Last week, I had a chance to speak to Bethesda Softworks Game Director Todd Howard about their new, massive RPG, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Before I did, I asked the PC Gamer community on Twitter for questions. They responded quickly, with dozens of great questions about horsies, dragons and terrible voice acting.
We'll have a full interview with more quotes in the coming weeks, but using the information gathered from the presentation and my conversation with Howard afterwards, I've answered your questions below.
Imperial Creed: Have Bethesda hired more than four voice actors this time?
Yes, thank goodness. "It used to be an issue with disc space," says Howard. "On Oblivion we were literally running out of room on the disc for voice. We've since solved that. There are better compression techniques, so we're not really limited by the physical media as much as how long it takes to record it."
They're spending more time and money on it this time around. The voice actors are better, there's more of them, and they're working with more voice directors in Hollywood this time around. In the presentation I saw, that showed in in your conversations.
BigTomHatfield: "Are there any ideas from the modding community for Morrowind and Oblivion that have influenced the design of Skyrim?"
Yeah, the Oblivion mod "Better Bows". It made arrows more powerful, more likely to kill in a single hit, and balanced it by making it slower to draw the arrow back in the first place. Skyrim takes that pretty much wholesale, and the demonstration we saw had a lot of bow and arrow action.
CrisisXVII: Can the player ride a dragon?
Sadly not. There might be something "on the edge of that," said Howard during the presentation, but it's unlikely to fulfil your Neverending Story dreams.
TheRealJefe: Will there be horse armor again? And will we have to, gleefully I might add, pay for it?
It's not even confirmed yet if there will be horses. They're in there just now, but "horses have come a long way in games" since Oblivion, said Howard, and they want to make sure they're good.
Pete Hines, Bethesda's Vice President, did joke that, "If there's no horses, what will we sell armour for?"
Chico_Arazi: Will Levelling work like in Oblivion? Will monsters scale up? /hopes it doesn't
Levelling works like it did in Fallout 3, not like in Oblivion. That means that some areas will scale, some areas won't, and the level of enemy's in each area will be fixed in place when you first visit that part of the world.
timdungate: Skyrim's mod support. How will it be?
Skyrim is being powered by what Bethesda are calling the Creation Engine, and on launch day or shortly after they'll release the Creation Kit. It should give modders all the tools they've become used to from previous Bethesda games like Oblivion and Fallout.
Batsphinx: Can you kill a horse on top of a mountain and watch its broken body tumble down for hundreds and hundreds of metres?
Assuming horses are in the game at all, yes, but the mountains look considerably steeper than anything in Oblivion. Expect your faithful steed to fall fast, sicko.
UberSprode: Will your inventory be able to show more than 3 items at once? And actually be made with the PC in mind?
Yes, more than three, though they're certainly not focusing on simply jamming more things on the screen at once. Skyrim's new inventory is designed to be slicker than that, and there are a few cool things about it.
The first is that every item in your inventory is shown as a 3D model, which can be zoomed in on and rotated. It's a nice, flashy bit of design that shows off the detail the art team are pouring into the items and weaponry. Which would be fine in itself. But in the dungeon we were shown, the player solved a puzzle by studying an item in his inventory for a set of symbols needed to unlock a door.
You can also bookmark spells and items in your inventory you use regularly, making them easy to find even when you're encumbered by pockets stuffed with calipers.
ballyhewe: What kind of supercomputer will their new game engine require to run smoothly?
It's designed to run on an XBox 360, so any even vaguely modern PC will run it just fine. If you do have a beastly PC though, you'll be able to enjoy higher resolution, bigger textures, and all the other lovely features you've come to expect. If you're running DirectX 11, you'll get some performance gains, but their desire for "parity of performance" across all platforms prevents them from using any of its unique features. Still, the game will be best on PC.
altfuture: Are dungeons as repetitive as they were in Oblivion?
Oblivion's dungeons were mostly designed by just two level designers. Skyrim has eight or nine, and while the dungeon we saw had plenty of the same rocky tunnels we've come to love, they also had moments of real beauty.
We'll have more on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in PC Gamer UK issue 227, on sale May 11.