The Bethesda Game Studios Interviews: Jeff Lundin

With a new project coming out this year, we’d like to kick off another round of Q&A’s with Bethesda Game Studios developers. Today, meet Jeff Lundin, one of our systems programmers.

What is your job at BGS?

I am responsible for creating and maintaining Skyrim’s brand new scripting language. This usually involves not only creating new language features and functions, but also writing up a metric ton of wiki documentation, various external tools (which includes a full-blown compiler), editor additions, and on-the-spot support for other coders, designers and artists working with the new system.

How did you break into the industry?

A lot of extra-curricular work and a small bit of luck. The school I went to was actually pretty close to Cyan Worlds, which was where I got my first after-school job, and a professor of mine knew Rand Miller. One of the computer science classes I was in took a kind of “field trip” to visit Cyan, see what they did, and to get to talk to people there about what it was like working in “the real world.” At the time I was about a year away from graduation so I brought along a printed resume and a CD with a few of my side projects on it. That led to a short on-the-spot interview which then led to a followup interview later. I ended up getting hired right after I finished my classes.

What’s your favorite memory/proudest achievement while working at BGS?

Getting the chance to pretty much go back to the drawing board and making a powerful scripting language from the ground up has been a great and very rewarding challenge. We’ve got crazy awesome designers that are doing really cool things with it and I can’t wait to see what the mod community will do with it.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about your job?

I think the biggest misconception is that all I do is write code. I end up spending a decent chunk of time every so often writing documentation. Every feature and function needs to be explained in the wiki somewhere, hopefully where someone can actually find it, and in a manner that doesn’t fly over a less technical person’s head. I will also help people over e-mail, the phone, or in person when a script isn’t behaving like they expect, or when they just want to know how to do something in an efficient manner.

If there was one developer you could meet, who would it be?

I would love to meet Tim Sweeney and talk with him for a long time about the Unreal engine and UnrealScript in particular since it provided inspiration for some of my work.

If you weren’t developing games, what do you think you’d be doing today?

If I could still be programming I would probably be doing that. I think it would be cool to work on operating systems, either for the desktop or mobile devices. If I wasn’t programming I would probably be an electrical engineer working on robotics or something similar.

Favorite lunch?

I think it’s a toss-up between Chicken Cordon Bleu and the stir fry.

If you could trade jobs with someone else in the office for a day, who would it be and why?

Probably a concept artist. Of course, I would never get to do their job because I can’t draw to save my life, but I’ve always wished I could draw something half as well as they do. And it’s easier to impress people with art then code!

Worst job you ever had?

I’ve been pretty lucky in that I’ve never really had a really bad job. Though out of the jobs I have had I have to say that working at Staples was the worst — if only because of the customers. The people I worked with were (almost always) great. On the upside you always get stories to tell of customers that come in, usually when they want to buy a computer or related items. Or the ones who would bring their computers in from home to be upgraded or serviced. People do some strange things with computers…

What do you like to do in your free time?

I usually play various video games, watch anime, and some programming on my own projects at home. Outside of that I’m currently running a Dark Heresy game with a few other people here at work every so often, and sometimes get in on the board game action after work as well.

Reader Comments

  1. Just a very quick note to say – you guys ROCK! I’ve played so many of your games, and there’s always something “magical” to find in them, whether it’s the art, the story, the interesting characters. I played Oblivion for about 180 hours the first time, and have taken two trips back since then. Daggerfall was awesome! I cut my teeth on the Terminator Future Shock game Bethesda released – and its still the closest thing I’ve played that felt like I was in the movies. I’m salivating as we speak just thinking about Skyrim, and know it’s gonna be one of the best your company has ever produced! Rock on!

  2. I have one request: that the scripts will be humorously commenty like Morrowind’s scripts were. I very much enjoyed reading the little notes devs left for each other in the construction set. I haven’t prodded Fallout 3’s scripts enough to see if they were also full of cute little memos – but by that point “do not run time in MenuMode = v. bad” was very firmly drilled into my head.

  3. I think it would be cool to do some Bethesda interviews with the people in charge of Bethesda’s marketing, PR, and advertising campaigns. It would be cool to have them explain the Video Game Marketing industry to us!

    –Kyle Meeks

  4. Is it just me, or does Jeff Lundin look alot like Jay Leno? Same first and last initials as well… hmm, interesting. Also, love the vault-tech stuffs!

  5. I remember in Morrowind there was that one masks with a NoPickup script.

    The thing had a commented section “No pickup, no wife, no mustache.”

  6. I must say that he seems like such a cool dude. And its nice hes into warhammer (liek me!). I really think programmers should get more credit then they do, its so true what you said jeff lundin; its easier to impress people with art than progarming!

    Keep up the great work Jeff, I will thank you for your awesome programming when i enjoy this game!

    Cheers from Sweden

  7. Hi Jeff

    Good to see the scripting getting an overhaul, i think we all are sick of the current systems limitations and I am ready for the challenge of learning an entirely new system. To be honest, half the fun is learning how to mod a game, the other half is modding the game and somewhere in between the player gets to enjoy the finished mod. Which is not such a big deal for me but it helps when making those really big mods when the players like them too.

    I am glad you mentioned explaining things so the less technically minded can cope with them because in my experience most professionals forget about that point. I tend to try and encourage people to learn to make quests and write scripts because it brings mods to life but honestly, its the hardest thing for people to pick up I have found. It always means less scripters, less quest mod makers and since I like mods that do both of those things, it means less mods I’ll want to play.

    So I do hope you succeed, it would mean a lot to wanna be scripters and quest mod makers if you do. I just want to make sure you understand that and know some of us are rooter for you. Scripting being the unfashionable end of modding :)

    Anyway must go, feel free to drop by the site some time and say hello. Would love a chat with you about the scripting system when you are finally allowed to talk about it. In the mean time, if you want a tester for it, I scripted a lot of mods for Oblivion, I have no problems helping you iron out issues for skyrim when the time comes.

    You can reach me on my site.

    All the best.

  8. Sounds like a very knowledgeable guy. Indeed worthy of Skyrim’s embrace!

    Looking forward to Skyrim badly, will buy the most expensive version available, pre-ordered of course. 300-400 hours is worth it.

    Bethesda, I want you to know that people DO appreciate your concern for your fans. Bioware desecrated the Dragon Age series with the sequel, mostly because EA wanted profit, so they decided to decrease development time and make a half-assed game. Fans are ranting on their forums, they don’t seem to care. Bethesda has a great reputation even there, because you take your time to remake a whole system and game and listen to the fans and frequent the forums. TES is the best series ever and Skyrim will be the best game EVER if it lives up to its reputation and what you’ve been saying about it. Every TES game so far has been a benchmark for the gaming industry because you don’t make the same game over and over. Keep it up!

  9. [If you weren’t developing games, what do you think you’d be doing today?

    If I could still be programming I would probably be doing that. I think it would be cool to work on operating systems, either for the desktop or mobile devices. If I wasn’t programming I would probably be an electrical engineer working on robotics or something similar. ]

    Sweet. Looks like no matter what your life will always be overflowing with scientific like excitement. The machine spirit would be proud :D

    [If you could trade jobs with someone else in the office for a day, who would it be and why?

    Probably a concept artist. Of course, I would never get to do their job because I can’t draw to save my life, but I’ve always wished I could draw something half as well as they do. And it’s easier to impress people with art then code! ]

    Aint that the truth. I remember my curiousity satisfying journey in the 1990s into AMOS, BASIC and C++ (with the help of the FOR DUMMIES series of books) and i found it pretty fascinating how it was just like reading english instead of the o’s and 1’s of Assembly yet i fell to the temptation and quick satisfying results of graphic work with Caligari and Raydream.

    Of course this was all done as a hobby cause i is a LAZY BOY :D

    Thanks for the great read and fantastic to see your influences from the UNREAL ENGINE.

  10. Man Jeff, thanks for your hard work! Scripting is what makes the world feel so real…
    When my kid and I play Oblivion, he calls companions his “friends,” and I have watched him spend an hour on horseback patrol riding alongside the legion soldiers going up and down the roads. Thanks so much for making what we alllllll know will be a stellar Skyrim.

  11. Very nice read! :)

    The most annoying thing of the Oblivion scripting language was the script length limitation of the Construction Set script editor. Only because of that I stopped modding for Oblivion. I never got my mod working as I wanted with this limitation (and later on I hadn´t the time to rewrite my mod and include OBSE).

  12. Thanks for all the nice words :)

    Princess Stomper: We’ll have to see what little humorous nuggets we can sneak in…

    Paul Connelly: Ha! I would never want to put any of the modders out of a job – but it would be nice to have people with their skill be working on something more interesting then adding scripting functions, no?

    Melchior: There are several I like, among which are Mai HiME, 5cm Per Second (where the wallpaper on my computer is from), and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

    giskard: Trust me, our designers are testing the *hell* out of the system with their crazy-cool ideas.

  13. My second comment but since it seems you’re actually reading this page (yet another token of Bethesda’s concern for their fans ;) ) I just have to ask you – is your family from Sweden? I couldn’t help but notice your Swedish name!

  14. Jeff

    Good to here Jeff, I know few people notice the little tweaks you and the others do that make all the difference to games and mods in the end but as a modder I do and just being able to use the disable command in fallout 3 and NV and know if the mod is disabled the disabled item comes back, makes a world of difference to me.

    Oblivion uses of Kvatch Rebuilt and Kvatch Aftermath that switch between those mods often see what happens when that is not the case because the kvatch walls disappear and do not come back.

    So all those little improves you guys make, are noticed and are welcomed at this end of the food chain :)

  15. [giskard wrote on April 30th, 2011

    So all those little improves you guys make, are noticed and are welcomed at this end of the food chain ]

    Same here :) Many a time i’ve found myself saying “Wow thats nice” when i would crash in MORROWIND only to find out as i was about to load a save from a while back that MORROWIND created a restore point just before my previous crash saving me tons of time on redoing things.

    Today i was reinstalling OBLIVION and it was great to see all the DLCs and the SHIVERING ISLES expansion already activated without me having to do anything to turn them on.

    I cant even think at the moment of another game that has such time saving and safety features as The Elder Scrolls. Very futuristic.

  16. notice something in the photo

    is that wallpaper background is ‘5 cm per Second’ anime?

    I know those guys at BGS had soft hearts :D