Archive for October 6th, 2008


The guy behind the guide [from the Bethblog]

Our friends over at the Bethesda Blog (aka, bethblog), had the awesome opportunity to interview David Hodgson aka sothothyog.  Included below is a Prima favorite picture and a great interview from Bethesda:


Now that you’ve had a chance to get a little more background on the Fallout 3 Strategy Guide, check out the interview below I conducted with David Hodgson.

Fallout 3 is the 67th Strategy guide you’ve authored. How did you get into this business?
Bear in mind that my body of work includes everything from The Official Strategy Guide to Gex: Enter the Gecko, Akuji the Heartless, and Star Wars: Demolition to Half-Life 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I started off in the UK, working for some defunct video-game magazines that no one has heard of (Maximum, for example). I then fled the UK and landed a job at the part-fraternity, part-sanitarium known as GameFan magazine in 1996. During that time, I helped out with GameFan Books, wrote a guide for Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, then helped start up a magazine called Gamers’ Republic, and also wrote a well-received guide for Metal Gear Solid shortly before that venture imploded. In 2000, I decided to go freelance, and work for a “proper” strategy guide publisher, and I’ve been working on Prima guides ever since.

About how many guides do you work on in a given year?
Due to the sheer enormity of the tasks (of which Fallout 3 has been far and away the most challenging and rewarding), I’ve cut down my workload to 5-6 books, but these are usually very challenging. I’ve done anywhere from 5 to 12 in a year, but the latter almost hospitalized me.

In your blog post, you mentioned the guide’s fold-up map is massive. Can you talk about the effort that went into putting that together?
There are two terms I’d like to use here to describe this effort; “collaborative” and “deranged.”

Continue reading ‘The guy behind the guide [from the Bethblog]’


Fallout, then Fall Over: Guide Creation Blog 02


Two choices to help your Capital Wasteland roaming

A spine an inch thick, and Vault-Tec Approved: Two choices to help in your Capital Wasteland roaming.



Part 02: Meanderings and Overview

I initially received my first build of the game on May 25th, which is when all major social activity (never a major concern for a strategy guide author) was curtailed, and my trip into the Capital Wasteland began. After booting up the PC and 360 versions, I began an intensive, week-long “cursory” play-session, and spoke at length with Pete Hines and Jeff Gardiner at Bethesda about what they wanted the reader to gain from the guide. They deluged me with pile after pile of internal wiki information, and allowed me to bombard the team with a variety of questions, most of which were variations on the “yes, I just discovered this, and it’s freakin’ awesome” theme.


Workload-wise, this guide took approximately 120 days to construct (And that’s not including the sterling work of others who commenced map-making, design, corrections, approval, and printing), and my personal involvement (authoring, screenshots, and doctor visits for more blood-pressure medicine) was approximately 1,100 man-hours. No, I’m not kidding. But I do have a shockingly thorough knowledge of the game, which was great when I wrote it all down in guide form, but is now sloshing uselessly about in my brain, waiting to be forgotten about. I must have about 650 game saves. And time spent actually playing the game? I’d say around 500+ hours. This was by far the most complicated, gigantic, and madcap guide I’ve ever been involved with, and I loved every minute of it.


Once the first week of intensive gameplay was over, I realized – with a creeping sense of both excitement and horror – that I’d only grazed sections of the game, but I’d been having such an entertaining time building the custom weapons, fiddling with skill and perk combinations,  finding devious methods to circumvent the “expected” strategy in a quest, and tried a few of the billions of other lunatic things you can attempt… that I didn’t mind. After some talks with the team at Bethesda (who remained steadfastly patient, enthusiastic, and helpful throughout my Wasteland odyssey) we’d already agreed on the breakdown of the strategy guide. Here’s what the final guide encompasses:


A comprehensive contents page and Foreward by Todd Howard.


A Training section where I mined the brains of designers at Bethesda, and offered meticulous advice on Attributes, Skills, Perks, the dangers of the game world, main tactical advice on V.A.T.S., information on Followers, and (naturally) a complete list of every weapon, outfit, item, Chem, Stimpak and Foodstuff in the game. I love stats, so we got a table with elements like fire-rates, ammo-clip totals, and everything the more deranged gamer needs to figure out which selecting the correct weapon to bring to a Ghoul massacre.


Next up, was a Factions and Bestiary, where the major warring forces of the game got an official back-story, and every single irradiated beast, mutation, and abomination received a thorough inspection. Can you check the health of a Super Mutant, compare it to the damage your favorite boomstick does, and then calculate how many shots it takes to kill one? Most certainly. There’s stats-aplenty.


Chapter 3 and 4 concerned the different Quests you undertake during the game, all of which are optional. These two chapters alone were large enough to be their own strategy guide, and every Karmic effect, Skill or Perk you can utilize at a pertinent point, and all the different outcomes are shown. Yes, including all the endings. Naturally, to avoid massive rage-filled forum posts, Spoilers are flagged throughout. Copious screenshots and Vault Boy iconography were used, as well as flowcharts. Oh yes, lovely, easy-to-read flowcharts showing every main route to try, and the rewards for trying for every single Quest in the game. The flowcharts (dotted throughout the chapters) take up over 30 pages on their own. Did I mention this game is big?


Then matters took a turn for the deranged, as I embarked on Tour of the Capital Wasteland. This sightseer’s guide ballooned into a 200+ page section, but includes maps of every single exploration point, and the major ammunition caches, items – and “other bits” I can’t mention – and an overview map modeled after your Pip-Boy’s. There are major and minor locations, each with a number and a coordinate to ease the cartographically limited. May I suggest a few hours’ study of the insanely dangerous and labyrinthine D.C. Interior and linking underground tunnels? These were mapped at great cost to my sanity over a period of three weeks.


Accompanying this Tour is a double-sided, movie-sized poster pinpointing every single location in the Capital Wasteland. I recommend studying it for a good 15-20 minutes to let it all soak in. I’ve never played a game with more locations that needed to be pinpointed correctly.


Tucked at the back of the book are the endings, so it’s wise to skip past those pages and gaze at the 20+ Appendices, which basically give you Achievement advice, and locations of everything even vaguely seen as “collectible”. Precise locations are shown, and a month’s worth of cross-referencing work went into all of it.


Decided to purchase the special Pre-War Collector’s Edition? Then, aside from a Hardback cover and a bigger map poster, you get an extra section packed with exclusive art, team interviews, additional team tactics, easter egg information, a half-dozen “Wasteland Wanderers” showcasing the entertaining and sometimes frightening way some of Bethesda’s team cultivated their characters, all finished off rather pleasantly by an Afterword by Moira Brown. Who’s she? Owner of the Craterside Supply, don’t you know.


Ready your coffee table for reinforcement; the Pre-War Collector’s guide clocks in at 498 pages.


Come back next time, where we reveal a little more information, and you’ll realize just how much of a job sabbatical you’ll need to take to make a dent in this behemoth of a game.





With two NARUTO titles completed (Ultimate Ninja Storm and Clash of Ninja Revolution 2), I have moved on to the big daddy of fighting game releases for 2009. Street Fighter IV will reportedly release early next year alongside the upcoming movie, but I’ve already had some time with the arcade version, which is what I’ll be basing my initial guide work on. At some point I’ll be heading to Capcom USA to complete the guide, but for now I’m using my experience with the game to lay down the initial ground work. With any luck, the final product will be a guide that teaches newcomers how to become better players and gives the Street Fighter legends a few tips in the process.

I missed out on Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, but Street Fighter IV will be a welcome change from my last two NARUTO guides. The game seems to borrow from Super Street Fighter II Turbo and Street Fighter III: Third Strike, while still maintaining the feel of a new fighting game.

Hopefully the release of SF4 will kick off another great year for fighting games. Tekken 6 should hopefully be landing on US shores sometime in 2009 and King of Fighters XII, along with a new Samurai Shodown are hitting during the first half of 2009. Now if only Rare would announce a new Killer Instinct, I would have all the fighting games I need to last me until 2010.

October 2008
« Sep   Nov »