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Meet the Fallout 3 devs - Gavin Carter

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Gavin Carter

Gavin "kathode" Carter

What's your job at Bethesda?
Lead producer for Fallout

What prior projects have you worked on?
Interned on Morrowind and Tribunal. Came on full-time to work on Oblivion just a few months after the project began in earnest.

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 posted a good number of references over here. Aside from that the best reference is replaying Fallout 1 and 2. Good times, good memories :)

How is the work-environment? Is it competitive or co-op? Do the different teams talk together?
Everyone talks except for me. I nail boards over my door and write "KEEP OUT" in unnecessarily evil script. Thinking about getting some heads on pikes. Nah, it's fine. We have a pretty open environment so it's rare not to walk down the cube rows here and not see people huddled around a monitor conferencing over some issue or looking at some new feature or area. Then they throw a shiny object in my direction and I run and chase it and forget what I was doing.

What is your favorite type of game to play (RTS,FPS,RPG etc)
I play most everything, although not the biggest RTS fan. I love any type of game with a huge area to explore and a lot of freedom, whether it comes in the form of an RPG or action game or even a big platformer. I play most everything from big name releases down to stuff like Peggle (which is awesome btw). Right now I'm playing loads and loads of Catan on Xbox Live. It's really well done. Also I've gotten big into collecting classic games from my childhood and have a big shelf in my office with boxed copies of old Ultimas, Might and Magics, Wing Commanders, and of course Wasteland and the Fallouts.

How long have you been playing Fallout, and how would you describe your feelings towards the franchise?
I first played Fallout probably about a year or so after it came out, shortly after Fallout 2 was released I believe. It was right around where I got back into gaming after being out of it for a year or two, so I OD'd on the Fallouts and Baldur's Gates and a lot of the older LucasArts stuff I missed. So I get nice warm and fuzzy feelings when I think of that time and those games.

I'm assuming you weren't working in game development at the time that you took a year or two off from gaming. What made you stop playing? What brought you back in? Did the games that brought you back like Fallout influence how your career has run so far?
Hardly in game development - I was in high school :) It wasn't that long all things considered, and was just a combination of some other things in my life taking priority, and the fact that the aging computer I was using had crossed that line that we all know where the only option is starting from scratch. Also I think the N64, Zelda excluded, single-handedly killed off any love I had for consoles at the time. Anyway as college approached, needing a computer was a definite reality, and I managed to convince the powers that be that a fancy graphics card and fast processor are necessary to really churn out those term papers.

Once I had the power, I was able to go back through some of the games I had missed out on initially. I had a good gaming friend in college who would show me cool stuff, and I'm pretty sure that's where I found out about Fallout. I remember for some reason I went all melee at first and quit right around the Radscorpion caves :) After I got some tips, I saw the light. Fallout and it's ilk definitely influenced my love for the genre, though interning at Bethesda came about mostly from persistence on my part and a lot of dumb luck :)

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 don't get out as much as I like though I come from a family of big fitness masochists. My parents live in Utah and lead hiking groups all around the Grand Canyon area. They're fond of stranding me out there with them for hours on end whenever I visit. I've done a five-day trek on the Inca Trail in Peru, and a few low-altitude treks around Italy and Britain. Hoping to do some high-altitude stuff in Tibet or Africa in the not-too-distant future. Gotta start saving!

What's the last game you bought? Did you like it?
Hmmm... Not counting Xbox Live stuff like Catan I imagine it was Guitar Hero 2 which is just great fun. Before that I think it was Supreme Commander which, while obviously quality, did nothing to change my feelings about RTS games unfortunately.

What games are you looking forward to on the horizon?
I'm looking forward to Forza 2, Mass Effect, Bioshock, Assassin's Creed, and Blue Dragon on Xbox. Don't have a PS3 yet but I imagine I'll get one eventually for Metal Gear or Final Fantasy. On PC, looking forward to Hellgate, Witcher, Dragon Age, Spore, and maybe Elveon if it turns out good. Crysis looks visually unbelievable but I doubt I'm going to be able to run it. Hoping that one day there is a nice GUI done for Dwarf Fortress too. Seems like an amazing game, but you know, hard to get past that initial hurdle.

Other than videogames, what are your interests? (Board games, reading, music, etc)
I read an absurd amount. I enjoy painfully obscure foreign movies. Listen to the devil music (a lot of Slipknot lately, though my tastes change frequently), and play guitar very poorly. I'm big into stock trading and apparently enjoy frequently losing money on dubious companies. I'm also a health nut and fitness freak so I spend an embarrassing amount of time in the gym, and have just moved to cooking all my own food instead of buying cases of frozen stuff. I feel all grown up.

Have you played the VanBuren Alpha? If so, what were your feelings on it?
Yep, played it a while back. I don't like to comment on unfinished software. You can tell that the vision they had for the game still had a while to go before being realized, so it would be unfair to be critical of it.

What would you consider to be the most exotic food (or species: e.g. roast iguana) that you have tried?
In Peru, there are street vendors who sell a peculiar meat-on-a-stick food known as cuy. It's actually roast guinea pig. You can get it in restaurants too, but there's nothing like straight off the grill (pic not for the squeamish). Tastes a little like charred rabbit, I think. Had a few cuts of beef heart while I was there too. Also drank a glass of wine in China that had a whole snake sealed in the jar while it fermented. I was only about 10 or 11 at that point so I was more disgusted by the alcohol than the snake.

Which matters more to you, a game that sells a lot and makes a lot of money or a game that's great and will be loved, maybe even worshipped by its fans?
This is a false dichotomy. There's infinite space for success between those two extremes. That said, if I had to choose between making a game that everyone loves but causes financial ruin to myself and my coworkers, and one that makes us rich, you better believe I'd rather eat ;) I don't believe success is anathema to quality, though. Far from it.

Anyway, I hope someone'll answer my question. I already asked twice, and I think it's a really interesting one because it'd show/say a lot about how the devs think/feel about dialog...
What can change the nature of a man? I played Torment and thought it was fantastic. I don't think the amount of dialog has much to do with a game reaching a mass audience. I think to reach people, all aspects of gameplay have to have something compelling about them. Also, I'll set up my own false dichotomy and say I'd rather have better words than simply more words :)

What are the dev's favorite Fallout memory? What one thing really sticks out when they think of Fallout?
Having the Master kill me in combat over and over and over again. Finally beating him, all but shouting for joy, then trying to escape and realizing both my legs were crippled in the fight.

What do you have on your desk? Do you have any figurines or maskots? Books?
Other than the obvious, lots and lots of unorganized papers and the remnants of my lunch. I have a shelf where I keep all my classic games, and I like to put up tons of art on my walls so everyone knows just how pretentious I am ;) I have the GIGANTIC eboy NYC poster framed on my wall. I also have some original art that one of our artists here did. I usually don't bring books to work other than for reference materials, but I've got a library at home that makes me curse profusely every time I have to move.

What wallpaper do you have?

Who is the one Bethesda employee that could whoop your behind in a street fight?
We've got at minimum two black belts, and that's just on the design staff.

What, in your opinion, was the worst computer or video game you've ever played? Limit this only to games that where the maker actually tried to make MONEY by selling it.
I've played a lot of bad games but Urban Champion for the NES is the one that springs to mind. I remember once when I was a kid, my mom loosed me upon Toys 'R Us with every kid's fantasy marching orders -- I was to pick out any single game I wanted. I grabbed this one for reasons I still don't understand. It was basically an evolutionary ancestor to the fighting genre, in the same way that pools of primordial slime are evolutionary ancestors to human beings. Two dudes on the screen approached each other and punched. And that was it. Once in a while some lady would throw a flower pot down on you from a building. I was probably 7 or 8 at the time and was still bored with this game within ten minutes. This might not have been a truly terrible game, but the overwhelming despair I had upon realizing how I had wasted my choice sticks with me.

This is closely followed by Might and Magic 9 for outright awfulness and disappointment.

In many games, it can be said about them that they "failed to live up to their potential;" in other words, they had one or more brilliant ideas for the sake of gameplay, storytelling, etc., but they were executed in a flawed matter. Of what you've played, what examples have you encountered?
This one is tough as I do hear that a lot but I'm hard pressed to come up with examples off the top of my head. I think the older Hitman games probably fall into that category. The idea of playing a cold-blooded killer in an open environment is awesome but they really didn't hit their stride until Blood Money. Even that had its problems but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

What's your favorite weapon (okay, weapons) from a computer or video game?
Piano wire in Hitman is the first thing I thought of, following on that last comment. Also, I was an ace with the Flak Cannon in UT. I could probably make a case for just about all the weapons in UT for this question :)

Have you played any Mega Man games?
I think I played 1 and 2. Not sure about the rest.

If you said "yes" to the above, have you ever "jumped while entering a boss door?" If the answer to this is yes, you'll know what I mean.
ALWAYS! Who walks through those doors?

See also


Meet the Devs - Cart-Ga @ No Mutants Allowed