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Meet the Fallout 3 devs - Mark Lampert

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Mark "Wolfric Tugmutton" Lampert

INTRODUCTION AND FALLOUT RELATED:

What's your job at Bethesda? I handle all sound design and voice work for the studio (casting, recording, editing, etc.), as well as interacting a bit with anyone we hire to compose the music.

What prior projects have you worked on? Prior to Fallout 3, I did sound design and voice for Oblivion (I came aboard here in early 2005), and before this I worked for Ion Storm in Austin, Texas where I took care of all the voice needs for Deus Ex: Invisible War, as well as an assortment of voice, sound design and a little bit of music for Thief: Deadly Shadows. There have also been a small assortment of 3rd party projects here at Bethesda to which I've contributed a bit of voice and sound design when I have the time to do so.

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. Fallout 1 and 2 are obvious sources though you probably already assumed this, and not surprisingly the inspiration for those games as well ... films like Mad Max and The Road Warrior.

How long have you been playing Fallout, and how would you describe your feelings towards the franchise? I played Fallout 1 and 2 in college over a long period of time, and I recently re-played a big chunk of the second to properly refresh my memory on the basic feel and function of things. Like most of you, it's still one of my all-time favorite games, and I'd have loved to see the franchise continue. I certainly didn't imagine at the time that I'd be part of that effort, so it's very exciting. There are lots of moments where I kind of pause to enjoy the surprise that I feel when I realize that I'm actually working on this game. I'd hate to feel jaded about it.

Considering that much of the game will probably be in a wild wasteland, do any of you spend much time hiking, camping, etc, and if so where? I've only lived here for just over two years now, so I'm still digging around and finding places to go hiking, but there's a large national park not too far from where I live that I frequent. Mostly I've gone there to do a little bit of field recording, but I definitely like to be outside for just about any reason at all. My favorite hiking and camping spots are in the hill country of central and west Texas, though. It's just my favorite climate and landscape of anywhere I've lived, and my family made a lot of camping trips around there when I was younger. One of the very best was in Big Bend national park in the far western part of Texas. The part I remember the most was how utterly quiet it was when I stepped out of the family van. We lived in NE Houston at the time, and after a while you sort of take the low din of city noise for granted, and when it disappears it's almost like you're in a vacuum. Really amazing. About the only thing you could hear was the wind, and it made you suddenly very self conscious of your own voice because it carried so far and so easily.

But if I can't get out to a more remote area like that, I'm fine with any good patch of grass where I can lay out in the sun and completely zone out for a good while, logging some good daydreaming time.

Have you played the Van Buren Alpha? If so, what were your feelings on it? I saw a little bit of it at the desk of one of the other devs, but I haven't experimented with it myself. For one thing it was completely unfinished, and working in this industry I realize how unreasonable it is to try and form some sort of final opinion about an unfinished project. I think it was cool to see where they were going with it, though I can only imagine what the real end result would have been. Games go through enormous changes, sometimes even toward the end of a development cycle. In particular, I'd have liked to hear what new audio aspects would have been involved in the game compared to the previous releases, and it certainly wasn't at that point, yet, so there's nothing to really evaluate.

Also, do you have a favourite sound/piece of music/anything from the previous Fallouts? Some of the sounds that I like best from the first two Fallout games are simply those that you hear often which instantly remind me of the game again if I hear them now -- entering and exiting combat (the little mechanical sound of the thingy at the bottom right of the screen), the player scratching his head (for some reason that happened a lot). The music was great overall, but one of my favorite pieces was in Fallout 2 in the town of Redding. I thought that snippet of player piano that would fade in and out from time to time really set the mood, as well as made it feel ghostly.

I know there are many funny 'audio' stories, for example slicing melons to get some sword-hitting-flesh sound and all that sort of stuff, so go ahead, post some! I'll refrain from discussing any work thus far on Fallout 3, but as for Oblivion, there were certainly a few Foley'd sounds that worked out nicely. One was the sound of movement in heavy armor. This was assorted pieces of metal and air conditioner duct work, all thrown together in a canvas bag and then shaken. I also like to add some element of voice components to certain sounds to make them a little more 'organic' sometimes. When you take the sigil stone from the tower in the Oblivion realms in order to send the whole thing crashing down, you can hear my voice in the background during all the chaos. It's just a long, low roar that I pitched down a bit further, soaked with reverb and then mixed in at a low level so it wouldn't stand out too much.

The best sound in Fallout is when you critical hit on a pigrat's skull. I have no idea how Mr Deenen made that sound, but it actually sounds like he took a paper bag, put a raw steak in it and hit it with a sledge hammer. Heh, I remember that. A lot of the critical hits were pretty visceral, and they somehow didn't get old. It always felt very satisfying, and you immediately knew that you'd really dealt your enemy a powerful blow. There was one time in Fallout 2 where I was having trouble with one of the slavers, and I strolled up behind him (we weren't in combat at the time) and gave him a double-barrel shotgun blast to the back of the head. I was at point blank range and scored the critical hit, wiping him out in one shot. His buddies came after me and killed me the first time through, but it was still very satisfying ... if not just for having the option at my disposal.

As far as Foley sound using meat, I've tried to avoid that so far in my career. It always seemed like really expensive way to make a sound. I do, however, want to record the sound of macaroni and cheese being stirred in a pot. Talk about ghastly. Maybe keep your ears peeled for that one.

What is the one indispensable item in your office when it comes to making FO3? I don't think there's much in here that I don't absolutely need at some point or another, and about seventy-five percent of it is always in use during every day ... programs, hardware, you name it.

WORK RELATED:

top 5 voices you'd love to have in studio living or dead. (aside from Orson Welles, William Shatner and Teddy Roosevelt) That's a great question. Here are my top five picks, in no particular order:

- Michael Wincott on Wikipedia

- Sam Elliot on IMDB

- Michael Palin on Wikipedia

- Helen Mirren on IMDB

- Stephen Russell on IMDB

There are also a host of other folks that I've worked with on previous projects that I'd love to get the chance to record again at some point -- Tiffany Grant, Sue Birch, Ken Webster, Betsy Ames, Gray Haddock, Terri Brosius, Robert Graham, Laura Bailey, Christopher Sabat, and plenty more.

-Are you voice editor? -If yes do you go out and record voices? -How about NPC dialogs? Are you responsible for their recording sequence also? -Does Fallout 3 feature "Mature" related voice? Like curses,etc. in previous games? -How do you make non-human creature voices? For example how do you make Pigrats if there are any?

I handle all of the voice recording, editing and post production. Direction of the voice is usually done by myself and a lead designer with occasional exceptions. Recording has taken place at a studio in the area for past projects, though at this point we bring the voice actors here and recording everything under our own roof. As far as the tone of the voice and the language used, the designers will write whatever is appropriate for the situation and characters.

I put together the non-human creature type sounds in really any way possible that sounds good in the end. Like most sound designers, I like to start with animal recordings whether it's from a library or something I can go record myself, then heavily edit and manipulate those recordings in order to create something new. I also like using my own or someone else's vocal recordings as part of creature sounds, too, not to mention pure sound effects and field recordings. The trickiest thing is to make the creature sound memorable in some way, or at least readily identifiable to the player once they're familiar with the game. It can be difficult when there are a large number of fantastical creatures for which to create sound, so I just have to spend time looking for good source material that's unique.

One final thing for you: Is it possible for any mature game to posess extremely mild language?Is there a limitation for this? I see no reason why not. Getting a 'mature' rating could apply to any number of factors other than the kind of language used, really.

You probably can't say anything, but do you feel this too harshly limits the amount of dialogue availiable in-game? And does it cut down on the creativity of the quest writers, who know that some of their better ideas may not be able to be implemented due to the large amount of dialogue required?

As a modder who specialises in quests for Morrowind, I know that some very simple ideas can actually take a lot of dialogue: one simple "escort these two guys here" quest actually took thirteen different lines of dialogue in order to cover all the possible outcomes of the quest, which if it was all voiced could add up to a lot of space, particularly if you made all your quests equally as complex.

It's definitely not ideal, but nothing ever is. We work with what we've got, and if small but significant improvements can be made for each new project then that's great. I don't expect to ever work on a game ever where we all look around after it's done and say, "That all worked out perfectly and there's nothing else I would want to add." Never going to happen. We could always cram in more and more dialogue if there were no limits.

Fizzbang and Co. might have more to add on this, but while there are all sorts of sticky situations that arise when we start bumping our heads up against a size budget, the writers also show off their creativity under this roof in how they work around those constraints. Same goes for the audio engine -- there are always endless features and abilities that I wish I had at my disposal when implementing sounds, but instead I find clever ways to fake this or simulate that, and the ends always justify the means if the player digs what they're seeing and hearing when they play the game for the first time at home. A Lamborghini isn't going to win you any races if you don't know how to shift, know what I mean?

When in the process of making a game do you start localization? This guesstimation for the sake of translation - you have a key what a certain foreign language on overall will increase/decrease in size or it's real guesstimation by guts? Maybe asking some people around the office who speak foreign languages that will be target for localization to translate some key phrases from time to time to double check?

Luckily for me, one of our producers heads up the localization effort at some fairly early point in the project. Localization is an absolutely huge task when you include all the details. Simply enormous. It ends up involving a lot of people here and overseas, in addition to QA here and overseas in each language/country involved. We estimate based on generalities and from the past experience of our own localized projects, plus those of the folks we work with. There are probably good numbers out there at this point to work with since games have been crossing borders and oceans for a while now.

When you "choose" voice-actors - do you have certain voices, dialects in your mind from the beginning of do they evolve while working with the actors themselves? I think you mentioned somewhere that you had some favorites among the actors - so I guess you have a little black book with actors already or do you go over agencies to find what you're looking for?

As usual, it's a bit of both. It's best, though, if you can give the voice actor a general direction in which to go and then let them take the voice and performance there. Nitpicking to get a very specific result isn't much fun for anyone, unless you're thinking "I want Actor X" and are able to cast that very person. But the more I work with folks that I've recorded before, the more familiar I am with their abilities and ranges. So there are a few people I can just 'plug in' to roles early on because I know they'll nail it, and if they're already coming in then we can experiment and try out some other ideas just in case something works out. I also go the other route you were wondering about -- I talk to the agencies and describe what I'm after and let them send me demos, and there are voice demos direct from the actors to listen to, as well. So I'll hear a demo of a guy who does a deep, scratchy "good ol' boy" kind of voice for a particular commercial, political ad or narration, and I'll ask him to come audition and see if we can adapt that for some character. But I've also learned not to rush people through auditions and to let them take a crack at several characters some ideal I had in mind doesn't work out on the first go. People can sometimes surprise you with something you weren't expecting, so it's worth spending a little time trying to find it.

How many hours a day do you work on the game? Generally eight, but there are always exceptions sprinkled here and there that go anywhere from a 'little bit' over that to 'way' over that. When voice recording and editing is going on, my days get much longer for extended periods of time, and the last six or so months of a large project mean long days six and usually seven days a week for just about everyone on the team. I also work on the game outside of the office in terms of field recording, though I don't keep track of that time as I often do it sporadically. With the exception of field recording, I'd expect this answer might cover most of the folks here, and the QA team works crazy hours through longer portions of the project. It takes an enormous amount of work to complete and ship a game.

Is it just me, or is Wolfric tremendously focussed on his work? Not that I don't appreciate his insight into the making of... There's 'focused on work' and then there's 'has no life', and I probably bob around between the two quite a bit. But I'm lucky enough to be doing something I enjoy. "When in doubt, work!"

Without giving anything away, have you encountered moments in the creation process where you were giddy at the thought of Fallout Fans seeing what you have created for the first time? Oh yeah, fairly regularly. Most of the time it occurs when I see some new piece of art or a character that someone is working on and it gives me something to work with in terms of getting started with any corresponding sounds. I get excited about it myself because I can't wait to see it go into the hands of the world and level builders and see what they do with it all. New programming changes get me excited, too, because the work the coders do is often invisible but of course very far reaching. Toward the end of a game's development cycle when aspects of the game are being tweaked and tuned, code adjustments behind the scenes can really do wonders for a game, to say nothing of all the work they do as a whole just to keep the whole thing running smoothly in the first place. There are countless instances of seeing something in the game, getting really excited about it and thinking about what it'll be like for people who are coming to the came with no prior knowledge of it to experience it for the very first time.

Are there moments where you have felt the opposite imagining FO Fans seeing what you have done? Yeah, of course. I haven't seen anything which makes me think, "Oh, they'll hate that," but only that I don't know which way it'll go. A lot of the time I've found that if there's something standing out so much that it makes me concerned, chances are that there are already a bunch of other folks on the team who feel the same way, and it's either already in the process of being changed or will be soon when everyone makes their thoughts known. We are all both creators and judges the whole way.

Do you find it more difficult to design sounds for certain types of games? My experience so far is that a traditional fantasy game probably poses more challenges in terms of keeping the magic components of the game sounding fresh and not all like a synthesizer with all the keys pressed down (though if that works, great!). I tend to enjoy doing sound design for games which involve some degree of machinery or other mechanical, noisy items. There are a lot of things in our own world which serve a good raw material for those sorts of things -- recording assorted gizmos around your home or on the street, then taking them into a mutlitrack editor and having fun with all the possibilities of editing and manipulating those sounds in order to produce something unique. There's a lot of fun to be had.

One thing I really like about a fantasy game, though, is that a lot of the sounds are often very natural -- walking through the grass, sounds of the forest with wind in the trees, rain, crickets at night (assuming we're talking about an Earth-like world, I guess) and things like that. If there's a good example in our world that you can get access to, it might be something as simple as going an recording it.

What software do you use? (DAW, Samplers, etc) What equipment? (favourite voice recording mik? synths, other stuff) My main workhorse is Steinberg Nuendo. Any recording is done in this program, and I use it for just about everything -- sound design, voice editing, mixing to video, etc. I use a lot of the WAVES plugins as well as assorted other 3rd party and individual plugins, and for softsynths and other gizmos I've got a bundle from Native Instruments (controlled with a MIDI keyboard controller). Quick and simple edits, batch processing and things like that are usually done in SoundForge.

Hardware setup is fairly simple. Voice is usually done with our AKG C414B-XLII, (in the past we've recorded at another studio where an AKG C414-ULS and Neumann TLM-103 were used) and I run this mic into a TC Electronic Gold Channel mic pre-amp. The rest of the processing that I do 'to tape' is achieved with plugins inside Nuendo. My A/D interface is an RME Fireface 800. For field recording I've got the excellent Sound Devices 702T recorder, and a small assortment of good mics (AT-822 stereo, AT-835b shotgun, Crown PZM-30D).

How is the work-environment? Is it competitive or co-op? Do the different teams talk together? Being the sole member of the audio department, I certainly can't say I have any competition. In terms of other disciplines here, I end up working with just about everyone to some degree, and it's one of the aspects of audio that I really enjoy. There's already a lot of good communication here during the development process, and I notice that most of the time people only seem to do more of it as time goes on -- they can see that the end result is improved.

For me, the best way to work with people is face to face. A lot of times if I've been working on a single sound or aspect of the sound design for a long period of time, my ears start to really need a break. I often use that time to leave my office and stroll by the desks of some of the artists/animators to see what they're up to, and it's very common for me to find something I wasn't previously aware of -- something that gives me an idea, or perhaps just gives me a short heads up on a piece of art or animation that will require some kind of special audio attention. I could always just work away in my cave and wait for that asset to make its way to me, but I always get far better information by simply talking to the person that created it. It might be that I'll say, "That's great; I've already got the perfect sound cooked up for that," or they'll say, "Let me just adjust this one thing here and then we can make this work better with the sound as whole." It saves time down the line and the end product is a lot better.

The same goes for spending time with other people in other areas of the team to get a quick idea of what they're working on or what's on their schedule, because the chances are always good that it'll involve my work in some way. Most of us each lunch here at the studio each day, and I like to float between different tables from one day to the next, because aside from getting to know people a little bit better, I get to hear about what their work involves. Even though I may not do any coding myself, it still benefits me to learn a little bit about what the different coders are doing. I honestly feel like a lot of bugs are avoided this way when we can both clear up our understanding of how some game system works ahead of time. Anyway, what was the question? Ah, yes ... it's very cooperative here, from my perspective.

Seeing as you do all the audio stuff yourself, do you sometimes wish you had another person to work with so as to decrease the workload on yourself? Was having only one guy in the audio department a budget decision or a practical one (in terms of game development)? I'm the first in-house audio engineer at this company to my knowledge, though Bethesda has been around quite a while. Other folks on the team in years past would take care of audio needs for older projects, coupled with 3rd party audio companies. I can't speculate as to any particular reason that there'd only be me except that it's all worked out so far, so if it ain't broke ... etc. In terms of sharing workload that might get out of control, we've contracted with a 3rd party company a little bit in the past, so I go to them first when things are overflowing. Either that or I contact an individual when it's something more tedious like voice editing as that takes a long time. But as far as working by myself, the only thing I really miss is not being able to compare and contrast with colleagues. You learn a lot from others doing the same work as yourself -- they may have a better technique for something or have a trick for doing X, Y or Z, and then there's the virtually priceless resource of past experience. There's also an upside, though, and that's that I end up getting resourceful when in a pinch, so somewhat unknowingly I end up with my own 'bag of tricks' for later use.

How much contact do you have with the voice actors? Do they ever improv some lines that you like and have to go back and edit the animation/text? Only a couple slices of glass separate us when we're recording, so anything can be changed on-the-fly when appropriate. It's usually myself and the lead designer reading along in the script and directing as we go, and if the actor ad libs a line or has their own take on it that they want to try, we can decide right there whether to hang on to it or not. I always record everything, so on certain lines we may even keep an alternate take as a backup and decide to sub it back in later on, though that doesn't usually happen too often because of the sheer volume of work that needs to get done. The lipsync animations are generally created as part of an automated process that analyzes the audio file, so it's just a matter of re-generating that data if a line is changed. Piece of cake.

Like... WORK PART II... DUDE!:

I know this is kind of like asking a magician to give up his tricks but what's the strangest process you've ever had to go through to get a sound you wanted? This is actually going to be difficult to answer without giving something away. I will say that in past games I've had to get inventive when working on things as seemingly simple as footsteps sounds. For one thing, it's often the case that recording the sort of footwear on the surface that you want doesn't end up sounding the way you want it to. One pair of shoes I have ended up with a lot of leather squeak noise from where the shoelaces would rub against the shoe material, so those were no good, so I found an older pair which were fairly silent. I also found that I had to record this stuff while wearing shorts, because there was too much noise from my jeans as I walked, too.

As for a suitable surface, a solid wood floor didn't sound good because I wanted something hollow. So I ended up using a wooden palette (such as you'd see a forklift using to move stacks of boxes with) which was split in a few places and thus had a nice woody crackling sound to it when you stepped in the right places. I used that and then mixed in some extra woody kind of noises from a library, pitching down here, time stretching there, and all that sort of thing until it all sounded pretty good. For a metal footstep, I ended up walking on a piece of an I-beam and later mixing that with the sound of walking on one of the forks of a hand-operated forklift. The hand-operated forklift was a very solid metal sound, and the I-beam had a slight ring to it, so the two together worked well. Strangely enough, none of these footstep sounds ever saw the light of day as that project was canceled before it came to fruition, so they remain in my 'toolbox' for future use either as the footsteps they were originally intended to be, or perhaps for use with another sound in some unexpected way. It's one of the things I enjoy about doing audio work -- the ends always justify the means, so everything is up for grabs and there really are no set rules.

More recently and unrelated to any project in particular, I've been experimenting with building my own contact microphones. You can find plans for this kind of stuff online, though I end up making mine a little more robust and with an XLR plug since it's likely to be feeding either my mixer at home or our field recorder here at work. I've built the contact mic but haven't had the time to experiment with it other than ensuring that it works, though I have a few ideas to start with, in addition to building a second one and using the two in such a way to get a sort of stereo effect. I also want to try an extension of this and build a housing for a single contact mic where it would become a hydrophone, or mic for use underwater. If it works well, what would I use it for? Who knows, except it might at the very least be interesting, and any decent results can always go into my sound library for future use.

How would you make a sound of dust devil? I'd keep it very simple, actually. Mostly a 'sand on rock' sound from the spinning dust, and then a dash of some sort of vocal-like sucking sound, like wind blowing through a window that's just cracked open a little bit. I don't think it would need to go much beyond that.

Wolfric - You mentioned earlier that you worked for Ion Storm during the development of Deus Ex 2. How was working for them, and more specifically having Spector as your big boss? We all heard the stories of how different the Austin office was to the excesses of Dallas (although I guess by that stage Romero was already long gone). Was it a cool place to get your start in the industry despite being a little more low-key? It was really quite an opportunity for me to get my start with a studio like Ion, and like I mentioned before, I think I was really in the right place at the right time as far as getting the job. It was a pretty sizable studio when I started there, so there were quite a few people who'd worked on big titles that I'd played in earlier gaming days. For one thing, a lot of the Ion Austin folks were ex-Looking Glass, so that's a big piece of gaming history for you right there. There were also a number of people from Origin since they were also out of Austin. A lot of talent under one roof, and I was lucky to get to hang out with a lot of those people in and outside of work. Austin as a city is a particularly tight community, and I would frequently see work colleagues at various peoples' parties. With that kind of social overlapping and close knittedness (if that's a word), I found people very approachable.

I learned an enormous amount from my two audio colleagues there, and a lot of that knowledge is still used in my work each day here. I think the tools and techniques they used were solid, so I see no reason to change them just yet, other than continuing to develop my own techniques and skills as time goes on. They were a big initial boost for me, and after that there's no substitute for learning by doing.

Oddly enough I didn't see Warren Spector too often in my day-to-day work, though his office was just down the hallway. Naturally he'd address the team at regular team meetings and interacted with the leads all the time, but my main focus there was on the voice work (at least initially), and producers on the team were the ones I was most in touch with. There was, however, a month long stay in Hamburg, Germany where I was overseeing the German voice recording of the Deus Ex 2, and by coincidence Warren was also passing through the area to handle press for the game there. So the locals from the publishers office there, Warren and myself all got to go out to dinner one evening, and it was a really good time. Though we didn't work together one-on-one per se, he was just as approachable and open to discussion as anyone else on the team. A really good guy.

So as for a place to get my feet wet for the first time, Ion Austin was probably just about perfect as far as where I was at the time. A really good cross section of talent in a great city. Naturally I always wish I could have been there for Deus Ex (I only got to hear stories from development), but that's the way it goes. I certainly can't complain about Deus Ex 2 and Thief 3 being my first professional projects.

What's your background prior to Bethesda -- what led you to sound design and game-related audio? I apologize if this has been addressed already... (I looked, really I did!) Very nice job incidentally, I'm assuming you mixed the teaser... very very teasing (as some have said).

I got into music a tad early around age four (I used to sing the chorus to Men At Work's "Land Down Under" in the tub, apparently) and my parents bought one of those fancy new personal computer things around age eight, so I got my feet wet with such titles as "Mickey's Space Adventure" and "Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood". A couple of years later my dad borrowed a copy of a game called "King's Quest" from one of his colleagues, and my older brother and I ate it up. This soon led to Space Quest, which soon led to Police Quest (I was clearly on a quest of some sort), and the rest is history.

So if you skip ahead a bit I was into music and had been playing guitar for a while now, and my gaming streak was in full force. At some point I started messing around with picking the games apart when I could and replacing assets. A few games allowed you to dig into their directories and replace sounds or otherwise manipulate the game. I learned how to hex edit with stats-centric games like Darklands and Jagged Alliance, and that eventually led to me getting interested in computer science for college. I studied that my first year but later transferred to a different college where they had a recording/music production 4-year program, and so I really got to put my two big interests together in unexpected ways.

My foot in the door to the game development world came when Ion Storm was looking for an audio intern to handle their voice recording needs for Deus Ex 2. I'd just graduated and really wanted that job even though it would only be a few months in duration, so I job hunted as much as I could but politely pestered Ion Storm for several months until it resulted in an interview and ultimately getting the gig. Like with a lot of new jobs, things moved pretty quickly there as we were busy right from the start. I started taking over directing of the voice bit by bit, later started doing small sound design tasks and helping with other projects. I was there until the studio closed down, and right around that time I found that BGS had a spot open for someone who'd been doing exactly what I had. It was a definite case of right place at the right time.

The work I do has expanded quite a bit since starting here. I do much more field and Foley experimentation than I used to, and over time I've learned a lot of sound design tricks and ideas that I wouldn't previously have thought of. The same goes for the voice work. I've just learned a great deal from doing more and more voice recording, and I think the voice actors enjoy their work even more as a result of us all being on the same page, so to speak. Naturally there are always new challenges, and I get stuck in a rut or run out of ideas just as much as the next person. I think that's one reason why it's good to check out what other folks on the team are working on, because it'll give me an idea for something, or perhaps I can put aside what I was working on in order to tackle a new task and then return to it later when I'm feeling fresh again. Rinse and repeat.

General question for the fancy word writing types: is there a big board in the office/writer's pit keeping tabs on the general amount of [censored]ery/[censored]ery/or otherwise inappropriate language being stuffed into the dialog trees? I don't contribute to the writing of the dialogue myself, though I might suggest minor changes here and there during voice recording sessions. But most of the time it's something that the lead designer and I (along with the voice actor) agree on. Sometimes you have to hear the written dialog as it's translated through the actors to really get a feel for how it's going to sound, because it might come across differently from what the writer heard in his or her head at the time they wrote it. It certainly applies to profanity where it makes sense in some context but not in another, and when you hear it spoken as it's really going to sound in the game, we might feel as though it's gratuitous and doesn't sound natural. So the lead designer or myself might suggest an alternate line right there, or the actor might even suggest, "This would probably sound more natural if I said ______ instead."

But this doesn't apply just to profanity. Sometimes a line is just difficult to say because of the choice of words and needs a quick rearrangement so that it can 'flow'. So we re-write it on the fly without changing the meaning, intent or emotion. This kind of thing happens in the film world all the time, if not more often. A classic example that you've all heard would be when Han Solo is about to go into the carbonite freeze and Leia tells Han, "I love you," to which he replies, "I know." Apparently the original reply was that he loves her, too, but Harrison Ford felt it wasn't what Han Solo would say, being the kind of character that he is. So he suggested the change to Lucas who gave it the thumbs up, and there it is.

Anyway, to summarize all of this, the game's dialogue goes through many stages of filtering and re-writing before it's really considered 'finished'. From when the designer is writing it in their cube for the first time to when it's re-read the next day and changed, to team reviews in a meeting room, our QA department playing the game and finding a logic problem or aesthetic change that needs to be made, to the voice recording sessions and even after that. There will always be a small amount of lines that we'll make changes to even in the final weeks of a project if it's still feasable to do so. The material that you fans hear upon playing the finished game has been discussed, listened to, re-worked and hammered over many times before it reaches your ears! It's all part of the process, though, because we all take a lot of pride in the games we make, so everyone wants each and every little detail to come out just right.

In an interview Ken Rolston (lead designer for Morrowind and Oblivion) said the following to the following question. Taking the bolded part of the answer, would you agree with that assessment of the constraints of Fully-voiced dialogue, and if so how would you think that game companies may overcome those constrains in the future?

What he said is true, but it's still not anything to back away from as there are ways to create a fully-voiced project where everything is good. The main thing is to organize early and always plan ahead, because recording time is a sort of point of no return in regard to the work it takes to re-do dialogue that doesn't work or we don't like, not to mention potentially costly. So you save it until the latest point that you can to avoid re-writes and re-recording. I like to cast very early, and we typically end up doing some early recording anyway (making it necessary), so it's a good time to get a feel for where we are, how the cast works together in the game, and how everything will be on a much larger scale when we do the big recording push somewhere down the line.

Fully-recorded voice does end up causing issues with disc capacity, but everybody in game development has certain limits that they need to fit into, just like the sound effects I produce for the game. I get this much space, art gets this much, animation this much, etc, so you do whatever is necessary to make it work in the end. Could be that a more efficient compression algorithm is the solution, or perhaps there are redundant lines here and there which could stand to go. There also has to be a little bit of extra space built into the whole estimate to allow for localization since translations might come out about 15% longer across the board, or maybe the files themselves are actually a little longer because the dialogue was spoken more slowly. Who knows. Plan and estimate, plan and estimate. It's just one of many challenges along the way, and I think the work required to pull it off is absolutely worth it.

I also don't think that every game out there requires it. I loved the non-verbal, modular languages that were put together for some of the non-human races and robots in KOTOR, or the purely non-verbal but still emotive deliveries in Wind Waker. It's not always going to make sense to do full voice in every game, but for the kind of work we do, I believe it does and it's worth the trouble.

On a somewhat related note back when Baldur's Gate was released it was to memory on 5 CDs, given the limitations of space that are being found on DVD's do believe that multiply DVD's will soon be required for (many) games. Such as Blue Dragon apparently requiring 3 DVD's.

Given every game throughout the history of gaming requiring more and more space (I remember thinking how crazy it was that King's Quest III had three 5.25" floppies, and I remember how frustrated I was when I had a 3.5" double density drive and the 3.5" high density disks were becoming more ubiquitous), I guarantee it. I don't know how that'll work with consoles, but since consoles now have their own hard drives on which to store content, the same concept probably works with those, too. Kilo, mega, giga, terra, etc, and on and on we go. The scale of things will continue to change though the relative amount of enjoyment will be the same. Always has been.

For instance, as weapon ideas are fleshed out - a bolt action rifle perhaps - does Wolfric hunt down accurate wav files while Soc programs hit/miss %'s and so forth or do you disperse and return with a 'rough' and plan out the operation and implementation against the rest of the game?

Secondly, do you find yourself in the crunch already? Have there been times that a detail you really thought could have been more fully fleshed out needed to be left for later tuning only to get finalized and forgotten by your lead? Or is it all being refined constantly in a less modular fashion?

For the assorted sounds of a conventional small arms weapon, I always start with realism where I can find it, but I usually finish with something a bit more sexed up, simply because it's what sounds good. I also like to add extra mechanical detail to something like a gun shot here and there, giving it some extra touches in terms of the bolt/slide working with each shot, the cartridge being ejected and that sort of thing. I like those bright, precise kinds of sounds, so I like to add them in for style's sake.

I've learned to refine things I'm not happy with as soon as I notice that I don't like them as they are. If I put something off until later because there are other priorities, I have to make sure that I document exactly what I wanted to change, as well as make sure I review that list later. But for me it's always better just to give something the attention it needs right then and there so that you can iterate, come back and have another listen with fresh ears and see if I'm happy with it or not, yet. Having said that, being under pressure can also yield good results. I think 'crunch time' is inevitable and inescapable in game development just as it is in any kind of work where you're all concerned about getting it 'right'. There'll always be a weekend afternoon here and there even during regular hours where I'll want to come in and work on something for a few hours, because I often end up really happy with the work I do on those days when no one else is around. As far as a long crunch period, I think the initial transition is the most difficult part. Once I'm sort of in the groove then it's manageable. That end-of-the-project kind of crunch can also be sort of exciting, too, because you can start to see the end in sight and there's a lot of new material going into the game in a hurry. Things start to really come together and you can see this beast of a game you've created take its final shape. It's a very big silver lining.

WORKING AT BETHESDA:

Do you share brainstorming lunches with your co-workers, or do you flee them for lunch as often as you can? I tend to float from group to group in our cafeteria during lunch when I'm eating here. With one group we generally discuss games and/or our own projects here, as well as any topics that are related. With another group we don't talk much about games at all as that discussion revolves around personal happenings, news, politics, things going on around the area that we do outside of work (shows at clubs, movies, restaurants, etc.). I also like to spend some of my lunch time just being outside in the sun when it's nice out. I find that I do better work when I've had a little bit of time to get outside ... you've gotta take a break once in a while. It's something that I miss with studio sound work because you're usually in what feels like a very insulated environment, regardless of how the rest of the development studio is set up. It's just the nature of the beast.

Are you in a cubicles, individual office, or an executive suite? I'm in an individual office since I'm usually making a lot of noise and also needing to have a reasonably quiet place in which to do this. This is especially true during voice recording so there are no distractions for the folks on the mic, as well as nothing that could cause us to lose a great take. When you're reading along in the script and really listening critically for hours on end, you really get sensitive to sounds that normally wouldn't be a problem. It's funny because it doesn't sound like it would be, but it can be pretty tiring because you don't realize how much you're concentrating. A few of my favorite local voice actors make the sessions a bit lighter in that regard, because they always hit all the lines and the whole thing ends up being a lot more fun. I always look forward to those sessions. Editing is another reason to require a quiet, individual office as it's very fatiguing on both the eyes and ears, and I can guarantee no one else is going to want to listen as I work.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you in any workplace? I'm a clumsy person but have somehow managed to avoid knocking over anything expensive so far, but the most embarrassing things that go on around here for me is when some aspect of the sound isn't working as it should in the game. There are a number of factors that can cause problems with the audio (could be audio system code, could be an AI bug, could be a design script that's not working correctly, and it could definitely be the sound file in question), but regardless of what it is, I always feel like people are looking directly at me before anyone else. So if it's something that's really standing out like a sore thumb, I try and work with whoever I need to in order to get it fixed in a hurry before too many ears take notice.

Do you believe that men and women like different games? Do you also have a gender perspective when making games/ put special effort in making a game interesting to both men and women (if you would answer yes to the question preceding this one...)? I'm sure there are plenty of studies about this very thing which have come to light in the last five to ten years, but yes, I do think that in general men and women go for different games. 'The Sims' has a very significant female fanbase, I hear. I don't know any numbers, but I'm willing to bet that Elder Scrolls games have had good crossover potential, too. Actually there was on girl I met at a party who was seriously into Oblivion. So, you know, there's one.

As far as what the aspects of a game are that would attract a female audience in significant numbers, that's probably covered in detail in a more scientific study somewhere, but I tend to think it falls along the general lines of 'this game is about creating and building', and 'this game is about conquering and destruction', and the former is going to be more interesting to a female audience. That's purely my speculation, though, and this post will no doubt bring some of the ladies here out of the woodwork to tell me all about how they love to score a critical on that damn pigrat's head just to hear the sound. I say right on.

When creating post apocalyptic characters, do you maintain good hygiene, or do you go completely method in regard to showering? If not you, who is the most "method" at Bethesda? Sorry mate, I've never heard the term 'method' in this context before. Guess I've fallen out of favor with the Slang Lords. But I can see what you're getting at, and for the record I continue showering regularly while working on the games here. Nobody else would appreciate my 'methodology' if we had to be in the same room.

Being that Washington is apparently on the sea, or close to it and since I live on the seacoast too I wonder how is the sea out there? Do you ever see it? Is it possible to go swiming anywhere near durig the summer and did you ever try sailing?

I've been to the coast very little since moving here a couple of years ago. I did go to Rehoboth, Delaware one weekend, and that was about a three or four hour drive if I recall correctly. I wasn't that thrilled with the water and beach there at the time, but it could be dependent on seasons or even be different as you go up or down the coast. I grew up mostly in Texas, so we made a lot of trips to various parts of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico, and there's some pretty nice water there when the weather is good. Texas also has a lot of excellent lakes and rivers around the Austin area ... crystal clear and cold, excellent for tubing (or 'toobing' as we all insist on spelling it there). But I want to go back to the coast around here this summer again and spend more time checking out other beaches.

By the way Wolfric... ever tried to spin some turntables? Scratch a little and so on...? Nothing beyond playing some records backward as a kid and being amused at the sound, then attracting my parents' attention as I was destroying their needle and scratching up their LPs. It's fair to say that I don't "get" DJ'ing beyond someone piloting a turntable or two and picking out what music is being played. As far as people who walk around with crates of records and consider themselves a musician, I'd much rather see live music from an actual performer or band any day of the week. As Henry Rollins said, "You're a record player player!"

Has Mr. Rollins graced your recording studio for this development? No, though that would be pretty cool. I could finally challenge him to that arm wrestling match he's had coming for a while now ... and lose.

that's a bummer. Speaking of the DC punk scene. What do you think of the new Bad Brains album? I didn't even know they had a new album out, heh.

Any plans for mr. Christopher Walken to join the tem?

Oh man, that would be so sweet. ( in Walkenesque ) "Ah. Good. You're...here. We've...got a problem, you see. A. Big one. The controller chip on our water purification system. Well. It's given up the ghost, my friend! It's dead, gone, ka-put! Daddy wouldn't lie to ya, now!"

The number of cowbell references in the game would rise exponentially.

"Five long years, he kept this water chip up his a--."

About... TEA:

Tea is available, all kinds of varieties (green, black, decaf, full caf, etc). Bottled water is tough to come by but we do have a water cooler so there's always filtered water. I drink tea, Coke Zero and water. Not a coffee person and I get a little jittery when I have too much sugar.

There is usually fresh fruit, mostly apples and bananas. Also a variety of cereals, chips, and yogurts. And ice cream (I don't like ice cream much). No chocolate other than in ice cream.

Yep, everything Lindsay said above. They really take great care of us in that cafeteria.

I'm a very big tea drinker, though I like coffee, too, at the right times. I bring my own tea just because I'm picky about it (almost a pun there). Otherwise I bounce back and forth between tea and the water cooler throughout the day. Part of it is because I love tea, and part of it is that it's a good way to give my eyes and ears a short break, as well as do some quick shoulder surfing with some of the other team members as I walk back to the sound studio. It's been a good way to keep up-to-date with where everyone is at since audio work entails some isolation.

Anyway, if for some reason you want to know something about tea, you just ask. I keep China, India and Japan in business.

What kind of tea do you like the most? I've always liked a iced peppermint tea. Sometimes a cup of rooibos and yerba mate or maybe chai if I need a little kick in energy. I generally don't like coffee unless I stayed up all night, which seems to be happening more often.

Various greens and blacks, but never with anything non-tea added (like mint) with the one exception of chai once in a while. Favorite black teas are ceylon, assam and Russian caravan (50% lapsang souchong + 50% keemun). Favorite green teas are lung ching/long jing (aka dragonwell), sencha, and hojicha. I love iced black tea and sometimes iced green tea. My mom constantly made a large pitcher of black tea and put it in the 'fridge, so I drank iced tea all the time growing up. I also lived in England for about the first five years of my life, so I drank a lot of black tea blends w/ milk and sugar. I still prepare it that way once in a blue moon, but mostly I just prefer it as-is, just like the greens.

Some good suppliers that you can order from on the web: Serendipitea, Stash Tea and Adagio Teas. Serendipitea is probably my favorite of the bunch, and Stash has the best Russian caravan blend (they just call it 'caravan' on their site).

You use a press?

Used to a long time ago, but since found that I much prefer a simple, ceramic teapot w/ a metal or nylon basket that can be removed. They're simpler, easy to clean and still look nice, plus you can find all sorts of different sizes. Regarding a French press, though, I love coarse ground coffee brewed in those things, though I rarely make it myself. There's a French restaurant in DC that I met some folks at for breakfast not long ago which served coffee from a press. Excellent (of course, the coffee was good, too, which helps).

Check out the 'Personalitea' teapot from Adagio's website: http://www.adagio.com/teaware/index.html?SID=e1f976d47592dd391083278ec73abe29

Great design and great price for its size.

What the... huh.gif ?? bowdown.gif Ohh great tea master, tell us unworthy and unclean the secrets of teah!

These are actually more common types than their names might suggest, believe it or not. Adagio also has a little book all about tea (which they sometimes include in an order for free if you happen to order enough stuff) which is actually one of the most straight-forward and clear pieces of information all about tea that I've read -- history, types, process, things like that. People also confuse green teas with 'herbal teas' (which aren't actually tea since tea is a specific plant), or you'll see green tea bags on the shelf in the grocery that say 'green tea' but actually have assorted other herbs thrown in there (always check the ingredients) which aren't mentioned. As one friend of mine described Tazo's "Zen" green tea, "It tastes like pickle water." Well, that blend has lemongrass and something else in it, too, aside from the actual tea. They're not clear about what the blend actually contains, or even if it's a blend for that matter, and on top of it they mix it with other overly fragrant ingredients and then give it a name like "Zen".

Seriously, I enjoy black tea mostly and have tried that rooibos recently and found it really good. One thing that goes at my nerves is that people and waiters here alwas try to push me into taking milk with black tea and then I must explain to them that infact it does not go with milk at all. And they are like: but...wha... but its a black t... you must.... milk.... And then I shoo them away. But it also has its good points since then I can secretly look down on everybody.

I like it either way ... just depends on the mood, I suppose. What's interesting are cultural differences toward that sort of thing on a country-wide basis. Obviously the British are the perfect example of black tea drinkers who like it with milk. On the other hand, tea is an extremely common drink in Turkey, but you won't find anyone adding milk to it as they find the idea revolting. But I guess everyone everywhere has their preferences that they find no big deal but others find hideous because it's not common. Good fun.

GAMING INDUSTRY, DEVELOPMENT AND OTHER GAMES RELATED:

What is your favorite type of game to play (RTS,FPS,RPG etc) RPGs and FTPs probably top my list, but with a caveat regarding the FPSs -- I love the 'tactical shooters' that were borne out of Tom Clancy's 'Rainbow Six' series. I enjoy really looking at the area map, planning out a strategy and then having to commit to it ... moving slowly along walls, careful room clearing techniques, and of course the constant tension that it can all be over in an instant. I also get to really absorb the environment as a result -- all the sights and sounds, or sometimes the lack of sound where you're really just straining to listen for an enemy (something I always enjoyed in the Thief series).

As far as other game 'genres', I'm also a proud member of that tiny sliver of the gamer pie chart that enjoys flight simulators. I got into them around age nine or ten (SoloFlight, anyone?) and continued to play them through college and into my professional working days. The only problem with these is that I really enjoy the super-technical ones, and particularly if it's a combat simulator that focuses around a single aircraft. I want a heavy, ring-bound manual that I can pore over, long flights between waypoints where I can noodle with the plane's buttons and switches while I enjoy the landscape, and then a very short but tense experience at the target. All this equates to a lot of time that I don't have so much of at this point, so that's why I've gravitated to things like tactical FPSs ... I can jump in, plan out and execute a mission and have a great time, then turn off everything and head back out the door again.

Still, you've gotta find time to really enjoy a long game that requires a lot of attention, so if I play a good RPG, it's probably the only one I'll focus on that year because I don't want to miss anything or not get to experience the whole game.

What games are you looking forward to on the horizon? I've got my eye on Bioshock and GTA: IV at the moment, though both are still a good ways off. I'm very curious to see how Bioshock is as a game and also if it's commercially successful, in the sense of attracting the attention of the community at large. It seems like it could either have the enormous positive critical response that System Shock 1 & 2 had in terms of atmosphere, story and RPG elements, but it also might be seen as "too out there" to reel in enough mass appeal to do well. Hard to say. But I'm eagerly awaiting it in the meantime. As for GTA:IV, well, anyone who's a fan of the previous installments is anxious for this one. There are probably a handful of others that I'm forgetting, but again, I'd rather play just a few games all the way through than a bunch where I only have time to experience the first 25% of the game. That's just me.

What's the last game you bought? Did you like it? The last game I bought was either Civilization IV or GTA: San Andreas, but I can't remember which. They're obviously wildly different games, but I've milked a great deal of time and enjoyment out of both. I still play GTA:SA quite a bit as it's one of those games like I mentioned above where I can jump in, have a blast for twenty minutes and then shut it down because there are other things I need to go do. I end up sort of making my own games up within the game because the world is so big and full of possibilities.

I also played Crackdown on the 360 a hell of a lot not long after it came out. It sort of loses its appeal after you've finished cleaning things up, but getting to that point provided many hours of absolute fun, so it didn't matter. A real blast.

Other than videogames, what are your interests? (Board games, reading, music, etc) I definitely read a lot, mostly non-fiction sprinkled with the occasional fictional work when I'm ready for one, and I'm an avid music consumer. My musical tastes are all over the map at this point, but live shows are at the top of my list. I could spend hours in a good record store. I do have a small group of folks that I get together with to play tabletop games with, and since one of them has the colossal assortment of games at his place, I just roll with whatever he and his wife are up for since there's no need to buy them myself. Other regular 'events' outside of work are playing classical guitar, doodling around with music on my computer at home, and field recording. I also picked up my amateur radio license (callsign: KB3OKS) in the early months of this year and have been really enjoying it so far, even though operating from an apartment is less than optimal and requires some creativity.

What is your stance on the opposition to sex and violence in video-games? Limited and uninformed, I'm afraid. My gut reaction is to leave everything in the consumer's hands decision-wise, but I don't think I've actually thought it through in an unbiased manner. It'll go on my Thinking To-Do List, between Global Warming and Electromagnets ( I was out sick for the electricity / magnetism chapter in my college physics class, and I've always regretted it. )

What is your opinion on violence and sex in video games and movies? What do you think causes showing exploding brains in slow motion to be given an OK (as long as they are not child brains), but nudity, prostitution or rape to be treatet as giant NONOs?

I'm completely neutral on any sex and violence, because the context in which its used and how its used is what counts. A little or a lot of either is easily justified when it just plain fits the game's story, setting or whatever the case may be. If they're used gratuitously for the purpose of fighting for the spotlight, then it runs the risk of coming off as amateur and distracting to the game as a whole.

As far as what gets a thumbs up or thumbs down by a ratings board, that can differ from country to country in significant ways. Personally I think the US is backward in that we allow more violence in our entertainment but nudity or sexual themes are still more taboo (though not a bad as it used to be ... that's worth keeping in mind). Again, though, it should at least make sense for the work in which its presented, working with all of the other parts rather than standing out by itself. It's not an easy answer because like everything under the sun, it's just not as simple as black and white. I'm not usually a big fan of something that has gratuitous sex or violence as ends in themselves, but at the same time I think they have every right to exist. You don't have to watch it / play it / read it, and I certainly don't think the government needs to try and protect people from themselves. I'm sure I've seen movies here and there where it seemed like they were just trying too hard to be gory, and I thought, "Ok, this is really cheesy and I've just lost ten dollars." Of course a movie like 'Dead Alive' is somehow different because it's so over the top, so gory that the whole thing is ridiculous and you're laughing the whole time. Everything is very subjective.

Did I even come close to answering this question before I went off into the weeds? I think a definitive answer will be difficult if not impossible to come by depending on who you ask.

I never used bloody mess just because it gets cheesy and boring pretty soon to me. A gory death has much more effect if its sudden and rare then when every one is like that. I didn't choose it for the same reason. I wanted it to feel like an infrequent bonus that would still wow me rather than something that would be pretty cool the first few times and which I'd then become desensitized to.

KOTOR or NWN? 5. KOTOR, but I should point out that I never played NWN, either, so perhaps this answer doesn't really apply.

Console gaming or PC gaming? 6. Both. No need to be exclusive. I used to be PC exclusive for a long time but I no longer care. There are excellent games on both, and if you only play one then you're missing something on the other. I do have preferences for certain types of games as far as which platform they're played on, but I'm also more and more surprised as time goes on how developers managed to design a genre of a game that I once felt could only work on one platform to work on the other just fine. Things will always be changing.

Favorite game genre other than RPG. 7. Flight sims. I don't have the time to play them as I used to, but some of my favorite gaming memories were playing flight sims. It's a small sliver of the gaming genre pie, and I believe the fans that occupy that sliver are more rabid than you folks, no kidding. Good people.

Just a question, noticing that the setting is quite similar (post apocalyptic, 50/60s, ...), what do you think of Bioshock ? I'm anxious to see how it turns out and really can't wait to play it. It's a bit more far reaching in terms of style and setting, and I know next to nothing about the story, so they're taking a chance with it and that's good. I believe Eric Brosius is doing sound for this one, too, which is another reason I'd like to play it (he did sound design for the Thief series, System Shock and others).

I was hoping you'd reply Wolfric; to me, Shalebridge Cradle is a shining beacon of level and sound design complementing each other perfectly. Did you know that Null, the designer of that level, worked on the Cradle and the Cradle alone for the development of Deadly Shadows? It shows. That level's a damn labour of love, albeit twisted, demented, psychotic love.

Yep, that's Jordan Thomas. We worked together at Ion Storm from when I was there until the day the doors were closed. I think he was the one who pointed me in the direction of Bethesda, actually, when we were all looking around. There's a great interview with Jordan exclusively on the Cradle from PC Gamer a few years back: http://gillen.cream.org/thecradle.pdf

Some more good news -- last I heard, Jordan was working on Bioshock with Irrational Games in some capacity. I don't know if he's contracting or if he relocated and is full time at their studio, but he's got a hand in it, and that's probably a good thing. So it's he and audio man Eric Brosius both on the same project again.

What PC games are you playing right now? Still playing Civilzation IV here and there, as well as milking out every last drop of fun from GTA: San Andreas. I'm always way behind whatever's come out recently, with the exception of Crackdown on the 360 where I was only about four months late. I also enjoyed playing DEFCON not too long ago -- small PC game based on the War Games SAC war room design. Extremely depressing to play as a concept, but a good way to enjoy a short game whenever you want.

Which PC games are you looking forward to playing this summer? Probably will continue to play Civ IV simply because I can start a long campaign and sit down every once in a while for a couple of hours. I find it difficult to spend time gaming like I used to as there are so many others things I either need to do or want to do in the evenings. I do more gaming in the cold months, though, whereas right now I'd rather be outside and/or in a pool.

Is the PC game genre still dying after all these years of magazines saying it? (No it's not rhetorical ) No idea, except sales numbers are definitely in the favor of consoles. No denying it. Still, developers continue to pump out PC-only games ... Company of Heroes, Civ, probably tons of others that I'm unaware of. There are so many games on the market right now it's ridiculous. There's just not enough time to play all of them, so I pick and choose very carefully. It's also interesting that the consoles out today are becoming more like small PCs. Technically they already are, of course, but there's more and more customization, more ability to upgrade than there was before. Online play, instant messaging, external hard drive ... will there be a swappable video card next? And if this continues, will there soon be another 'all-in-one' console because people are tired of it becoming too complicated? I think just about everything moves that way, really. I was shopping for a microwave the other day and saw a model that had a toaster built in to the front of it. Was there some need for that? I guess someone thinks so.

What camera view would you use? IIRC those games were ISO. With a re-birth of a Syndicate game? Probably the same, because that game centers around managing a small squad of agents. But I don't think it's absolutely required as I think someone could design it to work from any other perspective and still make it work. But I liked where they were going with the rotatable camera, building wireframes and other practical improvements in Syndicate Wars (the sequel), though the first game was still my favorite by a small margin due to gameplay and general style.

Crackdown was definitely inspired by Syndicate, and if it wasn't then I'm surprised. That game is in 3rd person, but it makes sense because you're piloting a single agent the whole time. If there were some sort of sleek command system and camera switching in place, I think a Syndicate game could work like that. Worked ok for GRAW, I thought.

Any thoughts on Civilization Revolution? debut trailer/first screens/details emerging. I just heard about this the other day, actually. Very curious to see what form it takes, but even more interested in how it's received when released. It's a big bridge to cross for certain, and an enormous amount of data and detail to re-design. It'd be great to see that game series reach an even wider audience if they pull it off.

If you could be the head of Bethesda for the duration of one project and had an unlimited budget, what kind of game would be the result? Some sort of re-invention of the Syndicate series.

When playing a game with alot of text do you read it or click past to get back to the action? If it's purely text, I read all of it -- don't want to miss important details or flavor. If it's text with voiceover, I turn off all subtitles so I can focus on the visuals and just listen. Try it with Oblivion or something similar ... I think it's an amazing difference. You get to take in the voice as it is rather than speeding ahead and ultimately cutting off each line, and the subtle dramatic pauses and nuance in the speech have time to work their effects, as well as allowing you to look at the person you're speaking to and their surroundings.

FAN RELATIONS RELATED:

If you were walking out late at night, and met someone who said "I am the world's most rabid Fallout Fan. I have Google Maps. I have traveled far. Who... who are YOU?" What would you say? I'd tell you the exact same thing, and then we could argue about who the bigger fan is, who traveled farther and all that kind of thing.

It feels incredibly satisfying that you can almost feel the brains in the thick skull was splattered to ground with a huge blow that causes incredible pressure in the head. I hear there's a position open for a forensic investigator down at the coroner's office.

Why don't you attend to forums especially to Meet The Devs? (complain) I think we attend to the forums more than you know, but I tend to participate only in the "Meet the Devs" section, as that's the shallow end of the pool... the deep end being the "why Bethesda is a money-grubbing, soulless dark organization, full of incompetent monkeys bent on destroying the Fallout franchise and everything I hold dear?" section. It's hard to tread water there for long Oh, also, we're working. In theory at least.

hmm...i know questions about the game itself are...banned but what about the songs and all the voice actors? might we please get a bit more info on those? hmm? Sorry, Cap'n.

Warhammer Online recently decided they would not have an online forum after seeing how poorly things have went for the WoW boards. Do you think it's a smart move? I have zero input on this one as I've never played a MMO of any kind. As far as having or not having a forum in general? Well, games used to come out in years past before the internet was public and there wasn't a problem. We all survived and still had an excellent time, as well as building up some very fond gaming memories from those games we now consider classics. I think a gaming forum is great if there is one, and if not, so what. We all still get to play, right?

PERSONAL INFO AND PREFERENCES ABOUT THE REST OF UNIVERSE:

On what kind of the street you lived as kids? Was it somewhere in the city - just concrete around or some had luck to live somewhere with more nature? Even if it were just parks nearby and such.

We moved around quite a bit when I was growing up, but as far as the area I was in more than anywhere else, it was a large suburban area (subdivisions within subdivisions, each with their own recognizable style whether because of house quality, style or age) mixed with a great deal of trees and wooded areas. A lot of that has probably been built over by now, I'd guess. Anyway, friends and I got a great deal of mileage from the woodland areas. The woods consisted primarily of tall pine trees, so in the more dense areas you had this neat effect of there being very little grass because of the lack of light and thick blanket of dead pine needles. It was easy for us to hack down the thin, small branches near the base of the trunks and create corridors of sorts through these patches of forest. So after a while we had this whole area that we knew our way through backwards and forwards, all centering around a huge crater that someone had dug out some time before -- perfect for building fires in.

I don't know that we played any kinds of games so much as we just patrolled around with our pellet guns and backpacks of food and things to drink, making crude and disproportionate 'maps' of the area, naming certain areas and marking them on the map, and otherwise just exploring. There was a particularly good day when we passed a pizza delivery guy on the way through a strip shopping center as we headed toward the tree line behind it, and he had four pizza boxes in his arms. He said that someone had called a bunch of pizzas to one store but that it was a prank, so he was giving them away. We took the top two pizzas and brought them back to our hang out crater area to eat.

Another time in those woods I won't forget is when a friend an I piled into a one-man dinghy that he had in his garage. This thing was only intended to hold a single kid, really, and we were in there sitting on knees and sharing one paddle back and forth, along with our backpacks. We were slowly making our way down a long creek which eventually opened up and got wider and wider, deeper and deeper as it got closer to where it emptied into a local lake. My friend heard some sort of noise coming from under the raft and then I heard it, too. I said, "I think we're scraping the bottom." Then I saw that the noise was actually a steady stream of bubbles escaping from a small tear in the bottom of the raft, so I said, "No, actually we've got a leak. Let's head for the bank and get out." The second I said that, the bottom of the raft completely ripped out and my friend disappeared into the water in front of me, and I sort of sank in after him. As it turned out the water was actually well over my head, so we grabbed our packs and swam back to the muddy banks. The deflated raft looked pretty pathetic floating down the water, so my friend grabbed a brick sitting in the mud and threw it at the raft in an attempt to sink it. For some reason this brick was tethered to a stake in the ground with a piece of string that he hadn't noticed, and it bounced right back and smacked him in the forehead. We decided it would be a good idea to just head home after that.

Anyway, those were good times. I was lucky to have some woods to run around in during those years. I'm sure it affected the kinds of games I enjoyed playing later on as I always gravitate toward the wooded areas or somewhere that I feel somewhat 'concealed' and perhaps protected if I'm walking around outside in a game where there might be trouble about.

Anyone of the devs been ever interested in avionics / aviation(as a major, school)? I have though about trying to switch to that - highly unlikely that I'll get in, but it will remain as hobby of mine Currently studying mechanicdesign, can't really describe it any better.

I wanted to be a pilot when I was younger, actually. I still do, to some degree, though my eyesight is pretty poor (I wear contacts), so that might be a hindrance. But I've always been interested in aircraft and piloting in general, and it's the main reason I've always liked flight sims. I annoyed my friends when watching 'Top Gun' when I pointed out that the so-called MiG-28 that the Soviet pilots are flying in the movie is actually the F-5, built by Northrop. Trivia time: Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) has a tradition of only assigning odd numbers to its aircraft models. Hence there's the MiG 15, 17, 21, 23, 25, 29, 31 and so forth.

Do you have a good luck charm? Nah. I just try and take responsibility for my own actions, keep my nose clean and otherwise try not to piss off the wrong people. It's about as good 'luck' as you're going to get. If you bring a luck object into the picture, it's psychologically very easy to attribute any event to the presence or lack of that object ... you're basically just making excuses. Do I like the idea of good luck charms? Definitely, and in games I think a 'luck' factor is a lot of fun. I like it because even if you're carrying some sort of object that brings you luck or your character has a great deal of it in general, it's still mysterious as to whether it's playing a part or not. I like the idea of that uncertainty and never really knowing.

What is your favorite food of all time? Pizza -- specifically something simple like a margherita pizza. No sauce, just olive oil, mozzarella, slice tomatoes and plenty of basil. It's the best. Once in a while I like pepperoni if it's good stuff, but most of the time I don't like meat on my pizzas. Those 'meat lovers' pizzas that places like Pizza Hut (a chain here in the US in case you don't know of this place) like to push are the worst, unless you just really like grease. Anyway, as far as good pizza joints there are thankfully a number good spots to choose from in DC, two of which are within walking distance of my place. I give them plenty of business.

Ok, serious question: What is your favorite flave of ice-cream? Ah, that's an easy one: mint chocolate chip.

How was the holiday? Any aliens atacking? (Indenpendence day) Holiday was great, and being in the middle of the week it confused my sense of what day it is. Today being Friday feels way too early, but then I'm not complaining, either.

I just enjoyed a combination of relaxing, working on some radio electronics stuff that I've been putting together and a bit of gaming with Civ IV. Watched 'The Prestige' that evening which was great (big fan of Chritopher Nolan ... it'll be fun seeing what he does over the years as he's a fairly young director), and later watched a little bit of the fireworks from the roof of a highrise. Best part about that wasn't the closer DC fireworks, but rather the almost even distribution of fireworks in the distance from all of the neighborhoods that ring the 495 beltway in this area. To the east-southeast it was almost like an unbroken line of them on the horizon. Very cool, like something out of an older videogame where the horizon is wrapping and repeating itself.

Since a lot of people in the office seems to like coffee, what do you think of the Espresso ( I mean the italian coffee forumula that gives creamy, restricted, ultra black coffee) ? It's great. I order it once in a while in a restaurant after dinner or at one of my favorite coffee hangouts in the DC metro area. There are a few regular espresso drinkers in this office, too.

You should definetely visit Prague. The centre of the city is really beautiful to behold, and the beer is cheap and tasty! I'd very much like to. I've been teaching myself German for a few years now and have had the chance to visit Germany and Austria on two occasions, and the next time I make it to Europe I'd like to venture further east. A number of people have mentioned Prague in particular to me and recommended visiting.

I've heard the Maryland side of Great Falls National(?) Park is nice, and I think it's not too far from Rockville. Despite meaning to get over there for a year now, I always seem to just stick with the more familiar Virginia side, so I couldn't tell you which is the more scenic. Great Falls is a nice place to hang out at, hike or picnic in. I recommend getting there early on weekends as it can get a bit crowded by 11am to noon. If you're doing the one of the more strenuous hikes, though, you'll have fewer folks around.

Here's a local question for the developers: do you have any recommendations for ethnic restaurants in the general area? A bunch of us get together once every month or so, pick an ethnic restaurant, and try it out. We've had Burmese (Myanmarese now?), German, Indian, Irish, Bolivian, Turkish, Mexican... a few more I can't recall at the moment as well.

I can recommend checking out:

- Amma's (in Georgetown in DC on M St. ... a small veg. Indian place, upstairs) - Faryab (in Bethesda ... Afghan fare) - Dukem (on U St. in DC ... Ethiopian fare) - Bangkok Garden (in Bethesda ... really good Thai and price is nice ... very cheesy decor which I like)

What kind of industrial bands do you like? My favorite band overall is probably Foetus (Scraping Foetus off the wheel, You've got Foetus on your breath, etc.) Other favorites include Alien Sex Fiend, Pig, Chemlab, and Einstuerzende Neubauten. I second Einstürzende Neubauten. I was late discovering them, but am nonetheless glad that I did. An old friend of mine had been listening to them for a long time.

Were you ever on a concert of any of the legendary rock bands? Not legendary in the Led Zeppelin sense, but absolutely awesome in that my first show was Megadeth (in Houston, TX at a place called the International Ballroom ... more affectionately known as the I-Ball). Also probably the roughest show I've been to, followed closely by a Rollins Band show. Anyway, the place was packed and everyone was having a great ol' metal show kind of time as we were all smashed together at the front of the stage. It was really hot in that place, too, and some of the shorter members of the audience who were getting buried among everyone else were trying to fan down the cooler air toward their faces. I was almost completely dehydrated and really needed to get some water, but I didn't want to let go of my spot, either. A bouncer at the front of the stage was kind enough to give me a handful of ice cubes. The place really went nuts when they played 'Holy Wars', and I was getting smashed so hard as the crowd packed in that I was actually able to lift my feet off the ground underneath me. I remember noticing the next day that the white t-shirt I'd worn had turned grey from all of the black t-shirts I was smashed up against the entire time. Really great show.

This question is for all the Devs, though i'd like Wolfric to especially share his thoughts since he's the audio guy and all: Have any of you bought or listened to the Beastie Boys' new album "The Mix-Up" yet (it came out today)? If so, what are your thoughts on it? I picked it up and I love the album--it has a very distinct jazz/funk style to it, but it also has hip-hop elements dispersed throughout. I'm a big fan of The Beastie Boys, and I think this album (which is purely instrumental, no lyrics at all) was fantastic. Your thoughts on the matter?

I'm not a big Beasties fan, but I've always liked those guys. I did have a cassette copy of 'Licensed to Ill' that I played like crazy when I was about six or seven years old, but that was actually the last album from them I ever bought simply because I'm not a huge hip hop fan. The hip hop albums I do have are all stuff that friends introduced me to and struck a chord with me in some way ... I rarely go seeking it out as I'm usually looking for other stuff when in the record store. Some others I like are The Streets, Benjie (German dancehall/dub) and Deichkind (German hip hop). There are probably one or two others in there that I'm forgetting.

I'll check out the new Beasties album, though, as it sounds interesting. They've always been one of the more original and interesting groups in that genre by a long shot, in my opinion.

Howdy! Do you read magazines or newspapers? Any web based ones? What information sources do you prefer? I like to read web based versions of newspapers.

There are several web-based newspapers or news sites that I check in the morning and then periodically throughout the day -- BBC and Reuters for worldwide news, New York Times and sometimes MSNBC for news closer to home here in the US, and a few German news sites, too, such as the Süddeutsche Zeitung, ARD and ZDF (television networks), and sometimes Der Spiegel. On the weekends I prefer to read the print edition of the New York Times. If I had the time to really digest a large part of the paper, I'd read the print edition all the time because I find reading from the page to be far preferable to reading from a computer monitor. I end up reading the entire article, whereas when I read from the monitor I tend to only skim for details. I also like listening to different radio news programs when I can (our local NPR station, WAMU 88.5 FM here in the DC area, gets lots of my attention in the mornings and after work).

I rarely see the news on TV, simply because I think there are few news programs worth watching as opposed to reading. The BBC and PBS channels are pretty good (BBC World, Newshour, Frontline), but the major domestic news programs typically give you very little news for the time you spend watching because they like to drag out the topics between long commercial breaks, and they don't usually go as in depth.

Perhaps that was more information than you were looking for, but I definitely have opinions on this stuff.

Devs, what are some of your favorites? Any particular topics you gravitate towards on that front or is it a potpourri? I listen to 'This American Life' quite a bit, and there are still plenty of older episodes that I haven't heard, so it's great to just let it play at home while I do something else. Once in a while I'll actually catch the new episode on the weekend afternoons. I also really like 'Car Talk'.

Speaking of movies, I just rewatched my favourite film Apocalypse Now. What do the devs think of this film, and what are your favourite films in general? Apocalypse Now is one of those few films that I can watch again and again without tiring of it. I can't say I watch it once a week, but perhaps once every few months, which for me is actually pretty frequent for a single film. I have a handful of others which also fall into that category of regular re-watching, and they are:

- Heat (1995, d. Michael Mann) - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - The Big Lebowski - Cool Hand Luke - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Army of Darkness, Evil Dead 2 - The Insider - Das Boot

As far as more recent stuff that I thoroughly enjoyed in the theater:

- The Lives of Others (original German title: 'Das Leben der Anderen') - Wordplay - Children of Men - The Host - The Departed

Clearly I've missed quite a few things in between and after those, so there's also quite a bit on my unofficial 'to see' list.

What would you say is your favorite quote from that series?

It's hard for me to pick a single quote that hasn't been repeated to death at conventions the world over. But there are snippets here and there that always make me smile ... the shot of the book 'A Farewell to Arms' when Ash traps the possessed hand, Ted Raimi's line in 'Army of Darkness' where he says, "You can count on my schteel!" That's gotta be a favorite. I think another one I like to throw out once in a while is to hold some object up and say, "That's right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan." Also I think calling someone 'spinach chin' is worthwhile. As you can probably tell, my sense of humor hangs somewhere in the realm of the stupid.

The Matrix or Star Wars or LOTR? 1. Star Wars, then LOTR. I didn't care much for the first Matrix and never saw the follow-ups.

MMORPG or Singleplayer RPG? (Single FTW!) 2. I've yet to play any MMOs and likely never will as I don't have the time. I think I'll always enjoy good single player games, RPG or otherwise.

Your top 3 favorite movies. 3. I can't give you a top three since I don't really rank them, but here are three very strong favorites: -- Heat -- Das Boot -- Sexy Beast

Good (Karma > 0) or Evil (Karma < 0) 4. Somewhat on the good side, though not extremely so. I can't help but be a good guy in RPGs (I assume that's what we're talking about). I definitely have fun role-playing differing characters, but I always gravitate back to trying to do what I feel is 'the right thing'. That said, I think anyone can be put in a situation to bring out their evil side no matter how good a person they are, and that's true in games as well. Check out some of the experiments of Philip Zimbardo, as well as the classic Stanley Milgram experiment in regard to persons of authority. Google his name and you'll probably find what I'm talking about in no time.

Bill Hicks or Pablo Francisco?

Bill Hicks -- there is no question. In fact, I don't see the two as even being comparable. I think Pablo Francisco is a real pro in what one might consider traditional stand-up, but Bill Hicks belongs to those rare group of souls who deftly dish out social commentary in a way that makes the audience think (Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, probably David Cross, etc) as they make you laugh. To me, that's a great comic.

Despite the fact that everyone knows that Optimus Prime and Soundwave were the best of the best- which Transformers was your favorite?

I'm surprised to be able to answer this, because I hadn't paid much attention to Transformers since watching the show on TV and having a bunch of the figures way back when. But I did have a favorite -- Dirge. He closely resembled Starscream, but his overall color scheme was much darker. But the reason I thought he was cool was the sound of his voice in the show. If I remember, it sounded like they vocoded it with a synth playing a minor chord (how appropriate), and it just really grabbed my attention at the time.

Thunderchild: Big Train [censored] rules! Any of the devs know this show? fans of british comedies, like big train, league of gentlemen, smith&jones, little britain, etc. ?

I've seen a few sketches from Big Train via YouTube and would love to see the entire episodes at some point. Some friends of mine are very much into Little Britain so I end up watching the DVDs with them from time to time, too. I lived in England for about five years when I was very young, so a lot of the comedies and sketch shows at that time stayed with me because my parents would watch them -- Monty Python's Flying Circus, Are You Being Served, Fawlty Towers and a few others.

And why not a question: Which of Liam Neeson's movies would you recommend? Rob Roy is one of my favorites. Excellent sword fights.

What's your favorite Sci-fi novel? I don't read that much sci-fi these days, but I always liked Philip K Dick's stuff best (though not all of it). I really enjoyed Radio Free Albemuth as far as the novels, and Autofac from his short stories.

Do you own a console? If yes, what is it? If no, do you plan to buy one someday? Not currently. Until recently I had a roommate who had a 360 and a massive HD TV, though most of the time he was playing Oblivion (I think he got to about 275 hours last time I checked, I kid you not). But I'd bring console stuff home from work and play it on there once in a while. Anyway, I might buy a 360 at some point, but not any time soon. I'll probably just check stuff out here at work here and there.

What's the specification of your computer at home? I can barely recall as I don't think about it that much ... I kind of got tired of having to think about building a new machine every three years, reconfigure everything, work out the kinks, sort out driver conflicts and all of that exciting stuff which I had more patience for when I was fourteen. Anyway, it's a P4 3.2GHz, 1GB of whatever kind of RAM, and the vid card is a 9800XT. I built this one about four years ago, so it was the bee's knees when I assembled it. But I'm not playing the latest and greatest on it, and it handles all of my audio needs just fine, so I'm not planning to build anything new or otherwise upgrade any time soon.

What kind of sport do you like most? (I love basketball!) I've never liked any team sports, but the one team sport that I can watch is soccer/football, mostly because the game never stops and they don't flood you with commercial breaks and constant, mindless commentary. I think that's one reason it's not as big in this country, because advertisers haven't yet found a way to cram in twenty-five minutes of commercials for every hour. But in general, I'd much rather just do my own thing ... weight lifting and running, swimming, scuba diving, rock climbing ... something where it's either completely independent or involves a few friends.

Which graphic card brand do you prefer? (of all time) It seems like the 'crown' has changed heads a few times, so I'm not going to swear loyalty to any particular brand. I'd prefer the one that's not only powerful, but isn't the size of a 5.25" drive. The size, power requirements and heat output of those things is getting ridiculous, and consoles aren't free of that problem, either, as they use a lot of the same architecture. I watched a video the other day of folks building their PCs in aquariums filled will mineral oil for the sake of heat dissipation.

Have you been in the army before? No, though I actually get that question a few times a year since I sport the hair-do and happen to own a few olive green shirts. Maybe I secretly hope to be in the Army one day or something and just don't know it. If I were to join any service, I'd take whatever path would put me at the controls of a jet aircraft. Being a big flight sim fan, I've got this ego trip going where I'm convinced that I could fly and safely land any plane where the pilot suddenly nodded off, got locked in the bathroom or whatever else. I tell my girlfriend that when we get on a plane, too, just because it always makes her laugh. "I could land this thing in an emergency, you know." Not only that, but there's a guy out there I used to hang out with in the 7th grade who to this day still owes me one dollar because he bet me that I couldn't land the space shuttle in the simulator at NASA in Houston, TX. Well, I landed that thing safe and sound and the virtual astronauts aboard walked away happy that day. He, on the other hand, performed some sort of panicky and out of control areal ballet before crashing the shuttle near the base of the control tower (so at least he was heading in the general direction of the runway, I guess you could argue). I never got that dollar ...

How many cups/pots of coffee do you drink on an average work day? Four to six cups of tea, I guess, though not so much in the Summer months as I switch to ice water. I hit the espresso machine now and again.

And who has a Trabant? I don't think anyone here does, but a friend of mine who grew up in the city of Rostock in [former East] Germany had a 'Trabbi' with her family when she was younger. The Trabant is seen briefly in a really good film about the fall of the Wall and subsequent reunification called "Goodbye, Lenin!" What is your favorite drinking-game? Can't say that I've ever had one, really.

Who's the worlds hottest actress? Franka Potente.

If you had to choose a profession that didn't involve computers, what would it be? Travel/nature writer, maybe doing outdoor field recording at the same time in some capacity.

What's your special animals? Do you mean a favorite? I'm a 'dog person' all the way. We always had a dog when I was growing up, and I can't wait for the day when I have a house and can have a dog again. For now I have to visit and play with other peoples'.

Do you read any of Bill Bryson's stuff? I read Notes from a Small Island and A Short History of Nearly Everything, both of which were great. I've re-read A Short History of Everything a couple of times now as it's my favorite of his. I haven't read his others, so there's lots for me to dig into if I can ever get to those books in my queue.

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