Back to everyday life

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Let’s get away from E3 for a while, and let’s check life on Bethesdaland, first with an important note made by Matt “Gstaff” Grandstaff, answering “When can we actually start asking questions about the gameplay?” :

With E3 coverage soon wrapping for most sites, I’m hoping to give you guys a chance to answer some questions soon. Stay tuned.

Good news, if you have some start writing them down.

—X—

On Meet the Devs Jay “Radhamster” Woodward, Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures at Bethsoft, had this to say about what’s the hardest thing regarding work on Artificial Intelligence:

I’d almost certainly answer that question differently at different times. smile.gif One might suppose the answer would involve low-level mathematics or engineering issues, or a core sub-system like pathfinding or perception — which do indeed provide many challenges. However, when developing artificial intelligence for a game with both an open world and a complex story, I would say one of the greatest challenges is actually a more high-level concern: balancing the interconnected relationship between AI autonomy and designer control.

An AI system needs to equip designers with complete power and flexibility to specify behavior that is unique to a character and/or a situation, while seamlessly integrating that unique behavior with the AI’s inherent behavior (the actions that character takes to pursue its fundamental goals intelligently). Authored behavior must blend with autonomous behavior, so that the AI maintains its dynamic intelligence while pursuing designer-driven goals.

—X—

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In the same topic we saw Nathan “Junkdenate” McDyer finally makes a few posts:

So Junk/Nate, if you ever turn up again, can you shed any light over the appearance of your corpse in Oblivion? Any history behind that easter egg?

Sure, I’m friends with the world artist that put it in, who thought it would be cool and funny. Originally the corpse had my full name which was later adjusted to better fit the ES lore. In the French version though it never got changed so the corpse actually says Nathan McDyer instead of Nath Dyer.[…]

My main purpose is to handle scheduling for the Environment Artists and our Technical Artist. This entails looking at all the art that the lead artist, designers, and level designers want and figuring out how to delegate that among the artists best suited for the situation. The tricky part is figuring out how all that gets done in the time we are given to make it. Then as things get added or changed I have to adjust the schedule to fit that. That will sometimes lead me to say no to a lot of peoples requests.

Other things I do is try to act as a communication link from the artists to the rest of the team. I try to make sure that the artists get what they need and the rest of the team gets what they need from the artists. I’m also a fire fighter, in that if problems arise, like someone’s computer constantly crashes, I try to figure out how to deal with them. Other things I do is assign bugs QA finds to artists and small things like burns discs or setup a test cell in the editor.

As for Russian Roulette, uh no I like to keep my artists alive or things get harder for me. Plus the legal implications could be severe, and lawyers get expensive. I mainly resolve things by re-allocating resources, and saying no a lot to people.[…]

Saying no to people is hard, I mean ideally we would make everything that people on the team wanted.
A techinical artist job on our team mostly deals with special effects, shaders, and havok. Anything that relies heavily on working closely with the programmers. I know at some other companies they just do Max scripts and stuff like that.
As for types of Artists, well we have a talented team of environment artists, a technical artist, character artists, animators, a concept artist, and an interface artist.

13 artists are under my personal guidance, but I also work heavily with the Lead Artist and the Art Director.

As for who is suited for what best. Partially its experience, but mostly some people are better with more organic things, or mechanical things. Some work better with dungeon kits as others are better with buildings. Some people are better at layouts and cluttering, or even making clutter objects. Different Artists different talents.

—X—

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And here’s Brian “aerelorn” Robb, former Morrowind modder and now a programmer at Bethsoft, on a Q&A session at the Bethesda Blog:

1. What’s your job at Bethesda?

I’m a programmer. I’m responsible for a number of different systems in the game, but for Fallout 3 my biggest task is the Combat AI. I spend a lot of time running the game in slow motion from a floating camera, watching what the NPCs are doing and trying to make them intelligent and more natural.

2. What prior projects have you worked on?

I got my start right here, working on Oblivion. The majority of my time was spent writing the Save/Load system, but I worked on a number of other elements of the game as well. Prior to Oblivion, I was a member of the Morrowind mod community and created the Morrowind Enhanced series of mods.

3. What have you drawn on for inspiration in developing Fallout 3? Books, movies, music, etc would be fine, if you don’t want to name any games.

As a programmer I’m not involved in the world or art design, though I am happy to see elements and themes being incorporated into the game from sources I’ve enjoyed like Mad Max, The Road, and of course, the original Fallout games. For my own work, I’ve played back through my game library looking at combat to see what worked well for them and what didn’t. I think the most recent game I have that offered some pretty impressive combat AI was F.E.A.R.

4. How is the work-environment? Is it competitive or co-op? Do the different teams talk together?

It’s very cooperative. We work in a fairly open space, so it’s very easy to walk down a row or two and talk to whomever you need. We’re all big gamers here and we’re all focused on making the best game we can.

5. What is your favorite type of game to play (RTS,FPS,RPG etc)

I play a little bit of everything, though I tend to enjoy RPGs more than anything else. However, that doesn’t stop me from putting RPG/FPS hybrids like Deus Ex and the System Shock series high in my top 10. That particular sub-genre is one that I wish got a little more attention from game studios.

6. How long have you been playing Fallout, and how would you describe your feelings towards the franchise?

I first played Fallout about two or three years after it was released. On my very first playthrough, after about 5 minutes of playing I left Vault 13 and hit a random encounter on my way to Shady Sands. Much to my surprise, I was now the owner of a very shiny Alien Blaster. This led my character to specialize in Energy weapons early on and travel great distances in search of small energy cells. On my next playthrough with a similar character, solely by virtue of not experiencing that random encounter, the game and my character progressed in a completely different way. That is the most important aspect of Fallout to me, that not only can you replay the game with many different character types, even replaying with the same character will present different opportunities and experiences.

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