- Tell us a little about yourself, what have you accomplished in life?
I'm a 24 year old student (again) and as such, most of my accomplishments revolve around abuse of alcohol, stupidity and petty crime. Almost certainly, very few, if any of my accomplishments have had a positive impact on society as a whole. But I did help to successfully revive a guy who had been electrocuted once. I also spent a couple of years in an academic role, helping out would be game devs, and have a couple of published games under my belt, along with a whole swag of unpublished ones. These days I'm a long way removed from any game dev related activities and have pretty mixed feelings about it.
- What are your favourite computer games/board games and why?
Fallout, obviously. Getting to work on Tactics was a dream come true. I used to be big into FPS gaming, and so Doom, Quake, Half-Life and some less traditional shooters such as Thief and System Shock 1 & 2 all have a special place in my heart. I also highly recommend KOEI's Uncharted Waters to anyone who can get it running.
As far as board games go, I'd have to say Mousetrap. I don't remember ever actually playing it, but I use to love building the wacky incredible machine thing, and then inventing ways to make it work despite missing and broken bits. I also liked the idea of Operation! but my congenital trembling made me a pretty terrible player.
- What hobbies do you have besides computer games?
I play the guitar, occasionally piano and even less occasionally trombone. Anything to do with music appeals to me in a big way. Actually any creative endeavour is good. I escpecially enjoy a bit of genital origami/puppetry of the penis, much to the distaste of anyone with eyes.
- What are your favourite bands/artists (music) ?
I find it very hard to pin down favourites these days. I'm basically open to just about any kind of music, depending on my mood. I guess if I really had to, I'd say Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Queen, Kyuss/QOTSA, Old school Kool Keith and Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill, The Porkers, Sublime.
- Tell us a little about your role in the making of Fallout 1/2/3 (Van Buren)/Tactics ?
I was employed as a junior artist to work on Tactics, and eventually became a level designer/scripter, and then a general design monkey. I experienced a pretty broad range of duties during the dev cycle of Tactics.
- What's your favourite Fallout memory?
Probably just random moments of mania induced by the game dev experience. I'd try to relive them, but most of them are "had to be there" kind of moments. If you stay awake for a couple of days, drink lots of sugar and caffeine and then think about your workmates acting out portions of the game with sock puppets you might get a bit of a chuckle, but to me it was hilarious in the true sense of the word.
- What specifically inspired Fallout for you? What were the biggest influences?
Specifically, Fallout. I had very little historical knowledge of the decades influencing the Fallout world, and so it was basically the previous games that directly influenced my limited input into the big picture. One of the biggest resources a drew upon when working in a more significant role on the ill fated FOT2 was varied treatises and comments from Fallout fans on what they felt constituted the Fallout universe. I was also lucky enough to have the original docs for Fallout on hand, and so between the original vision and a collective perception of that vision once realised it painted a pretty clear picture. Likewise, criticisms of the Tactics game world were taken on board and mentally collated.
- Pop Culture played a big role in Fallout, what pop culture influences you?
Music, Literature and Movies mainly. Most of it pretty typical for a 24 year old male.
- How was it to be a part of the Fallout team?
The team we had for Tactics was nothing short of spectacular. We had more than enough enthusiasm to make up for our inexperience, and I never ceased to be amazed at some of the work that was done. I specifically remember being assigned the dubious duty of gutting a level created by one of our other designers. It had been built with so much complexity and intricacy that it was like some kind of isometric Escher mind fuck, and too much for a player to face up to.
It's a real shame that everyone was more or less forced to go their separate ways, because all the experience gained during Tactics wasn't carried on to future projects as a whole.
- Were there things that you wished you had added to either Fallouts?
If anything, I would have left a lot more on the cutting room floor. Tactics was so full of content, but given our timeframe, it would have been much better to aim for quality rather than quantity. I'm also pretty disappointed that Tactics 2 never saw the light of day, since it's a title that would have benefitted from the experience and criticisms of the first game. Plus we were very conscious of heeding Fallout canon as best we could, and providing more interesting tactical missions rather than the run and gun focus of the first game.
- What were you favourite places in fallout and why?
I really liked The Glow, despite it being light on interaction wise. I'm just a sucker for exploration of ruins. But for me, it's more the situations and the dilemnas that arise that stick in my mind as opposed to the locations themselves. Exploring the idea of ghoul persecution and peaceful resolution of regaining the Necropolis water chip was one of my favourites, likewise approaching the Adytum/Boneyard situation from different perspectives was a very interesting RP experience.
- What is your hope for future Fallout games? Would you like to be a part of a future Fo team?
Ultimately, I'd like to see a return to the original Fallout's moral exploration. The fact that each time I replay Fallout I consider most of my actions on a personal character based point of view as well as a "common good" perspective makes it intriguing. And then to be able to act within a set framework and experience the results of your moral decisions makes it pretty powerful.
As for whether I'd want to be part of a Fallout team, I'd probably say yes. It would be one of very few titles that would renew my dev amibitions and lure me back to the industry. But having said that, I'm in no rush to send off a resume to Bethesda. I think you'd have to ask the hypothetical team if they'd like me to be a part. I've got plenty of strong opinions on Fallout, and being a team player would be secondary to expressing that views. In short, I'm a stubborn, opinionated and mildly fanatical fuckwit that would be a displeasure to deal with.
- Who would you bring with you in a future Fallout team and why?
Most of the talent involved with Tactics I'd love to work with again, I'd also like to see some of the original Fallout crew with a significant input. There are a few ex Black Islers that have a whole lot to offer the series, even if it would mean locking horns on a few issues. And there's also a good portion of my ex students with the talent and enthusiasm to achieve big things in an industry that provides very few opportunities. I'd also have a couple of paramedics handy for when I present the employment budget to a prospective publisher. They'd either go into cardiac arrest or become so incensed at the thousand strong team proposal that be in danger of physical attack.
- In your opinion, what are the key ingredients that every RPG should have?
Choice and Consequence. The player should be able to express themselves within the confines of the game, in order to define not only their own character, but also their characters place in the world. The world must be responsive to the player to make their choices seem significant. Finally, the choices themselves should be interesting enough in their own respect. All too often we see clear black and white choices (or none at all) in RPGs, but I much prefer to see a finer line between good and evil.
- Where do you see computer RPGs going?
I tend to believe that genrefying becomes less and less relevant as time goes on. Games these days are crossing the ficticious genre boundaries more and more as time goes on, and there are so many shared elements that "RPG" as a term has little meaning in the games industry. It's simply a label that seems to get put on anything with character stats and/or a high fantasy setting.
As such, I see a broad diversity of games with many RPG elements. As far as RPGs as it relates to the purists, I think there will always be great titles popping up in between the rows upon rows of throwaway fodder, most of them from little known and/or indie developers. Who knows? Maybe the whole industry will implode upon itself and have to rebuild from scratch. Viva la Revolucion!
- How does the fan base hinder/help the projects that you've worked on?
Fans are invaluable to any kind of creative endeavour, and whether they're a help or a hindrance depends on how the devs handle fan input. There will always be a subset of fans that are more barking mad than the rest (in a good way) and the vocal subset is sometimes the only fan contact a dev has. To dismiss the fanatics in favour of the silent appreciatives is a mistake, as is basing decisions exclusively on the vocal few. In the end, a developer should trust their own opinions and instincts, but draw upon the fans as a powerful resource. The fans will always spot things that you don't. That's the advantage of looking at things from an entirely different perspective.
In the case of "research", it's wise to listen to the fans. For example, if you get an email citing instances from previous games in the series that reinforce a certain fact, then it's worth listening. It's also worth digging around to find instances within the previous game that dispute said fact.
When it comes to opinions, everything has to be handled a lot more carefully. Opinions shouldn't be taken as fact, and that's where direct discussion comes into play. I have plenty of memories of locking horns with various #fallout punters on matters of opinion. The very nature of presenting your own opinion as an argument encourages some in depth thought and discussion to reinforce or redefine that opinion.
And at the end of the day, the fans are not just people with facts and opinions, they're also the people who will buy your game, so you want to keep them in mind. But not exclusively.
- When planning the story how do you go through the process of integrating themes and story with the constraints on software?
I tend to take a top down approach, considering an overall situation, let's say for example a town with conflict between two parties divided on a certain opinion. Then it's a matter of brainstorming the conflict. Who is "right?" Who is "wrong?" What stance is the player expected to adopt, if any? What ways are there to resolve the conflict? Etc. From there, its generally up to the characters to provide the themes and narrative relating to the conflict, so generally the will be at least one champion of each belief that stand as black and white, and other characters fit somewhere in between. The difficult part is considering various resolutions of the situation. By simply presenting a them, you're inviting the player to explore it and feed their imagination. But resolution provides a finality to the theme, the moral to the story if you will. And when a story has to have a few different morals depending on the interaction of the player character, it convolutes things.
As far as constraints go, I don't think they really come into play when presenting a theme. For instance, the Tactics style of "stand and deliver" soliloquys was moderately effective despite it's clumsy writing, but it didn't provide opportunity for the player to affect or influence the world in an effective way, and so any exploration of the theme is done on the players own time. And this is where constraints can frustrate a an interactive narrative.
- If you could make any computer game that you wanted, which would it be and why?
An RPG that is kind of like Big Brother on a haunted island. Completely dynamic Survival Horror in an RPG wrapper. Lots of character interaction, NPC development and exploration of morals, ideals and existence in general. As much as I loathe reality TV, it does have some vaguely interesting game dynamics.
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
The mirror. Or on a closed circuit security tape in a courtoom. Maybe even stabbed repeatedly in the face for crimes against good humour. (see above)
Seriously, either long dead, or happily married with kids and a steady, non-gaming related job.
- Any last word to the Fallout fan base?
So long and thanks for all the goatse.cx
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