Senior Technical Designer Marcin Matuszczyk followed his love of video games to tackle technical challenges at Guerrilla
Marcin Matuszczyk sits down to talk about his role as Senior Technical Designer and the discipline as a whole – and how he almost chose another career path as a skateboarder!
Hi Marcin! Can you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Marcin and I’ve been working as a Senior Technical Designer here at Guerrilla for over 3.5 years. I was raised in Rybnik, which is a city very south of Poland.
My background is in IT; I have a bachelor degree in software and internet networks design. I started working in games in 2006, first as a writer of strategy guides. Then in 2009, I got into game development as QA Engineer at Artifex Mundi. I’ve worked for a bunch of other studios since then: Techland, Flying Wild Hog and People Can Fly.
What was the move to Amsterdam like for you?
I left Poland at the end of 2018. I felt a big contrast between Warsaw and Amsterdam – the main thing that blew me away when I first came here was the architecture. I’ve been around many places abroad, but Amsterdam was the first place where I could really see myself living. As a tourist, I never paid attention to that. Here, the buildings have such style and are so interesting. In a way, being here feels like being on vacation all the time.
When did you know you wanted to start working in games?
When I was around 11 years old, I wanted to start making video games after playing Metal Gear Solid. It was the first game for me that took storytelling seriously – it was cinematic and the story had the center stage. After finishing it with my friends, we were very passionate about characters and lore, so we started to come up with our own stories for sequels, cutscenes and characters. One of my friends was even a decent graphic artist, so he was drawing new characters for potential next MGS games.
That passion and feeling that we could be very good at this turned into desire to work on games. But at that time we knew nothing – we all thought that games are only made in Japan and there are no “story people”, only programmers. And the best way to get into the industry is to start as a tester. Over the years, of course I found out that games are made everywhere and there are plenty of other positions. I try to learn programming and math as much as I can, since I heard it’s very useful.
After a few rejections, I got into game development by accidently seeing some details about recruitment for a new studio near my town. I wrote them a very simple email, got an interview and then called them often just to ask if I got the job!
I got sidetracked a bit on my path to get into the gaming industry when I started skateboarding around the same time. I wanted to do it professionally, but I had a moment when I had to choose one path or another. I chose to make games.
Wow! What made you choose games over skateboarding?
Unfortunately, I got more and more injuries from skateboarding – mainly twisted ankles – and I feel the repercussions even now. Even more alarming was that I wasn’t doing extremely dangerous tricks and still got hurt. The breaking point was falling directly on marble with my knee. After that, even walking got very painful, especially going up the stairs. I thought: if these injuries continue, I’d be out of a job as I wouldn’t be able to continue skateboarding. I guess it’s like that with every sport.
If you chose the skateboarding path, do you think you would’ve still found your way to games eventually?
I think so. Over the years, I’ve come to learn just how competitive skateboarding is. To make a living out of it, you really have to be on top of it. I think I had a shot at making a career out of it: some skate shops were interested in sponsoring me (although I blew it because I had to go to school)! In the end, I knew I’d have to quit eventually. And I chose the path in games, because I was always passionate about games.
You mentioned starting out as a game tester. How did you make your way into technical design? And what is technical design, for those who don’t know what it is?
Technical design is a mixture of design and scripting, and a bit of tech art with tech animation. We make various interactive objects and set pieces, which includes making setup in engine and Maya, script logic and also rig and animate if needed.
The release of Unreal Engine 4 sparked my interest in technical design. The ease of creating something playable that fast got me hooked right away, especially because I worked in Unreal Development Kit before and it gave me an advantage. I was exploring various tools, making gameplay mechanics and just learning as much as I could.
With this, I started making my own game – which led to making a game framework for Unreal Marketplace to earn money to hire some help. After releasing my package, I spoke to People Can Fly if they needed a technical designer – this way I could use my knowledge since they work in UE4. I got the job and have been doing this ever since!
What does a Technical Designer do at Guerrilla?
At Guerrilla, Technical Designers collaborate almost with every team, though I think mostly with artists and designers. We make various technical complex setups: from doors opening, prying rocks, to puzzles, Tallnecks and set pieces. For example, in Horizon Forbidden West technical design would be the Cauldron IOTA ending’s set piece.
It sounds like technical design touches on a lot. Can you tell us a bit more about your role – what are some challenges and what do you enjoy about it?
I think most challenges are when we have to tie down various systems, using various tools, like ragdoll physics, camera animation and machine animation.
The thing I enjoy the most about my role is collaborating with talented people from various disciplines to make something fun to play and awe-inspiring to look at!
What would you tell someone who’s interested in considering technical design?
Learn about various tools and how to make something playable in engines. The good part about starting your learning in technical design is that there are free engines and there are tons of learning materials and examples online.
Take a course of basics in animation, rigging and modeling in Maya. Also, learning how to make something functional in any programming language should help. The more you know about other disciplines, then it will be much easier to communicate with other developers.
How do you see technical design evolving in the next few years?
Since games are bigger and more complex, there are more specialized developers like somebody who works only on clouds, water, hair, swimming, traversal, etc. In my opinion, the same thing will happen with technical design, where somebody will work only in melee combat, streaming, set pieces, skills, etc. It will get more complex for every other discipline, since the games we want to make are the best games possible and top of the competition!