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 ›

Round 2…VOTE!

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The second round of The Escapist’s 2010 March Mayhem: Developer’s Showdown has commenced. After beating out Twisted Pixel, Bethesda now faces PopCap, makers of some of the office’s favorite casual titles like Zuma, Bejeweled, Peggle, and Plants vs. Zombies.

Elsewhere in the tournament, Obsidian Entertainment — the guys working on Fallout: New Vegas — are currently battling it out with Capcom. In the event they can pull it out, they’d face Bethesda in the Sweet 16.

Head to The Escapist forums to check out all the matchups and vote for your favorite developers.

March Mayhem 2010

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March Madness is definitely one of my favorite times of the year. As I await the NCAA Tournament Selection show, I thought I’d point out that for the third year in a row, Bethesda Softworks is in The Escapist’s March Mayhem Developer’s Showdown — a fan-voted tournament featuring 64 of the biggest developers in gaming.

Beginning March 17th, you can vote on each round’s matchups, but this year they’ve also added a bracket where you can try to predict all the matchups before they happen (just like with the NCAA Tournament). Just make sure you register to participate.

In our first round matchup, we take on Twisted Pixel — makers of popular XBLA hits like The Maw and ‘Splosion Man. Discuss the matchup here. Meanwhile, Obsidian Entertainment (our friends working on Fallout: New Vegas), have a first round matchup against Sucker Punch — the guys  known for creating inFamous and the Sly Cooper series.

Good luck to all the developers in this year’s bracket. We’ll keep you updated.

Todd Howard raps Live on Kotaku Talk Radio tomorrow

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Have you ever wanted to have a conversation with Bethesda’s own Todd Howard? To just hang out and really get to know the man? To chat long into the night about the most intimate of Fallout and Elder Scrolls details?

Well, we may not be able to help you there. However, we can offer you the chance to ask Todd a question on Kotaku Talk Radio. He’ll be making an appearance during tomorrow’s show, which kicks off at 1pm EST.

K-Talk is a live broadcast production, so a few lucky callers will get to query Todd in real-time. Be sure to ask him to bust a few rhymes — T-How’s got mad skills, but rarely gets the chance to flaunt.

Head on over to Kotaku for more details.

Update: You can now listen to a replay of the podcast or download it from iTunes.

2010: The Year We Make Games

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As the severe headaches indicate, 2010 is finally upon us, and there is no going back. What we can do, however, is reflect.

What were your favorite games and mods of the year? The decade? And what cool gaming stuff are you looking forward to in the new year? Let us know in the comments.

Plenty of other sites are running their own series of reflections. GamePro took a lengthy look back at 2009′s biggest gaming news, including a highlight of ZeniMax’s “surprise” acquisition of id Software. Examining the entire decade, Gamestooge has finished up its Top 50 feature, adding Fallout 3 to a list that already included Oblivion and Morrowind.

With an eye toward the future, two separate G4 staffers have named Fallout: New Vegas as one of their most anticipated 2010 titles. Shacknews is getting fired up about Brink, while The Sixth Axis is excited for both New Vegas and Brink.

We’re certainly looking forward to sharing more about both games this year. For now, a very Happy New Year to everyone. Enjoy today’s various sporting events — I have a feeling that a significant portion of the team is currently doing the same.

Around the Web: Post-holiday purging

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The trees are coming down, the family has left town, and the big ball will soon be dropping. This probably means that many of you are finally getting some time to enjoy that hot holiday loot. Outside of red picky sweaters, what sorts of stuff did you guys haul in this year?

Of course, since family members can’t often be relied on to buy anything cool, some of you are probably looking to treat yourselves with a little gift card action. Toward that end, UGO recently put up its “Things Every Gamer Should Own” feature. In a teasing gesture, the list’s number one slot was occupied by the unobtainable Fallout 3 Brotherhood of Steel statue (pictured above). Unfortunately, the editors there have since outfitted the imposing soldier with a dainty fanny pack. Perhaps it’s time for the other brothers to stage a rescue op.

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Bethidsoft Makes PCGamer’s Top 100

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The editors over at PCGamer put up their annual “Top 100 Games of All Time” list today.

The democratically-determined list features several games developed by Bethesda and id; Oblivion and Fallout 3 both made the top 10, while Quake III: Arena and DOOM II cracked the top 30. Check the whole deal out here.

Those interested in voting for the reader-selected top 100 can do so through this link. Luckily, you don’t need to put together your own 100-game list to participate.

OXM Top 100

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In the September issue of OXM, the magazine’s editors revealed The Top 100 Xbox Games of All-Time (that’s both Xbox and Xbox 360 titles). Three titles from Bethesda Games Studios made the list — Fallout at #7, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion at #17, and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind at #89.

To check out the whole list, look for the September issue on newsstands now.