Guerrilla Spotlight: Astrid Huntjens

Growing up, Astrid Huntjens put her creativity to work on all kinds of projects. It led her to production at Guerrilla, where her love of creating things culminated in her people-focused role.

Astrid shares with us all the places her imagination led her as a child, her path in game development, and what it’s like being a Tech Producer.

Hi Astrid! We’re excited to talk with you – let’s kick things off with a little bit about you. Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi! I’m Astrid and I’m a Tech Producer at Guerrilla. I was born and raised here in the Netherlands. My mother is Thai and my dad is Dutch, and together they run a Thai/Dutch translation agency.

When I was younger, my parents both used to teach. It’s how I got into games: my dad taught programming his whole life at a local university and this introduced me to computers. He enjoyed gaming and this truly shaped my love for games. One of my favorites is Tetris, especially multiplayer – instantly fun and satisfying!

It’s so great that you discovered your love of games so early. What other interests did you have while growing up?

As a kid, I was very creative. I expressed my imagination through a lot of different activities. I always pulled in friends and family into my ideas! From piecing together my own radio show to recording sketches with my webcam, drawing comics, and writing stories... I enjoyed storytelling so much.

During my teenage years, I spent all my time writing a collaborative story with a group of online friends. I remember creating videos, comics, songs and whatnot, and I even gave animation a shot. I would basically try whatever means to make my ideas tangible and make sure they always created a judgment-free and encouraging vibe – and this speaks for the kind of person I am today. I probably missed a lot of great parties, but my happy place was right there in my imagination.

You sound like you had a great time with all of these hobbies! How did you decide on game development when it came time to pursue something for your career?

Even with all the hobbies I had growing up, it never crossed my mind that I could pursue any of them as a career. As an 18-year-old about to take my final exams, I was uncertain about my future. But time was ticking – so I thought about settling on Journalism with Computer Science as a fallback, the study my father taught. But I was still unsure of myself, wondering if this was the right path for me.

Then through a friend, I learned about the Game Art study at the School of Arts Utrecht. My perspective on what my future opportunities could be changed instantly. By this point, I’d been playing World of Warcraft for a couple of years – so the thought of creating my own armor got me to apply!

Video games inspiring video game developers – we love to hear it. What was your next step once you realized this?

I enrolled in the program and started my studies as a Game Art student! I later switched to Game Design and Development after my first year when I fell in love with narrative design. I ended up graduating with a thesis and prototype on storytelling through gameplay in casual games. Speaking of video games inspiring video game developers, I wish I had games like Hades to learn from back then!

Fortunate for us that you made your way into games! How did you enter the industry after you finished your studies?

Thanks to a tip from a local game networking lunch, I volunteered at a big gaming conference here in Amsterdam. I knew Spil Games would be at the event, so I made it my mission to strike up a conversation with them. I did and it landed me my very first job in the games industry!

I’ve worked various jobs in games since then, mostly in publishing and producing web and mobile content at studios. I’ve been fortunate to work at Spil Games, Talespin, and Azerion – and now, of course, production at Guerrilla.

So similarly to the way you had different hobbies growing up, you were able to do different kinds of jobs in your career. How do you feel about being a Producer?

Originally, I was looking for a job as a game designer after I graduated but found myself as a content manager at Spil Games. I didn’t know that I’d be able to apply my game design knowledge while talking to indie developers about publishing their games. Through that job, I built relationships, provided feedback, and soon, we were creating games together! So it was here that I realized: there’s something truly special about supporting and facilitating people in this shared passion.

So working with teams as a Producer expands my world in all the best ways. Game production facilitates that perfectly for me: I’m a spider weaving a beautiful, complex web, surrounded by inspiring individuals. As long as I can approach my work with empathy and optimism, and connect with people, I’ll happily keep being a Producer for teams.

And what made you want to apply to be a Tech Producer at Guerrilla, specifically?

Over the years, I worked closely with all kinds of Tech-related people. I’ve always enjoyed the collaboration! There is this fun contrast of me not being a programmer, yet having the ability to support wherever needed. So, I wanted to dive more into working with internal Tech teams and Guerrilla’s Tech department sounded really interesting. Tech Art even more so, as they have a visual aspect to their work that really speaks to me. It was a no-brainer when I got offered the position!

Can you tell us more about Tech Production and how it’s different from other production roles?

Being a Tech Producer means that I work with teams in the Tech department. In my case, that's Tech Art and Cinematic Tech - there are many more Tech teams at Guerrilla.

Tech supports and enables content teams to bring their vision to life. We often deal with requests and needs of other teams, from building tools for content creation or making sure everything runs smoothly at 60FPS. That being said, there's a huge sense of agency and creativity in their work as well. Many ideas blossom here: just look at our very own DECIMA engine and Jolt Physics!

Without the Tech teams, we wouldn't have the lush and lively open world experience in Horizon as we know it.

What do you like about being a Producer for these teams?

I’m very people-focused and love that I get to support talented people in their work. It’s such a rewarding feeling to provide visibility and clarity for my teams and help them feel confident in what they should work on. My happiest professional moments are when I can clear blind spots, help someone regain focus on their work, or take away stress by providing a plan.

It’s great knowing I make a difference on these teams, setting things into motion and driving smooth collaborations for everyone. I like to elevate others and provide processes and tools so they achieve their goals, and this has been a recurring theme in my career so far. You have to adapt for teams based on their needs and not force a specific way – everyone and every project is different.

When you’re helping people on a team this way, you must run into some challenging situations from time to time. How do you approach that as a Producer?

Being a Producer means you’re always doing something different. You can’t get too comfortable, but in a good, exciting way: you have to balance all different kinds of projects at once!

It’s challenging to make sure I don’t become a bottleneck to others. The dust never settles for producers. Even when you act on needs quickly and reprioritize an ever-changing list of follow-ups throughout the day, it’s still possible that teams could end up waiting on me. This shouldn’t happen.

Whenever work gets busier, cue the producer to drive consistent communication and keep things on track! It’s pretty tricky when people have no headspace left or feel stressed. The challenge is to not create any more stress, using the processes in place to keep everyone’s progress visible. Work with the needs of your teams – it’ll guarantee the best approach for them!

You must’ve done a lot together! What’s the most favorite thing you’ve worked on here?

That has to be the PlayStation 4 optimization of Horizon Forbidden West. When I joined Guerrilla in June 2021, I was new to console development and I knew I had many things to learn in the Tech department. We had a game to ship, so the learning curve was steep and the onboarding accelerated. Soon, I was running huge cross-disciplinary meetings on the performance of the game, driving daily reviews, and sharing important reports.

It was the best introduction I could have had, learning very quickly how capable and talented our Tech teams are. That experience was like a baptism of fire and I came out of it smarter and stronger, and with a sense of belonging. I’m so proud and amazed at what we achieved together. 

As you should be! Producers are integral on game development teams and we know there are a lot of people out there interested in doing what you do. What’s your advice for them as they look into following this career path?

Don’t be scared to fall on your face! If you don't know something or you feel confused, there's a lot of grace in being open and transparent about that rather than stressing out alone. Others will be willing to teach you as well.

Every seemingly terrifying opportunity will let you grow tenfold, so dare to get out of your comfort zone. These opportunities were the best in hindsight and they eventually gave me the confidence to apply to Guerrilla.

For the aspiring producers, my number one advice is to join the production-focused Discord channel Game Production Community. Go to local network events, watch talks about the discipline, and see if you can imagine yourself being a producer. Once you are able to, you’ll be a lot more convincing to others, especially those who can give you those golden opportunities. Good luck!

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