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GB: With Bloodmoon about to start shipping, how do you feel looking back at the huge success of Morrowind and its expansions? If you could do it all over again, would you do anything differently?
Todd: We're ecstatic with the way everything came out. We hit our dates with quality products, and the expansions were a blast to create. It's nice to work with a code-base and tool-set that is stable and tested. Anything different? Oh sure, always. We're our own worst critics. Nothing is ever perfect in our eyes, so we can look at almost any part of the game and find some way of improving it.
GB: Will Bloodmoon bring Morrowind to a close? Any plans for a third expansion?
Todd: No plans at this time. So today, yes, Bloodmoon brings the Morrowind/Elder Scrolls 3 series to a close. But, if Bloodmoon does much better than I expect it will, then we may do another. That's not to say I expect Bloodmoon to sell poorly, I expect it to be one of our best sellers, it just has to really outsell our high expectations to put staff onto another expansion.
GB: How is the Xbox Game of the Year edition coming along? Have there been any unforseen obstacles in bringing the two expansions over to the Xbox?
Todd: Going very well, our E3 build came together faster than we expected, a few bumps but nothing too bad. We're making other small changes to it to accommodate new players to Morrowind since you'll be playing with all 3 products at once, whereas on the PC, most people who install Bloodmoon have been playing Morrowind for a while.
GB: Is the core game in the Xbox Game of the Year edition going to include the fixes the PC version has received to date?
Todd: Most of them, yes.
GB: Has the number of player-created modifications for Morrowind surprised you at all, or did you somewhat expect such a large community when you developed the game? Any particular MODs that you feel possess a great deal of quality or stand out as your favorites?
Todd: The total number, oh yes. I had always hoped it would catch on, and that it would be easy to use plugins. We spent a great deal of time putting together the plugin system. The biggest fan site is closing in on 3 million plugin downloads. That's insane! My favorites? I won't name names, but I really like the ones that do it all. Ones that give you new landscapes, stories, and quests. You can tell the ones that are really crafted, versus the ones that are there to just mess with the game.
GB: Do you intend to develop an Elder Scrolls IV? If so, have you started any preliminary work on such a title?
Todd: I'm sure we will one day. We're always tossing around ideas.
GB: Hypothetically speaking, would Elder Scrolls IV most likely use a modified version of the NetImmerse engine seen in Morrowind, or receive a new engine of its own?
Todd: We had a great experience with NetImmerse, especially with the level of modification we like to do. It's a very open engine. I think in the future you'll see us continue to license technology from outside Bethesda and change it to suit our needs.
GB: Have you considered incorporating multi-player functionality in future titles (including Pirates of the Caribbean), or do you plan on continuing with single-player games only?
Todd: If we're making a title that really seems to be a good fit for it, sure. But I think it would be a focus for that title, like we did with SkyNET so long ago, which was primarily a multiplayer title. I still think it's almost impossible to make a world-class single-player game and multi-player game in one package.
GB: For those fans who are unfamiliar with Pirates of the Caribbean, can you give us a brief description of the game, as well as a summary of how development is coming along with this title?
Todd: Pirates is a role-playing game on land and sea. You can follow the main storyline or set out to sea to fight with other ships, or explore the different islands in the game. How much time you spend at sea or on land is really up to you. You can spend lots of time fighting, or lots of time trading.
You can hire officers who will improve your skills so that you'll be a better captain at sea, and you'll have some companions to help you on land in case you get into any fights. They'll gain experience just like you and you get to develop their skills as they level up, just like your own. Plus, if you manage to capture an enemy ship and have a qualified captain on board, you can assign them to sail the captured ship under your command.
We're in the final stages now, just playtesting and applying some final spit-and-polish. It'll be out for PC and Xbox later this month, a few weeks before the movie comes out (July 9).
GB: Aside from its theme, in what ways has the gameplay in Pirates of the Caribbean changed since its move from Sea Dogs II? What was its design goal after the Disney affiliation?
Todd: The goal of any game we undertake is.first, last, and always. (make a good game.) Doesn't matter if it's a licensed property, original concept, or whatever. If it's not fun, it's not going to be a success. So our goal was to make Pirates the most fun it could be and try to capture that freeform spirit of being a captain/pirate during the 17th century. We didn't have the burden of trying to include as many references to the film as we possibly could. Our mandate was to make a great game, so that's what we set out to do.
Pirates is very much an open-ended roleplaying experience. Go where you want, do what you want. Live your own life, suffer the consequences of your actions. Cool sword fights and ship boarding, big naval battles between multiple ships. There are an unlimited number of quests out there to do apart from the main storyline and you can spend hours at a time just exploring the world and finding more trouble to get into, if that's what you want. And, of course, really amazing graphics to bring it all together into a game that people will look at and say, (I gotta try that.)
We'd like to issue our thanks to everyone at Bethesda, especially Todd, for taking the time to answer our questions!