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Friday, July 19, 2024

Todd Howard wants more depth and better AI in future Bethesda games

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Skyrim turns 10 this week, and despite being a bit long in the tooth it’s still arguably the best Bethesda Game Studios RPG of the century. The wait for its follow-up—known only as The Elder Scrolls 6 at this stage—is still a way off: as of June it was still in its “design” phase and besides, Starfield is set to release in November next year.

A new IGN interview with director Todd Howard provides some small hints regarding the studio’s priorities for advancing their RPG design, and it’s not just prettier graphics and more mountains you can actually visit: Howard wants to make them more complex.

“There are a number of parts of it where we don’t go deep enough, where it’s a veneer in terms of its interactivity,” Howard said when quizzed on what the studio could have done better when developing Skyrim. “Look, you can say that about anything, but I think when we think about games and what we want to do going forward, ok, whatever that system is, how deep can we make it? The other part is the way the AI and NPCs really react to you—I think we have a long way to go with [that]. Those are probably the main ones.”

Given Starfield’s long gestation period—the studio started it in 2015—it’s likely a lot of those ambitions will show themselves in the space RPG. Howard says that after Fallout 4 shipped, the studio opted to work on Starfield instead of the Elder Scrolls game because “if we didn’t do it then, the ‘when’ could be ‘never’.” 

Ten years and counting is a heck of a long time for a major multiple-million selling game series to lay dormant though, and when quizzed on this unusual situation Howard admits it’s not ideal, though points to the ongoing success of the Elder Scrolls Online (it helps that Skyrim has launched countless times on pretty much every platform known to humankind). 

Howard also sang the praises of Skyrim’s modding community during the interview, expressing sentiments that suggest modding for Starfield and the next Elder Scrolls will be as welcome as ever. As for his favourite Skyrim mods? “There’s one I like where someone added fast travel markers when you buy a house,” he said. “It would have taken [us] an hour.”

Skyrim’s 10th anniversary will be celebrated by this week’s release of Skyrim Anniversary Edition. Here’s what it actually includes

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