I’ve had a great privilege to do an interview with Matt Grandstaff of Bethesda. I wanted to ask him some questions about Bethesda and how they operate. I thought that people should get to know one of their favorite developers in the gaming industry. Please enjoy this interview as much as I did.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name’s Matt Grandstaff – I’m the Community Manager at Bethesda Softworks. I grew up in both Iowa and Michigan. I’ve now lived in DC for 5 ½ years.
How long have you worked at Bethesda, and how did you end up there?
I started in April of 2007, so I guess I’m closing in on my two-year anniversary. Back in college, I was an aspiring game writer for my college paper, and looked to break into that business. Easier said than done, I took a few marketing jobs in DC. When I saw that Bethesda was hiring a Community Manager, I knew I had to apply. I still think it’s kind of crazy that I ended up finding a job “in the business” near DC, of all places.
What’s your favorite Bethesda developed game?
I grew up playing more console games than PC games, so I’m most familiar with Morrowind, Oblivion, and Fallout 3, which is definitely my favorite. Aside from having been involved with its release…I really dig that its setting is DC.
What was the first video game you ever played?
Pretty sure it was either Combat or Space Invaders on my Atari 2600, which was purchased sometime around when I was born. I think I started playing games when I was 2-3 years old, and have fond memories of playing those games, as well as Yar’s Revenge, Donkey Kong, Frogger, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’ve been playing games ever since.
Matt chillin’ in his office.
What is your favorite weapon in Fallout 3?
Combat shotgun. I love getting in close, using VATS, and going for the body. I usually put an emphasis on my Explosives skill, so I always stock up on Frag Grenades too.
In the earlier days of gaming, everyone assumed that the only business model that worked was being a publisher. Game developers would grow up but eventually have to expand into publishing in order to be viable. When did you first think about the idea of succeeding as a company focused only on game development?
Well, we’re actually a publisher too. Fallout 3 was both developed AND published by us. In addition to Bethesda Game Studios titles, we’ve published games by other developers and will continue to do so.
How many employees do you have at Bethesda Softworks?
Last I heard we were somewhere around 180 employees, but that continues to grow. In addition to our development team, we’ve got folks in marketing, admin, sales – we even have our own kitchen staff.
We know you get to work for one of the best developers in the businesses. What is the experience like working with Todd Howard?
Todd is great. While I’m not actually making the games for him, he’s always pretty good at discussing ideas for the community and looking at what people in our forums have to say about our games.
Besides that, he’s also one of the funniest people I know.
How hard have the guys worked on Fallout 3 to make it one of the best RPG’s last year and did it all pay off for you guys in the end result?
Between pre-development and development, the team has been working on Fallout 3 since 2004. In the end, we’re very happy with the game we released, and it’s great to know so many people have enjoyed it.
What was the development process like for the consoles? The PS3 isn’t the easiest to code for a developer, but has more potential than most of the consoles.
I’ll be honest, that’s not really a question for me. I know that the team worked very hard to make the gameplay experience of Fallout 3 the same on all platforms we released it on.
Do you have a tightly knit development team?
I’d say so. I think if these guys weren’t working together, they’d still be hanging out together. And in terms of work, it’s great to see how the ideas come from everyone – not just the top. With the Fallout 3 DLC we’re working on, I’m seeing some really great ideas from many members of the team.
If you didn’t work in video games, what would you be doing?
My fiancée always tells me I’d make a great color commentator for basketball or football games. Of course, those jobs are usually left for retired athletes.
Can you tell us a little bit about your game engine, for Oblivion and Fallout 3 the graphics and physics were gorgeous. We’d all like to know what engine you guys run the beautifully rendered games on?
Like Oblivion, Fallout 3 uses a heavily modified version of the Gamebryo engine. We’ve made a lot of modifications to the engine so that it suits the game we’re trying to make. Our programmers deserve a lot of credit for all the work they do in getting everything to look so good and run smoothly.
Are there any plans for FO3 themes or avatar clothing for NXE?
Currently we don’t have any announced plans for anything like that. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility though.
Thanks much to you Matt and the development house at Bethesda for taking the time to answer some questions for us and the community. We look forward to your future projects. If you have any comments you’d like to leave to Matt about this interview please go ahead and comment below.