With 13 years of experience working at DICE and Frostbite, Technical Director Henrik Karlsson knows the ins and outs of creating and fine-tuning the technical engines that inspire great games.
What is your role at Frostbite?
As Technical Director, I currently work on a layer of the Frostbite engine that we call “Core Systems”. My job is to build a powerful engine that facilitates great gameplay design. I need to know exactly how everything works “under the hood”, and I open up the engine for the game designers so they can get creative with the implementation.
For example, one time we created “loose part” components that marked vehicle parts as “loose” so they shake when driving over bumpy terrain. This same mechanic was later used for the in-game camera, giving the perfect bouncy feel to a truck driver’s seat! It’s like we’re supplying a big chest of Lego pieces, and the designers come up with fantastic creations from those building blocks.
How does your role differ from a traditional game designer?
While being a Technical Director is a different discipline than game design proper, I do see myself as somewhat of a game designer at times. When I had an idea of how to enable great detail while keeping the grand size of the levels that Battlefield is known for, I approached the hurdle from a technical angle before any game designer asked for it. It was a feature for Battlefield 3 that the entire team wanted to see, but the implementation needed to start at the core system level.
What do you enjoy most about working at Frostbite?
I work with Frostbite because I’m extremely competitive. Always striving to deliver the best in your field is a very big challenge, and I think very few jobs outside can offer the same opportunity for growth and learning. All of my colleagues are still kids at heart, and we all share the joy in making a living out of our hobby. I constantly keep an eye on the competition so I know where I need to aim to beat all of them.
What skills are most important to be successful in game design?
Depending on what layer of the engine you work on, you could argue different skills are needed. Someone working as a rendering engineer is probably into visual quality more than I am. What binds us together is our epic stubbornness. We solve stuff. We wrap things up. You need to have a huge capacity for logical thinking, and you need to be a team player.
What is one of the most rewarding aspects of your job?
I love the feeling of wrapping up a project. I remember crunching with the team when shipping Frostbite 2 and Battlefield 3. It was tough, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I can never turn a challenge down, and every game challenges me to perform at my very best.
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