The Jaeger-meister: id software’s Hugo Martin

This Saturday at QuakeCon (and streaming live at Twitch.TV/Bethesda), id Software’s art director, Hugo Martin, will be speaking about his career in games and films. If you’re not familiar with his work, you need only visit a movie theater and check out (the totally awesome) Pacific Rim. For the film, Martin was part of  director Guillermo Del Toro’s core concept team.

While in Texas, we had a chance to catch up with Hugo. Read the interview below…

How did you get started as an artist (include brief history of career highlights)?

I studied Illustration at Pratt Institute and Transportation Design at Art Center College of Design.

I started my career as a pose to pose animator and storyboard artist at MTV animation in NYC, but my first true concept job came after that when I worked in the IP development department at Wizards of the Coast. I went on to work at Naughty Dog as a concept artist on Jak X Team Racing and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and then on to Blur Studios doing concept work on a variety of film, commercial, game and animation Projects.

After Blur I decided to go freelance. For 3 1/2 years I worked as a contract concept artist out of my studio and on-site whenever possible — primarily doing design work on films and games — the most notable from that period being of course PACIFIC RIM :) .

What was your principle role on Pacific Rim?

I had the privilege and honor of being a part of Guillermo’s core concept team. My primary focus was on the design of the Jaegers, and from there I moved on to key frame illustration and then prop designs. I also had the chance to work on the Blade head Kaiju you see fighting Striker Eureka in the film.

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Around the web

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Start your weekend off right with an inside look into the creation of the The Evil Within live-action trailer. Creative Agency Prologue talks to Polygon about designing the dark and unsettling trailer for the newly announced Survival Horror game.

Delve even further into The Evil Within’s terrifying world. Shinji Mikami and the team at Tango talks to Famitsu (via Polygon) about their game. “I want users to get so scared that their hands are in a cold sweat on the controller.”

Youtube user and Bethblog familiar Tyrannicon has put Ironman and Skyrim together. The results are pretty much epic.

Gamespot’s Cam Robinson and Seb Ford discuss their Top Five Skyrim Mods of the Week. Speaking of mods, ever see a Mudcrab and think, “Wow, I wish that was the size of a mountain?” Well, wish granted. Enjoy the enemies of Skyrim in Giant form.

Minecraft and Wolfenstein go hand in hand thanks to Youtube user thornofnight’s recreation.

And finally, Senior Designer Joel Burgess and Senior Environment Artist Nathan Purkeypile explain in depth the modular approach to level design.

Bethesda Underground: Know Your Devs – MachineGames’ Jerk Gustafsson

Today we kick off our series of Bethesda Underground videos from our recent trip to Machinegames HQ. Up first, we meet one of the principal founders of MachineGames, executive producer/managing director, Jerk Gustafsson (pronounced Yerk).

In the video (it’s not a dev diary), Jerk discusses working on Wolfenstein, how he got started in the industry, and what he almost got instead of his first computer.

Critical///Path

If you’re here on Bethesda Blog, it’s a given you care about video games. And if you care about games, you owe it to yourself to visit Artifact Studios’ years-in-the-making look at game development, CRITICAL///PATH. Over the past few years, they’ve talked to some of the industry’s brightest and most influential minds — a list that we’re proud to say includes both Todd Howard and John Carmack.

John Carmack: First Person vs. Third Person, What An Artist Sees, I Supply the Plumbing, Rediscovering the Magic, No Apologies, Diverse Spectrum of Games, The Elegant Design

Todd Howard: Beware of the Long Design Doc, Character Customization, Omniscience, Less Fail Modes Today, Edge of the World, Cutscenes as a Reward

Check out their segments, and for that matter, take a break from what you’re doing and watch all the segments.

Artifact promises that the CRITICAL///PATH Project will continue to be updated, so we recommend bookmarking it and seeing where its path leads.

RAGE Weekend Roundup

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Last weekend’s Eurogamer expo saw daily stage presentations of id’s RAGE, and the folks there were pretty fired up for it. As Eurogamer wrote:

Every day at this year’s Eurogamer Expo, Tim Willits takes to the stage in our massive auditorium to show and talk about RAGE, the latest first-person shooter to issue forth from the legendary id Software. To understand how exciting we find this, it is worth noting that without id’s games Eurogamer literally would not exist – several of the founding staff only do this because they grew up on Doom and Quake.

That paragraph precedes a long interview with Willits that can be digested here. A number of sites also talked to Willits, including Games.On.Net, VG247, AtomicGamer, GameRant, BrutalGamer, Critical Gamer and GameShard. And if you’re looking for a write-up of the presentation, head to VG247 for a live blog recap.

Finally, in general id news, Next-Gen wrote an excellent bio on John Carmack’s Legacy. Amongst other interesting anecdotes, it mentions that Carmack’s son has ambitious plans for robotic domination. Somehow we are not surprised.

Update: Check out a preview, as well as a new video interview with Tim at GamerCast.

Joel Burgess: A Level a Day Keeps the Docs Away

Bethesda Game Studios lead level designer Joel Burgess offers his thoughts on best documentation practices following an appearance on the “World of Design” panel at last month’s QuakeCon.

QuakeCon was awesome. Among other things, we got an amazing demo of Rage, walked around a BYOC that would make anybody believe in PC gaming, and heard the news that Arkane joined up with Zenimax. Which, believe me, is worth being excited about.

I think our World of Design panel went well, but I had a feeling that one of my remarks might raise some eyebrows. Sure enough, the next morning I had an email waiting for me from an astute SMU student, asking me to explain my thoughts on documentation for level design.

During the Q&A session, I advocated just getting into the editor and going after ideas rather than spending much time planning. This is looked upon poorly by some designers, and actively discouraged in a lot of school curricula. SMU students, specifically, write up an abstract and an LDD (level design document) before beginning work on a level. So why would I suggest this isn’t the best way to go?

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About Game Development: Broken Windows

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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 broken windows.

Our games here at Bethesda Game Studios are complex, sprawling epics with layers of systems, reams of data, stunning art and audio and hours upon hours of fun made by our talented creators of all stripes. Underlying all of that is thousands upon thousands of lines of source code to make it all go, from editing gameplay data to exporting and placing art to actually running the game itself on one of several platforms.

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About Game Development: On Family

We spend so much time at work, a development team becomes like a family. We fight. We annoy. We eat. We have kids (well, the married couples working on the team do).
We hire slowly here at Bethesda Game Studios. It’s no surprise that we strive find people who fit our culture and team. People who aren’t a good fit can often bring everyone else down; they become a massive negative buff. Flip side to this, losing folks hurts. It takes time to make up the lost knowledge and talent that people take with them, and when someone leaves, it usually means we’re losing a friend, too. That makes us sad pandas.
Institutional knowledge or corporate memory — depending on what business self help book you are reading — is how a team learns to make games, learns to work together, and most importantly, learns to get better at makes games. Malcolm Gladwell writes in his great book, The Tipping Point, the following:
…the benefit of unity, of having everyone in a complex enterprise share a common relationship…in a family this process of memory sharing is even more pronounced. Most of us remember, at one time, only a fraction of the day to day details and histories of our family life. But we know, implicitly, where to go to find the answers to our questions – whether it is up to our spouse to remember where we put our keys or our thirteen year old to find out how to work the computer, or our mother to find out details of our childhood…when new information arises, we know who should have responsibility for storing it. This is how, in a family, expertise emerges… mental energy is limited, we concentrate on what we do best.
A team that has worked together for many years and shipped multiple projects benefits from “transitive memory: it’s knowing someone well enough to know what they know, and knowing them well enough so that you can trust them to know things in their specialty…recreating, on an organization wide level, of the kind of intimacy and trust that exists in a family.”

This is the kind of culture every game developer hopes for. Making a truly successful game is hard enough, and there are so many factors outside your control that decide the success of your game. There is no replacement for having a team you trust to get you there.

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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 how a team is like a family.

We spend so much time at work, a development team becomes like a family. We fight. We annoy. We eat. We have kids (well, the married couples working on the team do).

Continue reading full article ›

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