Inside the Vault heads back into programmer territory today with a Q&A with Erik Deitrick, our lead interface programmer. He spends his days knee deep in code and XMLs. Every Halloween, Erik is known for creating a costume that incorporates his young son.
What’s your job at Bethesda?
I’m an interface programmer. So I work on menus and minigames.
What other games have you worked on?
I started off at Ubisoft working on Tarzan Untamed for the GameCube, which was a platformer geared to a young audience. I then worked at a failed dot-com making small games for a platform that never made it to market, which is a shame because my head-to-head wackamole would have revolutionized all mole-based games. Then I got hired here at Bethesda and worked on Oblivion, and now Fallout 3.
What was the best part about working as a programmer? The worst part?
The fast cars, loose women and James Bond lifestyle. Fact: my car goes in excess of 100 kilometers per hour. Also, I can’t seem to keep women from sending naked pictures of themselves to my email account, [email protected] Beyond that I like working with the artists and designers to implement the cool stuff that they come up with. I also like having a final product that I can point to after all of the hard work, especially one that a lot of people enjoy. The worst part of being a programmer is that people think you’re their personal tech support. Although once they find out I program video games, I become their personal shopper. I’d expect to get questions about the industry, but mostly people want to know what console they should buy and if they should get the extended warranty.
How did you get into the industry? Do you have any tips for breaking in?
I never bothered to tailor my classes in college to give myself an advantage in the game industry, it wasn’t even on my radar. When I saw the job listing in the NY Times though, I had to send in my resume. As for getting in, I’d say routinely check companies websites for listings, be willing to move, and maybe try to get an internship or two under your belt.
What would you say is your personal favorite game of all-time?
I’ve had a lot of games that I really got into over the years. I was fully addicted to Tribes for a least a year. I played lots of Red Alert. When I was younger and had more time than money, I’d play any game I bought to death. Wolfenstein and Duke Nukem come to mind. The only game that I still pick up and play regularly though is Mario 3. I even went so far as to meet in real life — in an industrial park at night no less — a guy I met on the internet because he promised me a toploader NES for free after mine had broken. If you ever get such an offer I say go for it, because people are basically good, right?
What games are you looking forward to?
Ghostbusters on the Wii. The Batman and Indiana Jones Lego games. Spore.
What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
My wife. She sets the alarm too early then hits snooze 6 friggin times. Starting at 5am.
Worst job you’ve ever had?
This was a fun question because I got to reminisce about all of the horrible jobs I’ve had over the years. I’ve had a lot of craptastic jobs. Mostly standing behind a cash register. The job that I hated showing up for the most was at a gym. The lady who hired me said that they needed a warm body behind the desk. It is the only job I’ve had to take a urine test for, which was embarrassing because I left the door to the bathroom open thinking that they had to watch, but the guy yelled at me and I could hear people in the waiting room laughing. The job was mostly getting yelled at by customers over things outside my control, and having to ask sweaty guys to put their shirts on before using the equipment.
Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I tend to drift through hobbies. After I become somewhat proficient at one I move on to the next. Right now I’m revisiting barbecuing which I did quite a bit of maybe 10 years ago. Back then I managed the heat and smoke by hand, which meant staying near the grill for a long time. I was able to get very good product, but even on small pieces of meat it could mean tending the fire for 5-8 hours. So now I’m working on building a “set it and forget” it rig. Electric heat and an automatic smoke generator. It’s less about being lazy though and more about eliminating the variables to get consistent BBQ. So far it works really well, except when I trip the breaker by running the toaster at the same time. By the way, if there were Achievements in real life you would have just earned one for making it all the way through that description of my smoking hobby.