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June 27, 2019
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Ken Rolston speaks to the strengths of Bethesda's game dev culture

June 6, 2017 | By Alex Wawro

"[Bethesda] has a long institutional memory, and the personalities in it have fought with one another and worked together for a long time."

- Veteran game dev (and onetime Bethesda staffer) Ken Rolston.

As part of our recent Twitch stream with longtime (and ostensibly retired) game developer Ken Rolston, we inquired about whether he felt there was anything in particular that made Bethesda Game Studios uniquely capable of making big, sprawling, open-world games like Fallout 4 and Skyrim.

It seemed like a worthwhile question given that Rolston spent years at Bethesda (he was the lead designer on both Morrowind and Oblivion, which we were streaming as we chatted) -- but he also worked at a variety of other companies on other games, including Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and the Paranoia tabletop RPG. 

According to Rolston, Bethesda is unique among game devs in a variety of ways: it's an established studio with lots of long-time staffers, approachable tools, and a culture that champions fun over perfection.

"Bethsoft is about not making polish. And I don't mean that in any way negative; there's a level of jazz to what's going on, rather than classical music coming from a script. If it isn't clean but it's fun, we can understand it."

"And you have ownership!" Rolston later interjected. "You can break things and fix things very quickly, and then have somebody make them better. So when you own something that somebody can make a little bit better really quickly, you have that relationship with those people working with you."

Rolston rarely gives interviews these days, especially ones that are this focused on the nuts and bolts of making games, so definitely check out the full stream right here. If you like what you find, you can subscribe to the Gamasutra Twitch channel for even more developer insights and commentary.

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