month we revealed that our next game is indeed, The Elder Scrolls
IV: Oblivion. And information is starting to flow on just what
we've been up to. So, what have we been up to?
(Quick sidebar so you won't miss this below
-- Oblivion is larger than Morrowind. Ok, read on now.)
Well, we started the project soon after Morrowind, and our team
was split into two groups -- one working on technology for Oblivion,
and one working on expansion packs. The Oblivion group was
mostly comprised of programmers and the expansion team mostly artists
and designers. But we were still one big Elder Scrolls team. We
were also fortunate to add a lot of new talent during this time
as our profile as a strong developer grew. After the expansions
were done (Tribunal and Bloodmoon) the entire staff was full steam
ahead on Oblivion.
The first thing we do when we start a game like this is say --
"What did the fans like about the last game? What do they want
improved?" Over the years we've gotten thousands of letters
from you all, and we can't thank you enough. Yes, we read them all.
Our forums are an endless source of inspiration to us. From Arena
to Daggerfall to Morrowind, we've had the best fans you could ask
for over the last 10 years. They're smart, engaged, and full of
wild excitement. Keep it up.
But there is a key part of this plan that has guided The Elder
Scrolls every time we do a new one, and that is "Reinvention."
You see, even though each game has been a sequel to the last game,
our goal is to always make a new game that stands on its own, that
has its own identity. Even down to the naming of them, our games
are generally known by their single name, and not their numbered
sequence. How do we create the definitive "RPG for the Next
Generation?" Not just in terms of technology -- but how it
We go back to the main theme of the series -- "Live another
life, in another world" -- and think about how we can make
that come alive for the next game. To simply add onto Arena would
never have yielded Daggerfall, and to add onto Daggerfall would
never have yielded Morrowind. To present the best game we can each
time, we must reinvent it for the next generation of hardware and
So we reach all the way back to Arena, see what worked then. Replay
Daggerfall -- what worked well there, and of course Morrowind. We
then look at what games of the future could do. Not just RPGs, but
what could any game do? What are the key elements that make a great
RPG and how can they be done in the future?
There is not a single system that has not gone through a change.
Combat, dialogue, exploration, magic
you name it. That change
could be a small tweak, major addition, or major deletion. Tweaks
include things like rebalancing the skills to get better class progression.
Major additions include all new AI, forests, combat, mounts, and
more. One major deletion is thrown items and crossbows.
What!!?? No thrown items and crossbows? Hear me out here, because
it will let you into our thought process. When we look at characters
that like to do ranged combat, they mostly want to use bows and
arrows. So instead of doing many types of ranged combat, we decided
to stick with bows and arrows -- but -- it's a grand implementation
of bows and arrows. You feel the string draw, arrows arc properly,
bounce realistically, and stick deep into the right materials. You
can see the quiver on your back and type of arrows you have and
there are tons of different bows and arrow types. So we trade having
several types of ranged combat done in an average way, and get bows
done in a grand way.
One major assumption everyone makes when we do a new Elder Scrolls
game is that it will be small. Everyone thought this about Daggerfall
and Morrowind as well when we talked about them "being more
focused." No Elder Scrolls game will ever be small. Ever. We
make 'em big folks. We super-size them. Why? This is a question
everyone asks us, "Why make them so damn big? You could make
it small and most people still wouldn't finish it."
My answer is this -- For the time you did play it, it wouldn't
be as fun. The Elder Scrolls is about choice -- player choice to
do what you want in any way you want. You need a certain amount
of size and choices so that experience is actually meaningful.
Now, we do change scale in each game, because certain things you
do cause the game to flow differently. Even though Morrowind is
about 0.0001% the landmass of Daggerfall, the way you play it makes
it feel even richer. Oblivion's landmass is larger than Morrowind's,
but you can fast travel around much easier. It still has Morrowind's
feel of open exploration, but Arena's feel of ease of travel and,
well, it's more fun.
So what do we actually mean when we say Oblivion is more
focused? The quests and NPCs are more focused. Are there less NPCs
and quests than Morrowind? Yes, but still too many to count. If
we hadn't told you, you'd probably never notice. This is still a
game measured in the hundreds of play hours. We're trying to stay
away from mindless filler (something, Ok, we've been guilty of in
the past) and create quests and NPCs that are dynamic, alive, and
more engaging than anyone's seen.
I could go on and on for 100 pages here, because the depth of Oblivion and our excitement to bring it to all of you is huge. You'll start
seeing more and more info about the game in the press everywhere
and on elderscrolls.com. We'll do our best to create the best game
we can for you.