The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Interview

IGN has kicked up a two-page interview with game director Todd Howard on the upcoming The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, covering the basics from combat to dialogue.
IGN: Is the auto-leveling system from Oblivion that leveled enemies alongside your character returning in Skyrim? If not, will there be a modified version, and what informed the changes in the design?

Todd Howard: We've always had some amount of that in our games, from Arena to Fallout 3. You do need some in a game like this, it's just a matter of how and when you do it. It's clear Oblivion had places it didn't work well. That's something I think we addressed well in Fallout 3, so Skyrim works similarly to Fallout 3. We want peaks and valleys, where sometimes you're really challenged, and other times you feel really powerful. The trick is telling a player in a wide open game, without locking stuff off, that "this area is too hard for you, come back later."

IGN: Dragons seem like they're going to be integral to progression in Skyrim. Would you be able to say roughly how many dragons are in the game? Are the encounters determined by the story, or can you choose to lock into combat with a dragon whenever you want? What do you gain by fighting and defeating a dragon?

Todd Howard: I honestly don't know the exact number yet. Some are scripted to appear at certain times, and some are completely random. We're currently messing with that number, and it also depends on how you play the game. I got randomly hunted by three of them at once in the game last week, and I assure you that's too many at once. I can guess a low number of maybe a dozen, and a high number many multiples beyond that. Theoretically it's infinite I guess, since we put them in the world like any other creature. We went into the project being very conservative about how we'd use them, but they've turned out great, so we want them to get good screen time. When you defeat a dragon, you absorb its soul, and that's all I should say about that for now.


IGN: How is the NPC conversation system evolving in Skyrim? What did you learn from player response to how it worked in Oblivion, and will there be similar methods of NPC persuasion in Skyrim?

Todd Howard: The main change is that dialogue is all done "real time". The game world does not stop, the view doesn't zoom in, it's just another type of interaction you can do with the world. We wanted to remove the feeling that you were entering a different "mode." Even in its presentation, it's simply a list of things that appear from the screen cursor you can ask about. We're also doing some side characters with personality that don't give you specific things to ask about, but just respond to you activating them. Activating them again is interpreted as "tell me more", so we found we can do quick conversations with the player this way and really fill out the world more.


IGN: Will the PC version support DirectX 11?

Todd Howard: Yes, but I guess the real question here is do we take advantage of DX11's big new features and the answer is 'not specifically'. Our graphics work centers around doing things that will look the same regardless of platform, and sometimes that implementation will be different on the 360, PS3, and PC.