Five Changes from Oblivion to Skyrim

In IGN's new "Five Changes from Oblivion to Skyrim" article, we learn how travel, dragons, radiant story, skills and attributes, and the country and cities have all evolved between the fourth and fifth installments of Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls series. Commentary from lead designer Todd Howard is sprinkled within, lending credence to most of their points:
Bethesda's ditching the eight main attributes you may remember from Oblivion. Intelligence, Agility, Speed and all the rest are out. Instead, you get Health for hit points, Magicka for magic points and Stamina for doing anything athletic. It's a loss of a layer of complexity, but it's not necessarily a bad thing according to Todd Howard.

"In Oblivion you have your eight attributes and 21 skills. Now you have 18 skills and three attributes. What we found is that all those attributes actually did something else. A fan may say 'You removed my eight attributes!', and my answer is, which ones do you want? They're all a trickle down to something else. Now when you level up you can just raise your Magicka. In Oblivion you have to raise your Intelligence knowing that you're Intelligence raises your Magicka."

Howard says it's a natural evolution and makes it sound sensible. I'm not really bent out of shape about it because it doesn't sound like there'll be a lack of decisions to make anyway. Like in previous Elder Scrolls games, skill levels increase with use. The more you use a sword, the better you're able to wield it. In Skyrim, each skill increase contributes to your overall character level, sort of like experience points. If you boost a skill that's at a higher level, you'll see a bigger increase on your character level gauge.

That means you'll get the most benefit from leveling the skills you use most. If you're a badass Destruction magic user, it's beneficial to your character leveling rate to continue using Destruction magic. There's nothing preventing you from trying everything else out, but concentrating on a few skills to level is going to be the most efficient way to gain power. After level ups you'll be able to pick Fallout-like perks within each skill category, giving you additional abilities like zoom-in and slow time while using a bow. Considering each perk will have multiple levels and there are multiple perks within each skill category, it sounds like there'll be a lot of ways to keep you busy while determining how to specialize.