Extra Life 2014 – Watch some games and win some swag!

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As noted earlier this week, we’re participating in this year’s Extra Life gaming marathon — with money raised supporting our one of our local children’s hospitals, Children’s National in Washington, DC!

During the stream, beginning at or around 12:00 am edt on tonight, Jess and I will be giving out Bethesda swag and gear to donors of our Bethesda Extra Life page. We’ll also have some special guests. Machinegames’ Jerk Gustafsson and Jens Matthies will be participating and playing Fallout 3, while Arkane’s Raf Colantonio will be playing the studios’ classic from 2002, Arx Fatalis!

We look forward to sharing our games with you and hope you’ll consider donating to this charitable cause.

For more details, visit the official Bethesda Extra Life page.

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OXM UK honors Bethesda Developers

As part of their 100th issue, OXM UK has put together a list of the 100 most important people in the world of Xbox. Included on the list are six members of the Bethesda family: Todd Howard (Bethesda Game Studios), Raphael Colantonio (Arkane Studios), Harvey Smith (Arkane Studios), Viktor Antonov (Zenimax Media), John Carmack (id Software), and Shinji Mikami (Tango Gameworks).

To see the full list, head here.

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.

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Fallout: New Vegas Developer Diary #1 — Feargus Urquhart

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In the first Fallout: New Vegas developer diary, Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart gives us the low-down look at the team working on the latest post-apocalyptic RPG odyssey.

As a studio manager that also worked on the original Fallout, Feargus recounts his experience in giving the team a hand:

To help, I ended up polishing up one of the larger areas of the game, the Hub, and also finished up a couple of the later areas – the Boneyard and Adytum. I made some good decisions and some bad ones. My addition of a quest in the Hub to get a special gun turned out to be a fun quest that people liked, while my addition of the Turbo Plasma Rifle unbalanced the game. It was near the end of the game, but it’s still one of those things where I look back and go “Feargus…..”.

We forgive you, Feargus. Check out the full dev diary on the official Fallout site.

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).

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Meet the Brink team: Dann Yeung

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Our friends at Splash Damage have a new developer profile up. This time it’s Senior Gameplay Programmer Dann ‘SRS-Kap’ Yeung. Previously an employee of Lionhead Studios, Dann learned about an opening at Splash Damage from one of his current coworkers…

How did you end up at Splash Damage?

I had previously worked with Richard Ham on Fable 2 and he informed me of the available position at Splash Damage. I am a big FPS gamer, and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory is one of my favorite games ever so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Also, Splash Damage happens to be located near where I live which is always a bonus. :)

Read the rest of Dann’s profile here. And if you haven’t already, you can meet the rest of the team here.

Meet the Brink team: Ronald Koppers

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The latest Brink developer profile delves into the life of Ronald “Conine” Koppers, Splash Damage programmer extraordinaire.

Apparently the only Splash Dev stricken with Gamma ray poisoning, Canine Kop manages to keep his rage in check while detailing his daily duties and offering some sound advice. Here’s a snippet:

Do you have any tips for people wanting to break in?

Be honest to yourself. There’s no denying that the games industry is a wonderful place to work in, but that doesn’t mean that it’s for everyone. If the only reason you want to be a game developer is because you think games are cool, there’s a good chance that you will not last very long in this industry. To put it differently, the games industry isn’t looking for people that are only enthusiastic about games. It certainly helps, but other skills in programming, artistic, design or management are far more important as that’s needed to actually create games. Ask yourself if you really have a skill that the games industry needs and be honest to yourself about your motivation to get into this industry.

Have a read of Conine Kop’s full interview here.

Professor Burgess talks level design at GDC

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Earlier this month, Fallout 3 Lead Level Designer Joel Burgess headed out to San Francisco for the 2010 Game Developer’s Conference. At the conference, Joel joined other LDs (including Splash Damage’s Neil Alphonso) as a speaker for an all-day tutorial called Level Design in a Day: Best Practices from the Best in the Business.

We thought you guys might be interested in hearing about Joel’s experience. Heeere’s Joel…

This month I attended my first-ever GDC.  There were a lot of great talks I got to attend, and the expo floor was full of cool new tech.  I had the honor of sharing a stage at GDC with some great minds in Level Design.  I spoke with Jim Brown (Epic), Ed Byrne (Zipper), Matthias Worch (Visceral), Neil Alphonso (Splash Damage), as well as Forrest Dowling and Coray Seifert (Kaos).

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What we’re playing: Finally! Final Fantasy

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Many of our devs are getting their jRPG fix this week with the North American release of Final Fantasy XIII. I’m hoping to make time to play it, but I continue to finish off games from 2009. But like others at the office, I’ll definitely be making time to play God of War III when it releases on Tuesday.

Here’s the rundown of games we’re playing. Let us know what you’re playing.

Gary Powell: Final Fantasy XIII, Uncharted 2, and Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Amber Hinden: Final Fantasy XIII and Team Fortress 2.

Lianne Cruz: Final Fantasy XIII, Heavy Rain, Dragon Age

Kurt Kuhlmann: Mass Effect 2, Assassin’s Creed 2, and Panzer General.

Caedmon Somers: Mass Effect 2 still.

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Brink Developer Diary #3 — Ed Stern

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In the first two Developer Diaries for Brink, Game Director Paul Wedgwood introduced you to Brink and the team behind it, while Art Director Olivier Leonardi talked in depth about the direction of the game’s art style.

In this third diary, Lead Writer Ed Stern explains how Brink’s environment communicates the game’s narrative.

Here’s Ed!

The Writing on the Wall

At Splash Damage, we believe that a game’s environment is the best narrative medium we have. Compelling environments allow players to pull in information from their surroundings without having to be held hostage by an NPC lecturing them on The Way Things Were. We knew we wanted to use our game environments to tell the story, so they’d need to be packed with detail.

We created a design goal internally called IDC:  Instant/Deep Context. Basically it’s the old axiom “Show, don’t Tell”. If we get IDC right, then when the player looks at a game asset they immediately and intuitively grasp where they are (that’s the “Instant” part). And the more they look at the assets, the more the cumulative narrative detail builds up, and the more they see how the game world works and how it came to be that way (that’ll be the “Deep”).

So, how did we go about creating the story and setting for Brink?

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