Tribehacks with Todd Howard!

Hey everyone – Gen here!

SO yesterday was very exciting for me – visited my alma mater, the College of William and Mary, to see the keynote speaker for the third annual three-day tech development bonanza: Tribehacks.

Wonderfully, the keynote speaker in question was none other than Todd Howard, College of William and Mary graduate of 1993; also a top designer, director and producer working for Bethesda Softworks, specifically the Fallout and Elder Scrolls franchises.

Needless to say, it was thrilling to see him present a humor-filled, educational talk about technology, games, and the development processes and preparedness goals for those trying to break into the industry.

I have a video clip here of not quite ideal quality, so mea culpa on that; I did not prepare adequately…but CWM should ideally have a recorded file of the keynote in their archives. I have contacted them for the recording, and they will release it once it has been approved in its entirety.

But for now, my little clip is on Youtube, if you would like to get a glimpse:

Tribehacks 2017 Questions

All of us were thrilled to go and see this talk; it was just a lovely event. Wish I was still eligible to register for Tribehacks, but that’s okay. Got some tips from the presentation in any case.

As always, Howard spoke of his philosophy for developing games, the three points of which are readily available online through Wikipedia and other sources like recordings from other talks:

  1. Great games are played, not made. Game design documents are constantly changed when played at the final.
  2. Keep it simple. Simple systems acting together create complexity.
  3. Define the experience. Design the game so that it provides the experience you want people to have.

And above all, to follow passions and keep learning. Know how to do a multitude of things so you have more to offer, even ideas-wise. Brainstorming was a key element to the process on which he placed high importance; he mentioned that at Bethesda Softworks he and his team often take part in one or two-week brainstorming sessions that he calls “Game Jams” in which they would just come up with ideas for elements that could be potentially included in the games being worked on, whether it be a storyline, a set of character or personality functions, environments, quests, etc., and then present it to the rest of the design staff. Just to keep their creative juices flowing, so to speak.

Some questions that I didn’t manage to capture on film here included an emphasis on education that is not directly applicable to the game industry. Traditional art, writing, science, psychology, philosophy, etc. Specifically for those who may feel that they have made an off-path or unwise choice in their studies considering their intention to enter the gaming world. Howard emphasized that it all came down to what you do with those skills. That the experience and education you have is just as important as the application and not to regret it, but to use it.

Just keep at it, even when it seems discouraging. Learn as much as you can, try different things and figure out how you want to fit in the gaming world – what interests you about it the most. And then acquire the useful know-how, like some scripting languages because, as he had said, “at the end of the day, it’s all just computer code that needs to be written.” However, he stresses that the focus should be what you love most in the creation process, because conversely, “there is always time to go back and learn the computer.”

(Fiddling with Creation Kits and Mods and being active on coding or workshop communities always helps, too. It was nice to see how knowledgeable and curious he was about different mods people came up with, noting that it was the little ten-minute practical fixers to the games that really impressed him.)

But I know now I’ve got to get on those C#, C++ and Python classes now, despite being a mostly right-brained creative type. Blerg! 🙂