With Honest Hearts out this week, we had a chance to catch up with Obsidian’s Scott Everts.
What’s your job at Obsidian?
I’m a worldbuilder on both Fallout New Vegas and the DLC’s we are currently developing. My official title is Technical Designer which is kind of a generic title since I’ve done many different jobs over the years. I’ve spent the past 5 years or so focusing on worldbuilding and prop making. I did maps & props for Neverwinter Nights II and the two expansions. Before that I designed the interface screens for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II on PC & Xbox.
What games have you worked on?
I’ve worked on quite a few! Some of the more popular titles I worked on were Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, Star Trek: Judgment Rites, Stonekeep, Fallout, Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale, Icewind Dale 2, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2, Star Wars Knight of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords (say that 3 times fast!), Neverwinter Nights 2 plus two expansions, and Fallout: New Vegas. And for real old-school gamers, my first published game was Crystal Quest for the Apple IIgs!
What is the best part about your job?
I love world building. It’s great fun to create new interesting locations for the player to explore. One of my favorite areas I created for FNV was Freeside. That area was tight and trashy with little alleys to explore and a really nice long street view of the strip hotels. I also really enjoyed working on the town of Mulsantir in Neverwinter Nights II: Mask of the Betrayer.
How did you get into the industry? Do you have any tips for breaking in?
I started working in the industry officially in late 1991. I did some small contract jobs before that but that was the first time I worked full time at a company. At that time no schools offered video game degrees. It was all about who you knew and what experience you had that might be adapted to video games. I graduated with a Radio/TV/Film degree from Cal State Fullerton. Ironically it was my geeky knowledge of classic Star Trek that got me the job – since they needed testers and additional designers for Star Trek: 25th Anniversary. These days many schools are offering degrees in video game design. Probably the best way to get noticed is working on a mod team and trying to get an internship inside a developer studio. You can make contacts and show off your abilities in a real working environment.
Thus far, what’s been the highlight of your career?
That’s a tough question! Probably working on Fallout & Planescape: Torment. Both titles turned out exceptionally well and are still remembered today even though they were made many years ago. I expect both games will always be remembered for their great design and writing.
You’ve gone from being a Level Designer on Fallout 1 &2 to a World Builder for New Vegas. How are things different, and what’s stayed the same?
The tools are so much better! Building maps in Fallout was very time consuming. The art selection tools were really clunky. The art assets were just a sequential list with no organization so finding just the right piece could take awhile. Eventually you remembered that the corner building piece one was five pages into the asset list while corner piece two was eight pages. I can’t imagine having to build levels that way now. As for staying the same, the interaction between worldbuilding, art, and design has stayed pretty much the same. Though I usually don’t get map designs written on Denny’s napkins any longer. Yes, I got some for Fallout that way!
What would you say is your personal favorite game of all time? Also, any particular favorite levels?
I have very fond memories of System Shock. I played that game twice all the way through. I also loved Elite. Both of those sucked up a significant amount of my free time. Current games I’ve enjoyed are Civ 5, Torchlight, and Borderlands.
What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
I love working in worldbuilding toolsets and seeing what I can do with what props I have available. If you check out the two expansions for Neverwinter Nights II, there are some really interesting and unusual locations I got to make. The jungle environments in Storm of Zehir were particularly fun.
Worst job you’ve ever had?
Easy one! Detasseling corn in Iowa. Getting up at 4:30am and working in a cornfield during the summer wasn’t fun. If you don’t know what detasseling is, check Wikipedia for more info!
Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I’m a huge boardgame fanatic. In my spare time I work with a small group of friends doing graphic design for boardgames. I also do some graphic redesigns of old out of print games just for fun. I’m part of a small boardgame group that meets usually on the weekends to play and design games. The nice thing about boardgames is the social and physical aspect of the hobby. You sit around a table and move colorful wood and plastic bits around a colorful board. And trash talk a lot!