When Shinji Mikami, Todd Howard, Tim Willits, Harvey Smith and Jen Matthies sit in a room
Over the course of this decade, Bethesda has built up a powerhouse team of developers and you better believe they’re helping each other out.
There is so much to admire about the way Bethesda has approached game development over the last decade. Go back to the mid-2000s and the studio had a popular development arm creating the Elder Scrolls and Fallout titles, and a dire publishing arm releasing suspect experiences like Wet, Rogue Warrior and a number of Star Trek entries. Then it changed tact and went on a spending spree.
The studio acquired id Software – the legendary studio behind Doom, Quake and Rage – then grabbed Arkane Studios (who created Dishonored and Prey, and includes Deus Ex creator Harvey Smith), MachineGames (founded by ex-Starbreeze Studios alumni who had delivered classics like The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher’s Bay and The Darkness) and Tango Gameworks (founded by Resident Evil mastermind Shinji Mikami), amongst others. When you add in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout teams, that’s extraordinary experience and talent all under one umbrella.
Then Bethesda gave them free reign and the support to be creative. And it’s worked a treat: gamers have jumped on board with subsequent releases to the point that the company now gets its own E3 press conference. Happy days!
I’ve been curious for quite a while about how much, if any, collaboration goes on between all these studios. Do Shinji Mikami, Todd Howard, Tim Wilits, Harvey Smith, Jen Matthies and co. ever sit down and share beers and feedback on their games? Turns out they do. I recently interviewed Jen Matthies about Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, which arrives on PS4, Xbox One and PC this Friday, 27 October. I used the opportunity to ask about collaboration, and it turns out there’s plenty.
There’s a very talented group of individuals now under the Bethesda umbrella, do you ever shoot code across to the guys from Dishonored or The Evil Within or Doom to get their feedback?
Yeah for sure. We also meet up once a year and discuss everything that we are doing so we can ask each other for advice. So there is a lot of collaboration between the sister studios in the company. It’s kind of halfway ultra-inspiring to see the level of the things that they do, and also halfway super intimidating, too, as you want to rise to the level of quality that everyone else is capable of.
I don’t suppose you have any examples of anything about the kind of feedback you get when you share code and have these meetings?
That’s hard to pinpoint as it’s not something I really track. But when you are making a game you’re so close to it you’re a little bit blind to its problems. So having someone else’s eyes on it, especially someone who is a great developer, helps you find simple things. For example, if your colour coding is a bit off. You might predominantly have objects that are red be things you can exploit in some way, like blow them up. Then if a few other objects in the world randomly become red for other reasons, and you’re sort of drifting off that clarity, it’s the kind of thing another developer will pick up on. It can be many different things we get feedback on, but it is along those lines. But we all try to be as supportive and as helpful with each other as possible.