Inside the Vault: Dane Olds

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Don’t be afraid, kids. It is just Dane Olds, artist, for this week’s Inside the Vault.

What’s your job at Bethesda?
I’m a character artist here at Bethesda. I mainly do modeling and texturing for the weapons in Fallout 3. I also do outfits for characters on occasion.

What other games have you worked on?
I started out in the game industry here at Bethesda. I got my break working as an environment art intern on Shivering Isles. Before I graduated college I worked as a project lead/character artist on a total conversion mod for Half-Life 2 called Forever Bound.

What is the best part about working as an artist? The worst part?
The best part about being an artist for me is seeing my artwork in a game. I love figuring out how objects work, I love the creative process, and I love seeing an idea turn into a piece of art, but at the end of the day seeing my hard work on screen makes everything worth the effort. The worst part about being an artist for me is seeing your work cut from a game. As an artist your work will get cut at some point. Even though it’s for the greater good, to see something you’ve toiled over for hours go into the trash can is always difficult.

How did you get into the industry? Do you have any tips for breaking in?
Trying to break into the video game industry is no small feat. To say that it is difficult is quite the understatement. In high school, I started to gear myself toward getting a job in the industry. I read a lot of gaming publications and learned as much as I could about the different jobs in the business and what I wanted to do. I took all the art classes I could and played a lot of games. I did my first year of college at a community college, that had a small graphics program. There I familiarized myself with 3d Studio Max and Photoshop.

I transferred to the Savannah College of Art and design and enrolled in their Game Development and Interactivity program. From there I spent as much time as I could honing my art skills and working on different game related projects. Myself and a group of other enterprising students started a mod project for Half-Life 2 called Forever Bound. This was an awesome experience and really got us familiar with how a development pipeline works. From there I applied at a ton of different companies and got an opportunity here with Bethesda.

As far as tips for breaking in there are a few things that are very important to keep in mind. The first one is to put your best work forward. If you have an awesome demo reel you are going to have a much easier time talking with prospective employers. The second is make sure that your social skills are up to snuff. This can be difficult for a lot of people but it is key. You have to be able to communicate with a lot of people in this line of work and your social skills are a huge asset in the interviewing and work environments.

Another tip is to not get discouraged. Rejection is an ugly beast and when you are trying to get a job in this industry it WILL rear its ugly head. You have to keep focused and keep trying. Find your weak areas and work on them. Do not let rejection ruin your drive. Keep with it, it might take you a week or a year or longer. In the end, perseverance and a good attitude will take you farther than you can imagine.

Other than that, and I can’t emphasize this enough, go to the Game Developer’s Conference! Sure, it’s expensive, but do what I did and get in early as a CA. You’ll get a free pass to the event and you’ll get to meet more industry types than you can possibly imagine. When I went I worked 8 hours a day as a CA and spent the rest of the time interviewing with companies and drinking all night with developers. Schmooze as much as possible, get to know people, and have fun! I went with a group of friends from college and we had the time of our lives out there. The most important part is that after all the work, and drinking, and schmoozing, we got jobs. Going to GDC was an absolutely integral part of getting into this industry for most of us. The contacts we made there were invaluable. Knowing someone at a company is infinitely better than sending them your stuff cold. If you are trying to break into this industry and there is any possible way you can make it out for the conference, make sure you go.

What would you say is your personal favorite game of all time?
Tough question. I’ve been a gamer my whole life and there have been a number of games that have been extremely influential on me, so it’s hard to pick out one game that is my favorite. When I was a kid I was introduced to games on the NES. Super Mario Bros., Megaman 2, Excitebike, and Double Dragon got me into gaming. Other games that had a big impact on me over the years include Might and Magic 7, Arcanum, Fallout, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Diablo, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and more recently Mass Effect, Stalker, and Team Fortress 2. I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot here, but those are the ones that really stand out to me at the moment.

What games are you looking forward to?
I’m still trying to play catch up from last year’s game blitz. This year I’m looking forward to Too Human, Bionic Commando, Castle Crashers, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7, Borderlands, Left 4 Dead, Rage, Star Craft 2, and of course Fallout 3. I just bought Patapon (which I was looking forward to) and it’s awesome.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
The fact that I’m living my dream. Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to make videogames. Now every morning when I wake up I don’t think “Oh god I have to go to work today.” Instead its “Cool, I get to go to work today.”

Worst job you’ve ever had?
I’ve had some pretty bad jobs. I used to work a night shift driving a fork lift in a warehouse. No heat in the winter, no AC in the summer, and you were always filthy. I had a job for a summer digging trenches to hook up houses to the city sewer. Those kind of jobs are tough, but they build character, so I really can’t complain. Having done that kind of work in the past it makes me really appreciate the awesome job I have now.

It true that you were raised by bears in the Klondike?
No, although some people say I look like a mountain man, or a lumberjack, or a Viking. Which is just fine with me.

Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I’m really into music, I have been since I was a kid. I love pretty much all aspects of Rock & Roll. I’m listening to a lot of Heavy Metal at the moment, but I jump around a lot between Heavy Metal, Rockabilly, Psychobilly, Punk, and Hardcore. I also listen to a lot of Old Timey Country, primarily Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, Sr. I also really like Hank III. I’ve played in several bands since high school and am working on getting a new Death Metal project put together. Other than that, I like to hang out with my friends, go to concerts and movies, and spend time with my girlfriend Amanda.

Reader Comments

  1. Hi Dane. (cool name :P)
    Since you got an internship at Bethesda, would you mind telling us how to write such a letter? To make oneself appear cool and professional?

    By the way, awesome interview!
    Love ‘em.

  2. Fun fact #1: Dane has one of the coolest ‘Black Knight’ costumes in history. So believe he is in fact a former Monty python member.

    Although I would consider Dane more of a Viking since he introduced me (rather forcibly) to the joys of Honey meade.

    Although, I’m sad. You gave no shoutouts to the legendary board game ‘Virus’.

  3. Hi guys, glad to hear you enjoyed the interview. If you are trying to write a letter to get an internship somewhere just make sure to clearly write out all of your strengths and why you would be the very best fit they could possibly find for the position that is posted. Be articulate and let your personality shine through, let your work do the rest of the talking.

  4. What a great and inspiring interview; nice to meet you Dane. You people do realize that this kind of stuff gets read to kids, don’t you? ;) When I run across articles like this, I read them to my kids in hopes that a spark can be ignited, that maybe they’ll pick up a tidbit that they’ll remember and can use in the future, or that they’ll realize that they can achieve whatever they dream too, as long as they put their minds to it.

  5. Quote – Dane Olds
    “Hi guys, glad to hear you enjoyed the interview. If you are trying to write a letter to get an internship somewhere just make sure to clearly write out all of your strengths and why you would be the very best fit they could possibly find for the position that is posted. Be articulate and let your personality shine through, let your work do the rest of the talking.”

    Awesome! Thanks a bunch :D

  6. Nice to meet you too Gankaku. Its really great to hear that a little interview like this could help other people figure out what they want to do. When I was a kid I spent a lot of time drawing my own Mario and Double Dragon levels, creating my own game ideas and putting them down on paper. It was a really fun pass time and the games I was playing actually inspired me to do more art. My parents encouraged me all the way and I am where I am today because of those influences on me when I was a kid.

  7. Great interview! I laughed a lot at the raised by bears quote. :D

    You look so much different with a beard (than you did in that old photo up at the wiki) – not at *all* like the Mean Kitty Song guy any more!

  8. Well, that was an experience that we should not forget. ;) good interview!
    someday I’ll be working there and get my own interview…in ten years maybe.

  9. Awesome inverview! Thanks for sharing.

    You should design yourself into Fallout 3. With a mug like that you could at least run a black market weapons shop or a gang of bandits.

    :)

  10. Dane, the bear tribe is so proud of you! Your cousin people, Brandon, is mighty impresed too. You rock, “little” dude xxx000

  11. Hi Dane,
    I would like share with you my site, since you’re the “weapons guy” in Bethesda, i’ll be honored if that can help you in your work for F3.
    Take a look here plz: http://www.pixagogo.com/DeicideNBF
    It’s mostly comporary modern firearms, but seems there’ll be some in F3 also, so i guess it’s still interesting for you as references. BTW i’ve some nice high-res pics about a real minigun. Anyway, you could mix real weapons parts to create news guns, or use my pics for your textures, as you wish.
    Hope that help.