People of NRG: Michal Istok

Introducing Michal, the creative powerhouse behind Way of the Hunter's mesmerizing environments. With over 20 years of experience, the love for his craft remains unwavering.

Among the wonderful people at Nine Rocks Games, meet Michal, the lead environment artist, familiarly called a "mapper!" With over two decades of experience, Michal crafts breathtaking landscapes that players adore in hunting games such as Way of the Hunter. With an eye for authenticity, Michal and his team embark on rigorous research to recreate real-world terrains, flora, and architectural details. "Our ambition is to make players feel like they are really in that landscape, so when they go on holiday to Alaska or Romania, they'll go "oh, I know this place, I've hunted bears here in WotH!"

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Aurora Shores, Way of the Hunter

Leadership work is about balancing creativity with management. It involves making critical decisions on what work to pursue and what to let go of, skillfully dividing tasks among the team, and strategizing to meet deadlines effectively, and within budget.

What hobbies does Michal enjoy outside of work?

I love the freedom and rush of adrenaline that comes with skating, skiing, and riding cars, but above all, flying holds a special place in my heart. Flying gliders, in particular, has been a lifelong dream that I finally turned into a reality a few years ago. Gliding through the skies, and feeling the silence around me, is a remarkable experience despite the challenge of piloting an engineless aircraft. Flying gliders is not just a hobby; it's an inspiring adventure that constantly fuels my passion for exploration and the beauty of the world.

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Michal has been soaring the skies in gliders for quite some time!

What sparked your desire to pursue a game-dev career and create virtual worlds?

As I studied industrial design, the rapid rise of 3D graphics intrigued me greatly, sparking a desire to create virtual worlds. After completing my studies, I delved into visuals. I stumbled upon a job advertisement for a graphic designer position at Cauldron. It was pretty spontaneous, they needed someone to create levels at that time, and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the task. To this day, I remain deeply immersed in the visual aspect of game development, often willing to set technical matters aside, leading to a "delightful" tension between me and the programmers.

What do you enjoy most about being a leader at NRG?

What I cherish most about working at NRG is the unique creative freedom we have. Here, we get to craft the game we genuinely love without any excessive interference. Personally, I feel absolutely unrestrained in my work, and I strive to pass on that sense of liberation to the team, ensuring ample space for creativity. Having experienced more directive environments in the past, I can confidently say that I am living in a golden age of creative autonomy at NRG.

What advice would you give to people who want to work in the games industry, perhaps directly at Nine Rocks Games?

Treat your work like a masterpiece, you know? It's all about that genuine enthusiasm. Follow your heart and go after what sets your soul on fire! When we're hunting for new talent, what really grabs my attention is seeing people totally devoted to their craft, giving it their all. So, embrace your passion, enjoy the creative ride, and trust me, someone's gonna see that spark in you and be blown away by your skills!

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