- Tell us a little about yourself, what have you accomplished in life?
I grew up in a small town called Manitou Springs, which I think has less people than the first company I worked for. Moved in here in '89 and met my future wife Juliet in '91. A few years later Juliet got invited to a party from a friend and she dragged me kicking and screaming. It was there I met the amazing Scott Campbell, who offering me a designer job at Interplay. The rest, they say is history.
I've been in the industry now for 14 years. Fallout was my first game, followed by Starfleet Academy. Those are the two games I'm most proud of. I spent almost ten years at Interplay and was there until the last days.
I've also been writing on and off for twenty years, although not published yet. Stress the word yet. My best accomplishment has to be my wife and my eleven year old son. Even though he’s not older enough to play most of the games I make, he still likes to talk design with me when we're home. Heck, one of the levels in Spongebob: Globs of Doom was his idea!
Right now I’m working a great bunch of guys at a smaller THQ studio called Incinerator Studios. I really like the smaller studios, even if our parent company is huge. There is still a sense of autonomy involved that you can’t get while working for the main company.
- What are your favourite computer games/board games and why?
I love role-playing games. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, you name it, I devour them. Yet, if I have to name a favorite, that would be Star Control 2. The music, the exploration, the humor, and even the role playing elements make this truly one of the greatest games ever created. I've played the open source version at least twice since it was released.
- What hobbies do you have besides computer games?
I read, and spend time with the family. I also delve into the modding community. I recently finished an Oblivion quest mod called "Heart of the Dead" for Oblivion, which took me almost a year and a half to make. Yes, my wife calls me crazy for making games at work and making games at home, but storytelling is in my blood.
- What are your favourite bands/artists?
I have an eclectic taste. Right now I have the soundtrack for Amelie on the MP3 player, but in the same folder I have what I like to call "Norwegian Operatic Dark Metal". Any metal from Norway, Germany, Sweden, etc, will do, as long as it has a really good singer. (No cookie monster vocals, please). My favorite bands are Nightwish, Disturbed, Blind Guardian, System of the Down, Enya and Tristania. Like I said, a bit eclectic.
- Tell us a little about your role in the making of Fallout 1/2/3(Van Buren)/Tactics/Brotherhood of Steel?
Funny story there. Originally Fallout was supposed to be Wasteland 2, and my mentor Scott Campbell was the lead on it. I was a huge, huge fan of the original Wasteland, so I talked my way into a meeting of the core team. (At that time it was just Tim, Scott, Jason, Leonard and me.) I then spent the meeting throwing out ideas, and yes, even correcting some of the people on the facts from Wasteland. (Like I said, huge fan).
From there I spent a good year and a half coming up with the original quests and characters for many of the locations, including the Necropolis, Shady Sands, the LA Boneyard, the Glow and one of my favorites, the Hub. I also wrote the first drafts for about 80% of the main "talking head" characters before they were sent off to the script doctor to edit. My favorite character, and the one that stayed closest to my original draft, was Harold. That old ghoul holds a place in my heart.
- What's your favourite Fallout memory?
The original story session for Wasteland 2 was just the original five of us sitting in a Carl's Jr. until late at night. It was a wonderful brainstorming session, and we basically hammered out the story from there. It was a great creative atmosphere.
As for the game, I still love the fact that you can talk the Master into killing himself. It's tough, and your skill has to be high enough, but it's doable. I also like the moral choices in the game, like in Necropolis when you had to choose between the ghouls who were depending on the water chip, and your vault that needed it.
- What specifically inspired Fallout for you? What were the biggest influences?
The game Wasteland was my number one inspiration. I loved the feel of that game. The raiders came directly from Mad Max, while the locations themselves came from good old Southern California. A lot of times we would look at a map and say, “I want Barstow in the game. Oh, let’s make it Necropolis!”
- Pop culture played a big role in Fallout, what pop culture influences you?
Post-apocalyptic movies are always the best when it comes to the feeling of desolation we wanted, the Road Warrior being in the front. At the time I was also influenced by various novels like the Stand and Swan Song, which also showcased humanity’s fall. There’s bleakness but also a sense of hope.
- How was it to be a part of the Fallout team?
This was my first game with my first team. It was an amazing experience and one I would never trade for anything. I’m extremely glad I could be part of a small creative team like this, especially in this day of 100 man teams.
- Were there things that you wished you had added to either of the Fallouts?
One of things that were cut from the original Fallout was the three Raider factions. Originally I came up with three tribes, the Vipers, the Jackals and the Khans. The Vipers were your crazy mystics that worshipped the cobra. Lots of human sacrifices and such. The Jackals were the scavengers of the group, always coming in after things had died and picking the carcass. The Khans were straight out of the Road Warrior, all metal armor and screaming battlecries. In the original design you could actually befriend each, but because each was warring with the other, if you befriended one who would alienate the others. All three tribes were collapsed down into one for budget reasons, but I still think fondly of them.
- What were you favourite places in Fallout and why?
Definitely the Necropolis and the choices you had to make there, but all in all I really liked Junktown. For me, Junktown and its two warring factions really made up what Fallout was about. It was all about choice. Did you side with Killian or Gizmo? Great stuff.
- What is your hope for future Fallout games? Would you like to be a part of a future Fallout team?
I really like the way Fallout 3 went. I liked the story they had, but even more than that, I liked that they kept the desolate and bleakness of the original. I think there are many, many years worth of stories left to tell, in all regions of the mythos. And I would always love to work on another Fallout game, but if not in an official capacity, I know there’s always the construction set…
- Who would you bring with you in a future Fallout team and why?
I really liked Fallout 3, I really did. But any team I would build would have to have Tim Cain involved in some capacity. He was the heart and soul of the original. Anyone in that original team would be great. It was just a good bunch of guys.
- In your opinion, what are the key ingredients that every RPG should have?
RPGs are nothing without player progression and without motivation. You need to make the player feel like the hero (or anti-hero as the case may be), and you need him to feel like he’s growing. But beyond just that, the player needs a story reason to continue. The original Fallout was great in that it had two. In the beginning you were trying to save your people from running out of water, and then it flipped and suddenly you were trying to save them from the Master. Great motivation.
- Where do you see computer RPGs going?
I think we’re going to see more and more RPGs having more choice in their games. A lot of RPGs are all about “go up, kill creature”, rinse and repeat. But what if you don’t want to kill it? What if you want to sneak around it? Or find some way to trap it and run past? Fallout was amazing because we had one stipulation from Tim. Every quest had to have three solutions: Fight, Sneak or Talk. Every one. And no RPG has done it since to that extent.
- How does the fan base hinder/help the projects that you've worked on?
That depends on how flexible the fan base can be. The great thing about fans is that their comments can help you keep your story and game true to the universe. But sometimes you need to branch out. Sometimes you need to change things up and make things fresh. Most of the fans are willing to see this as a good thing, or at least respect your effort.
Here’s my philosophy, especially when it comes to the mods that I make. There will always be the small few that scream at you for changing something. Thank them for their time and move on, because there are usually a dozen people who love what you do. You have to have a pretty thick skin to stay in the entertainment industry.
- When planning the story how do you go through the process of integrating themes and story with the constraints on software?
When I first start a story, I never think about software or hardware constraints. I always start with the theme of the story. Desolation and hope are always good. Redemption, etc. From there I think of what type of game (or mod) it’s going to be, genre wise. I personally love mysteries and treasure hunts, so there are always some of those elements in my games.
These days the core idea of the game tends to come from management. For the story of “Run Like Hell”, management told me that “we want a survival horror game set in space.” And I went from there. For my Oblivion mod, I started with the thought of making a treasure hunt in the game’s world, like Indiana Jones.
From there I come up with the main characters and the background. Then I come up with what the enemy wants and his motivations. From there it’s just a matter of working backwards, planning out the mysteries and the final reveal.
None of this is done with an inkling of what limitations I have. It’s only when I sit down and begin to plot it out, point for point, that I have to think about what limitations I have and what I can do. That’s important when I create a mod, because I have the finished game’s limitations to deal with, and no programmer to change it for me.
- If you could make any computer game that you wanted, which would it be and why?
There’s a tie when it comes to that. I would love to do Star Control 4. I love the exploration and the creatures and the whole premise. Next would a sequel to a little known game called the Legacy of the Ancients. The game was about a strange museum, where every picture and statue led you to different worlds and dungeons. It was great finding different coins and opening up the next display.
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully still making games that people love. Gaming and telling stories are in my blood, so I really can't see me doing anything else.
- Any last word to the Fallout fan base?
Thanks for your passion in keeping Fallout alive! And make sure to keep an open mind. If a new Fallout game is good, support it, because if you don’t, then the universe will go away. Remember that while you might not like the changes designers make, you have to respect them for trying something new.
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