About Game Development: On Creativity


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

Reader Comments

  1. Todd Howard in a dress? Shouldn’t he have a blacked out area too? Lol.

    I always wondered if it could be compared to some great musicians getting together and jamming off eachother from pure inspiration and creative playing with their abilities – I have a vid of Keith Richards, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gary Busey, and Mick Fleetwood, and another of Keith Richards and Chuck Berry jamming – it is electric to see them bouncing ideas off eachother musically! I think to sit in a room with the genius minds you have at Bethesda Soft and watch them bouncing ideas off eachother would be as great a thrill as actually playing the finished product !!

  2. Beautiful article, well said.

    Though I must say, the party trick would fail with me in the room. Perhaps claiming “I work at a law firm!” would clear me out, but not a guy that makes video games for a living. I’d be all up on that. The pinnacle of imagination.

  3. I AM that guy, because I do make video games for a living, luckily I’m the artist so that kind of makes up for it, just don’t start talking about orcs and eleves, or huge mutants and some fat man.

  4. Awesome article! It ends too quickly though. I would like to hear more of your thoughts about the importance of teamwork in the creative development process! More more!