For our first
interview here at VoyagerEliteForce.com,
our own twisted had a nice
little talk with Raven Programmer Keith
Fuller. What follows in an informative look at a Raven employee that we hope
twisted: Tell me a little about yourself.
Keith Fuller, 27, Christian, husband, son, brother, college graduate, code monkey.
Oh, and I love playing volleyball.
twisted: Describe a typical day as a Raven programmer.
Typical for me or for most programmers? I think I'm one of the few coders who
gets in before 10:30am. Being a morning person makes you quite the exception in
this industry. Anyway, I get to work at 6 or 7am, delete the 4 or 5 company e-mails
that accumulated in the past 12 hours, grab a cup of coffee and proceed to skim
over several news sites. Shortly thereafter I usually jump into whatever project's
code is open on my desktop. I'll jabber with the occasional coworker as my fellow
Ravenites start to roll in around 8, get drawn into one or two side discussions
and maybe almost get something semi-useful done by the time my mid-morning snack
rolls around at 9 or 10. A little more coding, some more coffee, another brief
chat, and it's time for lunch, which usually involves a quick walk over to Cub
Foods (all hail the mighty Cub!) for the deli special (today was spaghetti with
Italian sausage...only $2. How can you beat that?). In sharp contrast to the pre-lunch
portion of the day, I actually get some things done in the 4 or 5 hours remaining
before I head home. If I'm lucky, though, someone will need to test a map at some
point in the afternoon. Woohoo! Getting paid to play deathmatch! This is the best
job in the world.
twisted: If you could change one thing about First Person Shooters to make
them better, what would you change?
I would dearly love to see a single player, first person experience in which you
actually develop the character you play as you explore the plot. A story in which
the player is not only immersed but also draws the player into taking an active
role would be wonderful. I just haven't seen anyone go to that kind of effort
yet in an FPS. Probably because only three people would buy it. I mean, who would
ever want to take the time to actually think and feel while playing a game, right?
twisted: What attracted you to the gaming industry?
That's not as easily defined as I suppose it should be. I knew when I was maybe
12 or 13 that I would love to make games, creating the things that I so enjoyed
playing. By that time I had already started doing some coding in BASIC and I took
great pleasure in making the computer do what I wanted, so I suppose the combination
of a love for playing games and a love for coding added up to a desire to be in
the gaming industry.
twisted: Which characteristics of a successful FPS are important to you?
That's kind of like saying, "What characteristics of a successful movie are important
to you?" Well, I'd say 'exciting hand-to-hand combat scenes', but that wouldn't
explain my fascination with a good comedy, would it? In other words, the characteristics
of a successful FPS that are important to me depend on the type of game it is.
I enjoy well-implemented eye candy, but that's not quite as important in a fast-paced
action extravaganza as it is in, say, an RPG. I guess I'd say that, overall, a
successful FPS in my book would exhibit good, intuitive feedback to the user (you
need to immediately grasp when you're taking damage, for instance), well-animated
models (and it helps if the models are well crafted, too), and a cohesive theme.
A game doesn't have to be phenomenally immersive so long as it's true to itself
in whatever it does. Take Doom for instance. Story? Nope. Never pretended to have
one. Non-stop spooky-evil action? Oh yeah. Start to finish. It's important that
a game never go out of its way to try to be something it's not.
twisted: During your free time, what are you most likely up to?
Sadly, I code a lot in my spare time. I also enjoy reading, both fiction (did
someone say William Gibson?) and non-fiction (I'm currently working on an ex-reporter's
interpretation of Japanese culture). Also, as mentioned earlier, I thoroughly
enjoy volleyball. I don't get to play as often as I'd like, but I'm currently
playing Friday nights in a recreational sand league here in Madison alongside
my wife and several fellow Ravenites. Go Big Elbow!
twisted: Whom do you respect the most in the gaming industry and why?
I'll get some of the expected ones out of the way first. Tim Sweeney, because
he writes good technology and I approve of his design principles (at least the
ones I've inferred). Also, he seems to enjoy sharing ideas and opinions with the
press. John Carmack, because he is the Mozart of 3D game graphics...the man is
incredibly prolific and just plain bright. Mike Dussault, currently hailing from
Valve although I knew of him due to his work on the LithTech engine. He's another
all-around genius type. Gooseman, of CounterStrike fame, because he came out of
nowhere and made a cool idea work, and work well, by himself. Rich LaPorte, Mr.
GoneGold.com, has recently been added to my Favorite Persons List. I had a chance
to meet him this past Memorial Day and he's one of the coolest, down-to-earth
guys you could reasonably expect to encounter in this industry. And perhaps my
favorite, even though I don't think he's officially in the gaming industry any
more, Michael Abrash. For the uninitiated, he was Carmack's right-hand man on
Quake. What most companies do these days by taking advantage of the ubiquitous
hardware accelerator, he made possible just by writing good code. And he juggled
18-hours-a-day crunch mode AND a family. I respect that a whole lot.
twisted: When developing Soldier of Fortune, what required a great deal of
patience and persistence and how did you handle that situation?
Probably the most powerful opponent my sanity faced during SOF's development was
scripting. I didn't write many scripts myself, but I was the go-to guy when a
designer couldn't get a script to work properly. Day and night for weeks on end
I would read through scripts, occasionally rewriting them, frequently stepping
through them in the game code, all too often updating the code to add more animations
or fix niggling bugs. And that was pretty much independent of my "normal" work
load. It was just non-stop nickel-and-diming that doubtlessly would have cracked
me like an egg if I hadn't had a great bunch of guys (that's a gender-nonspecific
comment, Gina :) backing me up. All of the folks on the team pulled together like
their lives depended on it. I was constantly impressed with everyone's attitude
and hard work and that made me want to push even harder, lest I feel as though
I were letting down the team. Of course, not to put down God's role in the development
cycle, I did pray a _lot_ for the project.
twisted: Some people hear of Star Trek, they sometimes stereotype the community
of fans being nerdy and weird. Would you recommend Voyager:
Elite Force for "non-Trekkies"?
Definitely. I haven't been any sort of a Trek fan since the original series and
I still enjoy the multiplayer as well as the exploration of the single player
game. It really is like you're taking part in an episode of the TV show, which
us non-Trekkies can enjoy as much as the hardcore fans.
twisted: Recently, id Software announced that their next project will be another
Doom. What is your opinion on whether this was a wise move for the company?
Keith: Heh. A wise man once told me, "If ever you
are presented with an opportunity to shut up, do so." I'm taking his advice.