Meet the Fallout 3 devs - Ben Carnow

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Ben "Specialty Bread" Carnow

What's your job at Bethesda?
I am a character artist. I work in Max, Zbrush and photoshop to translate the concept drawings into fully realized 3d meshes. Primarily what I work on right now is armor/clothing, although hopefully when I get some more experience I will be permitted to steal some of the awesome creature jobs. What I love about my job is the challenge of retaining the anatomical detail beneath garments, and of capturing the essence of the materials I am depicting so that metal looks like metal, leather looks like leather, rust looks like rust and so on.

What prior projects have you worked on?
Fallout 3 will be my first game ever (so I better not muck it up.) I have only been at Bethesda since late February, so I am pretty new, and this thread has actually been a great way for me to learn a bit more about my coworkers, particularly ones I don't interact with on a regular basis. Prior to coming here I was a student at SCAD, prior to that I was an adolescent, prior to that I was clipped off of my progenitor. 3) 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.

I have love for a whole lot of post apocalyptic media, most of which has already been mentioned. The Mad Max movies definitely provide a bit of character art flavor, although not really very retro-future. An artist who is a big inspiration to me that I haven't seen mentioned in this series of threads before is concept artist Marko Djurdjevic. He does tons of post apocalyptic art, and although a lot of it has a slightly more fantasy angle to it than fallout his character designs are always incredibly original and inspiring, and his skill with anatomy is just gorgeous. Our own concept artist is awesome too!

How is the work-environment? Is it competitive or co-op? Do the different teams talk together?
Work is definitely very cooperative, with maybe a little bit of friendly competitiveness within the group (Joooooonaaaaaaaah!) There is a lot of inter-team communication, there would really be no hope of producing anything but a buggy pile of crap without it.

What is your favorite type of game to play (RTS,FPS,RPG etc)
I used to play a lot of RTSes, but these days i mostly play anything that tickles my fancy. Favorites include the Fallout series (duh), Baldur's Gate, Halflife 1+2, Psychonauts, Grim Fandango, Sacrifice, Relentless/Twinsen's Odyssey, and a bunch of other stuff.

How long have you been playing Fallout, and how would you describe your feelings towards the franchise?
Fallout was a really huge game in my adolescent years. The game allowed you so many choices in comparison to the other games I had played previously, and it had such incredible atmosphere to it. I didn't have a computer that could really play it at the time it came out, so me and my friend Noah would take turns directing characters through the waste, huddled around the warmth of the monitor in his dank and freezing basement (why his family kept the computer down there I have no idea.) Each day I would leave the basement hacking and wheezing with lungs full of mold spores, barely able to function, and the next day I would return to do it all over again. These days when I want to play Fallout I just break out a sample of cultivated mold and inhale the sweet smell of the wastes. You guys should try it, feeling like you have inhaled a lot of radioactive spores and are dying of cancer or are perhaps about to sprout a small mushroom out of your forehead really helps to put you in character.

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?
Not something that I do with enormous frequency, but I get out to national parks and the like every once in a while to sketch landscapes.

What's the last game you bought? Did you like it?
The last game I bought was God Hand for the PS2, and I loved it. It is an absolutely ridiculous 3rd person beat-em-up that has a totally ludicrous concept and embraces it. The game puts you against loads and loads of ridiculous and varied enemies. My favorites include giant punks that can use their mohawks as projectile weapons, and fat people with cannons on their backs. The atmosphere is aided by really really cheesey voice-acting, which gives the game a poorly dubbed kung-fu movie sort of feel. If anyone is thinking of picking it up I would warn you that parts of the game are obscenely difficult, and I doubt I will ever work up the courage to attempt the game on hard mode.

What games are you looking forward to on the horizon?
Bioshock is definitely my #1. System Shock 2 holds a place in my heart, and this looks to do everything that it did, but better. The atmosphere in SS2 was so incredible that I cannot wait to see how quickly they can make me shit myself with graphics that are actually good instead of a low-poly pixel mishmash. Children need meat to groooooooow.

Other than videogames, what are your interests? (Board games, reading, music, etc)
I do a lot of more traditional art in my free time (drawing, painting, a little sculpting.) I am not yet close to where I want to be as an artist, and doing more of the traditional stuff helps me tons in Max/Photoshop. I love terrible (and even sometimes not terrible) horror and kung-fu films, sometimes at the same time, as in Mr Vampire, and Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (with Peter Cushing!) I listen to mostly industrial and death rock music, sometimes some noise too. I love to read, although these days I usually end up listening to audiobooks while I draw/paint, dedicated reading time is hard to come by. My favorite authors are probably Kurt Vonnegut and Phillip K Dick.

Have you played the Van Buren Alpha? If so, what were your feelings on it?
I haven't played it yet, but definitely have plans to.

Favorite anime?
I don't really watch a whole lot of anime anymore, but Berserk holds a special place in my heart for having the most bleak and horrible ending ever (yeah I know it goes on in the manga, but it is still an awesome mind*@&%.) On that note the Berserk manga is good, and it has been going on for so long that if you look at the early stuff and the stuff much later you can see enormous improvement in the artist. I love looking at stuff like that.

Post apocalyptic anime?
Well, the Gunm manga had some decent post-apocalyptic atmosphere, and I enjoyed it a lot overall(never seen the anime, heard it is disappointing). I've seen Trigun but really it pissed the hell out of me because there isn't a single moment in the entire span of the show that is as cool as the opening credits. They totally blew their animation wad there, and everything else in the show is just a pale shade of it. Plus I hate whiny pacifist characters (they get used waaaay too much in anime) , but that is personal taste.

Quite a task...
I would tell you that tasks of this grand importance are not given to those of my experience level, but are instead handled by those with years of experience who know what the crap they are doing. I handle less important things such as the armor made of dirt (with realistic soil erosion!) and the armor made of velcro and bubble-wrap.

Why that nick, man?
The name Specialty Bread comes from an MST3k short in which they mocked a short "educational" video intended to teach prospective bread salesmen how to engender good will with the grocers upon which they ply their trade. At one point in the movie specialty breads were mentioned, but never elaborated upon, leading Mike (I think?) and the robots to perform a short skit demonstrating different kinds of specialty bread. "This type of bread comes to a sharp point. That would be, a specialty bread."

Anyway, as to why I picked it for my username, Grudd only knows.

See also


Meet the Fallout 3 devs - Ben Carnow @ No Mutants Allowed