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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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