Laboring Over Games (mostly Bioshock) this Holiday Weekend

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For many, Labor Day marks the end of summer, the return to school, and at least for me, it brings the dawn of another season of college football! Just as important, however, it provides us with a nice, relaxing 3-day weekend for catching up on games.

Looks like Bioshock is still the most played game around the office, with at least 30 guys planning on playing it this weekend (some for the second time through). In addition to this instant classic from the artists formerly known as Irrational Studios, there’s plenty of other games being played this weekend, including the Call of Duty 4 Beta, Two Worlds, and Metroid Prime 3. Anyhow, here’s the list:

Welter Almeida, QA Intern: Starcraft: Brood War, Lair, Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix, Nascar ’08 Demo

Josh Anderson, Programmer: Bioshock (Xbox 360) while I can and Marvel Trading Card Game (PSP) on my long flight to Utah this weekend…

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Conquest “Question of the Week” Time Again!

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In a very special “Question of the Week” for Conquest, you’ll see we’re also sharing with you a screenshot of the game board for the turn-based strategy part of the game. As for this week’s question, it comes from KO Gilligan from within our Star Trek forums. He asks:

Q: Is Conquest looking to provide both complex turn based strategy and simplified, straight forward game play?

Here’s what lead designer Frank Arnot has to say:

A: What’s really appealing about Conquest is that it‘s a grand strategy game that you can actually finish in a good week of playing and is fun enough and quick enough that you want to play it again and again. I love traditional 4X strategy games, but I find that I rarely finish my campaigns because they simply drag on for too long. After a couple of weeks of intense play, my enthusiasm wanes and I simply stop playing halfway through.

Conquest focuses on the big decisions and removes much of the minutiae. There’s not a lot of sitting around and waiting or endlessly clicking next turn to get what you want. We want people to play each of the races. We want people to try out new strategies with their favorite races. We get you into the hunt quickly and allow you to worry about important things, like planning your invasion of Cardassia.

Now, With Even More Hiring!

So apparently we’re not only going to do the job fair thingy that I mentioned the other day, but we’re also going to be taking applications and meeting with interested applicants at the upcoming Austin Game Developers Conference.

Once again, they (meaning our recruiter folks) will be talking to anyone interested in the list of positions that we’re currently looking to fill at Bethesda Softworks (list) and our sister company, ZeniMax Online Studios (list). So if you’re in the area or are going to GDC and are looking for employment in any of those areas, do stop by.

I know that Ashley and Matt are both going to Austin, but don’t know if either will be in our meeting room during the show itself. Maybe if you’re lucky you can snag an autograph from one of them. (Usually a Benjamin will coerce Ashley into giving up his, but you didn’t hear that from me.)

Inside the Vault: Josh Jones

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For this edition of Inside the Vault, meet artist, Josh Jones. He is the Lead Character Artist on Fallout 3. Josh is also our resident motion capture specialist — he also spends much of his time fine tuning our animation system.

What’s your job at Bethesda?

Lead Character Artist. I split my time between meetings and animation work. I also work a great deal with character rigging and other technical aspects of character art production.

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Ew, gross

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So if you were to wander by the cube of Grant Struthers (one of our artists) you would notice that Grant has a sign up outside his cube that is rather, ah, unique.

You see, Grant gets involved in some pretty different sorts of projects related to art and special effects and so forth. As was covered in his Inside the Vault interview, he was one of the driving forces behind the room that disolves into butterflies for the opening sequence in Shivering Isles. He also worked on the big nuke explosion we’re doing in Fallout 3 that is featured in the demo, etc.

Well current he’s working on Fallout 3 (blood effects, stuff like that) and apparently was getting comments/complaints from devs who were innocently dropping by his desk to chat about this or that and were completely disgusted by whatever happened to be on Grant’s screen (e.g., reference photos of cadavers, body parts, etc.).

So Grant figured he’d come up with a way to warn people about the dangers of looking at whatever he was working on or looking at at that particular moment, and came up with his own system for warning the unsuspecting.

I love this place.

Deadlines Looming

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We have not one, but two deadlines looming on Bethblog. As I announced in the forums yesterday, after this afternoon, we won’t be taking questions for the Fan Q&A for Fallout 3. We’ve gotten plenty of entries. I appointed Blinzler from our forums as the man in charge of compiling the final 20 questions for us to answer. Given that he resides in Jamaica, where Hurricane Dean hit, I’m willing to give him and his cohorts a little extra time to deliver the questions to us, and then we’ll probably take around a week to answer them. Anyhow, send your last minute questions to us via the blog.

In other deadline news, our Oblivion Iron Man Contest will conclude when the clock strikes 12 on Sunday. I’m assuming folks have been trying to pad their game times, because we haven’t gotten that many submissions over the past few days. Just remember, the winner is determined by the single game save with the most gameplay time recorded.

Inside the Vault: Megan Sawyer

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Today’s Inside the Vault is with Megan Sawyer. She spends much of her time on creating the “living” spaces of the world – cities, towns, and landscapes. If our team were to have super powers, one of them would be the ability to create large, beautiful environments for exploration. Megan helps make that happen. For those who might recognize Megan, she had a feature in the documentary included with the Collector’s Edition of Oblivion.
What’s your job at Bethesda?

I’m an environment artist. I work on everything from houses tolandscape textures. In Oblivion, I made the houses of Cheydinhal, sculpted the landscape around the whole city, created the bridges and cattails, and made the Dark Brotherhood entry door. I also created the landscape textures and overall feel of the Blackwood swamp region. Currently on Fallout I’ve worked on a few buildings, an area for the main quest, a lot of clutter, and am now working on landscape.

At night I fight crime!

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Legacy Mission Editor Updated

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Two weeks ago, a small team from the office released scripting tools that allows modders to create their own missions for the game. After releasing the tools, I had Shannon Bailey, the project lead, sit in on a Teamspeak meeting with Legacy modders.

During the meeting, some requests and suggestions were made that Shannon thought could be added. Today, we’ve uploaded amended scripting tools for the Mission Editor as Shannon explains below:

“After talking to members of the mod community, the need for a couple of small additions became apparent. Included in the newest version of the archive is the source of the four non-campaign missions that ship with Legacy — Vanguard, Escort, Raider, and CoopWave — as well as the ability to edit their script and rule files from the front-end. Also, when creating a new mission you are no longer limited to using STL12 as your template; any existing mission (including those four, which make excellent templates) can be cloned and modified.”

Special thanks to the team for such a quick turnaround on the amended changes. To download the new Legacy Mission Editor, visit here. For those just getting started with the tools, we’ve created a Wiki to help out. You might also want to check out the following screencasts created by Chris “ChessMess” Koerner, who worked on the game. They can be found here and here.

Conquest Question of the Week: Part Deux

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Another week, another answer regarding gameplay in Star Trek: Conquest. Today’s question comes from DarkDragon from our Star Trek forums. He asks:

Q: “In the arcade battles will the battles be fought in full 3D (like Bridge Commander)? Or will it be more like Encounters/Tactical Assault and 2d?”

Here’s a nice lengthy answer from Frank:

A: Arcade Battles in Conquest are fought from a top down 2D view like Encounters and Tactical Assault. There are two main reasons. First, it allows for a greater situational awareness, meaning you can see more of the battlefield. Second it allows for the 360 degree aiming and firing of your weapons which is a key part of our control scheme. This mode is intended for the player who wants direct control over his ships, aiming and weapons.

There are also two other combat modes: Quick Battle and Instant. Quick Battle is like a mini RTS battle where you simply issue orders to your fleet. This mode is for the armchair admiral who wants to personally direct the battle, but is not interested in the action oriented Arcade Battle system.

Instant simply gives you immediate results. It’s for situations where you heavily outnumber your enemy and don’t care about directing the battle, like bringing a fleet of seven dreadnaughts to bear on a single wounded scout.

In practice we find that most players use a mixture of the three modes. “

Please continue to submit your ideas for the question of the week. See ya next week!

 

What we’re playing this weekend

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A quick email survey elicited the following answers. Okay, I admit it, I really wanted to find out who managed to score an early copy of Bioshock. Because if you got it, you’re playing it this weekend (unless you are Craig “The Claff” Lafferty. See, if you’re Claff and you got an early copy of Bioshock by running out to Toys R Us at lunchtime, the first game you play on your Xbox 360 is, of course, Hexic 2.)

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