"How Bethesda Made Skyrim" GDC 2012 Talk Summary

EDGE is offering a summary of a talk given by Bethesda Game Studios' lead level designer Joel Burgess on the making of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which focused specifically on how the developer managed to make such a big game with relatively limited resources. Here's a snip:
He explained that this team found players were able to access exits to dungeons that had been placed in locations that were intended to be inaccessible, meaning they'd been inadvertently left with open back doors. There was no single fix for them, meaning that each dungeon would have to be fixed individually. But despite the narrative issues the back doors might cause, facing the cost of tackling them Bethesda decided to do nothing. (We asked, so what? How is it a problem? Doing nothing is the single most efficient way of dealing with a problem.)

The studio faced a different brush with complexity with its Radiant Story system, which is governed by a very deep Story Manager, which tracks every element of the game and leads to creating procedural experiences for the player. (We haven't scratched the surface of it,) Burgess said.

But though it's a deep system, really powerful effects are caused by its lightest use. Radiant Assassin events are attacks by Dark Brotherhood assassins on the player. If they're killed, they're found carrying an assassination contract, which caused players to post many comments wondering who'd put down the contracts and why they'd been targetted, reaching a rich variety of conclusions. But actually, the events are merely governed by two simple parameters: the player must be above level 10 and mustn't be a member of the Dark Brotherhood.