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30 in 30: Bethesda

Cities of dreams

The name Bethesda these days has become synonymous with epic role-playing games like Fallout 3 and the Elder Scrolls series. However, it started out making sports simulations. The first game the company released in 1986, Gridiron! for the Atari ST and Amiga, was described as "the first modern sports game".

Before Gridiron!, sports games worked by looking up tables of player statistics - Chris thought this was boring, and instead developed a real-time physics engine. After seeing Gridiron!, Electronic Arts commissioned the team to develop the first John Madden Football game, a series that is still going today.

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Since then the company has made more than 50 games including in the sports, action, racing and, of course, role-playing genres. In 1990 it moved into licensed gaming territory, starting with making a PC first-person shooter based on the Terminator film.

But what most of Bethesda's staff were really interested in was playing Dungeons and Dragons. So when they started working on Arena, which was meant to be a gladiator combat game, they added a story and some side quests, and eventually ended up just ditching the whole tournament idea and turning the game into an RPG instead. Arena became The Elder Scrolls: Arena and one of the world's most successful game franchises franchise was born.

With the acquisition of the Fallout IP in 2004 from Interplay and the subsequent release of Fallout 3, Bethesda Game Studios cemented its reputation as the master of the single-player epic Western-style RPG.

OVERVIEW

Founded: 1986
Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Killer Quote: "We're trying to look for even bigger and better things so that you look at them and go, "That's really a game I can't afford to miss."" - Pete Hines

KEY PEOPLE

Todd Howard

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Considered as the main creative force behind Bethesda's biggest games Todd is currently Executive Producer at the studio and is deeply involved in all of the games in production.

Howard joined Bethesda in 1994, after finishing up his academic education at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. His first order of business was to work on the seminal title in the Elder Scrolls series.

Howard's career in the video game world spans over decade, during which he is credited as the project leader and designer of Morrowind, Redguard and Daggerfall as well as SkyNET and The Terminator: Future Shock.

Pete Hines
Before becoming the vice president of Bethesda and czar of all things PR and marketing for Bethesda Hines was a college radio station DJ, a commentator for the women's basketball and announcer for men's football (soccer). Humble beginnings for someone who would go on to become instrumental in the company's success.

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Over the years Hines built up an impressive body of work that would feed into his eventual role as the head of PR and marketing for Bethesda. His high-school days were spent aiding a finance professor in his research and writing press articles between, while his post-grad career involved working for the American College of Cardiology and the American Association of Blood Banks, where he wrote professionally.

Pete joined Bethesda's marketing department in 1999, writing the manuals for the company's games and as well as ensuring press releases were sent out, web and blog were updated, and a forum presence was maintained.

Chris Weaver
Bethesda's founding father, Chris Weaver was working for MIT in the seventies on speech parsers, graphic interfaces and synthesized worlds. He switched careers and started working directing news broadcasts for NBC and ABC before moving back into working on virtual reality and then founding Bethesda, as a specifically PC game developer, to see if there was any mileage (and money) in it.

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