June 8, 2000 - Anyone who has been a serious CRPG fan for more than a couple of years will instantly associate the name Bethesda Softworks with the company's signature series, The Elder Scrolls. Arena introduced the sprawling world of Tamriel, where players could wander and explore at will, finding thousands of items and hundreds of settlements.
Daggerfall built on this non-linear heritage, creating an environment so rich and engrossing that some players chose to ignore the story and simply let their characters live in the world. Both titles won numerous accolades including various RPG of the Year honors.
Following Battlespire and Redguard, two non-RPG titles set in Tamriel, work is now under way on a true sequel, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, which is projected for release in the later part of next year. Very little information about this title has been revealed to date, even at the recent E3 trade show. For this reason, we were very happy to have the opportunity to find out about the game directly from Project Leader Todd Howard who was joined by his colleague, Lead Designer Ken Rolston for an extensive and very interesting interview.
Jonric: To begin with, how would you summarize Morrowind for fans of past Elder Scrolls games? And how would you introduce it to newer CRPG fans who aren't familiar with the others?
Todd Howard: Morrowind is the third installment of The Elder Scrolls, following Arena and Daggerfall. It's huge, open ended, pure RPG goodness. The classic TES game is single-player, first person, has some elements of action; you get to run around and swing the sword yourself. The goal of every TES game is to create something that resembles a pen and paper RPG on the computer. Our main goal has always been to make the world as real as possible and let the player do what they want, when they want. There is a main quest, but you really don't have to follow it. The whole point of the game is to role-play the character you want, and do the things you want.
Jonric: What do you consider the core, untouchable design elements of the earlier Elder Scrolls titles that set them apart from other games?
Todd Howard: Free-form experience. Even Redguard, which was an adventure game, was big and non-linear. Every TES game has to let you create the kind of character you want, and then do the things you want. We would never have a TES RPG force you to be a certain character or go down a certain path. Daggerfall's character system is awesome. We love it. There have been some changes to it for Morrowind, but the essence remains intact. Big game world is another. The world has to be big enough to allow lots of side-adventures and player exploration. Guilds became a big part of Daggerfall, and that's something we're looking to make even better.
Jonric: On the flip side of the same question, what are the key areas you're looking to improve?
Todd Howard: Areas to improve? Let's see, in order:
2. Game world. Daggerfall was huge and great, but got old very fast when the player realized it was just the same stuff over and over. We're making the game world much more unique throughout and we're building the whole world ourselves, with no random buildings. We've built an incredible Construction Set to do this, but it's still going to take a long time. You'll be able to wander outside a town, find a road, a dungeon, a farm with a story. Much more detail. Like Redguard, but 50 times the size. Gary's making sure the dungeons kick ass.
3. NPCs. Kind of the same scenario as the world. They were very simple and repetitive in Daggerfall. Every NPC now is basically the same as the PC. They have all the same stats, inventory options, etc. Dialogue has also gotten a major overhaul. Every NPC can be killed, even the most important guys. If you see an NPC walk by with a cool helmet, you can try to swipe it off him.
Ken Rolston: Since suspense and revelation are plot sweets, we won't spoil your dinner by revealing story or plot highlights. However, we can tell you the hero's condition at the beginning of the game. It's bad. He or she is a foreigner, where everyone hates foreigners. He's a blind pawn of the Emperor's will, and no one can tell him what the game is. And he's cursed by some mysterious prophecy. And those are just the problems he knows about. He doesn't yet know about his secret enemies. But they know who he is.
Morrowind's main themes are partly old favorites borrowed from past Elder Scrolls games - the rise and fall of Imperial power, the mysterious disappearance of the Dwarves, the subtle and sinister powers of the Daedra Lords and their powerful artifacts, the hidden society of ancient vampires - and partly new favorites peculiar to the new Morrowind setting - the bitter rivalries of the Dunmer Great Houses, the clash between civilized Great House Dunmer culture and barbarian nomadic Ashlander Dunmer culture, the obscure riddles of the Nerevarine prophecies, the looming threat of the Blight, and the shadowy menace of the Sixth House cult.
Todd and Ken were obviously in a garrulous mood as they had a whole lot more to say about their game. You can check out all of the details, including a look at the combat system and the multiplayer side of the game, in the rest of the Morrowind Interview at RPG Vault.