Bethesda Softworks Inside the Vault Q&A: J.E. Sawyer

Fallout: New Vegas project director and RPG development veteran Josh Sawyer is the latest developer to be featured in one of the Bethesda Blog's "Inside the Vault" Q&A features. An excerpt, as usual:
How did you get into the industry? Do you have any tips for breaking in?

In college, I taught myself HTML and Flash. I did a bit of contract web development work but never thought it would get me into the game industry. A friend of mine told me that Black Isle Studios was hiring a web developer for an unannounced project. I applied and wrote a rambling cover letter that, in retrospect, I'm surprised made it past the first round. Luckily I was one of three out of 59 applicants who knew Flash. The project turned out to be Planescape: Torment and I got the job. I eventually became the webmaster for all Black Isle sites. After pestering Feargus for a while, he let me come on as a junior designer on the original Icewind Dale.

As far as breaking in, I always tell people to do two things: make mods and apply for QA (Quality Assurance). Making mods helps you understand how games work under the hood and it shows that you are willing to put in the time to get something done. You don't have to make a big mod. Almost any mod will do if it's an interesting concept and well-executed. QA makes you an integral part of the development process, refines your critical thinking skills, and puts you in contact with the developers.

Thus far, what's been the highlight of your career?

Growing up, Brian Fargo was one of my heroes. Working for Black Isle was amazing for me because Interplay made Bard's Tale, the first CRPG I ever played. After Icewind Dale shipped, Brian sent an e-mail to Feargus telling him he played through the whole game and really enjoyed it. So even though the highlight came only a year into my development career, I think it will be hard to top that.