Monday, July 07, 2014

GDC 2014 Transcript: The Iterative Level Design Process Used to Ship Fallout 3 and Skyrim

Originally presented at GDC 2014 as part of Level Design in a Day

Slides available on Slideshare
Full audio/video available on the GDC Vault (requires subscription)

A note about author voice in this article: As per the usual disclaimers, the views and opinions expressed within are my own, and may not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Bethesda or Zenimax.  Those views and opinions are intertwined with the interests, history and objectives of Bethesda Game Studios, however.  While I am reporting on the practices of the studio, some of the particular reasons behind these practices are my own opinions, which only have partial impact on the actual adoption and implementation thereof.  For this reason, I will try to use “I” to express my opinions, where “we” will usually express a fact about the studio.

Iteration, as it’s generally known within game development, is the progressive process of planning, creating and testing content.  This is typically expressed as a cycle, where process is repeated, with each repetition applying lessons learned from the prior.  This cycle is progressive, with each iteration building upon and refining the last.  This concept is widely embraced: many game developers have espoused iteration when discussing the design process.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Skyrim's Modular Level Design - GDC 2013 Transcript

Skyrim’s Modular Approach to Level Design

Originally presented @ Level Design in a Day, GDC 2013
Co-Authored and Co-Presented w/Nate Purkeypile
Slides available here.

While many developers understand the basic concepts behind a modular system, and some have dabbled in it for a project or two, very few have made a career out of it.  That’s exactly what Nate and I have done, however.  Our current project will be our fifth together in the near-decade we have known and worked with each other.  Every one of these projects has taken this kit-based approach, including those we worked on before joining Bethesda.

We recently realized that there are many unspoken understandings we and our colleagues share; expectations and assumptions taken for granted as part of our process. We've struggled to explain ourselves in detail for new artists and designers who had joined our team.  This talk was a way for us to explore and articulate this accumulated knowledge.

To understand our approach, it’s useful to know where we’re coming from as developers, and where Bethesda Game Studios is coming from as a whole.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gamasutra Feature - LDiaD Roundtable

Myself and a few of the other gents involved with the 2013 Level Design in a Day Bootcamp were recently asked to answer a few questions from members of the public. We happily obliged.

You can check out the full, roundtable-style feature over at Gamasutra. Topics discussed include designer workflow, player guidance, and the role of the level designer on past and future teams.  Got more questions for the group? Hit us up on twitter and we'll see what we can do.

Speaking of which - we're just a week out from GDC!  Hope to see you there - but if you can't make it, stay tuned to this space.  I'll be posting the slides for my session this year, which is focused on the modular, kit-based approach to level design we have embrace for many years at Bethesda.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Motivating Players - FIEA Remix

I was recently invited to speak at FIEA, a graduate-level game development school in Orlando.

The talk I gave was an update of my 2011 contribution to GDC's Level Design in a Day, "Motivating Players in Open Games".  Skyrim has come out since that talk was originally given, so I was able to add some examples taken directly from the game.

Here's the video and slides - enjoy!

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Quakecon 2012 Modding Panel

I had the opportunity to speak at QuakeCon 2012 this year as part of a panel with some of my favorite people - Nick Breckon, our community manager at Bethesda, as well as Matt Scott and Chet Faliszek from Valve.  We were there to talk about modding, a topic near to my heart and very much a part of the studio culture at Bethesda as well as Valve.  Be sure to check out some of the other, excellent panels over at the QuakeCon youtube channel.

Friday, June 29, 2012

NaGaDeMo2012: My Experience

June 2012 marked the first National Game Development Month - aka NaGaDeMo.  The idea was to take the energy and interest behind the various game jam events happening worldwide, and change the format from the typical 48-hour ironman rush to a more inclusive, self-directed pace, not unlike the NaNoWriMo event, which was another direct inspiration.

What really appeals to me is the way this event embraces the idea that anybody can participate, thanks to a low barrier of entry and ample time.  People who have never made games before can learn to use a tool like Twine or Gamemaker,  professional devs can build something in their limited spare time, and everyone can avoid the faux-crunch of a shorter jam.

So I went into June excited to contribute to NaGaDeMo. At the end I came away with a crappy game, but I'm still glad I did it, and took away a lot of lessons.