Josh Hamrick, senior systems designer for Bethesda's "Fallout 4," talked to The Daily Gamecock about his experience with game design and gave tips for aspiring designers. In addition to working on one of the Polygon's Games of the Year, Hamrick also worked for Bungie on blockbuster titles “Halo: Reach” and “Destiny.”
When asked what a senior systems designer actually does, he opened with something that set the tone for the rest of the interview.
“I’ll preface all of this by saying, it’s easy to talk about what I’ve worked on and make it sound like it was just me, when in fact there may have been a dozen individuals contributing in some way or another,” Hamrick said. “I’ve had and continue to have the honor [of] working side by side with some of the most talented devs in the industry and none of these things would have gotten even close to where they are without significant effort, input and/or guidance from them.”
Hamrick said that he works with the controller — how it feels in the player's hands, the actions executed by the press of a button. He has also been involved in weapon design on almost every game he has worked on. For "Destiny" in particular, Hamrick worked on new features for Bungie, including Aim Down Sights and non-blooming recoil. Oh, and if you enjoy using the Hunter Nightstalker class with the bow in “Destiny: The Taken King,” you can thank him for that.
In regards to his current work, "Fallout 4" was released close to five months ago, but that doesn’t mean that any of the team is resting. After shipping the game to be put on discs, the team got a few weeks off after years of hard work.
“By the time the game hit shelves … people were already back at work trying to develop new and awesome experiences in the world of Fallout 4," Hamrick said.
Recently, Hamrick has been putting most of his effort into the new “Fallout 4” Survival mode, which makes the nuclear wasteland just as unforgiving as you would expect.
“Personally, since almost my 1st day at BGS, I had been imagining a version of Fallout where the world would go out of its way to try and kill you," Hamrick said. "That surviving in the wasteland would be difficult and painful and, hopefully, incredibly rewarding. It turns out lots of us were, and I was given the opportunity to work with another seasoned designer to try and create an experience that would do just that.”
Although Hamrick works on games, he still finds time to play the same games that many other people are excited about. He sent a lengthy list of games he is playing or is anticipating, but Hamrick has been playing “Dark Souls III” since it was released on April 12, and will be “for the foreseeable future.” He said that "Dark Souls" is his favorite game of all-time, and that its style of brutal and unforgiving gameplay is part of what made him want to make Survival mode for "Fallout." The game continues to inspire him to try and create games that push and punish the player in a fair way.
Shifting the focus to aspiring game developers, Hamrick offered advice for those wanting to make games.
“Make them,” Hamrick said. “Seriously, there are enough free tools and information at your fingertips that there is no excuse not to. If you want it, make time and do it. There are also plenty of schools that would love to help you achieve those goals … Make something. The games industry needs you."
Hamrick didn’t go to school for game design until after he was already married and had a career. Although he was passionate about the medium for years, Hamrick didn’t take the leap of faith until later.
“The truth is, sooner or later, we are going to put out another game … and we really hope that you like it," Hamrick said on the future of Bethesda.