Todd Howard Talks Skyrim, Doing Whatever You Want, VR and More

Glixel has published a long interview with Bethesda Game Studios game director Todd Howard. The interview touches on a range of subjects, from the design decisions made with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, to the developers' "do whatever you want" attitude and what it means in practice for the game's design, touching upon their recent VR experiments along the way. There's quite a lot of material to chew, so I recommend you read the full piece.

That said, I'm going to take the liberty to highlight a few interesting excerpts. On Skyrim:

In 2012 you said the design document for Skyrim was a Conan action figure. Really?

I'm looking at him on my desk right now. We start with tone. This is it. This is the tone.

That gets at one way the game constrains the player. It's all based around exploration and combat. You can't all of a sudden decide to become one of the shopkeepers or something. It's still a game about killing people.

Or killing creatures. It's not something we've thought about too much, "Are there other occupations in the world?" If that's your question.

I can't "do whatever I want" is all I'm saying. I'm trying to figure out what it means when you say that.

We try to do it as much as possible. Role-playing is a genre that could be anything. There's no feature that you would just say, "Oh, it's an RPG. I wouldn't do that." In our games, we can do anything.

You can't become a merchant, but there are skill perks that let you invest in the stores, and now you're becoming someone who can barter and deal with gold, or persuade people.


Is there any part of Skyrim that you would fix?

I think if you look at our worlds and our environments, they're really rewarding. I think on the character side, how the NPCs react to you is still not quite where we want it to be.

There really isn't a part of the game where we can't say, "That could be better."

But you decided not to change it. You didn't want to make the George Lucas special edition version of Skyrim?

That's well said. Very well said.

On Fallout 4:

Fallout 4 has a much more urgent main quest – you're a parent searching for a missing child – than Skyrim's civil war amid the mysterious return of dragons.

We've tried it both ways. Fallout 4 was obviously intentional. We wanted to put pressure on you to do this and make it really engaging. But if you don't, it ends up falling flat. Because the time pressure is kind of fake. In Skyrim, it is intentionally, "Well, this is important, but when you want to look into it." It's not personal in that way.

I can't say which way is better yet.


Fallout 4 is also much more focused on combat and gunplay.

We didn't intentionally do that. When Fallout 4 is giving you certain quests, there are probably more that are, "Just go kill this," because there are more random things. But that wasn't an intentional goal of any kind.

On VR and mobile:

You have more mobile games on the way?

We definitely do, yes.


You're trying to put all of Fallout 4 in VR?

We definitely are. That's the promise of VR, being in a big virtual world. The core experience, meaning you put on the headset and you're standing in the world of Fallout and can go where you want, just that little bit is every bit as cool as you hope it would be. Once we did that, we were like, "OK, we gotta see where this goes."

We're not so worried about how many we're going to sell or what the market is. That will all sort itself out. We have an opportunity to make something really unique. We'd rather do that than make some other tiny experience. I don't think that's what people want from us.