Saturday, June 03, 2006

Critical Reception

It's always with a combination of excitement and trepidation that I watch the public react to the projects I've worked on once they ship. I'll try and archive here some of those reactions, for better or worse.
TESV: Skyrim

Fallout 3
Fallout 3 DLC
* = as lead designer

TES 4: Oblivion

Oblivion DLC: Mehrunes Razor

Oblivion DLC: The Vile Lair

Aeon Flux

BloodRayne 2

Diplomatic Correspondence

Firthan Andoren
Andoren Manor, Godsreach
Mournhold, Morrowind

For your immediate Attention:
Advisor Andoren; my apologies for the nature of this letter, but I fear that King Helseth's initial appraisal of the threat posed by Frathen Drothan may have been premature. You know well my trust in the judgement of the King, but I have learned new, disturbing details which may give him cause to re-consider the decision to ignore this matter.

As expected, Drothan has received no support from the Great Houses, but has gathered strength in the form of mercenary soldiers. I realize King Helseth anticipated this, but I do not believe he anticipated Drothan being able to hire so many. My sources are still attempting to discern where this unexpected wealth is coming from. We have yet to rule out the possibility of funding from within Morrowind's borders.

We also have interviewed several scholars with whom Drothan has been in communication during recent months. His interests seemed keenly focused on Mehrunes Razor. Drothan went to great lengths to keep his academic contacts separate, and now that they have been cross-referenced, we're becoming convinced he has a chance at recovering the artifact. Worse, we suspect he's going to try and recover it from an excavation site within Cyrodiil borders.

I need not remind you of Morrowind's tenuous relationship with the Empire. While Drothan may not stand a chance against the Legion, possessing the Razor may give him courage enough to try. If that happens, I'm not sure even I could convince Ocato and the Council of your innocence in the matter.

I implore you, re-visit the matter at the Royal Palace, a pray send word that the good King Helseth intends to resolve the matter internally. The Oblivion Crisis has caused arguably greater turmoil in Cyrodiil than any other province. Drothan is the last matter I wish to trouble my superiors with at this time.

With the utmost respect,

Philea Nielus
Office of the Imperial Ambassador
Caldera, Vvardenfell

Work Samples

Here is a collection of various work samples from my career. Here you'll find examples of writing, documentation, and screenshots from published work.  What you will not find are playable examples of my most recent work.

GDC 2011 Materials
The Level Design in a Day tutorial was brought back in 2011.  Again I contributed an hour-long talk, this time focused on how to be aware of and encourage the curiosity and motivation of the player when making open world games, based on my experiences at Bethesda, and observations in life and other games.  If you have access to the GDC Vault, audio of the entire day is available. You can also view an online transcript of my talk here on my site.

GDC 2010 Materials
I had the pleasure and honor of appearing at GDC 2010 as part of the Level Design in a Day tutorial. My main contribution was an hour-long session on the role of the level designer as a storyteller.  I'm afraid our tutorial day was not recorded, but I do have my slides and a video example used in the talk available to share.

Fallout 3 GECK wiki & Tutorials
Shortly after launching Fallout 3, we were able to focus on preparing our content creation tool, the GECK, for public release. To help the mod community get off on the right foot, many of us turned our attention to cleaning up our wiki documentation. I organized and edited a series of wiki and video tutorials authored by myself and my level design team; Jeff Browne, Phil Nelson, Jesse Tucker and Daryl Brigner, as well as environment artist Rashad Redic.
Fallout 3 Notes & Terminals
I write a lot of small things to help build the story of our game worlds. Here's an incomplete collection of things I contributed to Fallout 3, stored at The Vault wiki.

Fallout 3 Developer Diaries
In preparation for the release of Fallout 3, I shared a look at the thinking and techniques behind creating our alternate version of Washington, D.C. - a vision of our Capital destroyed in the nuclear fire of the Fallout universe.
I also worked with Nathan Purkeypile, my co-lead on the Point Lookout DLC for Fallout 3, to write another developer diary in preparation for that project's release.  This would focus on our approach to the DLC at large, with an emphasis on world design.

Oblivion In-Game Books (archived at The Imperial Library)
From Shivering Isles:

From Mehrunes Razor:
From The Vile Lair:
From Oblivion:
TESIV Wiki Tutorials
When we launched Oblivion, we decided to launch a version of our internal wiki to support the mod community. In order to bridge the gap between novice end-users and the technical information in the wiki, I created a few basic tutorials to help gamers turn into modders. Note that due to the collaborative nature of wiki, these tutorials have been tweaked and edited by the TESIV modding community since my original publish.

BloodRayne 2 Level Design

Here are some images from my Level Designs for BloodRayne 2. Please note that credit for art assets goes to Nathan Purkeypile, Cory Edwards, Ryan Monday, and the rest of the BR2 art team.   

BloodRayne Design Test
I had to complete a one-week test to secure my level design gig at Terminal Reality. The task entailed designing a level from concept to mock-up that would have fit into the original BR title. My techniques have changed quite a bit since I completed this, but many of the fundamental of my approach to level design have not changed. View the test in HTML format here.
PlanetQuest Documentation Excerpts

I created volumes of design documentation for the ill-fated PlanetQuest project, an MMORPG funded by a startup software company which I was remarkably put in charge of creating design for as well as handling our small staff of freelance artists. I'm able to share a few .PDF excerpts here, but most of the documentation will remain confidential indefinitely. Take a look at bits of our Quest Document, Governments Doc, and Combat Table.


Joel Burgess


World Director, Ubisoft Toronto
6/2016 - Current


  • Support & Direction for core setting fiction
  • High-level planning for locations & gameplay distribution

Senior Designer, Bethesda Game Studios
6/2005 - 5/2016

Fallout 76

  • Establish world tone & setting fiction
  • Set direction for key gameplay & systems
  • Coordinate & align all portions of dev team on early vision

Fallout 4

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Systems and Combat Design Contributions
  • Dialogue, Book, and Quest Writing
  • Level design and gameplay scripting
  • Gameplay Design: Dragon, Spriggan, Wispmother
  • Tools and Workflow Design
  • Organized Documentation and Release of Creation Kit modding tool
  • Collaborated w/Valve on Steam Workshop Integration
Fallout 3: A Post-Apocalyptic Role-Playing Game

  • Established & guided creative vision for level design
  • Collaborated on world & quest design/implementation
  • Hired & managed team of five level designers w/producers
  • Shared systems & tools design duties w/design leads
  • Co-Editor of Strategy Guide for base game & expansions
  • Hands-on level design layout, scripting, writing
Fallout 3 DLC -Point Lookout

  • Project co-lead from concept to ship
  • Managed team of ~20 artists & designers on tight schedule
  • Hands-on w/project. Implemented free-form quests, world design/building, scripting, directed/performed voice acting, etc.
Fallout 3 DLC - Operation: Anchorage

  • Collaborated on High-level design of military scenario
  • Design of general space/gameplay flow and mechanics
  • Flavor text and holotape writing
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
  • Responsible for many of the game's 200+ dungeons
  • Contributed to story hooks and points of interest for random gameplay
Oblivion DLC: Mehrunes Razor - (Knights of the Nine compilation)

  • Handled Design, writing, and scripting
  • Shared level design duties with one other Level Designer
Oblivion DLC: The Vile Lair

  • Established lair layout and theme
  • Shared in Level design and writing duties.
Oblivion: The Shivering Isles (expansion)

  • Collaborated with designers on Quest Dungeons
  • Design, writing, and implementation of freeform gameplay areas

Level Designer, Terminal Reality
4/2004 - 5/2005

Aeon Flux
  • Contributed to overall Game Design during pre-production
  • Wrote and began production on two "episodes", or levels
Bloodrayne 2
  • Designed and produced two levels of final game
  • Handled dialogue and cinematic scripting
Demonik (unreleased)

  • Contributed Art Assets

Art Director & Designer, Dezign Corp.
2/2003 - 11/2003
Rob Williams - Project Lead
PlanetQuest (unreleased - cancelled)

  • Managed tasks and budget for freelance artists
  • Wrote extensive design documentation for original RPG concept
  • Early systems prototyping w/proprietary tools
3D Artist, UCF GAMES Lab
2001 - 2004
Dr. John Weishampel - Project Supervisor
The VR Forest (location-based educational exhibit)
  • Created and imported content into Torque Game Engine
  • Collaborated on overall experience design
  • Project was unveiled at Orlando Science Center in 2005

B.A. Digital Media: Interactive Media
University of Central Florida
Dr. Robert Kenny - advisor
Graduated 2004

A.A. Music Theory & Performance
Indian River Community College
Casey Lunceford, Department Head
Graduated 2001

Speaker: GDC 2010, 2011, 2012: Level Design in a Day Tutorial
QuakeCon 2012 Panelist: Modding (video)
QuakeCon 2010 Panelist: World Design (video)
On-Campus presentations, FIEA (Orlando) and SMU (Dallas)
UCF Virtual Rainforest Team was:
Featured at ESA conference, Savannah, GA 2003
Featured at Institute for Simulation and Training, Orlando
Featured at IAAPA convention 2002
Co-Organizer "Rock vs. Cancer" ACS benefit concert

Reference Contacts are Available Upon Request
View my Profile and Endorsements on LinkedIn
View my Profile at Moby Games