What Do Technical Artists Do In Game Development? | Paul Forest | #4

Funsmith Fireside Chats Episode #4

Guest: Paul Forest

Paul Forest is the current Pipeline Technical Director at Amazon Games with the latest release New World. He’s a veteran technical artist and director, who has worked on games across consoles such as

  • Playstation 1
  • Playstation 2
  • Playstation 3
  • Xbox
  • Xbox 360
  • PC.

Notably, he has worked on World of Warcraft and has contributed from the expansion pack Wrath of Lich King all the way to Legion. Overall, Paul is also a rare polymath who’s able to hone his skills as a superb artist and a skilled programmer, in addition to a great understanding of game design.

In this episode, we are exploring what a technical artist actually does and why this role is so important in the making of graphic dense Video Games. We’ll also go into the technical steps necessary to turn a design concept into a playable version with proper graphics, modeling, and animation.

Paul will also share some wisdom on how to grow and thrive as a game development professional, no matter which role you’re in.

Listen to The Full Episode

Podcast Platforms:

gds podcast listen apple podcasts min

gds podcast listen spotify min

gds podcast listen overcast min

Referenced Links & Resources

Connect with Paul Forest:

Instagram | LinkedIn | Website

Connect with Alex:


Connect with Ari:

Instagram | TikTok

Mentioned Resources:

Game Design Skills | Learn Game Design

New World Game | Paul’s New Game

Cyberpunk 2077 | Wikipedia

Free Game Design Learning Resources:

What Does a Video Game Artist Do?

What is Video Game Mechanics (Beginner’s Guide)

How to Become a Video Game Designer

How to Write Game Design Document with Examples

Game Design Portfolio, with Examples (Guide)

Episode Chapters (with Timestamp)

0:00 – Introduction

1:45 – Alex introduces Paul and why he invited him to the podcast

2:32 – The nature and mission of Paul’s work as a tech artist

3:54 – What is iteration time, and how does it relate to quality?

4:39 – Synched models: Growing horns and wings on warlocks

6:08 – Is the job of a tech artist actually boring?

7:01 – The work flow for bringing concepts to life with modelling

8:24 – Advantages of using a base skeleton in animation

10:09 – How governments influence what can and cannot be represented

12:17 – Hands, bones and faces: Increasing presentation quality and visuals

15:07 – How does a pipeline in game development work?

19:18 – Paul’s favourite part of the process

20:31 – Transporter accidents, and how to overcome them

22:55 – Machine learning for facial animation and lip-syncing in “New World”

27:56 – What makes a good concept artist

31:57 – Challenges of game audio design within tight deadlines

34:23 – Python – the default language for machine-learning work

36:00 – The story of how and when Paul learned Python

42:10 – Something Paul learned from somebody he mentored

47:27 – Who were Paul’s mentors over the years?

53:41 – Advice on how to get started as tech artist

More Guest Quotes From This Episode

“Technical art is one of the most vague job descriptions in the industry.” Paul Forest

“One of the big missions that is universal to all Tech Artists is getting that iteration time down so that you can actually try out your ideas as quickly as possible.” Paul Forest

“Everytime you get to test something, everytime you get to try out your idea, the time involved in trying out from playing it in your prototype that’s the thing we want to get to be as short as possible because the more iterations the more turns of the crank, the higher the quality you’re going to get.” Paul Forest

“With Tech Art and Designs it’s more of trying to figure out how we’re gonna do it in the first place.” Paul Forest

“A lot of people often tend to think that Tech Art is a lot of programming or it’s very rigid but it’s a more creative form of art because you have to explore the unknown and be comfortable doing that.” Paul Forest

“Production pipeline is the process from having an idea to a concept to an asset to animate to rigged and animated asset and then finally in the game. Technical pipeline is all of the little steps in between each of those pieces taking the file from the modeler, getting it to the artist, getting the artists’ texture onto the rig, the rig can animate and then finally converting the file into a way that it can actually appear and play inside the game.” Paul Forest

“When you get to the game in the user’s hands and you see that look of delight and you’re in there playing with them —it’s awesome. Absolutely the best part.” Paul Forest

“Concept art doesn’t directly impact the way technical artists deal with things other than as a sanity check like did we hit that target.” Paul Forest

“Tech art team generally is more in the facilitating kind of role.”Paul Forest

“These days, it’s all about python. Python is absolutely in every 3D application. It’s all in the game engines. It’s brilliant because the syntax is simple, it’s very easy to pick up and the philosophy of the language is not tied up in some particular academic theory.” Paul Forest

“An attribute of technical artists is if you don’t stay on top of technology, you are doomed to die.” Paul Forest

“Mentoring is a fantastic activity. It’s true, you learn more from your students than you actually managed to get through their heads and that’s okay.” Paul Forest

“You shouldn’t take a job because you think it’s prestigious or lucrative or whatever. You should take a job because you’re going to get skills out of it.” Paul Forest

“The only skill required is 1) to be able to recognize that you don’t know something; and 2) be able to learn that thing and dive as deep as you need to get the job done.” Paul Forest

“What matters isn’t the technical skill, it’s an attitude and humility towards life to be able to say ‘I don’t know’ and learn.” Paul Forest

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

By the way, whenever you’re ready, here are 3 ways to help you start or level-up your game design career:

1. First Principles of Game Design: Skill Development Program: Join game devs who got hired or promoted across 51 AAA and Indie game studios including Riot, Blizzard, Ubisoft, Bethesda, and etc.

Improve player retention and word of mouth by learning to accurately diagnose why the players are losing interest in any game and how to adjust accordingly – one of the main skills studios hire for.

2. Game Design Mentorship – Get access to live weekly video calls and chat feedback support directly from veteran game designer with 25 years of industry experience (see example sessions).

3. Game Design Career Goal Strategy Workshop: A live workshop to help you figure out exact action steps to reach your goal, whether you aim to

  • Break into the video game industry
  • Get promoted (or pivot) from your current position
  • Ship a successful Indie game

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[STUDIO] Blizzard Entertainment: Content, mechanics, and systems designer

(Creator of Apex Legends & former Creative Director at Respawn)

[GAME] World of Warcraft: MMORPG with 8.5 million average monthly players, won Gamer’s Choice Award – Fan Favorite MMORPG, VGX Award for Best PC Game, Best RPG, and Most Addictive Video Game.

  • Classic:
    • Designed Cosmos UI
    • Designed part of Raid Team for Naxxramas
  • Burning Crusade:
    • Designed the raid bosses Karazhan, Black Temple, Zul’Aman
    • Designed the Outlands content
    • Designed The Underbog including bosses:
      • Hungarfen, Ghaz’an, Swamplord Musel’ik, and The Black Stalker
    • Designed the Hellfire Ramparts final bosses Nazan & Vazruden
    • Designed the Return to Karazhan bosses: Attumen the Huntsman, Big Bad Wolf, Shades of Aran, Netherspite, Nightbane
  • Wrath of the Lich King:
    • Designed quest content, events and PvP areas of Wintergrasp
    • Designed Vehicle system
    • Designed the Death Knight talent trees
    • Designed the Lord Marrowgar raid
  • Cataclysm:
    • Designed quest content
    • Designed Deathwing Overworld encounters
    • Designed Morchok and Rhyolith raid fights
  • Mists of Pandaria: 
    • Overhauled the entire Warlock class – Best player rated version through all expansion packs
    • Designed pet battle combat engine and scripted client scene

[GAME] StarCraft 2: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Diablo 3: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Overwatch: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Hearthstone: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[STUDIO] Riot Games: Systems designer, in-studio game design instructor

(Former Global Communications Lead for League of Legends)
(Former Technical Game Designer at Riot Games)

[GAME] League of Legends: Team-based strategy MOBA with 152 million average active monthly players, won The Game Award for Best Esports Game and BAFTA Best Persistent Game Award.

  • Redesigned Xerath Champion by interfacing with community
  • Reworked the support income system for season 4
  • Redesigned the Ward system
  • Assisted in development of new trinket system
  • Heavily expanded internal tools and features for design team
  • Improved UI indicators to improve clarity of allied behaviour

[OTHER GAMES] Under NDA: Developed multiple unreleased projects in R&D

Game Design Instructor: Coached and mentored associate designers on gameplay and mechanics

[STUDIO] Moon Studios: Senior game designer

(Former Lead Game Designer at Moon Studios)

[GAME] Ori & The Will of The Wisps: 2m total players (423k people finished it) with average 92.8/100 ratings by 23 top game rating sites (including Steam and Nintendo Switch).

  • Designed the weapon and Shard systems
  • Worked on combat balance
  • Designed most of the User Interface

[GAME] Unreleased RPG project

  • Designed core combat
  • High-level design content planning
  • Game systems design
  • Game design documentation
  • Gameplay systems engineering
  • Tools design
  • Photon Quantum implementation of gameplay

[VC FUNDED STARTUP] SnackPass: Social food ordering platform with 500k active users $400m+ valuation

[PROJECT] Tochi: Creative director (hybrid of game design, production and leading the product team)

  • Lead artists, engineers, and animators on the release the gamification system to incentivize long-term customers with social bonds and a shared experience through the app

[CONSULTING] Atomech: Founder / Game Design Consultant

[STUDIOS] Studio Pixanoh + 13 other indie game studios (under NDA):

  • Helped build, train and establish the design teams
  • Established unique combat niche and overall design philosophy
  • Tracked quality, consistency and feedback methods
  • Established company meeting structure and culture

Game Design Keynotes:

(Former Global Head of HR for Wargaming and Riot Games)
  • Tencent Studio
  • Wargaming
  • USC (University of Southern California)
  • RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology)
  • US AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association)
  • UFIEA (University of Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy)
  • West Gaming Foundation
  • Kyoto Computer Gakuin – Kyoto, Japan