Inside the Vault: Obsidian’s Jason Fader

Jason_Fader1.jpg

Jason Fader joins our exclusive Inside the Vault club. Learn his job at Obsidian, how he got started, and more below…

What’s your job at Obsidian?

I’m the technical producer on Fallout: New Vegas.  It’s kind of an odd hybrid role, combining production work, programming, and random duties that need to get done. For example, towards the beginning of the project, I managed all of the programmers, character/concept/UI artists, animators, writers, and audio engineers. As the project progressed, I took on other duties like managing the build process, writing tools for the team, and recording temp voice over. Occasionally I’ll dip into the engine and fix a few bugs, and then jump over to a production task like scheduling. I love the variety of my job.

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

As I said above, I love the variety. It really keeps me on my toes and I’m constantly tackling new problems and finding interesting solutions. That being said, it can also be tiresome since I never run out of things to do, and it’s in my nature to help out the best I can. I’m trying to pace myself, but when you’re working on an awesome project like this, it’s easy to get caught up in everything.

Your position requires many responsibilities, what would you say is the most important?

Definitely the whole build process. I’m the guy on the team that deals with putting everything together so the rest of the team can see how their work looks in the game with everyone else’s work. It would be a very bad thing if I got hit by a bus. Well, okay, I do have everything written down, so someone could continue my work if they had to… but still, I don’t want to be hit by a bus.

How did you get involved in the game industry? What previous games have you worked on?

This is a long story… but who knows, it might help some hopeful game developers get some ideas on how to start!

I started in QA at Blizzard Entertainment working on the Diablo 2 expansion. It was a part time job while I was going to college studying computer science at the University of California, Irvine. After a few months in QA, I started getting ideas for how to improve the overall QA process with some tools, and they let me pursue my ideas and implement them. I created tools during the development of Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction and Warcraft 3. As Warcraft 3 was winding down, a bulk of QA was laid off, including myself… on my birthday (I was okay with it since I was still going to school and it was a great experience overall).

During my last year at UCI, I developed a small game with some friends as a student project called Hyperbol. I was the lead designer, and I did some programming. We entered it into the Independent Games Festival at GDC and it made it into their Student Showcase in 2004. Around that time I graduated and went back to Blizzard, working as a tools programmer on World of Warcraft. After the 2004 IGF, my friends and I continued working on Hyperbol in our spare time, which was okay with Blizzard since it was a small project. We submitted a much more polished version of Hyperbol to the IGF for their indie competition in 2005 and were chosen as a finalist. After showing the game off at GDC, Blizzard (understandably) took issue with the project since it was gaining publicity and I had a choice to make… my team or Blizzard.

It was one of the hardest choices I’ve ever had to make, but to me I only had one choice. My team, my friends, needed me, and I couldn’t let them down.  Blizzard understood my reasons and we parted ways on good terms. Several months later, around November of 2006, Iocaine Studios was formed by me and my friends… in my dad’s dining room.  We decided to finish Hyperbol, but expand it and give it a proper universe to reside. I had been working on a large universe off and on over the years for it, so it was pretty easy to transition the game into being ThreadSpace: Hyperbol. We released the game on July 12th, 2007 (why does everything happen on my birthday?!).

About a year later, Iocaine had to become inactive. The economy was being hit hard and publishers weren’t receptive to funding our next title. I’m happy with what we did in the time we had. We shipped a game and had a blast doing it!

Throughout that time, I had been in touch with Feargus Urquhart since we were a local developer, and he’s really great about reaching out to the smaller teams. Once he heard that I was looking for work, he set up an interview for me at Obsidian and I was hired September 2008 as a producer. Since then, I’ve met some truly amazing people and have been working with developers that made the games that I grew up on. Simply put, this is awesome!

Do you have any tips for breaking in?

Work on mods, or small projects. Find a team that can benefit from your skills. Build up those skills. If you fail, learn from the failure and be better.

Stick to your dreams and ideas. Be passionate about your work. Believe in yourself. Never give up, never surrender! ;-)

Any memorable moments working at Obsidian that you’d care to share?

The most memorable is definitely when Justin checked in code that broke the build.  Josh got up from his chair, Frank accompanied him, and we did a dance/song that shall forever be known as the “Justin Broke The Build” dance.

What’s your all-time favorite game?

Hmm, I can’t choose just one, so here’s a list in no particular order!

  • The Secret of Monkey Island
  • The Guardian Legend
  • Master of Orion
  • X-COM
  • MechWarrior 2
  • Command & Conquer
  • Wing Commander 3
  • The Journeyman Project
  • Starsiege: Tribes
  • Space Quest
  • Fallout 1,2, and 3
  • Zork
  • ThreadSpace: Hyperbol (of course :-p)

What games are you looking forward to?

Hmmm…

  • Singularity
  • XCOM
  • MechWarrior 5 (not sure if that is still being worked on though)
  • The Force Unleashed 2
  • Max Payne 3
  • SW: The Old Republic

Worst job you’ve ever had?

Hmmm, I guess it would have to be my first job, though honestly it wasn’t that bad, but I guess it’s the least favorite job I’ve had, which was working at Souplantation. It wasn’t too bad though. I started off in the bakery, and gradually moved into the soup/pasta area where I became a pasta trainer (back before all stores had pasta) and taught all of the LA managers how to make pasta. That was pretty cool.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

*scratches head* Spare time? What’s that?!

I really enjoy watching scifi shows/movies. I’m always looking for a new show to get into. If I have time, I like playing the latest games that are out to see what other developers are coming up with. I used to lead a WoW raiding guild, but damn that’s a lot of work! I also love building computers, keeping up with the latest gadgets, reading comics, contemplating theoretical physics, thinking up new stories and game designs, hanging out with my family, and throwing LAN parties.

Anything else you’d like share?

I never say ‘LOL’ or ‘ROFL’ (okay, other than right there). If it’s not something I would say in a spoken conversation, I have a hard time writing it. I think that’s why I use smilies and emotes to help convey tone ;-)

Reader Comments

  1. Great interview, really appreciate hearing about Jason’s backstory and how he got into the industry. Details, details =) All the best guys with your development on New Vegas, and fingers crossed the game doesn’t get banned in Australia – that’ll stuff me preorder right up

  2. Great interview with great insight, as always!

    The “Do you have any tips for breaking in?” section grabs my attention every time. Congrats on the job Jason!

  3. Wo Momma! A brainy guy living the wonderful life! He even likes theoretical physics. Truly his spirit has sensed the beyond of was and when while catching up to his rippling echo where he has yet to dwell.

    SINGULARITY is a great game and has that RAVEN SOFTWARE mystical like intelligence to it with their trademark style of using others peoples resources taking the game design in a totally different direction while not alienating the player.

    Ooo MASTER OF ORION played the first two nonstop in the 1990s. Ah those sci fi shots of building ones space cities felt so strangely alive in the mostly stillness of it all. The music was also fantastic. All that was missing was having a copy of the 1970s STARLOG magazine by my side :D

    Loved the MECHWARRIOR series and the BATTLETECH board game which i collected all the Ral Partha minitures for at one point but then had to ditch due to moving into a smaller place ten or so years ago. Still think the best version of the board game on the computer was Ralph Reed’s shareware BATTLEFORCE and BATTLEMECH games for the Commodore Amiga 500. If only they remade with modern graphics :D At least there was the first CYBERSTORM which with the cheat hacks played alot like BATTLETECH.

    Glad to hear things turned out so well when choosing between your friends and Blizzard and everyone was so positive on your decision and that fate has validated it with success.

    Oh and i noticed an odd..unnatural eerie resemblance to Quentin Terratino..creepy…

  4. Thanks for all of the kind words, everyone! :-)

    That’s actually my side desk, so I tend to pile spare parts and such on it. My main desk is a bit more tidy.

  5. If you love Sci-Fi and hanging out with friends, I would recommend the Battlestar Galactica board game by Fantasy Flight Studios. Sure to be a suspiciously enjoyable time.

  6. crazy job! the jack-of-all-trades jobs can be a fun one, but at some point it can feel like you’ve gotta do everything for everyone. being the lord o’ builds certainly isn’t an easy job, either – the kind of thing where no one really cares (or even thinks) about that part of development, until something breaks. then EVERYONE comes a-knockin’!

    and i feel ya… i just can’t bring myself to abbreviate SMSes unless i’m running out of characters. i’ll use “lol” but only if i’m actually, physically laughing out loud at the moment. and i never use smileys.

    the worst are the people that use those abbreviations IN SPOKEN LANGUAGE! i’ve actually heard someone say, completely non-ironically, “my gee-eff”, as in GF, as in girlfriend. the same guys would also say “lawl”, as in LOL, as in they’re too lazy or hip to actually laugh at that moment.

    baffling.

  7. Did you do work on the Fallout 3 Build? Fallout 3 is my number 1 game for PS3, Can’t stop playing it and can’t wait for New Vegas.

  8. Dear Jason, I just gotta say Thank you for putting together one of the Greatest games ever Made, U ROCK! Im on the Count down for New Vegas, And I Cant Wait to play the new Masterpiece which has already defined sooo much in the video game World! Tell your Team if u ever read this That they Should Get a pat on the back for there work Or if there outside in public, a Good old Fashioned Phanny Tap! Cant beat that. Sincerely, Your Biggest Fan Adam J.

  9. First off, let me start by saying that I love Fallout. I have it on PC, 360, and PS3. I have to say that I was sorely disappointed by the PS3 version. I had high expectations that the graphics would be much better, the gameplay would be without lag, etc. However, as soon as I got the addons installed things went to hell (crazy lag, freeze ups, etc). I desperately called in vain to Sony and Bethesda asking for a solution. No one has been able to help me to date, so I went online and this is what I found. LOTS of people have had problems with the PS3 version, so it dawned on me that it must be a software issue. My first thought was, and still is, that the game much not have originally been written for the PS3. After much research and insider information, I have since learned that this is true. So here is my question to you and all those who are coding the game, will Fallout: New Vegas actually work on PS3 this time around, or are we going to have to settle for sloppy seconds from the xbox 360?

    Thank you for your time.

    Very respectfully,
    Antony