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The Skyrim mod that's also a job application Exclusive
The  Skyrim  mod that's also a job application
July 18, 2013 | By Mike Rose




When preparing to apply for a job in the video game industry, the average applicant will be looking to emphasize their past experience, and why it gels well with what the company in question is looking for.

For Boise, Idaho-based Alexander Velicky, there's only one studio that he wants to work at -- and he's put thousands of hours of work into a single mod of one of their games to prove that he has what it takes.

Velicky is gunning for a job at Bethesda, and the 19-year-old is hoping that Falskaar, his recently-released mod for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, will impress enough to earn him a look-in at the company.

Falskaar is one hell of a mod. It includes an entirely new and sizable land to explore, complete with 26 quests, 20-30 hours of gameplay, lots of new items to discover, two new spells, and a new shout.

But it's the attention to detail that really sets this mod apart. The mod comes with a completely new soundtrack, with 40 minutes of composed music from Adamm Khuevrr, and is fully voiced, featured nearly 30 professional and semi-professional voice actors.

The Skyrim's the limit

"I've had a passion for game design all my life, though I really only realized it four years ago when I started modding," Velicky tells me.

"I've made three completed mods before Falskaar. Project Genesis for Fallout 3 (My first completed and released mod); The Collector for Fallout: New Vegas (A small two week project to practice quest and dialogue writing); And Deimos for New Vegas (A larger project to practice scripting and environment setup)."

falskaar 1.jpgBut his modding days started long before this. Velicky used to create full campaigns for Age of Empires II: Age of Kings when he was just 7, built maps for the Timesplitters games, and experimented with various RTS titles.

However, Falskaar was by far Velicky's biggest project to date, with over 2,000 hours of work piled into this beast of a mod.

"Falskaar was my full-time job," he says, noting that he worked around 8 hours each weekday, along with some overtime during evenings and weekend. "I put an average of 40-70 hours a week into the mod."

Velicky lives with his dad, who he says was "very supportive, allowing me to live here without paying rent or having to pay for food/bills, so I was able to work full time without getting a job of any sort."

The idea was that instead of going to design school, Velicky would cut out the middle man and directly gain experience with video game design by creating his own masterpiece.

falskaar 2.jpg"I made this mod partially because I love game design and it was incredibly fun to do, but also because I wanted to impress Bethesda Game Studios," he explains. "I think they make a very unique type of game, and are one of the best game design companies out there."

The team at Bethesda has offered the 19-year-old advice over the last year or two, although he hasn't yet heard anything as-of-yet regarding a possible job following Falskaar development wrap-up.

Managing expectations

But back to Falskaar: Velicky explained to me some of the process of making this massive mod.

"The biggest challenge would have to be figuring out all of the additional stuff that really made a project like this feel complete," he notes. "I handled a huge amount of content and systems that I had never dealt with before: music, regions, weather, animals, leveled lists, general dialogue, etc.. Figuring it all out to really fill in the blanks and make the project feel complete took up a large portion of my time."

Falskaar actually started out as a much simpler mod -- a linear quest based in the original Skyrim world. However, after creating two of the mod's main characters, development suddenly become a whole lot more ambitious.

"I'm not even sure how it happened," he says. "I ended up writing a new land all together. I filled it with content, people, places and things to do and over the three or four months I spent in preproduction (before even beginning to actually make it, as the Creation Kit's release was delayed all the way to February, and I had started in October), the project grew in size rapidly."

Velicky was wary of biting off more than he could chew, and knew that if his scope become too wild, he'd never get it finished.

"This, for example, is why neither main city (Borvald and Staalgarde) has any actual characters or quests involved outside of the specific main quest events," he explains. "I knew that if I tried to make two entire new cities, in addition to the town of Amber Creek, that I would never finish."

"In the end things seemed to work out perfectly," he adds. "I finished the mod just in time to figure out if I was getting a job or actually starting college. So, I managed to keep the amount of content low enough that it was actually possible for me to complete."

falskaar 3.jpgI was really interested to ask how exactly Velicky managed to get so many professionals to work alongside him, in terms of both the soundtrack and the voice acting.

"Several things helped here," he says. "Part of it was luck, I just happened to go to the right places to get all these amazing people. Part of it was the time I put into researching where to go to find these kinds of actors, and I also held very high standards, only choosing to work with the best of the best out of what I got."

And this hard work paid off for the high school graduate, as the game's voice acting even manages to match the quality of the original Skyrim in many places.

"The soundtrack was more sheer luck," he continues. "Adamm Khuevrr (One of the voice actors I had cast) contacted me with some music he had been making on the side. I took interest, and eventually things grew and he ended up composing the entire soundtrack for Falskaar."

There's a bard in the mod who sings a series of unique songs, and a similar situation happened with this too. "I worked with composer Julian Shanahan on other voice roles, but things worked out and eventually he was playing the bard, writing and recording brand new songs," says Velicky.

The Falskaar mod can be downloaded from the Nexus Mods website. It requires that you own the PC version of Skyrim.


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Comments


Mike Griffin
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Really impressive work, not only in the mod itself, but also Alexander's resourcefulness in reaching out and securing talent to help complete other elements -- despite no real budget to do so.
I can only presume that he's a pleasure to work with.

Matt Allmer
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If Bethesda doesn't offer you a job, Alexander, no worries. Just partner with a strong computer science major and make your own games. You'll either generate revenue or gain enough experience to get hired somewhere. Keep up the good work!

Wylie Garvin
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I love to hear about people with this kind of passion and commitment to creating games, it's always very inspiring !

Mark Kilborn
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Alexander's going to land somewhere. The only questions are where and when. This is impressive, and congrats to you for pulling it off.

Jeff Postma
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Awesome and inspiring.

Joseph Majsterski
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Agree with all of the above. This is some amazing work. Makes me want to get serious about game development at home now.

Wyatt Epp
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Holy crap, did this kid just bootstrap himself as a producer?

Jon Pope
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These is what I like to see, even if I'm not a hiring manager at Bethesda. Who am I more likely to interview? This guy, or a person who just sent in a regular resume?

Aurelie Le Chevalier
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That is very impressive, good job Alexander! I hope to work with you in the future :)

Daniel Cook
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Definitely impressive. I hope to work for you in the future.

Michael Scala
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With Valve's history, I wouldn't be surprised if they picked him up.

But, I do think it would be wise/ great PR for Bethesda to atleast consider giving him an internship. If he does a great job with that, I don't see why they wouldn't bring him on full time.

Kadan Sharpe
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What an inspiration! About a year ago, I had begun working on my own Skyrim mod when I stumbled on several guides Alexander had created while working on Falskaar, such as how to implement custom terrains into TESV. It's really cool to see him and his team get some recognition. Way to go, dude! Best of luck to you.

Kain Shin
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Alexander Velicky and his father are attempting a bypass to the system. The result of this attempt will yield useful data. At this point, I would be more likely to hire Velicky as a world builder than I would a fresh graduate of Full Sail.

Alexander Velicky... if Bethesda Game Studios does not interview you, it will not be because they think you are unqualified, it will be BECAUSE THEY FEAR YOU!

Adam Bishop
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I think it's awesome any time someone is able to finish a labour of love, but if I were a company looking to hire I would be very skeptical about bringing on someone who had only been able to complete their work because their family was paying all their expenses. Technical ability is useful, yes, but so is proving that you're capable of handling responsibility without having your parents covering for you.

Lars Doucet
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How's this different from someone who went to college on their parent's dime and put out a good demo reel?

Adam Bishop
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In college you still have significant other responsibilities like following a schedule, learning and completing assigned work, managing time and juggling tasks effectively, etc. You're also on a level playing field with everyone else because everyone else has to do those things too.

Arthur Hulsman
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He - a 19 year old - proved his responsibility by simply getting all the resources needed to get the mod finished. :P

things like a home, finances or whatever is peanuts when you can focus on your task at hand for 2k hours straight, though i expect he might have forgotten to eat or something like that ^^

Simon Cooper
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Adam, he had to do take on the responsibility of scheduling and managing time and resources here as well, only he had to do it ENTIRELY on his own initiative without guidance or structure from anyone else.

That's something a lot of successful entrepreneurs and innovators did themselves.

This was a pretty massive undertaking for one person to oversee themselves and in a relatively short space of time considering the scope.

The level playing field argument is also disingenuous and demonstrably untrue.

Lars Doucet
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What Simon said.

As for the college thing:

College, like most of life, is *anything* but a level playing field. Some students are saddled with massive amounts of debt and also have to work and get loans just to afford tuition, fees, and books, and others have the largesse of their parents and/or scholarships to free them up to focus on their studies. There's privilege and inequality everywhere you go.

Given the rising cost of higher education, particularly for-profit "game schools," having parents cover rent and food is likely much cheaper for the parents than sending their child off to school.

There's plenty of parents who probably can't afford to send their kid to a high-priced school, but can afford to keep them alive for another year past 18 while they learn some marketable skills.

Dane MacMahon
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No offense what-so-ever intended, but this post almost seems like a caricature of Conservative US thinking.

[User Banned]
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Joseph Majsterski
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I don't see an issue here. He was putting in full-time work on it. If he got a full-time job as a game developer, wouldn't the company be "paying all his expenses" too? That's the whole idea.

[User Banned]
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[User Banned]
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Diana Hsu
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What? Would you also avoid hiring someone if their parents are covering all their college expenses, or someone who went to college close to home and thus found it more cheap and convenient to stay with their parents as they're attending school?

And this guy did it all without guidance or external motivation too.

Matthew Collins
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This would not be the first time BethSoft has hired talent from its modding community. Many developers who work for them were modders of their earlier games.

In fact, this is what Todd Howard always says about getting hired by BGS to work on TES and Fallout games: make something with our tools that impresses us and shows you know what you're doing and it will make your chances of being hired that much more likely.

Congrats to Alexander, been following this mod for a few months, glad it finally got done. Downloading now! Hope you get hired!

Brian Tsukerman
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Much respect to Alexander for having the self-discipline and time management skills to do this! I hope it works out for him, but I'm sure he'll find success somewhere: that kind of perseverance is crucial to surviving in a competitive field like the game industry.

Dane MacMahon
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If the mod is as good as people are saying they should sell it for a couple bucks on consoles and give him a 70% share. They mentioned selling mods on consoles before.

Thomas Happ
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Think of all the Bethesda employees who are just there because of the salary, location, timing, etc. Probably none of them has ever done something like this on their own time. And then there's this guy! Holy cow! It's criminal not to hire him.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I put in over 4000 hours on Nexon's Shattered Galaxy (2000 to 2001), as a volunteer. David Paris above probably put over 1000 hours on that project, also as a volunteer. It did not lead to a job with Nexon for either of us. When I went to Trion Worlds and offered to help them with their End of Nations game in 2011, which many considered to be a successor to Shattered Galaxy, they would not talk to me even though no one there (to my knowledge) had any prior experience making an MMORTS.

What the young man did here was probably a bigger achievement, given his age and the amount of logistics he had to master to organize this undertaking. The presence of so many means for this article to go viral (I have friends asking me about this article from having read it on other news sites) means that Bethesda would, at the least, be missing a huge PR opportunity if they did not engage Alexander directly.

Given how insulated the interactive media industry is, how many people want jobs there, the (still) general disdain for academics in IM, and the limited number of jobs, it really takes outstanding personal motivation like this to get into the industry. I think to insiders it is great to see stories like this, especially if they lead to employment, but it probably not is overly surprising for us to see it. For those outside this industry (and outside Hollywood), it probably is extraordinary to see the steps we go through to get good jobs making games.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Diana Hsu
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You worked for free 5.5 hours a day, every day, for two years?

Dustin Brown
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Even if Bethesda doesn't have a Jr Designer position available, or they're simply not comfortable hiring someone so young despite his obvious drive, I think it would be classy of them to at least fly him out for a tour of the studio, a day of job shadowing, and some SWAG.

terry ken
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I think it's awesome any time someone is able to finish a labour of love, but if I were a company looking to hire I would be very skeptical about bringing on someone who had only been able to complete their work because their family was paying all their expenses. Technical ability is useful, yes, but so is proving that you're capable of handling responsibility without having your parents covering for you.


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