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Skyrim Director: It's Difficult To Be Consistent In Big Worlds

When it comes to massive environments, it can be tough to tie everything together in one cohesive package.

Like its predecessors, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will once again boast a huge, dynamic world, with hundreds of inhabitants, ranging from humans to dragons. So when it comes to the writing, how difficult is it to keep tone consistent throughout? Edge asked game director Todd Howard, who replied:

"Yeah. It's something our designers work on a lot. They all review each others stuff, and our lead designers review all the writing. At the end, there's still a ton of it, and sometimes you'll get things that are tonally different, but if it's written in the right way, meaning it's written in the voice of the world, it's not the tone of the game changing as much as the tone of that particular character. We have had to go through and rewrite - we've rewritten all our cities because they were a bit of a mishmash. We want to make sure the tone is right not only for the game but for that individual location."

If we wish to be fully immersed and engaged, it's critical that we truly believe the fictional world before us...if that makes any sense. The bottom line is that everything needs to fit; if something feels distinctly out of place, it's jarring and a disconnect occurs. We don't envy the job of "tonal consistency" in a project as big as Skyrim but as the fans will probably tell you, Bethesda knows what they're doing.

Related Game(s): The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim

Tags: the elder scrolls v, skyrim, bethesda

7/18/2011 10:03:59 AM Ben Dutka

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Comments (33 posts)

Qubex
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 10:20:50 AM
Reply

I respect what he is saying. It is insanely difficult to captivate 10's of dozens of story arcs peppered with thousands of lines of character driven scripting and keep contextually cohesive.

It must be a huge task to keep it in tone, paced and well written so the player always feel they are part of an immense living and breathing world.

How many times have games suffered with bad character scripting that have left gamers unable to accept the context and the world they are playing in? The world breaks down leaving the gamer feeling cheated in a sense and wanting to have nothing to do with the characters again, especially if the scripting is not consistent.

Skyrim is likely to be an incredible piece of computer game artistry if executed correctly. I am very keen to try this game out. It will be the first in the series I will try.

It looks very engrossing and beautiful to look at... surely a game for the collection then.

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

Last edited by Qubex on 7/18/2011 10:22:12 AM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 2:07:07 PM

These are great games to just get lost inside, don't let the massiveness intimidate you and you'll really enjoy it.

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Highlander
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 10:24:12 AM
Reply

Like Qubex I respect the points made, although I wonder whether a virtue could be made of the issue itself. In a large enough game world, could those possible inconsistencies be harnessed to provide the regional variation seen in the real world, of even the local cultural variation by state, region, or nation?

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Qubex
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 10:34:28 AM

"In a large enough game world, could those possible inconsistencies be harnessed to provide the regional variation seen in the real world, of even the local cultural variation by state, region, or nation?"

That's an exceedingly good point Highlander... they probably could now I come to think about it...

Only issue though is how "big" inconsistency become. Does the mean error increase; i.e. the more inconsistencies build the quicker the world your are playing in breaks down?

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

Last edited by Qubex on 7/18/2011 10:35:32 AM

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Highlander
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 10:44:52 AM

Yeah, I wondered about that too, I can see that the problem is a problem regardless, partly because you end up with too many hands - so to speak - in the pot. But, if it suited the game, it could potentially be made a plus instead of a minus.

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DcIronfist
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 10:48:08 AM

Those are very good points. People have different views and ideas about how things should be and what beliefs to pursue. If a game world has some inconstancies it would actually make it more believable to me :)

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 2:08:28 PM

Have you played Elder Scrolls Highlander? There are some vastly different cultural practices and beliefs in areas in different regions.

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Highlander
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 10:38:47 PM

I haven't and I probably should. One day perhaps.

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Excelsior1
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 11:11:43 AM
Reply

i'm not worried about bethasda's ability to build a consistent world. they have that down. i'm more worried about thier debugging and game testing abilties. there were times when playing the fallout games that i thought my ps3 was going to explode while chugging along at 5 fps.

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maxpontiac
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 11:16:19 AM

There in lies the heart of the matter.

Fallout 3 was an amazing experience and I completely became immersed in it unlike any game before it.

However... Fallout 3 was a glitch filled mess, that often resulted in some frustration. What you said is ALL I care about really.

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bigrailer19
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 11:40:29 AM

Which is strange because I ran into far less glitches in Oblivion than Fallout 3. Regardless Fallout 3 was great compared to New Vegas which Bethesda only published so... Anyways I have full faith in them to release a game that is very playable, and immersive with minimal graphical inconsistencies. We will see though, I know it will have some hangups, all open world games do more so than others. But should be a good game regardless.

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maxpontiac
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 12:09:53 PM

bigrailer19 -

For sure, and yes, it was very strange on how a newer title was worse.

I hope you are right, for it is one of my big must haves for the rest of this year, and I for one do not want to have a glitch filled experience!

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bigrailer19
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 12:37:16 PM

Me too max me too. I'm expecting a great experience, hopefully that doesn't come back to bite me later.

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FM23
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 1:48:54 PM

Fallout 3-one of the best games ever made.

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maxpontiac
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 2:02:38 PM

FM23 - I agree. But man, the frame rate issues were deplorable.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 2:10:55 PM

Fallout 3 had plenty of glitches but they weren't game breaking, the only times I got those horrible frame rates were when playing the DLC packs inthe GOTY edition. Which was deplorable, but par for the course when PS3 gets DLC content super late. I hate it, and we always get shafted, but there it is.

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FM23
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 3:25:15 PM

Yeah, the last mission with the giant robot came to a complete crawl before I could get into the museum. But besides that, the glitches never rivaled the mess known as Fallout New Vegas. I loved FNV and I didn't experience near as many glitches as others, but damn...that game had it's issues thats for sure. I actually lost the flying robot my first playthrough until the game randomly made him appear after a patch late in the game...hilarious.

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Alienange
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 5:54:15 PM

They patched Vegas. It's fantastic now. Looove the weapon mods and different munitions. Played the whole thing from beginning to end with only one freeze-up.

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Teddie9
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 12:22:46 PM
Reply

Huge fan of Oblivion and Fallout 3 - in other words - not worried at all.

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Claire C
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 2:54:33 PM

GotY? =D

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Alienange
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 5:54:29 PM

Absolutely

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Roach721
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 9:51:38 PM

Lets not forget Dark Tower.

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Lawless SXE
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 1:27:53 PM
Reply

If it's too difficult, then it would behove them to be consistently inconsistent. It would require suspension of disbelief, but that's not hard.

Last edited by Lawless SXE on 7/18/2011 1:28:36 PM

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Temjin001
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 1:46:23 PM
Reply

I think of all the genres I'm most excited to see continue and expand as upgraded technology becomes available, Bethseda's brand of RPG design has got to take the top spot on my list.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 2:12:36 PM
Reply

It will be mine, and then they better retake the reigns for Fallout 4. When does Skyrim come out again?

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BikerSaint
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 4:08:22 PM

World,
November 11th?

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coverton341
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 4:31:15 PM

Biker is right. 11-11-11

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 5:05:14 PM

thanks, that means I'll be playing over xmas break

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Ignitus
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 2:40:22 PM
Reply

Oblivion and Fallout 3 were solid games and I'm sure Skyrim will be too. I also share the concern about the game's stability on PS3. Let's hope the new tech runs smoothly. That's what I'm worried.

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Claire C
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 4:42:09 PM

Suppose to be developed simultaneously across all platforms, unlike FO3 which I believe was a port. o.O

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Alienange
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 6:01:37 PM
Reply

I think even the fans are going to be pleasantly surprised by this one. It's true that all their games have a similar feel, but even after having played Morrowind for hours on end I was still rather surprised at the scripted events in Oblivion. These guys are masters at their art and always have new surprises in their games.

And if I might add, they always come across as realistic. No bragging, no taunting or head wagging. Just a plain every man explanation of what making a game is like.

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BikerSaint
Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 7:23:24 PM
Reply

On a related note....

Bethesda Won't Rule Out External Development for Elder Scrolls Games.
18 Jul 2011

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/111715-Bethesda-Wont-Rule-Out-External-Development-for-Elder-Scrolls-Games


The non-Bethesda studio would have to figure out a way to gain some Elder Scrolls experience.

Since its inception in the early nineties, every Elder Scrolls game has been created by a member of the Bethesda family, whether Bethesda itself or its mobile-focused sister company Vir2L.

That might not always be the case however; as Bethesda's Todd Howard says that the studio won't rule out letting an outside studio having a crack at the series.

It's probably not very likely though, as Bethesda's preference is keep development of the Elder Scrolls series as internal as possible. Bethesda has used outside developers for one of its franchises before; the most recent Fallout game, New Vegas was made by Obsidian.

Howard said that that was a special case though, with all the conditions lining up just right to make that happen. "New Vegas was unique," he said. "We wanted to do something with Obsidian, we knew we were moving on Elder Scrolls, they had a team available ... But they had experience with the IP, and with Elder Scrolls we don't have that."

There's a world of difference between "not ruling it out" and "we're definitely doing this," but it's a fun to think of what other developers would make of the Elder Scrolls series. Would Crytek's take be gorgeous, but focused on ranged combat, or would BioWare's vision be open in the middle, but less so at the beginning and end? We may never find out, but then again, maybe we will.

Skyrim, the next Bethesda-made installment in The Elder Scrolls, comes out for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on November 11th.

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___________
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 @ 3:46:38 AM
Reply

no one said making games was easy.
i just hope they figured out how to debug there games by now, every bethesda game has made me feel like im playing a f*cking pre alpha build!
ill wait till it hits the bargain bin, elder scrolls bored the f*ck out of me!
then if they have learned how to debug there games by then i might look into it.
perfect game to save for the winter break.

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