Friday, 24 February 2017

People of Frictional: 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.

Fredrik in the front, with parts of the well-oiled machinery of Frictional Games.

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 have 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.


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Hiring: Gameplay Programmer / Designer

At Frictional Games we love to make stuff that stands out from the rest of the crowd. Penumbra was a unique combination of horror, physics and adventure gaming. With Amnesia we redefined what horror games can be and helped to kickstart the Let’s Play phenomenon. In SOMA we explored deep subjects in new, unsettling ways. We aim to continue this trend and we’re now looking for another Gameplay Programmer / Level Designer to join our ranks. This is full-time employment, working from home or from our soon-to-be-established hub-office in Malmö. Applicants must be living in Europe and be prepared to move to Sweden in the near future (if you are not already here).


Working with us, your core duty will be to collaborate with artists and other team members in order to design and craft immersive worlds and experiences. At Frictional we do not simply rely on the core mechanics to carry most of the game. What makes or breaks our experiences is the care giving to the all specific level elements. Making sure these are top notch, both in design and implementation, will be your main duty. This includes everything from level layout and pacing to designing and implementing puzzles and smaller events.

Here is a rundown of some of a few more specific tasks you will find yourself doing:
  • Design the layout of a level based on a high level summary.
  • Come up with ways to convey certain story moments in the most efficient manner.
  • Design and implement puzzles so they fit with gameplay, world and story.
  • Script background events that sets the tone for a level.
  • Implement gameplay systems, such as an inventory.
  • Tweak AI to make it behave like you want.
These are far from the only things you’ll be doing when working with us. We’re quite a small team, and we like to see people dabbling with things outside of their expertise and constantly learning new things. The more areas of our development you’re able to take part in, the better.

Of great importance is that fact that you must be able to work from home. Frictional Games currently does not have an office; however, we are planning to set one up in Malmö, hopefully sometime during 2017. You will however decide for yourself how much you’d want to make use of the office, so it’s crucial that you are able to plan your day, take full initiative and work without strict guidance. Because of this, we allow a flexibility that you’ll rarely find in an office environment. 

The most basic requirements are the following:
  • You must live in Europe and be prepared to move to Sweden in the near future.
  • You are fluent in English.
  • You have played a major role in the development and completion of at least one game.
  • You have worked on a game that uses 3D environments.
  • You are well-versed in C++, C#, Java or similar.
  • You have a fast and stable internet connection.
  • You have a Windows PC you can use for work capable of playing recent games (SOMA is a good test case!)
  • You strive for structure, efficiency and clarity.
  • You are extremely self-driven.
  • You like working with varying tasks.
  • Familiar with working in issue-tracking software (such as JIRA) or prepared to learn. 
Additional (non-essential) requirements:
  • You live in or near Malmö or are prepared to move here.
  • You have an interest in narrative games.
  • You are good at writing, drawing or both
  • You have an interest in horror and sci-fi.

If this sounds like the job for you, send your CV and Cover Letter to apply@frictionalgames.com now!


Friday, 16 December 2016

Hiring: 3D Artist

At Frictional Games we love to make stuff that stands out from the rest of the crowd. Penumbra was a unique combination of horror, physics and adventure gaming. With Amnesia we redefined what horror games can be and helped to kickstart the Let’s Play phenomenon. In SOMA we explored deep subjects in new, unsettling ways. We aim to continue this trend and we’re now looking for a 3D Artist to join our ranks. This is a full-time employment, working from home or from our soon-to-be-established hub-office in Malmö. Applicants must be living in Europe and be prepared to move to Sweden in a near future (if you are not already here).


Working closely with our Gameplay Programmers / Designers and putting your modelling, texturing and prop-making skills to use, your main responsibility will be to create breathtaking gameplay environments and player experiences for our upcoming games.

Here is a rundown of some of a few more specific tasks:
  • Make the basic models that make up our levels (walls, floor, etc).Work with designers to design the layout of our levels. Both from a gameplay and artistic perspective.
  • Build whole levels from whitebox to the finished polished product.
  • Model props of various complexity, both with and without the use of previously drawn concept art, often having to take certain gameplay aspects into account.
  • Construct particle systems, both by drawing textures and setting up parameters in our editor.
  • Recreate various effects such as flowing water, fires, etc. by making best use of the tools at your disposal.
  • Collaborate with designers/scripters and come up with the best player experience possible for a particular scene. 
These are far from the only things you’ll be doing when working with us. We’re quite a small team, and we like to see people dabbling with things outside of their expertise and constantly learning new things. The more areas of our development you’re able to take part in, the better.

Of great importance is that fact that you must be able to work from home. Frictional Games currently does not have an office; however, we are planning to set one up in Malmö, hopefully sometime during 2017. You will however decide for yourself how much you’d want to make use of the office, so it’s crucial that you are able to plan your day, take full initiative and work without strict guidance. Because of this, we allow a flexibility that you’ll rarely find in an office environment. 

The most basic requirements are the following:
  • You must live in Europe and be prepared to move to Sweden in the near future.
  • You are fluent in English.
  • You have a fast and stable internet connection and high performance PC.
  • You strive for structure, efficiency and clarity.
  • You are extremely self-driven.
  • You like working with varying tasks.
  • Excellent skills in Maya, 3D Studio Max, Modo or similar software.
  • Know how to use Modo or prepared to learn.
  • Excellent skills in Photoshop or similar software.
  • Familiar with working in issue-tracking software (such as JIRA) or prepared to learn. 
Additional (non-essential) requirements:
  • You live in or near Malmö or are prepared to move here.
  • You love horror, sci-fi and narrative games.
  • You have played a major role in completing at least one game.
  • You have good knowledge of both prop and character animations.
  • You have great free drawing skills.
  • You have experience in level design.
  • You have strong design skills.
If this sounds like the job for you, send your cover letter and CV to apply@frictionalgames.com now!


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Hiring: PR Coordinator / Community Manager

At Frictional Games we love to make stuff that stands out from the rest of the crowd. Penumbra was a unique combination of horror, physics and adventure gaming. With Amnesia we redefined what horror games can be and helped to kickstart the Let’s Play phenomenon. In SOMA we explored deep subjects in new, unsettling ways. We aim to continue this trend. But as we create innovative narrative-focused experiences, and explore how to use the potential of videogames to the fullest, we face an increased need to focus on PR and Community management. We realize that the nature of our creations has a depth that can’t be explained in a few sentences or pictures and that the cores of our upcoming games need to be communicated in a more strategic way. We also realize that we’ve been neglecting our existing community for some time now and we want to be a lot more vocal in all the channels where our fans are listening.

This is why we’re now looking for a PR Coordinator and Community Manager to join our ranks, focus on getting our message across, and also to help us out on our ongoing development in a few other ways. This is a half-time or full-time employment (depending a bit on the applying candidate), working from home or from our soon-to-be-established hub-office in Malmö, Sweden.


Working with us, your main responsibility will be to ensure that Frictional always has a voice and that there’s a continuous flow of communication through the different channels (such as forums, social media, Steam community, PS Live Area etc.). We’d be turning to you to initiate, create and communicate messages of interest from our daily work, meaning you’d need to be fully up to date with what the rest of the team is doing at all times. We’d also rely on you to plan and coordinate everything related to important PR events such as announcements and releases but also everything related to special events (such as mod competitions etc.).

Here is a rundown of some of a few more specific tasks:
  • Working out (together with management) marketing plans for upcoming game projects. 
  • Staying up to date with the rest of the team by listening in on (and contributing to) meetings. 
  • Maintaining continuous communication flow on our forums, social media channels, Steam community and PS Live Area etc. 
  • Coming up with ideas and suggestions for messages to communicate or events to hold through our different channels. Then writing/creating graphics for these - from our existing assets - and coordinating and executing them. 
  • Planning, coordinating and executing trailer creation (with a creator or editor if you don’t have those skills yourself). 
  • Planning, coordinating and contributing to PR statement generation and sendout alongside our PR firm. 
  • Planning and coordinating demo creation with the team. 
  • Planning, coordinating, creating and submitting details to platform stores such as Steam, PS Store etc. 
These are far from the only things you’ll be doing when working with us. We’re a small team, and we like to see people dabbling with things outside of their expertise and constantly learning new stuff. The more areas of our development you’re able to take part in, the better.

Of great importance is that fact that you must be able to work from home. Frictional Games currently does not have an office; however, we are planning to set one up in Malmö, hopefully sometime next year. You will however decide for yourself how much you’d want to make use of the office, so it’s crucial that you are able to plan your day, take full initiative and work without strict guidance. Because of this, we allow a flexibility that you’ll rarely find in an office environment. 

The most basic requirements are the following:
  • You live in Malmö or are prepared to move here. 
  • You are fluent in English and a strong communicator. 
  • You are able to create basic work in Adobe Photoshop. 
  • You love horror, sci-fi and narrative games. 
  • You have an understanding of social media and other game-related communication channels. 
  • You like coming up with new initiatives and running with them. 
  • You have experience of planning and coordinating from previous roles. 
  • You strive for structure, efficiency and clarity. 
  • You are extremely self-driven. 
  • You like working with varying tasks and participating in the different areas of a business. 
Additional (non-essential) requirements:
  • You have a basic understanding of the process of creating a video game. 
  • You have video editing skills and experience. 
  • You have a Windows PC you can use for work capable of playing recent games (SOMA is a good test case!) 
If this sounds like the job for you, send your CV to apply@frictionalgames.com now!


Friday, 21 October 2016

Amnesia Collection PS4 - A FAQ



After our announcement last week that the Amnesia: Collection was coming to the PS4, a bunch of questions appeared across the internet. Because of this, it feels like time for a little FAQ. In case you missed it, here's a link to the trailer.

When is the game coming out?
On November the 22nd!

How much will it cost?
It will cost 29.99 dollars and have a 10% discount for PS+ members the first couple of weeks.

Will there be any differences compared to the PC version?
The biggest difference is that the game will have trophies on PS4. There will also be some minor changes to menus and GUI to make it a bit more console friendly. Other than that the game will look and sound exactly the same as on PC.

Will it come to Xbox One as well?
We would like it to, but for this release we only had the resources to handle one platform at a time, and we're already familiar with the PS4.

What about a physical release?
It would be awesome to do that, but there are a bunch of complications. We've already had a few publishers mail us to express interest in a boxed version, so we'll pursue those and see what happens.

What languages are supported?
English voice only, and subtitles for English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese and Russian.

Will there be mod support?
Afraid not, it is simply too difficult for a number of tech and legal reasons.

Will Amnesia have VR support soon?
We're not planning VR support for Amnesia. It would require substantial re-engineering, not to mention redesign of the gameplay.

What is the resolution and framerate?
All games will be 1080p. The Dark Descent and Justine will run at 60 fps. We are having some performance issues with A Machine for Pigs and might have to settle with 30 fps for it. Our porting team is working hard to get it up to 60 fps though, but we cannot promise we can do it.

Will the game have a frame around it like in the trailer?
No. That was just to make it clear that it wasn't our footage being shown, it belonged to the streamers we featured. Sorry if we made this unclear.

Why does the trailer only contain old Youtube footage?
There's already a huge amount of gameplay footage for Amnesia online and it felt boring to just do another standard trailer. We felt we wanted to make something different and got the idea of showing off some early Let's Plays, given that Amnesia was released around the time of the first explosion of the Let's Play phenomenon. The idea was to make something similar to this one for the movie [Rec].

Why does the trailer only contain The Dark Descent footage?
Because the other two games came afterwards when Let's Plays were already a widespread phenomenon. We wanted some early videos that captured more "genuine" reactions. We'll release a proper trailer closer to publish date.


That should cover most of it! You can also find more information in this Playstation blog post. And if you have more questions, ask them in the comments!


Thursday, 29 September 2016

People of Frictional: David Satzinger



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.


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 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!

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 3, Doom 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 :P ).


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!


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