Bethesda behind the scenes video

Posted on January 10, 2011

Another Game Informer exclusive today they posted a behind the scenes video for Skyrim. In the 6 minutes video, Todd Howard tours the office….

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Developer quotes: level scaling in Skyrim

Posted on January 08, 2011

Matt Grandstaff of Bethesda Softworks has posted a short post on level scaling over at their official forums. Many people were afraid Skyrim would use…

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Game Informer cover translated

Posted on January 07, 2011

Game Informer unveiled their Skyrim cover and posted a feature on translating the cover. Auriana Valoria emailed us the (hopefully correct D)…

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Level scaling in the Elder Scrolls

Posted on January 05, 2011

Over at Giant Bomb forums I came across an interesting thread on different types of level scaling in the Elder Scrolls: “The primary difficulty…

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The Future of RPGs: Looking Forward At Diablo 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect 3 And More

Posted on January 01, 2011

The Future of RPGs: Looking Forward At Diablo 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect 3 And More

We looked to the future as part of Epictober back in, er … October, but suffice it to say, we’re still looking forward to 2011. We’ve updated these posts with the games that were announced since then, and here’s what you can start looking forward to in 2011 and beyond. Just as a friendly reminder, 2011 starts in less than a week. So start your anticipating right now.

As we look ahead to what lies in store for lovers of quests, booty, dialogue trees, and dozens upon dozens of hours of character progression and inventory management, the forecast for the future of role-playing games is whatever the video game equivalent of 72 degrees and sunny is.

Obviously, you have your heavy hitters like BioWare and Blizzard, who will be delivering some of the most highly sought after games of this generation (Mass Effect 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Diablo 3, etc.). However, for as much innovation as these developers are trying to cram into these titles, there is still something relatively “old-school” about them; especially when you consider what the folks at inXile entertainment are doing with their co-op focused Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, or the lengths to which Eidos is going with Deus Ex: Human Revolution to create the kind of RPG-shooter experience that fans of the franchise have been dreaming about for many years.

Still, whether you’re talking about traditional RPGs or RPG hybrids, the future has never been brighter for this time-intensive yet deeply rewarding genre. And on that note, we present to you our list of the top eight RPGs on the horizon that have us +45 excited.

The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim

Release Date: 11/11/11

We don’t know much about The Elder Scrolls 5, except that it’s finally actually coming out, and will arrive on 11/11/11. Perhaps the best news of all around the announcement of the game was the fact that it would be using an entirely new engine, rather than the beginning-to-show-its-age Gamebryo engine. Plus, when you have Max von Sydow narrating your game trailer, you don’t really need that many details about your game.

We’re sure that more information will be forthcoming in the new year, but we do know that the game will feature Dragonborne characters. The name Skyrim refers to the northernmost provence in Tamriel, which is snowy and mountainous. Five of the world’s highest peaks are located here, and it’s been the site of many previous battles. It’s not new to the Elder Scrolls universe of course, but it sounds like the conflict that’s brewing there will be, dare we say, epic? Snow, mountains, dragons …. new engine? Count us in.

Mass Effect 3

Release Date: TBA Q4 2011

The second BioWare offering on the list carries some added weight because it will (likely) be the first title in the developer’s critically acclaimed sci-fi RPG franchise to launch on the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. We honestly couldn’t be happier that PS3 owners will finally have the chance to experience the brilliance that is Mass Effect 2 when the game makes its way to Sony’s console in January, and having everyone able to share the love on day one for the highly awaited trilogy-ender would be a harmonious conclusion indeed (even if the narrative’s conclusion ends up being anything but).

We finally have to wonder about Mass Effect 3 no longer, as the recent debut trailer gave us some insight, like the fact that Shepard will be watching London burn at some point. Plus BioWare’s on site had this blurb:

Earth is burning. Striking from beyond known space, a race of terrifying machines have begun their destruction of the human race. As Commander Shepard, an Alliance Marine, your only hope for saving mankind is to rally the civilizations of the galaxy and launch one final mission to take back the Earth.

We also know that players can expect an even deeper character/save file transfer system, more sophisticated enemies and combat, and, sadly, more mining, albeit via a more streamlined version of it. While it will most likely be a little less than a year before ME3 hits our disc trays, BioWare will be bridging the gap between ME2 and ME3 through DLC. The recently released Lair of the Shadowbroker was the first of an unknown number of DLC packs in the works, so ME fans will have plenty to keep them busy until Commander Shepard’s epic journey comes to an end.

Defining Feature: Seeing how player choices from the first Mass Effect influence events in the final chapter will represent a true milestone for the genre.

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Diablo 3

Release Date: TBA 2011

No one knows how to jerk around with PC gamers’ emotions like Blizzard, and now that StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty is out, and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is coming in December, all eyes, ears, and index fingers are focused entirely on the uber-awaited threequel Diablo 3. This year’s BlizzCon is expected to the “biggest yet” in terms of Diablo 3 news, which leads me to believe we’ll finally hear a release date and the last class will be revealed. Fingers crossed. When they aren’t clicking the left mouse button.

Until then though, visions of the game’s countless new features including the Artisan system, which gives you access to traveling craftsmen (blacksmith, mystic, or a jeweler), or the new Skill Runes system, which lets you fundamentally change skills in a variety of ways depending on the rune you use (i.e. acid-spewing poison Hydra heads vs. chain lighting powered Hydra heads). In short, Diablo fans are in for an experience that should feel simultaneously familiar yet fresh and exciting. If you know a better combination, I’d love to hear it.

Defining Feature: The Artisan system adds logical depth to character development and class management, and means more time spent battling and less time traveling to towns.

Guild Wars 2

Release Date: TBA 2011

ArenaNet has every intention of giving fans of its hit MMORPG franchise everything they’ve come to expect from the series (an expansive, co-op focused, subscription-less, graphically impressive MMO experience ) while also providing many compelling reasons for newcomers to the genre to finally take the plunge. Consider the Mad Libs-inspired character creation system, which lets players not only select a race for their character but also establish a rich back story that factors into the events of the game. It’s a lot more intimate than just rolling up a Fighter with a blank slate.

Or the fact that the events in the game unfold dynamically based on your actions in the world. You’ll still encounter NPCs who will provide you with quests, but the system is designed to make the process feel much more natural than in typical RPGs. Players can also, like some of the other games on this list, mix and match class attributes to make the hero that fits your personal style. Want to be a run and gunner, or a ranged attacker? You can combine talents and attributes to make that work. And really, in the end, isn’t that what a great RPG should be all about?

Defining Feature: Character bios that influence the narrative and dynamic event chains create unique experiences for every player.

Dragon Age 2

Release Date: March 8, 2011

BioWare came right out and asked gamers, “What didn’t work?” in Dragon Age: Origins when it started development on Dragon Age II, and the feedback the team received from this question directly influenced how they approached every aspect of the sequel. For starters, the game sports an improved graphics engine and art style that will give the game a much grittier tone. The controls for consoles have been reworked to take full advantage of the controller. Combat will be more fluid and put a premium on thinking tactically during battles.

Your character is fully voiced this time around as well, which will help to flesh out the new 10-year timeframe that serves as the backdrop for the overall narrative. Toss in a Mass Effect-inspired dialogue system just for good measure, and you have a recipe for one meaty sequel that should provide PC and console players alike with a fantasy RPG experience that’s shaping up to be second to none.

Defining Feature: Setting the narrative over 10 years means player actions and decisions will have far reaching implications over the course of the game.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Release Date: TBA 2011

A fully-voiced MMORPG is something that might have seemed damn near impossible a few years back, but leave it up to BioWare to actually make this absurdly ambitious prospect a reality. This also happens to be the first Star Wars-based title from the developer since it unleashed one of the greatest games of all time, RPG or otherwise, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, so it has that going for it, which is nice.

Throw in branching storylines for each character and the fact that you get your own spacecraft (which can then be used to blast space fools out of their space-fool rides), and it’s easy to understand why gamers are chomping at their bantha bits to get their hands on this game. Also, as we recently learned, Smugglers get their own personal Wookie, which just sounds so badass. Guard your arm sockets, suckers. Me and my Wookie don’t take no guff.

Defining Feature: I’ll say it again: the first fully voiced MMORPG. The script is estimated to be as long as 40+ novels. Simply. Ridiculous.

Hunted: The Demon’s Forge

Release Date: TBA 2011

The “Gears of WarCraft” descriptor that the developers at inXile Entertainmnet have applied to their fantasy RPG makes much more sense when you see the game in action. The two-player co-op-centric gameplay lets players assume the role of two distinct characters: the brutish, hack-n-slasher Caddoc, and the impulsive, bow-toting vixen of violence E’lara. Not only does the game support jump in/jump out co-op, but players can switch between both characters in single-player as well, just in case you want to mix things up.

And while you’d expect a fantasy RPG to feature spells, what has us particularly excited is to see how each character and their spells interact with each other on the battlefield, as there are going to be various ways for players to combine their skills to create devastating attacks. There will also be a fair bit of exploration and puzzle solving thrown in to vary things up even more and lead you to bigger and better weapons. Again, it’s the way the two characters combine their abilities to solve problems that has us most looking forward to seeing more of what Hunted has to offer.

Defining Feature: Co-op spell casting and combat abilities will reward teamwork and add a distinct depth to the gameplay.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Release Date: February 2011

Eidos’ cyber-punky, Blade Runner-ish techno-thriller brings the acclaimed RPG-shooter series to the next generation with a visual style perfectly suited for its exploration of a world in which bionic augmentation is threatening to tear humanity apart. The Deus Ex franchise has always been known for offering players tremendous freedom in the way they played the game (focusing on stealth, action, hacking, etc.). Human Revolution takes this philosophy even further by ensuring that, not only are all playstyles supported, but those playstyles can be mixed and matched freely throughout the game.

Want to go guns blazing for a little and then do some stealth? Go for it. Hack a little here, convince someone to share a password there. It’s up to you. This kind of freedom will ultimately create an experience that is different every time, which has quickly become a staple of modern RPGs. How Human Revolution will differentiate itself in this regards remains to be seen, but you can bet we’re going to be there to find out when the game releases early next year.

Defining Feature: Being able to mix and match playstyles on the fly means every moment is a chance to experience something new gameplay-wise.

CD Projekt’s long-awaited sequel has us excited for a couple of reasons. For one, beneath the painfully long load screens and somewhat unsatisfying combat of the original game was an expansive and rewarding RPG that, among other things, taught us just how sleazy fantasy realms can be (should a developer decide to populate the world with an endless array of fast and loose damsels in undress). For the sequel, the developers have focused a lot of attention on the non-linearity of the experience by giving players an absurd number of ways to progress through the game. For expample, one jailbreak sequence has over 600 possible variations!

The game’s combat has also been ramped up and is now bloodier and more visceral than ever. And if you thought the first game was massive, you’ll want to start getting into shape, because the game world is expected to be absurdly huge. As far as adult RPGs go, The Witcher 2 proudly asserts itself as one of the leading contenders, and we, as adults, can’t wait to embark on this dark and mature adventure.

Defining Feature: An ever branching adventure that should satisfy our craving for a mature fantasy experience.

Looking Beyond…To The Future!

No list of this kind would be complete without some mention of the titles that we expect are in development but that have yet to be officially announced. You just know BioWare has at least a couple new epic franchises in the works, and their aspirations on the MMO front suggest many more happy years for RPG fans ahead. And if pencil and paper RPGs are more your speed, Wizards of the Coast just re-released the classic Dungeons & Dragons Red Box, giving you a completely packaged D&D experience, ready for some hot, D20-rolling action.

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15 things we want to see in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Posted on December 31, 2010

I love Oblivion, but not because it was perfect. That and the previous Elder Scrolls game Morrowind were great because they tried more than they could do flawlessly – that’s what made them so liberating compared to a lot of other RPGs. Now that we know Skyrim is coming, though, it’s time to take a harder look at what the Elder Scrolls games could be doing better. This is what we want from The Elder Scrolls V.

1. A better level up system

If I want to be a good swordsman in Oblivion, the last thing I should do is pick Blade as one of my specialty skills. If I avoid it completely, I can still get better with a sword through practise, and it won’t raise my character level. I can become the greatest swordsman in the world for any given level.

Improving skills with practise is a cornerstone of the Elder Scrolls series, and it has potential. But TES V needs to find a smarter way to blend it with the intentionality of character customisation.

2. Content that doesn’t scale

We need to feel like leveling up makes us more powerful. If the whole world levels up with us, that sense is lost. It also makes the game world too even: nowhere is particularly dangerous in Oblivion because everything is so politely level-appropriate. Morrowind had some level-scaling, but enough fixed danger to feel wild, and enough genuine progression to be compulsive.

3. Vicious combat


At level 1, hitting someone with a warhammer feels great. They just crumple. In the late game, though, you and your enemies have such a vast pool of hitpoints that every fight is a war of attrition, which makes each blow feel meaningless. It needs to be quick, vicious and deadly, whatever level you’re at.

4. A bigger voice cast

Unless one of them is Billy West (Fry, Dr Zoidberg, Professor Farnsworth, Zapp Brannigan, Richard Nixon, Abraham Lincoln, Leo Wong and Humorbot 5.0 in Futurama), you can’t use the same few guys for a world with hundreds of characters. You don’t have to stump up for big names like Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean again – their celebrity didn’t make the game better. Spend that money on a dozen more decent, varied performances.

5. Better faces

Look what you did to Patrick Stewart:

“Hi! Have you seen my parents? They were a raisin and an ape.”

6. No face zoom

Regardless of looks, it’s not polite to get up in someone’s grill to quite this extent. Particularly if it involves extending your neck more than three meters.

7. NPCs who know when to shut up

Hey guys, the player’s here! Let’s all make canned smalltalk at the same time! Make sure your reply doesn’t quite relate to what I said, and it’s one he’s heard three times in the last two minutes! Good day!

8. A more exciting magic system

The Destruction school of magic I inderstand. Restoration: yes. Even Illusion – invisibility and whatnot, great. Then Alteration? Spells that alter things? Don’t all spells alter things? And Mysticism – as opposed to scientific magic? Some of the spells are great, but the schools themselves are well overdue for an overhaul to make them more logical, distinct and exciting.

9. Weird places

Forests are great. I have no issues with hills. I love a good lake. But I hope Skyrim has some regions that are just a little off, a little alien, a little non-Tolkeinian. That’s why there are hordes of Morrowind fans who never accepted Oblivion – that and:

10. A proper PC interface

Come on, nerdy stats and inventory lists are what the PC was made for. Let us at ‘em. Oblivion’s interface is capable of listing between THREE and SIX items at a time before you have to scroll. Same goes for the map – if Bethesda have any idea how important a really good map can be to the sense of being in a fantasy world, the size of the damn thing in Oblivion didn’t show it. These aren’t huge issues, but look: modders fixed them in a day or two. If you seriously don’t have anyone who can do that before release, hire those modders.

I know every cross-platform developer loves to say “All three versions are identical,” to wash their hands of the platform wars, but guys: they’re not. One of them is played with a mouse and keyboard from two feet away. Notice this.

11. Varied dungeons

I remember this place from such places as the last place.

We know you can do this now – Fallout 3 is an object lesson in filling an open world with interestingly different locations. Fantasy equivalent of that, please.

12. A main quest without the padding

The Oblivion gates themselves were the least interesting thing in Oblivion, reducing a freeform game to straight combat. So please don’t ask us to fight through six of them in a row – very few players realised that they were even optional. The main quest in TES V should be as long or short as the interestingly different content you can make for it.

13. A villain we hate

“Hold on, I forgot what I’m fighting for. Oh yes, vague malaise.”

It’s hard to really get worked up about demons bent on destroying the world. I’d rather they didn’t, but I have nothing against them personally. In Mass Effect, no-one really hated the Reapers. The guy we couldn’t wait to kill was Saren, because our beef was personal. You don’t have to have them kill our father/mother/brother/son/girlfriend – in fact that rarely works. They just have to be a bastard, and one who’s getting away with it.

14. Modding tools


Bethesda have always been good with this – The Elder Scrolls Construction Set is a modder’s dream, and the 24,000 mods it’s led to demonstrates that. Almost every other niggle with Oblivion in this list was eventually addressed by the community. Unless you have a secret formula for making TES V all things to all people, please keep giving people the tools to tinker.

15. Free horse armour

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Decrypting The Elder Scrolls

Posted on December 29, 2010

In light of our upcoming cover story on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, we take a look back at the storyline and development of the role-playing juggernaut series.

The tale of the Elder Scrolls began in recent years for many fans, as they explored the massive nation of Cyrodiil in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. However, that popular entry was only the latest chapter of a sprawling epic that began way back in 1994. As we prepare to help Bethesda unveil the first look at the next installment, entitled Skyrim, we decided to look back at both the in-game and out-of-game stories that have shaped these incredible role-playing experiences. We asked longtime Bethesda developers to share their knowledge and memories, and present the history of the Elder Scrolls here as told by the people who made the series happen. We’ve split their responses into two major sections. Page 1 and 2 include the team’s reflections on creating the game, and the major technology changes that fueled each entry. Page 3 and 4 include a detailed look at the fiction and lore of the Elder Scrolls universe – a perfect place to start before learning about the intriguing storyline of Skyrim, which we’ll begin detailing in our February issue.

NOTE: A version of this article originally appeared in Game Informer issue #213

Developing the Elder Scrolls

The Elder Scrolls: Arena (1994)

One of my first jobs at Bethesda was helping with the CD‑ROM version of Arena in 1994. Every time there was a new build, I took it upon myself to finish the main quest. I can probably finish that game faster than anyone. The “Passwall” spell, which lets you literally carve your own path through dungeons, is still cool. – Todd Howard, Game Director

Arena used a raycast engine that we developed, that was similar, but more advanced to the one used in The Terminator: Rampage. It had a massive world, most of it randomly generated using seeded tilesets. Daggerfall used a similar building system, but in true 3D. – Todd Howard

The Elder Scrolls Chapter II: Daggerfall (1996)

Daggerfall in my memory is mostly flavored by how large it was. It was something we really struggled with during the project. We were never sure if it was big to just be big, since it was randomly generated. We could dial up or dial down the size very easily. But it became the sum of its parts. You could do so much. It’s also the Elder Scrolls game that introduced the skills system, and the whole “you improve by doing” paradigm, which I think defines the series in many ways. You really felt like the character you played was up to you, and not the game. – Todd Howard

It was 1995 and we were working on Daggerfall. We were building out the small shrines that were randomly sprinkled around the Iliac Bay. I happened to travel to one around sunset. The bright orange wisps framed the crumpled entrance to a hidden shrine. I thought to myself, “***, this game looks amazing.” Little did I know what the future held. – Bruce Nesmith, Design Director

Daggerfall initially was developed using an updated Arena raycast engine similar to Doom’s, where the world is really 2D and drawn to look 3D. We then decided to begin development of one of the very first true 3D engines – the XnGine. This engine would go on to power other titles such as The Terminator: Future Shock, SkyNET, X-Car, Battlespire, and Redguard. The Terminator Future Shock, was the first game to use the engine, and also the first PC game to use the now popular mouse-look interface, though at first, people didn’t like it. The basis of the XnGine, and its world building, is still the basis for how we build today. – Todd Howard

I was hired during the final throes of Daggerfall’s long development. Nobody had a lot of time to train or supervise me, so I was pretty surprised to be this brand new rookie designer basically doing whatever I wanted. Luckily I was still young and responsible, so I didn’t take (much) advantage of my freedom. This was also my introduction to the magic of game development – I still remember my amazement at being able to put together a dungeon or quest, fire up the executable, and see what I’d just done right there on my computer screen in an actual game. I’m still occasionally floored by that magic, even after all these years. – Kurt Kuhlmann, Senior Designer

The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard (1998)

Redguard is still my favorite game that I’ve worked on. Todd, Michael Kirkbride and myself worked up the story and all the puzzles over a few weeks of continual brainstorming. I’m pretty sure Fuddrucker’s was heavily involved in the process. Because the team was so small, I ended up doing a bit of everything on that game – I even built a few levels in 3DS Max, which is the first and last time I got art credit on a game. – Kurt Kuhlmann

Redguard was the last of our XnGine games, and one where we really worked on building the world by hand, as opposed to the random generation of Arena and Daggerfall. It also had 3Dfx hardware acceleration, and was our first hardware based 3D game. It was one of the last popular DOS based titles, just as Windows gaming was getting popular. The 3D acceleration only works in 3Dfx’s glide system. – Todd Howard

Next up: How the later games in the series were developed


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Skyrim will retail at $59,99 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC

Posted on December 15, 2010

The official Elder Scrolls webpage now lists the first Elder Scrolls V Skyrim preorder link. US residents may preorder the game at GameStop. The…

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Skyrim videos, developer quotes and artwork sections now open

Posted on December 14, 2010

To celebrate the announcement of Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, I’ve added some new sections to the website. The Videos page has been expanded with a…

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim trailer, release date

Posted on December 13, 2010

There’s a new Elder Scrolls V trailer, oh yeah and the Elder Scrolls V was announced. The release date is 11th of November next year, it’s set in the snowy province of Skyrim, it’s called Skyrim, and oh my god:


Well, I think I know what I’ll be watching on a loop for the next eleven months.

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Elder Scrolls V announced, takes place in Skyrim

Posted on December 12, 2010

Straight from the Facebook status of Pete Hines, Bethesda VP Elder Scrolls V has been announced! Just 20 minutes ago Hines posted the following…

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Posted on December 12, 2010

Among my favorite games are “The Elder Scrolls” series which in my case started with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and after that The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and like many I heard rumors Oblivion was the last of the series. I am very happy to find out and report there is another Elder Scrolls game coming next year that appears to be called Skyrim. Release date is 11/11/11.

Here is the debut trailer (which you can also watch by going to the Elder Scrolls Main Site or Here to YouTube’s site or Here to PlaystationLifestyle.net’s site):

I can hardly wait.


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