case 1:
             FadeIn(5.0f)
             FadeImageTrailTo(1.25f,0.1f);
          break;

          // And many more steps to follow!
  
          default:
               bPauseAtStep = true;
          break;
     }

     if(!bPauseAtStep)
          AddTimer(sEvent, fEventSpeed, sEvent);
}

Although this worked, this was a slightly cumbersome way to work with these timed sequences at the higher level. Now, we have helpers specifically for doing this. How they actually work is a little different. We have a separate helper class which holds the current step as an int and then checks to see if the current step should be run or not. The great thing is that all the inner workings of the sequence helpers are exposed through script so it is always possible to add more functionality and reuse this across all maps.

Here’s how a sequence now looks:

cSequenceStatesData mSequenceBabyCry;
void SequenceBabyCry(const tString &in asTimer)
{
     Sequence_Begin(“SequenceBabyCry”, mSequenceBabyCry);

     if (Sequence_DoStepAndWait(4.0f))
     {
          Sound_PlayGui(“scares/scare_baby_cry”, 0.3f);
     }
     else if (Sequence_DoStepAndWait(3.0f))
     {
          Effect_Fade_In(5.0f);
          Effect_ImageTrail_Start(1.25f,0.1f,10,10);
     }

     // More steps!

     Sequence_End();
}

his is much easier to work with and lets you move things around with ease without having to change as many things if you want to add something later.

Another feature which I’ll praise at least once a month is definitely worth mentioning here. This is where HPL3 really shines for me compared to some other toolsets.

Often it’s been the case where I’d have to stop a game in order to make a change, recompile and then get back to the point that I was at in order to test. This could get old pretty fast, especially when you were after a very specific feel that required some fine tuning.

Almost everything you will ever need is exposed through scripts with HPL3 and if it isn’t, you can easily write it in script. Most of these with a few exceptions can be reloaded at runtime by simply pressing F5 to reload the level. However, HPL3 will also reload your level script on task switch if you want it to. So you can alt tab over to your scripting file to make a few changes, save the file and when you alt tab back to the game you can just test your event again. Add a debug key that resets all the conditions and you’ll find yourself able to tweak values to your hearts content with minimal downtime. However if that still isn’t fast enough for you, the game can be left running and can automatically reload changes in your script file – which is particularly efficient if you’re running a dual monitor setup.

There’s such an extensive list of new features that HPL3 has it would be impossible to list them all here, but in time I suspect all will be revealed.. In the meantime however, if this has gotten you interested in some of the scripting possibilities – you can check out a little more on HPL3 scripting here where Thomas Grip explains some of the other things you can do:

HPL3 Scripting Part 1

HPL3 Scripting Part 2

I think I’ve rambled long enough, so hopefully now you know a little more about me and what I do with the rest of the team. Cheers!

People of Frictional: Ian Thomas

Who am I?

I’m Ian, one of the handful of Brits on the Frictional team. Like Patrik, I’m a level scripter and gameplay programmer. I’m a recent recruit – I only joined Frictional in October 2013, and have been on SOMA since then.

Like everyone else, I work from home. I live in Cardiff in South Wales in a house that was once a butcher’s shop. Kind of appropriate for Frictional, somehow. When we excavated the cavernous and partially-flooded basement, we found a door that led to nowhere. It’s that sort of house.

So here’s the obligatory workspace photo:

Yeah, I know, cluttered! Note how I’ve carefully selected the angle of my screen so that daylight glares right off it. Nice for working on dark, spooky environments, huh?

Background

I’m the old man of the company, and got into the industry by a weird set of diversions. I won’t bore you with the whole thing, but here’s a small selection of the official jobs I’ve had:

  • Run a mask and puppet-making company.
  • Worked in a cartoon studio (the one who made Superted, for the Brits!) in the days when animations were still drawn by hand on paper.
  • Worked in a nut-making factory. You know, like nuts-and-bolts. I’ve still no idea who made the bolts.
  • Headed up the team making the official Fireman Sam CD-ROM in the days when CD-ROMs were a new and exciting thing.
  • Worked in a department licensing people to dig holes in roads, and also licensing people to supervise other people digging holes in roads. Oddly enough, the number of supervisor licenses vastly outstripped the number of people actually licensed to dig, which explains the UK road system.
  • Been chief technical architect for an interactive TV company, designing and building the systems behind a series of interactive TV channels on the Sky platform, when the ‘red button’ was a new and exciting thing.
  • Been co-director of a company making educational games for young kids. We released about 40 interactive titles, a bunch of books and a board game.
  • Worked on a bunch of LEGO console and PC games as a game mechanics coder, where I got to write code for Obi-Wan and Jack Sparrow and Harry Potter and the like.
  • Worked on the port of LittleBigPlanet to the Vita, mostly doing the code behind the touch interface.
  • Worked as narrative designer and gameplay/UI coder on the port of Frozen Synapse to the Vita (which, at the time of writing, still isn’t out).

I grew up in Scotland and started out with computers pretty early on: ZX81, Sinclair QL (I was the customer!), then Amiga 500. I coded from the very first because my ZX81 wouldn’t save or load – which meant I’d type in a program, run it a few times, then turn off the computer and would never see that program again. The QL was pretty much a dead-end, but with no real games for it I had to write my own. The Amiga was an astounding machine. I still miss writing for it, and there were so many superb and iconic games on it. For reasons of Windows-hatred I stayed with that Amiga through University (Computer Science in Glasgow), desperately hoping it’d survive – and then moved on to Sun workstations in the computer labs, where I spent too much time creating and running multi-user text games.

After Uni I moved to the middle of nowhere in Wales, which kind of put paid to any aims I might have had to get into the games industry, and that’s why I made a start on that weird list above.

As you can see from those jobs it took a while to get back on track. But games were what I always wanted to do, and when I’d been running the kids’ games company for a bunch of years I finally went ‘you know what? if I don’t get in now, I’ll regret it’ and made the jump to a triple-A studio.

It wasn’t easy. First I had to convince someone in the games industry to take me on. I had years of coding in a bunch of different languages (including C++, very much still the core requirement in a AAA game coder), so I could show off the tech skills; but I also had to convince them that I knew about games and games code. Traveller’s Tales liked my work test; happily I could talk about Monkey Island and Baldur’s Gate for hours. I think they eventually gave in to shut me up.

LEGO Harry Potter. I forget which title.
LEGO Star Wars III. Anakin’s acting was so much better than in the movies.

Once I’d had enough of LEGO (I know that sounds unlikely), I moved to Double Eleven in Middlesbrough and worked on the Vita when the Vita was still called some Sony codename or other; oddly enough, collaborating with a Swedish company (Tarsier). After LittleBigPlanet I did a fairly hefty narrative rewrite on Frozen Synapse for the Vita; it’ll be interesting to see what it finally turns into when it comes out.

Converting a gamepad-powered editor to a touch editor can’t be hard, right? Right!?
Converting a mouse-and-menu-driven game to sticks-and-touchpad can’t be hard either…

Then comes the bit I’m ashamed about. A friend saw a job at Frictional and asked me if I’d be a reference for him if he applied. Of course I said yes; and then I saw the job description. I asked him if he’d mind terribly much if I applied for it too as it looked ideal for me. He said yes, we both applied, and I got the job. I’m not sure if he’s forgiven me yet. (I don’t recommend having to do a work test in the spare moments of a project crunch, by the way!)

Ah, I’ve missed something, haven’t I? Why would Double Eleven let me do a narrative rewrite on a title?

Shameless plug!

It’s pretty straightforward. The list of jobs up at the top of the page have been my day jobs. By night *puts on hat and cape* I’ve been doing things with story for about twenty years. All sorts of things. I’ve written feature film scripts – one got made into a full-length film last year, and another shoots this summer. I’ve written books, including kids’ books about Cthulhu. I’ve written and designed narrative for games, and have spent many years writing and running live-action events and interactives of all sorts. So it’s nice to be able to bring some of that into the games I’m working on.

I should set the record straight, though, as some games journalists have got that wrong – I don’t do any of the writing or narrative design for SOMA (other than the usual brainstorms the whole company gets into). Mike is our writer, and Mike and Thomas deal with the overall story. I just occasionally edit people’s blogs for typos. 🙂 I still do narrative design & writing – just not for Frictional.

What do Iwe do?

This section could be a bit bare, because Patrik’s already given you folks a rough idea of the level scripting process for SOMA. And that’s pretty much what I do. So instead, the guys suggested I write a little bit about how we deal with working remotely.

For those who haven’t realised it, Frictional doesn’t have an office. Everyone in the company is remote. While most people are in Sweden, we now have four guys in the UK and one in Spain, and everyone works from home. Everyone also speaks English, which is really useful for me but also brings on the old colonial guilt.

We have textual Skype running constantly, split into a few chat rooms. The main one is normally full of weird links and discussions about which is the best game to be playing on Steam at the moment. I guess it takes the place of people arguing around the coffee machine in an office. Then there’s a chat room for level scripting and design; one for programming; one for art, and we set up whatever other rooms we need for whatever else is going on.

So despite us all being in different places, there’s a constant sense of presence – people are always commenting and chatting via text on Skype, asking each other questions about the game, complaining about bugs, or posting Luis’s Grunt-pinup pictures. 

Then every Friday morning we have a group audio call, where Thomas goes through any general company news and then everyone chats through what they’ve been up to that week. Luis will say he’s been fixing editor bugs in an Eeyore-kind-of-voice, because that’s what he says every week. Someone will be asked to talk, we’ll hear nothing for a while, and then that person will realise they’re on mute. Someone else’s Skype connection will drop constantly. Thomas’s young son will join the conversation with loud squealing, or end it prematurely. Jens, for reasons no-one quite understands, will be mysteriously busy during the meeting. I think he has an allergy. But it all kind of works – it gives you a good overview of what’s going on and it’s good to hear people’s voices. Although it was a weird experience meeting everyone physically for the first time at GDC this year – everyone was about ten years younger than I expected.

Outside of the regular meetings we often have brainstorming audio sessions with Thomas when about to start on new levels or when trying to work through some particularly tricky gameplay problem. (“But look, if Simon could ride a unicycle then this puzzle would be a lot easier – can’t we get Mike to write an underwater circus background into the story?”)

Moving away from Skype, we have a shared wiki where we keep the engine documentation, workflow & pipeline information, and design documentation. We use Google Docs a lot, but generally for more temporary stuff such as the feedback notes everyone in the company gives after trying out a level. All our code and assets are stored in Subversion, along with things like Mike’s scripts. We make use of Dropbox for sharing assets with contractors and freelancers.

For general project and task management we’ve recently moved to Trello, which is a very simple task-management system where you lay out things on virtual index cards – essentially a well-organised Todo list. Before that we were relying on a much more complex task tracker and a series of Google Docs; Trello has simplified that dramatically. Also it has a Pirate mode. Every productivity tool should have a Pirate mode.

We also have something called S&T – Show and Tell. Every so often we have a milestone for a level, after it’s been worked on for a few weeks. At that point it should be playable, and everyone in the company spends a couple of hours together playing through it and writing their impressions into a feedback document. So everyone gets a say about whether they think the level is working on all counts – art, gameplay, sound, story, general atmosphere. We’ll often have Skype discussion based on that feedback doc and throw ideas around. Then Thomas will do a pass through the comments and mark which things he considers important and which are nice-to-haves. They’ll turn into Trello cards for the different people working on the level. (S&T also applies to engine and editor code – it’s just that levels are easier to explain!)

This means that unlike some bigger companies, everyone here gets to comment on the direction the game is taking. It’s fantastic – you’re not just a cog in the machine, faithfully doing what gets handed down to you by the design department. 😉 You also get to see the whole game as it develops instead of working on isolated levels or features.

So, how is it compared to working in an office? It’s really not that different. It’s easier to tune out noise when you’re trying to concentrate on getting something done – you just ignore the ten posts about E3 reveals that have just gone past. It’s very easy to talk to someone else – easier than it was being in an office of three hundred people, really, because by the time you’d trekked down three floors to talk to the rendering team they’d all gone out to lunch. You can play your own music. You can eat garlic-flavoured snacks.

Other companies shy away from remote working, partly because they worry about people being out of the loop. I’ve been in situations in the past where I was the only remote worker and everyone else was in an office. That really sucks. But because there is no central office and none of us really have anyone else to be talking to during the working day, it feels like a nice tight-knit group here.

And that’s the other argument I hear – mostly from bosses – about remote working. “How could we trust that people were getting on with their work?” It’s pretty simple, really – it is about trust. If you don’t trust your staff (whether they’re in an office or not) then why did you hire them? If you know everyone is into the project, engaged in it, and wants to make a great game, then you don’t have to stand over them checking up on them all the time. 

I’ve waffled on long enough. I hope that gives you a little insight into how we keep it together. Cheers!