People of NRG: Anton Mukhataev

Meet Anton: The creative force behind Nine Rocks Games' wildlife adventure!

In this week's edition of People of NRG, we're excited to introduce you to Anton, a dynamic game designer at Nine Rocks Games. With a dash of ambition and a sprinkle of creativity, Anton joined the team just before the much-anticipated release of Way of the Hunter. Since then, he's been the driving force behind some of the game's most captivating features.

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One of Anton's standout contributions has been strategically placing animals and their need zones across Aurora shores and Tikamoon plains. "Yep, if you dislike the new direction, now you know who to blame!" Says Anton with a smile. Anton's role goes beyond decision-making. The design team is quite small, so Anton takes on a wide range of tasks, often handling things that programmers and artists either can't tackle or don't have time. Anton's touch can be felt in every corner of the game as the creative glue that holds things together.

Before discovering his groove at Nine Rocks Games, Anton worked on another game published by THQ Nordic, titled This Is the President. While it might not be a game everyone knows, Anton warmly invites all the curious souls out there to jump in and witness the uncanny accuracy of a couple of those interesting predictions from the game.

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This Is the President, 2021

Anton's daily tasks are an eclectic mix that spans from fixing Arabic mistranslations to enhancing the design of new features, fine-tuning animal behaviors, strategically placing virtual hunting stands, delving into the intricacies of weaponry, meticulously proofreading texts, and even immersing himself in real-life hunting tales to infuse authenticity into his writing. In his dynamic world, no two days ever unfold similarly!

What are you doing in your free time, Anton?

It usually combines collecting, meditating, traveling, and football-adjacent activities. So if I’m not too tired to get up early on my day off, I’m likely to clear my mind with half an hour of mantra-repeating, then travel to a gig of a band I adored as a teenager while watching a recent match at 2x speed and taking notes about formations and automatisms, before finally spending most of the day just exploring the destination, hunting for rare vinyl records, T-shirts, books, etc. So yeah, I can relate to scoring a massive trophy! And yeah #2, the description above is a dramatic exaggeration, but not as big as you may think!

Here are a few facts about Anton that may not be essential but are certainly delightful to know:

What would your perfect weekend look like?

Honestly, just a two-day Pro Evolution Soccer (they call it eFootball now, but I don’t care) tournament party with my old buddies and moderately unhealthy food and drinks. This is something we just cannot do anymore, and I miss those days.

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What's the most interesting place you've ever traveled to, and what did you enjoy most about it?

It's kind of a cliched answer, but really, Japan. Most people mention its traditional culture (along with incredible futuristic teamLab exhibitions), and while I enjoyed it a lot, the arcade game scene also struck a chord with me. I was lucky to visit pre-COVID and experience it before arcades started closing down on a massive scale. I appreciate when I can play video games in their most physical, visceral form, and in Japan, it used to be like nowhere else when it came to scale, range, and availability of arcades. In Europe, at best, you’d score smaller-scale museums or boring mall abominations, so these days, I mostly practice Street Fighter VI moves on a stick.

If you had to choose a video game character as your roommate, who would you pick and why?

Tough one… It's probably Iwazaru from my all-time favorite killer7. Creepy but adorable when you get to know him better, he is there when you need him, speaks mostly in nonsensical catchphrases but gives you style tips before dates, and is unlikely to leave a pile of dirty dishes in the sink or a bathroom clog. He may not even exist, so he sounds like a perfect roommate!

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Creepy but adorable, that's Iwazaru [killer7, 2005]

What's your favorite Easter egg or hidden Way Of The Hunter feature?

There are two layers to this. First, the game has a lot of references to American sitcoms from the 80s and the 90s, and I encourage fans of shows like Seinfeld and Cheers to catch them all. Second, there are some obscure yet hard-to-miss references I make specifically for my friends, so when they tell me they played the game I worked on, I can tell if they are lying!

What's the most challenging aspect of game development, and how do you overcome it?

Getting the job done. There is so much time-sinking potential in game design work that brings no benefits to players, so any designer is better off defining challenging deadlines that force creativity out. It is stressful sometimes, but you don’t stagnate and continue to improve.

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