Batchelor focused on questions concerning not only where the company is going but where the developer has been and how its ethos has changed over time.
The two went through Bethesda’s history since Howard joined, touching on games such as Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, talking about the progression of how Bethesda changed its development strategy. The question came up of balancing procedural generated content and handcrafted moments. “I don’t have a preference for either. With Oblivion, the landscape is somewhat procedural. We went over it by hand to see what we like.”
Continuing on this topic, Howard touched on how that has changed over the years: “I think a mix is good. We still do… random encounters in that way, it keeps it fresh in that we don’t know what exactly is going to happen every time and neither do the players. We like to handcraft the things that are expected to be handcrafted. Whereas with nature, computers can do a pretty good job at putting trees and rocks around that you can massage.” This lets the team focus on what needs to be handcrafted. With Skyrim, the team wanted procedural generation to bolster what was already there, providing randomized quests that still felt like they were a part of the world.
Howard focused on the development team’s goal of making this game not another iteration of what they have already made, but a new experience that gives the player the feeling that previous games cultivated; a “wow moment” when the world opens up to the player. Howard continued by saying they are “overhauling” their Creation engine, saying that improved fidelity and graphics as well as procedural generation in the appropriate places makes the “wow moment” more easily attainable. “We want to make sure for the scale of our development and our team that we’re [handcrafting] the things that are most important and if we can use procedural systems to generate content that keeps the game kind of everlasting, then that’s what we want to lean on.”
Howard, when asked about Starfield and Elder Scrolls release dates or more information on either of the games, said they are “still a ways out” and that Bethesda doesn’t want to tease more when it’s still very much in the midst of production. “When we show it, [we] really [like to] be able to show what the final product really looks like.”
With both games still a ways out, seeing Bethesda’s thought process on the back end was a nice taste of what’s to come.
Bethesda was recently bought by Microsoft for $7.5 billion, which the interview didn’t cover. This acquisition means that both Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI will be available on Games Pass at launch.
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