About Game Development: On Creativity

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About Game Development are short essays exploring the world of game development at Bethesda Game Studios. Today’s post is about creativity.

Here’s a useless party trick: what’s the fastest way to clear a room of single women? Say you make video games for a living. Because at every party, there is that guy. The one with the killer idea, the sure thing. He’s done all the work already, he’s practically giving it away. Once that guy latches onto you, forget about talking to anybody else.

If only making a game could be reduced to a singular, perfect idea — a romanticized act, full of mystery, that one performs alone like Michelangelo, dimly lit by candlelight, on his back painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

It’s a lie, of course. The painting of the Sistine Chapel was the work of an army of assistants, carpenters building scaffolding, laborers mining limestone, Craft food services, one Pope, and lots of other people who I couldn’t even begin to imagine.

With projects as complex as our games, creativity involves a large number of people working together. A game like Oblivion or Fallout 3 consists of literally tens of thousands of ideas. Everyone here at the studio contributes to this vast matrix of features, code, sound, art and words. It is both beautiful and frightening. I don’t think we would be doing our projects justice if we weren’t, at least, a little terrified.

We are at our most creative — that is, we create our best work — when we are working together. Some of the best parts of our games can be traced to groups of individuals iterating — a programmer and an artist pushing to improve our particle system to get the right visual effect; a designer, level designer and world artist creating a city full of buildings, dungeons, characters and quests; a hit squad of programmers, level designers, artists and animators cranking away until a giant anti-communist propaganda spouting robot is able to walk and blow **** up.

-Ashley Cheng, Production Director

What we’re playing: Flower(s) for Valentine’s Edition

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It’s Valentine’s weekend, so several guys at the office are giving some love to Flower — a new downloadable game out on PlayStation 3 this week. if you’re looking for something different, I highly recommend it.

Here’s the rest of what we’re playing. Hope you’re all having a lovely weekend.

Mike Dulany, Programmer: Flower, House of the Dead: Overkill.

Aaron Mitschelen, QA: LotRO, WoW, Persona 4, Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad (wait, what?).

Gary Noonan, Animator: Working on a top secret MW mod project. ;)

Liz Beetem, Tortured Artiste: House of the Dead Overkill while blasting the psychobilly outta my ITunes in loving memory of Lux Interior.

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In Print: New details on The Pitt

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Fallout 3′s second DLC, The Pitt, will be arriving next month on Games for Windows LIVE and Xbox LIVE, but if you want a sneak peek at the content, there’s a couple magazines out there with new information on the game.

The most recent issue of Game Informer (now hitting subscribers) and the UK edition of OXM (now on newsstands) feature new details and screenshots.

Elsewhere, in the upcoming issue of OXM (April), there’s a feature on “The State of DLC Today,” which will feature an interview with Todd Howard, their Operation: Anchorage Review, and a screen from The Pitt.

As more information comes out on The Pitt, we’ll keep you updated.

This week at Splash Damage

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Here’s another look at what’s going on with our friends from Splash Damage.

Congrats are in order for Technical Director Arnout van Meer, who was recently honored by Develop Magazine — making their 30 Under 30 List that honors rising stars in Europe’s game development community.

In other news, on the Splash Damage website, they’ve got a new developer profile. This week you can get to know their Production Coordinator, Matt “Anti” Lowe. Here’s a quick look:

Why did you join Splash Damage?
I’ve always been a big fan of FPS games, so Splash Damage was the perfect fit. They were also probably the only studio making FPS games in the UK at the time, so it felt like an amazing opportunity to be able to work with them. The chance to share my own opinions of what makes a great Shooter and possibly see that have some affect on a retail game was really exciting!

That’s all for this week, but we’ll keep you up to speed on new developments at their office.

Modding Interview: Phitt

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This week we’re talking with Elder Scrolls/Fallout 3 modder, Philipp Termeer (known in the forums as Phitt). Phitt is a resident of Wiesbaden, Germany where he works as an engineer. Phitt has been playing our games since Morrowind, and began modding with Oblivion.

Phitt is currently working on a very impressive Oblivion, Sheogorad, using thousands of meshes made from scratch. Pretty impressive homage to Morrowind!

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Planet Fallout Modding Update

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Today we’re checking in on some of the latest modding news at Planet Fallout.

We’ll begin with the third installation of their State of Modding series. This time around, Blinzler goes head-to-head with BGS forum member Qzilla. Here’s a snippet of the interview:

Any advice to people new to modding (Fallout 3)?
Qzilla:
Everyone says this to new modders but it’s 100% true: start small! If your first foray into modding is making a WIP thread for a TC for Oblivion/Fallout 3 and you haven’t even started on it yet… you’re starting down a long long tunnel with no end in sight. The best way to start modding, from my perspective, is to find someone else’s *small* mod, and try to customize it more to your liking, emphasis again on *small*. Mods can get very complex very fast, so the best way to gain understanding is to start with something small and simple, and then once you’ve got the basics down you can start trying to mix things together to do more complicated things. No matter how much you may want to remake the entire Deus Ex game with the Fallout 3 engine — or whatever wild-eyed dream you’ve cooked up — it’s not gonna happen.

For more State of Modding interview, click here.

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Fallout 3 News update

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Happy Wednesday everyone (aka Cookie Day at the office)! Here’s some new Fallout 3 coverage for you to check out.

In yesterday’s USA Today, there’s a story on new downloadable games/content. Within the article, there’s a mention of Fallout 3′s second DLC, The Pitt. The Pitt will hit Xbox LIVE and Games for Windows this March.

Still haven’t downloaded Operation: Anchorage? Today, The Escapist put up their Fallout 3 Challenge, where you’ll have a chance to win a download code for either Xbox 360 or Games for Windows. To win, you’ll need to correctly answer 10 Fallout 3 trivia questions. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that anyone that frequents Bethesda Blog will have no trouble answering the questions. Keep in mind the challenge is a one day affair, and winners will be selected at random from those that correctly answer the questions. For more details, head to The Escapist.

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Fallout 3 nominated for BAFTA, GDC Awards

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No, we’re not up for an Oscar, but this week Fallout 3 received nominations in multiple categories for both the Game Developers Choice Awards and the British Academy Video Game Awards — including Game of the Year nominations.

For the GDC Awards, Fallout 3 was nominated in the following categories:

  • Best Game Design
  • Best Visual Art
  • Best Writing
  • Game of the Year

Fallout 3 received the following nominations for The British Academy Video Game Awards:

  • Best Game
  • Original Score
  • Story and Character
  • Technical Achievement
  • GAME Award of 2008 (public vote)

BAFTA will take place on March 10th in London. The GDC awards will be announced at this year’s 2009 Game Developers Conference (March 23-27) in San Francisco.