Today’s Inside the Vault is with Craig Lafferty, one of our senior producers. Craig is the producer responsible for all our artists. We use a matrix structure on the team – so in Craig’s case, he serves as both the producer for the art staff (he has two associate producers to help him manage our huge art dept), and as a lead producer for projects (Shivering Isles, Oblivion PS3). In fact, our PS3 fans out there will be happy to know Craig is also helping out with getting Shivering Isles working on the PS3 (Hopefully, Pete will be able to have more to say soon, but please know that we are working on it best we can.)
What’s your job at Bethesda?
I’m a Producer, which means different things depending on the project. Right now I’m the producer responsible for the art department, who are all working on Fallout 3. Before that I was lead producer on the PS3 version of Oblivion.
What other games have you worked on?
In the 90′s I worked at Epic Games as PR/Marketing manager and also had my hand in development on titles including Jazz Jackrabbit 2, Tyrian and the original Unreal.
After Epic moved to North Carolina I worked at Legend Entertainment on:
Return to Na Pali (Unreal expansion Pack)
Wheel of Time
Unreal 2: The Awakening
Unreal 2 XMP â€“ (was a really overlooked multiplayer mode for Unreal 2)
At Bethesda I have worked on:
IHRA Professional Drag Racing 2005
IHRA Drag Racing: Sportsman Edition
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for PS3
What is the best part about bring a producer? The worst part?
The best part is probably the fact that I get to be involved in all aspects of a game’s development. I don’t have to focus on just one task but instead get to be involved in everything from initial design to final testing and getting the game out the door. Never a dull moment as I like to say.
The worst part is probably scheduling crunches and telling people either a) what you are working on is going to need to be cut or scaled way back or b) “so, I’m gonna need you to come in on Saturday, M’kay”.
What does a producer do?
In a nutshell, we make sure a game is completed on time, on budget, and delivers the game experience it is supposed to. What we do on a day to day basis changes as the project goes on. Initially it involves a lot of meetings and scheduling, then it becomes heavy duty tracking of assets and the current state of the game, and toward the end it’s all about making sure everything is in the game and it’s bug free (and doesn’t suck). And throughout the entire thing a producer is responsible for playing the game every day and being aware of the state of things, so to speak. And there are lots of miscellaneous tasks that come up from time to time involving giving demos and things for the press or working with the marketing, sales, and legal departments.
What is it like working there?
It’s the most fun real job I’ve ever had. Making games isn’t easy, but it’s a whole lot easier when the people you work with have a sense of humor and also share a passion for games. The people here are all the real deal; very talented people that don’t take themselves too seriously. So while there can be plenty of stress there is hardly ever a day I don’t have at least one laugh out loud conversation with someone.
How did you get into the industry? Do you have any tips for breaking in?
I was working at Marriott HQ (the hotel company) doing SAS Database programming (please, try to contain your excitement) and playing games in my spare time during evenings and weekends. I downloaded the shareware game Jazz Jackrabbit from a little company called Epic MegaGames. (I still can’t believe they dropped the MegaGames part of their name). When I realized they were a local company with their office not far from where I lived, I decided to email them about how much I liked the game and see, if by any chance, they were hiring. Mark Rein responded to my email and said in fact they were hiring, and before I knew it I was leaving the suit and tie world of corporate America and working for a game company making shareware games for the PC. After a few years of releasing successful shareware games like Epic Pinball, One Must Fall and Jazz Jackrabbit 2 we started work on a little game called Unreal and then things really got interesting.
For breaking into the industry the best tips I have are to get involved in the mod community and be active in forums. If you do good work it will speak for itself.
Another way in is through entry level positions like internships and Quality Assurance. If there are skilled people already working for a company they are much more likely to promote from within since they will already be familiar with your skills and work habits.
What would you say is your personal favorite game of all-time?
No way to pick just one, but several that come to mind as my all time favorites are Dark Forces, Halo, Doom, Diablo II, Mario 64, SSX, Half-Life 2, Bioshock and Oblivion.
What games are you looking forward to?
Wow where to start, there seem to be so many big games this holiday. Call of Duty 4, Assassin’s Creed, Rock Band, The Simpson’s Game and Virtua Fighter 5 are probably the one’s I am most looking forward to playing this year. And next year GTA IV and Starcraft 2.
Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Spare time… What’s that? Besides playing games and spending time with my family, music and movies are my other big interests. I have a huge DVD collection and being able to watch part of a favorite movie at any time is always nice. I’ve found Michael Bay movies hold up much better on repeat viewings if you just watch the action scenes and fast forward through the rest of the movie.
Oh, and pawning stray animals unapologetically on artists.
Pitch your dream game.
A first person RPG puzzle shooter. Basically Puzzle Quest with guns and lots of explosions. And Nukes. You can never have enough Nukes in games.