Inside the Vault: Denise McMurry

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Obsidian’s Denise McMurry is the latest to join the Inside the Vault Alumni Group.  Learn about her involvement on New Vegas below.

What’s your job at Obsidian?

I am a World Builder, basically my job is to decorate the New Vegas wasteland. This includes both interiors and exteriors, everything from rocks and trees to that bottle of Nuka Cola you see sitting on the table. I try to set up cool looking areas for players to explore, and set up props that tell a story about what happened in that area. Occasionally I’ll get to add lighting to help emphasize what the area’s all about.

What’s your favorite part of your job? Least favorite part?

I think my favorite part of my job is coming up with a cool idea for an area and being able to put it together. I get to sculpt little areas of the wasteland and call them my own. My least favorite part of my job is navmeshing that cool area I just created.

Can you share something most gamers wouldn’t know about world building?

You have to have a bit of an artists’ eye to do world building. You can just place rocks and trees all over the place at random and call it a day. You have to think about how the player is going to see the area and react to it, how they will try to navigate the space. You set up shots and vistas that are interesting to look at and will draw the player to them. The wasteland would be a pretty boring place if world builders weren’t constantly thinking of ways to make it visually interesting.

How did you get involved in the game industry?

Ever since I was a little kid with a Nintendo I’ve wanted to get into the game industry. I never thought it was really a reality until I started seeing schools advertise Game Art & Design programs. I immediately entered as soon as I found out. Unfortunately that particular school didn’t give me the tools I needed and I ended up in a job at a company making mobile phone games that was not so fun. I never gave up on my dream though, and after about a year I went back to school, except this time I did my research rather than jump headlong in. I had some great teachers who introduced me to various people in the industry including the hiring manager here at Obsidian. I worked really hard on my school work and eventually found out about an internship here. Several interviews later I was in.

Do you have any tips for breaking in?

For anyone who wants to do design or world building working with a game engine is important. Pick an engine and go crazy. When doing mods though think of things that are outside of what everyone else is doing. If everyone is using the Unreal Engine to make FPS mods then make an Adventure game. Show game studios that you can do things that few others try to do.

Do you ever mod other games?

Once I learned the Unreal Engine in school I was spending a lot of time playing around in it. I made a few mods here and there between school work. I still try to poke around with mods every now and then when I have time.

To date, what’s been the highlight of your career?

When Larry [Liberty] gave me the opportunity to do some Area Design along with my World Building. It was a lot of fun to set up a few quests and characters along with building the space they would be occupying.

What’s your all-time favorite game?

My all-time favorite game would have to be Chrono Trigger closely followed by Final Fantasy VI.

What games are you looking forward to?

I’m a big Star Wars geek so I’m looking forward to Force Unleashed 2 and The Old Republic. On the non-Star Wars front,  I’m looking forward to The Last Guardian.

Worst job you’ve ever had?

Working at Target, 8 hours of making sure all the items on the shelves are straight is very tedious.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Well I play video games for one. I’m also a member of the 501st Legion (again Star Wars geek) so I spend a lot of time building armor and trooping at various events.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Being able to live my dream and work on games is totally worth all the long days and sleepless nights I spent working on game projects to hone my skills while I was in school.

Reader Comments

  1. Nice. Ive always wanted to make a Game like fallout.. Hopefuly you can Help on Fallout 4 when it comes out if Obsidian is Gonna be Making It.

  2. “decorate the New Vegas wasteland”

    Some hanging corpses here, a rogue robot there, and maybe an alien ship over here…..

    Sounds awesome to me! Congratulations on the job, great interview!

  3. @Chris Rawlings: College. For a video-game related course.

    Failing that, you could search for the ends of rainbows after a cool summer shower.

  4. way cool job! i always appreciated the richness of FO3’s world, just that there was… stuff! everywhere! i had to clatter over empty drums, shopping carts, and body parts to get places. shit went flyin’ when you blew stuff up!

    do you have any specific favorites? i always loved the ones where people met unfortunate fates, like the person who tried to jump a motorcycle IN a tunnel, or the well-entrenced survivor, protected by many booby traps, that was killed while making another trap.

    also, does your job include putting supplies like guns, ammo, and aid? is the availability and amount of that stuff (which can alter the game experience) closely controlled, or do you have license to add what you will?

    one of the things that seems so “off” about the New Vegas preview stuff is that many of the outdoor environments don’t seem to have that “stuff pass” that gives the environment the necessary richness. things look flat and uninteresting.

    my friends and i have debated, though, as to wether there would BE so much stuff around the DC Wasteland 200 years after a nuclear war. 200 years of scavenging, squatting, and warfare? would there still be food and water just… lying around? i speculate that since the DC metro was extra-special bombed, as a target of importance, it took longer for people to re-emerge than on the less nuked and less densely populated West coast. people in California had the time to redevelop agriculture, create governments that spanned large areas (NCR), and even build things like a cathedral. also, people may have concentrated in the DC area after the bombs, bringing scavenged supplies from outer areas. it seems that a lot of the little areas you find in FO3 are the remnants of other wastelanders and raiders, with very few pre-war stashes.