Bethesda's Todd Howard is Reaching for the Future of RPGs

The majority of this new article-style interview with Bethesda Softworks' Todd Howard on Polygon might focus on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fallout 4, and a couple of the studio's other notable works as they prepare for Todd's induction into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame tomorrow night, but that isn't to say that the inevitability of a The Elder Scrolls VI isn't at least briefly mentioned. An excerpt:
Howard believes the elevated status of RPGs is due to the fact that so many games now borrow some of that genre's fundamentals such as NPC interactions, exploration, character upgrades and strong story. But the big breakthrough comes from freedom of movement.

"Video games put you in a different place," he says. "They do geography so well. We can put the player anywhere, and the player can do anything.

"Open world games have gotten more popular, so we have to think about creating the kinds of interactivity that make you feel like you're really in that world. We want to avoid activities that feel too 'gamey' and that take you out of the story."

While open worlds have been the engine of role-playing's growth, the genre’s continued success will rely on solving a much trickier problem: character interactions. RPGs can still throw up jarring encounters with NPCs who skirt the uncanny valley.

Howard says that Fallout 4's dog and robot were his favorite characters.

“I think we have a very long way to go in how the other characters act and react to you. That's the big issue we're trying to solve. We're pretty good at pushing technology and world building. We have a good handle on game flow, the rate you get new things, how you're rewarded over time. But we need to be innovating on [characters].”

Although Bethesda's RPGs do feature their fair share of fighting critters and clearing rooms, he's proud of the moral choices posed in Fallout 4, particularly in terms of the big twist, and the various factions at play. “We're pretty good at asking those [moral] questions. We need to get better at letting the player deliver answers to them.”