What are your thoughts on the Technical Designer role? Do you find them helpful? Do you prefer TDs that focus on completing the more technically challenging implementations, or those that focus on tooling and helping others? Also how do they compare to other positions during layoffs?

It's funny you ask because my current role is Technical Designer. Over the course of my career, I've swung back and forth across the line between engineering and game design like a pendulum, sometimes leaning more heavily on my technical skills and others depending on my design skills. That likely affects my opinion on the role.

I think that Tech Designers are very helpful as an intermediary in large teams when there's a lot of game system content to be built, but also very helpful to have on a very small team because of the breadth of expertise we can bring across multiple disciplines. We're least useful in the mid-sized teams where there aren't enough other designers to support and the tech designer's role is often better replaced with a full-on gameplay engineer who can handle C++ tasks as well.

I think that a good Tech Designer is a utility player and, as such, should be able to do both develop tool support for other designers and handle challenging technical implementations. For more junior tech designers, I suggest focusing on a single specialization to start with and to try to find both a design mentor and a technical mentor. That way you can grow in both disciplines and integrate the things you learn into your overall style as you go.

When it comes to layoffs, tech designers are a bit harder to replace than normal designers but not as difficult to replace as engineers. They aren't special unicorns like technical artists, but very few roles in the industry are. The more experienced the tech designer, the easier it is to find new work - especially if you have stronger technical skills.

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