Inside the Vault: Emil Pagliarulo (Redux)

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This week’s Inside the Vault revisits Fallout 3 Lead Designer, Emil Pagliarulo. I thought it would be fun to do a Q&A that was a bit different. So, before heading down past the break, gentle readers, let me know if this slight change of pace is a good one or not. We have lots more Q&A’s with developers on the team coming up, too.

You’ve lived in a few cities – Boston, Austin, etc… What do you miss most of about each of the places you’ve lived.
Boston is and always will be my home. Nothing beats it. Fenway, Faneuil Hall, Boston Common, Castle Island in Southie, getting a Dunkin’s coffee on any street corner, the sense of history that pervades the very air. Wow, I’m getting homsesick just thinking about it.

Now Austin… Austin is an amazing city. The whole place has such a cool, progressive geek vibe, and it’s hard for me not to miss places like the Alamo Drafthouse or Chuy’s (or Trudy’s, for that matter). It was a great place for raising kids, too, and had all those elements you’d want as a parent — it’s clean, safe, has lots of interesting places and activities, etc.

The NPD data for March reported that the video game industry in North America sold $1.7 billion in hardware and software, that’s a 51% increase from a year ago. Do you think it would be fair to say the industry is “recession” proof? Or is it more that we’re heading into an upswing and it’s just part of the cycles our industry goes through?
Because of the growing popularity of video games, I do indeed think the industry as a whole is recession proof, but that’s more of a high level financial statement. It doesn’t mean a hell of a lot for the people who work for companies that suddenly go under. That seems to have been happening a lot lately, and my heart really goes out to those guys.

I think we sometimes forget how young this industry really is. We’re experiencing the kind of exponential growth the film industry experienced in its early days, and with that comes a lot of growing pains — cancelled projects, studio closures, what have you.

So for the end user, it’s great. All video games, all the time. Steady releases at Christmas, sequels to your favorite games pretty regularly, even revivals of old licenses like what we’re doing with Fallout 3. I don’t see that ever ending. But I think for the people working in the industry, there will continue to be trials and tribulations for quite some time.

How frakking cool is the Fallout 3 Collector’s Edition?
Personally, I only get a Collector’s Edition of a game if it comes with something substantial. The lockbox and duffel bag for GTA IV, for example.

So I was really psyched when I learned we were doing the bobblehead and lunchbox, similar the ones we included in the press kit for our big announcement event several months ago. That’s some really sweet Fallout swag, yeah.

Lately, you’ve been a bit more active on our forums, relatively speaking. How do you filter through the signal to noise?
Right now, everyone is hungry for information. Whether it’s an Oblivion fan, or a fan of the old Fallout games, or just someone who’s new to the forums and wants to know what Fallout 3 is all about — everyone has a million questions, and wants a lot of detail.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of detail I’m at liberty to give right now. So what I generally look for are discussions about issues we have addressed publicly in some capacity. I like to make sure that information – the information we’ve already released – is getting disseminated accurately. Because, you know, with all the previews and forum posts, and can be like a big game of “telephone” — information gets modified in its retelling, until you occasionally (and unfortunately) arrive at a bit of complete misinformation.

That’s the kind of stuff I look for, and like to clear up. But I also like to generally check out all the cool conversations taking place, all the debates people are having. So even when I don’t respond, I’m always lurking. Always waaatttccchhiinngggg….

If you could pick one Infocom text adventure to remake, which one would it be?
Wow, now that is an interesting question.

I probably would have gone with The Witness, which is sort of an L.A. crime drama set in the 1930s. I have a real soft spot for murder mysteries in games (or murder mystery games), and that that one stands out as a classic. But… from the little I’ve read, it looks like this is pretty much the plot of Rockstar’s L.A. Noire, so I’ll pick another.

I’m going to say Suspect, which is a murder mystery set in a Halloween ball, and reminds me a lot of another of my favorite games, the EA classic Murder on the Zinderneuf.

Finally, describe a typical day in the life of Emil Pagliarulo.
Lately, considering where we are in Fallout’s development, my days have been less than typical, since I’ve been in something of a self-imposed crunch. But if I were to average everything out, it would look something like:

  • Get up between 7:00am and 8:00am
  • Help get my kids dressed and fed
  • Take my two older boys to school at 9:00am
  • Get to the office around 9:30am
  • Worktime! Days at the Bethesda offices lately have been ranging anywhere from 8 to 16 hours. In that time, I:
  • Write and edit dialogue
  • Play the game and report bugs
  • Fix my own bugs
  • Work with the designers on any issues they may have
  • Attend meetings
  • Run my own crazy ideas by Todd Howard
  • Sundry other tasks

When I get home, it’s family time — I play with my kids; help with homework; watch my wife make dinner and nonchalantly ask, “Do you need any help?” and then get the kids drinks after she rolls her eyes.

The kids are in bed anywhere from 8:00pm to 9:00pm, and after that my wife and I usually watch a movie, or I play games while she watches crappy reality TV about people whose lives generally suck.

Add into that mix some weight lifting, some reading, a lot more game playing, maybe some writing, and that’s my typical day.

Reader Comments

  1. It’s nice to hear how passionate Emil is about fallout. Almost makes me believe he is one of us.
    I often wonder if Emil sometimes reads or watches something on TV,and gets some kind of inspiration?
    Like those great 80’s movies with the whole nuclear wastelands theme,
    Madmax,World gone wild,Cyborg,Testament.
    I’ve always believed that when you do something with real passion.
    You can’t go wrong.Most of the time.

  2. I really wish Mr Pagliarulo is as an “honest” game designer as it seems and that Fallout 3 won’t be sacrified to consoles casual gaming style (or whatever name you gave to the bad side of consoles games).
    Even if the gaming industry is still young, many of it’s customers are not youngs anymore.
    And making a revival of Fallout (so not especially a clone of the original game, things may evolve) is a real challenge for demonstrating that the 21st century gaming industry is not just for occupying the “kids”, but may also offer another kind of entertainment where interactive media joins good storylines, dialogs, … to offer a beautiful adventure and trip in the imaginary, like were the originals Fallout games.

  3. 8 to 16 hour work days! Yowza! And you get to see the kids when you come home at two in the morning then get them up about five hours later for school?

    Must be the weightlifting truly it is the tonic of ever flowing energy.

    Thank you for the painful yet inspiring read. Truly my decadent lifestyle has made me a shell of man compared to you oh mighty Pagliarulo :D

  4. I thought I’d share that Emil’s weights and children’s toys are made of DVDs of old builds of Fallout 3. And yes he does laugh heartily while lifting them.