Skyrim’s Levelling/Skills System Clarified

By Alec Meer on April 18th, 2011 at 4:46 pm.

Yes, I'll be playing as this guy. I always do.

The re-thought Elder Scrolls levelling, skill, attribute and perk system in Skyrim is already proving divisive (as witnessed in comments on the last post), but I fear at least part of the reason for that is it’s not been explained terribly well as yet. And, to be honest, that’s partially because there’s only so much of it I can explain until I’ve had proper hands-on time and experienced it rather than been told ‘it’s better this way’. I like the sound of it, because I always thought Oblivion’s system was fussier and more opaque than it needed be (in terms of what it actually achieved), but I certainly don’t want a reduction in depth any more than the next Morrowind nut. For now though, here’s all the quotes on the subject I’ve got from Bethesda’s Todd Howard, which hopefully clear things up a little more – plus offer some extra detail on how the stealth and persuasion mechanics work.

“Every skill affects your levelling. Every time I get a skill raise there’s a level bar that moves. The higher the skill the more it pushes you to levelling, so you want to use your higher skills.”

“I find most people, no matter what character they want to make, they use the best thing that you give them. I find when I play you’re best off focusing on something, particularly when it comes to the perk tree, but it’s so easy to mix styles up [he also references the dual-wielding as adding to this].”

On character creation: “The only option you are given is what you look like” and your race. Each race has certain powers, so this decision is not purely cosmetic. There are 10 races in all. “After that it’s all what you play. we want to minimise the initial decision point when you start the game.”

“There’s no level cap. there’s no mathematical level cap, But it’s however it works out, we don’t set it… Levelling is faster. if oblivion was a level 25 game this is level 50. we wanted to get it faster going because there are so many perks.”

“The levelling system is very much like Fallout 3. There were definitely moments in Oblivion were it was a rollercoaster of pain because the world levelled faster than you.”

An example of perks, for the bow and arrow: “one to zoom in, one that also slows down time when you zoom in. Perks also have ranks; maybe there’s two levels of the zoom.” Other perks on-show included being able to bypass armour with maces, and causing heavy bleeding with one-handed weapons.

On constellation-based perk-picking system: ” I was designing the interface and I wanted it to make it very visual rather than like Excel. I look to the stars to see who I am.” The star patterns are based on “birth signs from previous games.”

The speech skill: “There is not a Persuasion wheel. It’s much more simplified. There’s not a mini-game for it.” He declined to describe it until later, however.

Lockpicking: “There is a minigame, but I hate the word ‘minigame’. There’s also a combat ‘minigame!’” [That latter is irony, don't explode.] “You’ve got to have some interaction, not just a die roll.”

Alchemy: “not talking about that yet.”

Stealth.”The main thing is like Fallout 3, [enemies have] states of alert and danger, but they don’t jump in and out of them right away. the Eye [an changeable on-screen icon] shows you they are moving from one state to another, and your sneak skill affects how fast that happens. “

“There are three main stats: magicka, health, stamina. In Oblivion you have 8 attributes and 21 skills. Now it’s 18 skills and 3 attributes. What we found was those attributes actually did something else. e.g. intelligence affected magicka. They all trickled down to some other stat.

The stamina/fatigue dilemma: “in the other games the stamina is called fatigue. It’s backwards.”

Perks “come from levelling up character rather than skills. Pick a perk when you level. It’s like a standard skill tree but they have requirements, not just the one below it. You see a perk you like and say I’m going to start using my sword more because I want that perk.”

On the more grindy skill-levelling: “we’ve solved most of that” and “got rid of some skills like Athletics and Acrobatics. Who makes a character that is like “I am someone who doesn’t run?”

On dynamic world levelling: “the gameplay changes as you get higher level [because of the perks. Rather than just doing more damage… it’s dramatic… mixing and matching really is different.”

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188 Comments »

  1. Orija says:

    Alec, were you shown Brink too by Bethesda?

    • Alec Meer says:

      Yes, and Hunted. More on those (plus more Rage and Skyrim) during the week. Didn’t want to spam the lot in one day.

    • Orija says:

      Thanks, absolutely looking forward to it.

      Bethesda seems to have the strongest line-up of AAA titles this year (’tis a shame that Prey 2 is 2012).

    • Basilicus says:

      Ooh, Hunted. I’ve been excited for that one. Looking forward.

    • Bureaucrat says:

      Anything on further New Vegas DLC?

  2. Casimir's Blake says:

    Bethesda: Make some dungeons, please. Lots of them. And make them non-linear and worth exploring. Otherwise I could care less about levelling and skills, I just want unique indoor places worth exploring!

    And for goodness sakes let us turn off the quest arrow. For me, that went a long way towards ruining both parts of Fallout 3.

    • molluskgonebad says:

      From the OTHER Skyrim article posted today on this very site:
      “While in Oblivion dungeons were primarily designed by art staff, this time around they’re built by a new raft of level designers, which promise a more engaging flow and diversity to each. There are over 120 dungeons in the game, plus many more smaller points of interest and encounters.”

    • Alec Meer says:

      Point 5 here, sir.

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      JB says:

      Could not care less, I think you mean.

    • Mist says:

      The quest arrow really needs to be a toggle (keep it turned of 99% of the time, maybe turn it on the 1% of the time that you’re really stuck or some quest critical npc wandered into some ridiculous place, etc)

      The “interesting landmarks” that were shown on the compass were even worse. Instead of reaching the top of a hill and seeing a daedric shrine in the corner of your eye (awesome!), that little icon popped up going “hey, I don’t want to spoil you or anything, but you’re about to see a daedric shrine” (a lot less awesome).

      Luckily, modding it out was fairly easy.. if it’s included (and non-optional) in Skyrim I’m going to wait until the fix is released.

      (I’m not actually 100% sure whether the compass spoiled daedric shrines or just the more mundane stuff like dungeons etc. Has been a long time since I’ve played Oblivion with the spoiler-o-matic enabled)

    • Jad says:

      And for goodness sakes let us turn off the quest arrow.

      Virtually the first thing I did when I got Oblivion was download a mod that did this. It’s one of the great things about being a PC gamer playing an actual PC game (which Skyrim, with the promised mod tools, truely is), that you don’t really need to make these kind of requests/complaints.

    • Davee says:

      First thing I’m gonna do after installing Skyrim – unless Bethesda already has made a toggle by then – is to download a mod that does all this (compass removal basically). Will make exploring so much more fun and interesting. :)

      Hell, if it hasn’t been made already just after release – I’ll have a go at making one!

    • Mad Hamish says:

      Why on earth would they not get level designers to design the levels? Kinda explains the dungeon design in Oblivion, tunnel to set piece followed by tunnel to a set piece.

      Man, I hope I can afford a new PC when come november.

    • Mattressi says:

      The biggest problem I had with turning the waypoint thing off is that the quests often were poorly explained: generally they were more like “get the X off of Y” or simply “find the X”, rather than Morrowind’s descriptive quest notes. Often I’d have to take the no compass/waypoint mod off so that I could find an item ‘hidden’ in some ridiculous location (I say ‘hidden’ because what I really mean is that it’s not at all hidden if you’ve got a marker, but it’s bloody well hidden on the other side of the world map from where you got the quest with no indication).

      So, here’s hoping that they add enough detail to quest notes that you can play the game without cruise control on.

  3. MistaJah says:

    On constellation-based perk-picking system: — “I look to the stars to see who I am.” The star patterns are based on “birth signs from previous games.” It looks more like it’s designed for Kinect but ok, as long as the inventory is proper. I don’t like slowly scrolling a list of 18 skills every time I want to check them. Edit: Oh, and Speed and Athletics being cut out, everyone runs at same speed now?

    • Berzee says:

      Hopefully there’ll be perks for jumping and running, at the least!

    • Abndak says:

      Bethesda is a smart firm. I’m pretty sure they will scale running speed with equipment weight.

    • ezekiel2517 says:

      As long as I can still play as a medieval spider-flash-man.

    • Zaboomafoozarg says:

      I hope that running and jumping all over the world doesn’t make everything stronger resulting in me being crushed because I inadvertently primarily trained run and jump for 10 levels.

    • Mattressi says:

      Yeah, I wish they hadn’t taken them out – I loved sprinting and bounding around Morrowind (the Boots of Blinding Speed were amazing!). I wish they’d simply combined athletics and acrobatics.

      Also, to their comment about “who makes a character that can’t run”: me. I like to have diverse characters: a warrior might be reasonably fast, but will be slower than a nimble thief – though both will be significantly faster than my slow conjuration/destruction mage, who’s spent most of his life sitting in a decrepit tomb studying dark magic; relying on his magical powers rather than physical prowess.

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      drewski says:

      There will probably be ways to increase your speed, just not a specific attribute/skill for it.

      Boots of Blinding Speed might even be back, given the way some items have a certain…persistence…in the Elder Scrolls universe.

  4. Xocrates says:

    I really wish they explained better how/what the 3 attributes affect the game.

    I’m fine with having the game perk oriented, I just don’t see how 3 basic attributes fit into this. It seems your attributes are so generic that you could simply do away with them altogether with minimal losses. Leaving it at 3 seems like they’re just trying to appeal to fans of attributes while having them not significantly affect gameplay.

    • ulix says:

      Health: more health, you die slower
      Magicka: more magicka, you can cast more spells.
      Stamina: more stamina, you can do more special melee attacks, etc.

      Isn’t it obvious? And how would these obvious effects of higher/lower attributes NOT affect the gameplay greatly?

    • Xocrates says:

      I didn’t say I didn’t know what they did, I said I don’t understand how they fit into this system.

      If these attributes don’t affect your skills in any significant way, I don’t see why they need to exist at all.

      If all Health does is increase your health, why not just have a perk that increases your health by X per level that you can level up as the game goes along? Same is true for the other 2.

    • patstew says:

      I’d have thought it’s because they work like the attributes in morrowind/oblivion, where raising skills gives you a multiplier on raising attributes when you level up. eg if you raise your melee weapon skills you get a big health increase, or if you raise your magic skills you get a big magicka increase.

    • Epsilon Naught says:

      It’s just a question of what to call them. They’re things that need to exist but aren’t quite the same thing as stats, in that you can’t “train” health or magika, so lets use that other word that gets bandied about in RPGs a lot.

      On the subject of quibbling over names, why can’t they just bite the bullet and call magika mana? Magika just sounds silly.

    • Mattressi says:

      I’m not sure if Health/Magicka/Stamina are actually the 3 attributes: the way it’s worded (saying that previously there were 8 – strength, endurance, intelligence, willpower, speed, agility, personality, luck) makes it sound like health/magicka/stamina aren’t included as attributes in their count. Maybe I’m just in denial though…

      I wish they’d have strength, speed/agility and intelligence as the 3: that way a strong person can carry more weight (and use heavier items, etc), a fast/nimble person can run faster and make better use of light armour, and someone with intelligence will ultimately simply get a boost to magicka and be able to wear wizardly clothes. The last one is certainly “trickling down to another stat”, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be strength/agility/intelligence – unless having more health lets you carry more weight and having more stamina lets you run faster :S

      If they’ve really eliminated the most basic of attributes (strength, agility, intelligence), I worry that the game will have little to no roleplaying value.

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      drewski says:

      @ Epsilon Naught – BECAUSE IT’S THE LORE

      Seriously though, magicka being the name for the magic in a TES game is a quirk of the universe. You may as well ask why the gravity gun in HL2 isn’t called the attraction gun or the applied force gun or some other name.

    • Archonsod says:

      “If all Health does is increase your health, why not just have a perk that increases your health by X per level that you can level up as the game goes along? Same is true for the other 2.”

      Simple balance. Separating them from the perks allows the player to increase them irrespective of how they’re specialising in regards to perks. Of course you could just have the player pick one “skill” perk and one “stat” perk per level or something, but then it comes down to pure aesthetics.

    • Wizardry says:

      You are right there, Archonsod.

      Let’s take Fallout’s system as it’s a hybrid of the lot (basically). The reason attributes, skills, perks and traits were separated was because they had different functions. Attributes weren’t meant to be changeable. They were basically like attributes in AD&D. Attributes were there to shape your character at a fundamental level from the very start of the game. Skills were meant to represent things your character could train in, just like real life skills. Perks were there to add major effects to your character that wouldn’t fit into skills or attributes. Perks were basically the World of Warcraft “talents” of their time. Traits were sort of like perks but with negatives as well as positives to make them optional. Sort of like character quirks.

      You can just bundle everything into one. For example, you could just have perks you select every level and no attributes and skills. However, this makes levelling completely one dimensional.

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    El_MUERkO says:

    I just hope they make combat feel visceral, I want to feel the weight of a large two-handed weapon and see enemies react to being hit by it differently to a one-handed weapon. I liked the screen movement when running in the teaser trailer but the unnatural ‘arms our in front’ weapons position looked shite, it’s something that stops me enjoying a game.

    I wish more people would move away from canned animation and started working with Euphoria or similar technology while looking towards mirrors edge and Killzone for better ideas of how to convey movement and actions from a first-person perspective.

  6. Stossel says:

    Quote:we’ve solved most of that and got rid of some skills like Athletics and Acrobatics. Who makes a character that is like “I am someone who doesn’t run?” ”

    I think this is an obfuscation. The point is not that you are or are not someone who doesn’t run, but that some characters are better at running/jumping than others. Hence the need for the stat. Now everyone will apparently be at the same speed. Yeah the way it was implemented may not have been the greatest in Oblivion, but it takes a really warped mine to think that a stat/skill was unnecessary because it was implemented poorly.

    • Xocrates says:

      Correct, Athletics and Acrobatics are unnecessary because they were generally useless.

      Personally I think it makes a lot more sense having those skills reduced to a base stat (possibly stamina) than having them as separate skills.

    • Basilicus says:

      I did like certain things, like being able to jump off the surface of water as a master acrobat. I hope those kind of fundamentally game-changing rewards for investing in the skill are kept as perks.

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      lasikbear says:

      Acrobatics was the first skill I maxed in Morrowind (and probably Oblivion) jumping everywhere was so much faster that walking.

    • Jesse L says:

      There is no reason everyone should not have the same run speed: fast. Maybe heavy armor slows you down. Otherwise: fast.

    • Mut says:

      Acrobatics was the skill I had the most fun with in Oblivion. By the end of the game, my goal had changed from “save the world” to “find the tallest possible spot to base jump off of.” The fact that they’re cutting it makes me a sad panda.

    • thenagus says:

      Ill be dissapointed if they don’t have some perks to replace acrobatics & athletics. I always liked them in Oblivion. For a hit & run sort of a build, being able to run faster etc makes a big difference. Also, I think it makes perfect roleplaying sense that those things are something you should be able to train yourself to be better at. Although I guess I do see the sense of merging it with stamina…

    • Reefpirate says:

      I don’t think they disliked the idea of Acrobatics and Athletics… I’m pretty sure the problem most people had with those skills, or at least the problem I had, was that it encouraged your ‘hero’ to run and jump around like an idiot just to level them up. The whole ‘just jump everywhere you go to progress your character’ mechanics really turned me off of the Elder Scrolls series so far… I hope they’ve changed that a bit.

    • aerozol says:

      Haha, acrobatics is how I broke my first Xbox controller button. Fun times, but honestly… Got a little silly.

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      drewski says:

      I think Bethesda can, should they wish, find a way to make Acrobatic and Athletic perks without having to have everyone jumping around like a rabbit on speed, which is all those skills really achieved that can’t be achieved with perks.

  7. megazver says:

    I’ll pass the judgement on the new leveling system when I try it, but I like the sound of the other changes. Off with the attributes! Chop chop chop!

  8. Metonymy says:

    >>The levelling system is very much like Fallout 3.

    This is fantastic news. I believe Oblivion had the worst leveling system of any game. Arbitrary management of skills, with the final result of making the gameworld more powerful, and the strong possibility of permanently crippling your character. Even FF2-nes was better.

    The game was easy, and very winnable, but the complete lack of correlation between your effort and gaining strength was the precise opposite of the intended effect.

    • Jesse L says:

      Absolutely. Anything would be better.

      I had to abandon my first playthrough in Oblivion because I played, for a change, a summoner. I cast a summon spell once or twice per enemy encounter, and the rate of skill increase was so high for magic skills that I could barely run a single dungeon without going up at least half a level. In that time I’d use no other skills, so none of my attributes had a chance to increase, with the result that, yeah, I got weaker and weaker in relation to the game as it went on. So I would go into a dungeon and try not to cast spells! I can’t believe they didn’t figure out that this was a problem before release.

      Morrowind un-modded was not much better. I spent a lot of time ‘exercising’ in town, with a specific allotted regimen of trainers to visit before every quest. Thank goodness for the leveler mods. I like having some control over my character’s skills, but I don’t want to have to think about it to the exclusion of actually playing the game!

      By the way, I really appreciate the extra detail you’ve gone into with this post, Alec!

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      phuzz says:

      “I like having some control over my character’s skills, but I don’t want to have to think about it to the exclusion of actually playing the game!”
      This basically, but then with this series of games they were bound to draw out the AIM, even if they re-released Morrowind people would complain.

    • ceriphim says:

      Did I miss it or was there a point where they addressed having exactly the same trouble with bandits at level 30 that you did at level 2?

      Oblivion made me feel like my character was ALWAYS behind the level curve. I haven’t felt that outclassed in a game since my first PoH raid in EQ1, and for those of you too young to remember, EQ1 was a MMORPG *NOT* a solo RPG… =/

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      AndrewC says:

      From ‘The Diaries for SwiftFinger The Argonian, Vol 2′

      ‘And lo, did the bandits not half hop about a lot when no-one was looking.’

    • MajorManiac says:

      @ AndrewC :

      That was beautifully put. I tried googling this Swift Finger, but just found Lusty Maid porn.

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    Faldrath says:

    “the gameplay changes as you get higher level [because of the perks. Rather than just doing more damage… it’s dramatic… mixing and matching really is different.”

    This was awfully vague. The rest sounds very nice, though.

  10. Owain_Glyndwr says:

    I just hope it doesn’t make the same mistake that Fable II did- you’d get so much experiance that you’d be awesome at everything, and that spoiled the fun. I want to play a role, as in be good at some things but be neccesarily crap at everything else. The new system worries me.

    • Shark says:

      You were already able to do this in Morrowind and Oblivion…
      (I mean getting overpowered at everything)

    • Jeremy says:

      Yeah, you just had to make the skills you actually wanted to be good at “minor” so that you could level them at any rate you wanted to. Which is backwards.

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      drewski says:

      I guess the difference is that in Morrowind and Oblivion you had to consciously choose to power-character, whereas in the Fable games you’re ridiculously kickass by the end of it no matter what you do because there’s just so much XP.

      Then again, the Fable games are designed for blind children, apparently.

  11. Tei says:

    I am going to pretend this game is Morrowind. Ignore the main quest, and just roleplay a honorable wizard-thief.

    If my character gets nerfed because of this gamestyle, I am going to use some cheat or mod.. I don’t think is going to be a problem.

    • DeepSleeper says:

      I pretty much hope they’ve made it so to play an honorable wizard-thief, you don’t have to play a weird pie-chart game, don’t have to stare at the spell-creator for hours (although that was awesome) and don’t have to carefully neglect certain aspects of your character to stop things from going nuts.

      I am hoping all you have to do is be nice to people, cast magic, and steal things.

      I dunno. There’s a lot of stuff I miss from Morrowind and Oblivion, (and Daggerfall) but this isn’t those three games. So I’ll have to hope for new awesome stuff to replace the old awesome stuff.

      (…I still kind of want climbing and levitation back, you Bethsoft bastards.)

  12. RoteByrd says:

    I honestly don’t believe that simplifying things is dumbing it down, it can also make it more eloquent and get to the nitty gritty of points in an RPG. While it has yet to be seen which will be the case, I hope it is the latter. As the developer said, they found that all of those attributes really trickled down to helping out those three attributes: magicka, stamina, and health. That makes sense. If you choose one out of 8 attributes you are only changing a little bit of those 3 main ones. If their skill/perk system is good, this will work out just fine. I hope that the enemies don’t scale the way that they do with glass armor on bandits like in Oblivion. If they’re going to level the enemies, have it be something more like… larger and large groups of bandits show up. The point of playing an RPG like this is to truly be able to roleplay, live in a cool fantasy world and have interesting deep battles, exploration and interactions based on your roleplaying choices. This sounds like it COULD allow for that better.

    • Wizardry says:

      No. The point of playing an CRPG like this is to truly be able to live in a cool fantasy world and have interesting and deep battles, exploration and interactions based on your roleplaying choices for your character. Huge difference, yet subtle when put into words.

    • Shark says:

      Dearest Wizardry,
      could you please stop telling everyone your definition of a CRPG?
      Most people are more interested if it’s a good game than if it strictly follows the rules of pen&paper rpgs.
      Love, Angry Internet Man

    • MiniTrue says:

      It’s all very well for you to say that, Shark, but where are the cRPGs nowadays? Bioware stopped making them after NWN, Bethesda veered into action-territory with Oblivion, and Obsidian are just a studio for hire. None of the venerable old cRPG franchises are left standing, and some of us (myself included) rather liked them.

    • Wizardry says:

      The point is that if games are blindly labelled as CRPGs, then that’s what the masses will think CRPGs are. While this is fantastic for those who love what CRPGs have become, it results in the destruction of the CRPG genre for those who like the traditional CRPGs.

      Just ask gamers what they think western CRPGs are and you’ll get answers such as well written characters, real-time combat, emotionally engaging plots and dialogue choices. Back in the 90s you’d get tactical turn-based combat, party management and statistical advancement. The differences are greater than between racing games and first person shooters.

      None of this really applies to Skyrim directly, so it’s not all that relevant. However, my point still stands. As I mentioned in my own comment to this article, Todd Howard calling character sheets Excel spreadsheets while justifying statistical streamlining is a solid example of just where CRPGs are heading. And, believe it or not, not everyone agrees with him.

    • Shark says:

      I understand your point and repect it,
      I only meant that your replies always looked quite the same

    • Wednesday says:

      MiniTrue, what do you mean “Bethesda veered into action-territory with Oblivion”? Morrowind uses precisely the same leveling system as Oblivion.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Wednesday: Well, Oblivion removed statistical hit calculations, making it more player skill focused and therefore more action packed. While technically being an action CRPG, Daggerfall, for example, didn’t feel much like an action game because the statistics of your character played a heavier part in your success at combat. In Oblivion, your statistics only really changed the speed at which you could kill enemies, as you could kill the toughest enemy purely by grinding them down while manually dodging their attacks.

    • Urthman says:

      The point is that if games are blindly labelled as CRPGs, then that’s what the masses will think CRPGs are.

      You’re the only one I see that’s insisting that Skyrim is a “CRPG.” I certainly haven’t seen that term in any of Bethesda’s press about the game.

    • Wizardry says:

      So they aren’t calling it a CRPG? What term are they using then? A fantasy action game? Or perhaps they aren’t labelling it at all. That would be awesome if the gaming press didn’t label it a CRPG instead.

    • malkav11 says:

      Actually, it wouldn’t be fine if Skyrim were a fantasy action game instead of a CRPG. It’s the latest in a long and storied line of CRPGs and when I see “The Elder Scrolls V” on a box, that’s what I’m expecting to get. If Bethesda wants to make a straight up non-RPG fantasy action game, even one set in the Elder Scrolls universe, I’d be willing to check it out, but it shouldn’t be a main franchise entry, full stop. They figured that shit out with Redguard, so I’d think they could manage that here.

      Of course, despite my worries about the direction the series might be headed, nothing about Skyrim to date says “not an RPG” to me. Just…maybe a little closer to that point, that’s all.

    • Wizardry says:

      @malkav11: And that’s my point, really.

    • Robert says:

      “Just ask gamers what they think western CRPGs are and you’ll get answers such as well written characters, real-time combat, emotionally engaging plots and dialogue choices. Back in the 90s you’d get tactical turn-based combat, party management and statistical advancement. ”

      Can I mix and match? I want well written characters, emotionally engaging plots, dialogue choices, party management and statistical advancement.

      I actually do applaud leaving behind the silly space plots of wizardry/M&M, silly inventory games where you play a loot hauler. That’s not to say I like everything where (A)CRPG’s are going, but I sure as hell do not think the 80/90s were the definite golden age of crpgs.

    • Wizardry says:

      But you absolutely can have both. If Wizardry 8 had as much non-combat gameplay as Fallout (with non-combat abilities to match) it would be even better. If Wizardry 8 was as well written as Planescape: Torment it would be even better. If Wizardry 8 had the NPC schedules and world exploration of Ultima VII, it would be even better. If it had all of those mixed up it would be near perfection.

      But again, that’s not really my point. I like well written plots in my CRPGs. I also like well written characters in my CRPGs. I like branching narratives in my CRPGs (as long as they are influenced by the statistics of your characters). None of those are mutually exclusive to statistical and tactical depth.

    • Jerykk says:

      An RPG revolves around choice and consequence. Oblivion had plenty of choice but no consequence. You could max out all your skills. You could become the guildmaster of every faction. You could complete every quest in one playthrough. At no point in the game do you make a single meaningful choice or face the consequences of said choice. Therefore, Oblivion was not an RPG. It was simply an open-world action/adventure game.

      Fallout: New Vegas was an RPG. Combat, stealth and diplomacy were all viable ways to play through the game. In fact, you could beat the game without killing anything. The game offered both high-level and low-level choices. You could choose which factions you aligned yourself with and which ultimate goals you chose to pursue. Most of the quests offered similar levels of choice, with branching paths.

      Make no mistake, I thoroughly enjoyed Oblivion for what it was. Hell, I spent over 300 hours playing it. However, it was not an RPG and I doubt that Skyrim will be either.

    • Wizardry says:

      That’s a load of crap. I guess no Ultima, Wizardry, Might & Magic, Gold Box, Phantasie, Dark Sun or Magic Candle games are CRPGs then because they don’t really contain much more choices and consequences than Oblivion.

      Or, perhaps you are just plain wrong. Yep. I’ll go with that.

  13. woodsey says:

    If it works like how they’re describing it, then they’re completely right.

    There were redundant skills in Oblivion and Morrowind, and the idea that you should pick what character you want to play for the next 200 hours in the first half an hour was silly.

    Why everyone seems to think that role-playing is purely about planning 3 levels head and calculating how many skill points you can afford to put wherever instead of, y’know, actually role-playing your character is beyond me.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Picking permanent major/minor skills was never the best idea. I quite enjoy games where you start off as a useless muppet and skills increase naturally with use. Levels? Classes? Pah! Give ‘em a starter area with a sword, a bow, some lockpicks, and a Magic For Dummies book. And if they want to switch later on, training up the low levels should be quick and somewhat easy.

      Alternatively, character creation should be a bit more involved – as you say, more roleplay than spreadsheet. Choosing jobs every five years in Darklands was interesting, as was Daggerfall’s questionnaire-style bit where you could bump a few skills and get that kickass ebony dagger. But I feel like there’s a much better system waiting to be invented. There’s probably a great one lurking out there in an obscure P&P RPG.

    • DeepSleeper says:

      So you prefer more the Demon’s Souls approach, where every ‘class’ is basically a packet of starter equipment (priests get a mace and some holy stuff, hunters get a bow and axe, wanderers get the Prince of Persia Wannabe Set), and a few stat points that can be easily made up by others?

      Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound too bad.

    • MiniTrue says:

      It’s always nice to see Darklands referenced. I’ve still yet to see a better character creation system, though I must admit that Daggerfall’s was pretty damn good.

      I don’t see what the problem with “redundant” skills is, though. You’re not obligated to pick them. If you can’t see a use for it, don’t bloody pick it! Plenty of people I know had hilarious fun in Morrowind fortifying their acrobatics skills to go on continent-crushing jumping expeditions. It’s precisely this kind of “why would anyone want to do that anyway?” style of games design that brought you Invisible War, a game that took most of what made the original Deus Ex great, designated it “mechanically redundant” and thew it away.

      When in doubt, just leave it in. What harm lies in the choice? Or is just the usual game designer fascism over what the player can do taking hold again?

    • bob_d says:

      @ MiniTrue: The problem with redundant skills is that when you start the game, you have no idea what skills are actually used for and which are useful in the game.
      I’m playing Morrowind for the first time, and after 20-something hours of gameplay, my character is still completely useless at everything, as I apparently put points into the wrong things. At this point I’m not sure if I’m going to make a new character or just uninstall the game.

    • ceriphim says:

      @DeepSleeper Dear god please YES. Demon’s Souls is my #1 most-played PS3 game, for many reasons. Foremost, you could do *anything* you wanted with your character including making a useless wretch too mediocre to kill even skellies. I *LOVED* having a game that would not only let me fail, but would actively punish me for it.

      The meaningful difference IMO between Oblivion’s leveling and DS was that Oblivion took an active interest in screwing you, whereas in DS the world is what it is, regardless of your progression.

    • woodsey says:

      Yes, but just because Invisible War did it wrong doesn’t mean you can’t cut stuff out if you can do it right.

    • malkav11 says:

      Because genuine roleplaying is not possible in a videogame where you are interacting with a preset environment and set of choices. And it’s perfectly easy to argue that you can “roleplay” a character in almost any videogame, since you are usually immersed in the game via some sort of player avatar or quasi character, even if it’s the never-speaking never-shown omniscient overhead view of a C&C “Commander”. Meanwhile, the CRPG genre as such has historically been most strongly defined by things like levels, stats, skill points, equipment, and success based more on character abilities than player abilities.

      I’m not going to suggest that it’s not nice to have meaningful choices and consequences in terms of storyline and dialogue and such – it very much is. But that’s not nearly as historically crucial to the genre as other elements, and I don’t consider it particularly defining – that particular element can and has been used to good effect in multiple other genres, most notably the visual novel.

  14. Moonracer says:

    I feel the cutting of attributes down to 3 is a bit much. I always thought Agility and Intelligence were pretty important in the RPG realm. Oh well. Overall it sounds interesting. Looking forward to it.

    Any word on if they’ll add a VATS like feature?

  15. Tuco says:

    They don’t need to explain it, they need to get rid of it.

  16. Wizardry says:

    I was designing the interface and I wanted it to make it very visual rather than like Excel.

    Now Todd Howard, an apparent CRPG designer, is referring to character sheets as Excel spreadsheets.
    Look. Morrowind had watered down statistics and skills compared to Daggerfall. Oblivion had watered down statistics and skills compared to Morrowind. Where do you think Skyrim is heading? Swapping numbers for easy to understand perks makes character building too simple. It’s all about getting the right perks rather than having a balanced set of statistics to match your play style.

    • Doesntmeananything says:

      I think I understand what their plan is. It was always the case with the previous games – provided with the different skills and statistics, you could interact with the world at just the very basic level. So instead of making the world more complex so that it would be possible to play a role fully within it, they simplified the means of creating that role and consequently the role itself.

      Right, not too happy about it.

    • ulix says:

      No, its about having to carefully choose the right set of perks (and the path to them) to match your playstyle, instead of just raising the same attributes that fit your character-build over and over.
      The perk system they have here, in which essentially every skill has its own little skill-tree, is awesome. And (potentially) so much deeper than a lame linear “been there, done that”-attribute system.

    • Wizardry says:

      Sorry but you are wrong. In decent systems, you need at least a few points in each attribute. You don’t have to pump a select few skills and attributes in all CRPGs. Some of them make you think about your point distribution. Perks are far easier to handle and allow for less customisation. Perks are more fun for those people who want to click a button and notice a huge bonus rather than people who want to advance their characters slowly over time, shaping their abilities with precision.

    • ulix says:

      No, you are wrong. And its not even a matter of opinion, its a matter of being mathematically, empirically wrong.

      Advancing 18 Skills, each in a non-linear (in addition to linear advancement) fashion DOES by definition provide more (and more meaningful) customization options (-> choices) than raising 8 attributes in a completely linear, straight-forward way.

      With a typical warrior type you’d choose to either/or raise Agility, Endurance and most importantly strength. 3 choices. With this system I have 6 combat skills each with its own skill-tree, so I have at least 12, probably more like 18 choices. And they are more meaningful. Each perk gives me a clearly defined ability, while raising strength from 20 to 22 might not do much apart from raising my damage (can just as well be handled by weapon skill).

      Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather have 8 attributes AND 150 perks, and have some of the perks only available when attributy x is >Y (like Fallout 3 & New Vegas).

      But if I had to choose, I’d choose perks. Especially if they are implemented in a (seemingly) interesting and meaningful fashion like they seem to be in Skyrim.

    • DrGonzo says:

      It should be designed so someone can think, I want to be a wiazard who shoots lightning out of his hands, and then doesn’t have to do maths to figure it out. You should be able to play as a character you create, not figuring out the best statistics.

      I want to be firing arrows I aimed carefully, not right clicking and hope a dice roll goes my way. The Elder Scrolls have always been about immersing you in a world, statistics and dice rolls were used in the old games so heavily because they couldn’t emulate them in any other way. It’s a good thing we are getting away from that stuff.

      Not that those kind of RPGs don’t have a place, but The Elder Scrolls isn’t really one of them.

    • Wizardry says:

      What the hell? When did the 18 skills come into this? I thought we were comparing attributes to perks? If you hadn’t forgotten, Oblivion also had skills. In fact, it had 21 skills, 3 more than Skyrim. Morrowind had 27 skills, 9 more than Skyrim. Daggerfall had 35 skills, 17 more than Skyrim, one away from double.

      So not only does Skyrim have less skills, it also has none of the attributes. Instead, it has gained perks. So 8 more attributes and 3 more skills, versus perks. Tricky. But why compare it to Oblivion? Why not compare it to Daggerfall? 8 less attributes and 17 less skills, versus perks.

      But the point of my last post is that CRPG systems don’t have to be about random numbers that go up and down. You could create a game with 1000 different skills that you can put points into, and nothing else. You could create a game with 1000 different attributes that you can put points into, and nothing else. You can create a giant talent tree containing 1000 talents, and nothing else. You can put in 1000 perks to choose from, and nothing else. These are ALL bland and boring. This is why Fallout’s mixture of traits, perks, skills, tagged skills, attributes (SPECIAL) and derived statistics is superior to whatever Skyrim will have.

      There are systems that aren’t as linear such as the one found in later Might & Magic games. Skills in Might & Magic VI encompass everything from weapon proficiencies to magic skills. You can put points into skills to increase their level. You can also train your skills up to increase their rank, from normal to expert to master. Therefore your perception skill can be at level 10 at a master rank. The level of a skill determines its potency, while the rank of a skill affects its effects. This works especially well for the magic skills. See, there is a magic skill for each school of magic (much like The Elder Scrolls). The level of a magic skill affects the the potency of spells in its school. The rank of a magic skill gives bonuses or changes the effects of each spell in the school individually, i.e. it varies with spell.

      Tagged skills in Fallout could have worked like this, yet all it did was increase the rate at which you could increase that skill. It’s a nice way of adding complexity without just adding loads more skills/attributes/perks.

      There are far more ways to do levelling systems such as having hybrid system of use-based and point-buying for skills. Let’s say you can only level up a skill through use up to 25 points higher than your base skill level. So if your holy magic skill is at 50, you can level it up to 75 through use. Putting more points into your holy magic skill will increase this threshold accordingly. Lots of possibilities without scrapping things like attributes.

    • ulix says:

      The skills came into this exactly when we were talking about perks. Because (from how I understand it, and I’m repeating myself now) all the perks have their respective skill, or rather every skill has its own perk-tree. Apparently there are no other perks (and if there are, it probably won’t be many).

      And of course there will be some perk-thresholds:
      “You can only use the ‘Maces ignore armor’-perk when your one-handed (or two-handed?) skill is >50 (and when you’ve learned the preceding perk in the “one-handed”-perk-tree)”, or some shit like that.

      They might even go all out and do stuff like “You can only learn the ‘dagger instant kill’-perk when you’ve got a one-handed skill of >50 AND a sneak skill of >75. (and the “Master sneaking” perk is a prerequisite, too).”

      Etc.

    • Wizardry says:

      Yeh. That’s cool. But why leave out the Oblivion skills when making a comparison? You can’t compare 8 attributes to 18 skills and perks. You have to compare 8 attributes and 21 skills to 18 skills and perks. Or 8 attributes and 35 skills if you compare it to their best game, Daggerfall.

    • Archonsod says:

      “And of course there will be some perk-thresholds:
      “You can only use the ‘Maces ignore armor’-perk when your one-handed (or two-handed?) skill is >50 (and when you’ve learned the preceding perk in the “one-handed”-perk-tree)”, or some shit like that.”

      That’s how Oblivion did it, and probably why they removed the skills. There was zero effect from having a skill less than 25 for most skills, at 25 however you got the apprentice level which unlocked a new special attack or ability. It makes the skill itself somewhat redundant, having 10 or 20 skill in one handed made zero difference, you couldn’t use the special ability unlock in either case. Hit 25 and you could, but by the same token at 35 it behaved no differently, till you hit 50 to get the next unlock.

      In effect it was already a perk system, it just had a useless skill system tagged on (for the most part, some skills were still effective on a % basis, dodge for example). From the sound of it all they’ve really done is remove the mostly useless skill system and retained their unlocks as a perk system.

    • Wizardry says:

      So why was 35 the same as 25? Why didn’t Bethesda ask themselves that question? It’s not hard at all to make every point matter. It’s just simple maths. So many games have skills that range from 0 to 100. Wizard’s Crown from 1985 springs to mind as being one of the earliest. If the system is flawed, fix it. Don’t scrap it or substitute it for perks. It just highlights their incompetence as a developer.

    • ulix says:

      If you have a 1-100 skill system, and you really “feel” every point, that could mean that you start out as a word who is killed by rats (and i mean rats, not 1 meter fantasy rats) and/or that you are a demigod in the end, who can jump across continents and take on 30 guards with his sword.

      Neither of which I want in a game. If I did I’d play Dynasty Warriors.

    • Wizardry says:

      What do you mean by “feel” every point? Most people probably wouldn’t feel the difference between 18 and 19 strength in AD&D. But if you look at the numbers, the difference is huge. And if the numbers are huge, you know that 19 strength makes a significant difference over the course of the game.

      It’s not about clicking a button and something awesome happening. That’s Dragon Age II’s thing. You might get 5 points to assign into your attributes and then you assign them. Done. Diablo II had attributes that ranged into the hundreds, and everyone loved Diablo II.

  17. Alaric says:

    Great changes! I very much approve!

  18. FD says:

    If this means less of the absurdity of the Oblivion (and Morrowind) systems, great. If this means the same systems as Oblivion and Morrowind but now with less options then just more of what I expect from Bethesda.

  19. Basilicus says:

    Dear everyone,

    Nut up and deal with it. Gaming is young. It means the occasional step back, but we’ll be making a lot more forward progress in years to come.

    Bethesda gave you 200+ hours of Leveling Style X. How is that not enough? How can you want more of that rather than trying something just a little bit different?

    It seems like you’re asking developers to bore themselves to tears by rehashing the same systems over and over again. How can you demand that of artists? Let them experiment. The last thing gaming needs as a young medium is to feel tied down to making specific types of games the same way over and over again.

  20. bluebogle says:

    I need to upgrade my PC! Not because it can’t run this game, but because it needs to run it better!

  21. GenBanks says:

    I hope they release a character creator tool early… it’s going to take me aaages to decide on one.

  22. Bureaucrat says:

    Some promising signs, but we’ll see how it looks in practice. Bethesda’s history in designing CRPG rulesets is not reassuring.

    Personally, I don’t know if I’ll ever see a learn-by-doing ruleset in a CRPG that isn’t fundamentally broken at the design phase.

  23. Dajs says:

    It’s good that Bethesda decided to improve on the formula and adopt perks from Fallout, and hopefully we won’t get a rushed product at release.

  24. MiniTrue says:

    Seriously, just make Morrowind 2. Every single design decision made in that game was the right decision. I don’t care if the whole PC CRPG thing might seem niche now, just take 10, maximum 15 guys out of Bethesda’s main studio (preferably guys that worked on Morrowind, but I guess Todd proves that doesn’t always mean much…). Have them pretty up the art assets etc from the original game for Vvardenfell, and make a Tamriel-rebuilt-esque Morrowind mainland. Like I say, reuse the old procedural element models from Morrowind. And then bung it all in your pretty new engine, bring back Morrowind’s old dialogue system, skill tree, guilds, etc, have whoever wrote Crassius Curio’s dialogue write the whole damn game (because he is a genius), and let me play in the lands of the Dunmer maybe 150 odd years after the time of the Nerevarine, in which the Empire and Almsivi tribunal are badly weakened, the Argonian armies are invading Dunmer land as retribution for the years of mal-treatment their citizens have suffered (see “The Infernal City”, which was a terrible book but is sadly canon now), and let us as the player decide to give our loyalty to either the waning Empire, the remnants of the Tribunal under Vivec, the Argonian army, or the Dunmer great houses of Hlaalu, Indoril, Redoran, Telvanni, Dagoth or Dres. Or let us go rogue.

    Then, put the game on Steam for £40 (heck I’d play it), and watch it sell like hotcakes. Please, make this game, Bethesda. Or better yet, let Obsidian make it for you. I implore you, as a loyal Morrowind fan disgusted by the bizarre design choices of Oblivion, make this game for me and my ilk and we will repay you handsomely in coin.

    • MiniTrue says:

      Well, every design decision except Cliff-Racers, I guess. :D

    • DeepSleeper says:

      Didn’t the entire Morrowind area get blown up somehow, just so they couldn’t go back to it?

    • Scotterius says:

      Imagine auto-leveling cliff racers, the horror…oh the horror.

    • MiniTrue says:

      Bethesda have distilled canon butchery down to a fine art, so I doubt too many eyebrows would raise if Vvardenfell turned out to have survived. ;)

      And yes, auto-levelling cliff racers would have been…oh my God…

    • bob_d says:

      Sadly, it would take a lot more than 10 or 15 people to make that happen. You’re talking about building a new game; even if it uses the same engine, the content creation team is going to be bigger than that. This is the problem with making modern cRPGs that are aimed at niche audiences – they’re usually too expensive for that. If you moved the development to Russia, or somewhere else where dev costs were much lower you might have a better chance of seeing it happen.

    • MiniTrue says:

      This is why I suggest re-using Morrowind’s meshes, but with somewhat higher resolution textures. Quest writing would be somewhat time consuming, but given the smaller target audience it would no doubt require significantly less “focus testing”, and all the other mechanisms needed to make sure anyone can complete the quest.

    • bob_d says:

      @ MiniTrue: New textures would help but wouldn’t be sufficient to make that much of a change; it would still look like an old game. But let’s say you used the old meshes and animations; you still need some writers/quest designers, some world designers, the texture artists, probably a programmer or two, a producer, the voice talent… I’ve never worked with a “focus tester” in the game industry yet, but game testers are there to make sure the game actually works as intended, so you rather need a few of them. Even with only 15 staff, you’re looking at 2-3 million dollar development costs, minimum.

  25. buzzmong says:

    “The levelling system is very much like Fallout 3.”
    Eurgh.
    Yes, Oblivion’s world leveling system was lol-tastic (and exploitable due to the levelling only affecting major classes), but Fallout 3 wasn’t that much better.
    Fallout 3′s system saw you always having the opportunity to be the victor. New Vegas did it better. The option of getting into combat with stuff you’ve no chance of beating (hello Mr Deathclaw and family in the Quarry, or any of the Super Mutant Masters) at a low level is imperative to the illusion of getting stronger in the world.

    • MiniTrue says:

      Yes, but Obsidian have a far better understanding of how RPG game design works than Todd Howard or Ken Rolston. I’m beginning to think they got Morrowind right accidentally, much like Ion Storm arguably got Deus Ex right accidentally.

    • Wizardry says:

      Julian Lefay and Ted Peterson were at the heart of The Elder Scrolls. Once they left, Todd Howard only managed to create a good game (Morrowind) because of the legacy of Daggerfall. Watering down Daggerfall still left a good enough game. Unfortunately, there is always a limit. Watering down Morrowind left Oblivion and watering down Oblivion will leave Skyrim.

    • Premium User Badge

      Mo says:

      Really, “accidentally”? Is it so incredibly hard to believe that these designers have a different idea of where they want their games to go than you do?

      And did you seriously say that Warren Spector and co got Deus Ex right “accidentally”? Was System Shock, Thief, et al also created by accident?

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      You can find deathclaws to die by at level 1 in Fallout 3 if you know where to look.

  26. Calabi says:

    I think they should just get rid of levelling. So instead you aquire abilities to do more things slightly better.

    • nimnio says:

      Consider Jim’s words on “The Secret World”:

      I was also fascinated by the character creation process, which is somehow “circular” rather than vertical. Funcom illustrated this with a “skill wheel”, which showed that while you character gets more skills, and is limited by his faction, he is not limited by class. You will need to progress along certain routes to unlock certain types of skills, yes, but the game is ultimately “flat”. You aren’t levelling up to be miles above newbies in power and hit points, you’re simply becoming a more talented and differentiated character. You can see precisely why this makes sense, and why it’s the kind of system I’ve been longing for over the years. This more like how real people become more experienced, and learn more skills, than the weird articifial elevator of power that MMOs usually deliver. ~ Jim Rossignol

  27. Mike says:

    The acrobatics thing doesn’t really make sense to me – I always liked having a character that could jump high and dodge quickly. I hope they’ve not culled too many skills.

  28. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    What I would like to know more about is racial characteristics. Most of them in earlier games were simply slight advantages in specific areas, and most of the more interesting bonuses were either extremely weak or extremely limited.

    The Argonians in particular got screwed in Oblivion, with no particular statistical strengths and the completely lame ability to breathe underwater, a trait that could be replicated within an hour of starting the game by completing that Lake Remora slaughterfish quest. Being well-rounded is theoretically great–if you ignore the numerous advantages of specialization in any RPG and the options available to the player in a series which allows unlimited skill development–but a Dunmer is also very well-rounded while being resistant to fire and capable of summoning a physically invincible ghost once a day.

    And before anyone says it, ask yourself: how often did you benefit from Resist Disease or Immune to Poison? I’m not saying they were never beneficial, but the benefit would be seen so rarely that it always felt kind of disappointing, especially when you tried out an Orc (the quite-handy-in-a-pinch Berserk) or a Breton (inherent Magic Resistance) and saw how useful their special abilities could be.

    • buzzmong says:

      Well, Resist Disease was handy on my Elf playthrough, when I replayed it with a human mage I was quaffing cure disease potions like no tomorrow when pushing stakes through vampires or accidently getting hugged by a zombie or ghoul.

  29. rareh says:

    “got rid of some skills like Athletics and Acrobatics.”
    I loved buffing my acro and ath so i could jump 100 meters then i would cast levitate right before i landed.
    So they really made a bad decision in my opinion.
    Anyway modding can fix (implement) those 2 easily, so i don’t see it being much of a problem.

    • SirDimos says:

      Agreed. If there is no way to increase how fast you run/jump then I will be one sad little panda.

  30. MythArcana says:

    So, in other words, they are dumbing this down for consoles like every other game on the market.

    Character creation – simplified.
    Speech interaction – simplified.
    Attributes system – simplified.

    Well, I guess Oblivion will have to suffice for another 10 years until they learn that we DON’T WANT ANOTHER CONSOLE PORT!

    The new catch phrase of the industry is now “streamlined”, which is basically a polite term for scaling down complex PC games to suit the monkey mentality of the console platform.

    Example:RPG + streamlined = Mass Effect.

    Which, in effect, basically strips away complexity, gameplay options, visual quality and substance in lieu of more market shares in the console market. Instead of improving on Oblivion, they are trimming all those amazing decisions because the console kiddies get bored too fast. I was hoping Skyrim would set the bar for the next 10 years so that I can finally put Oblivion to rest, but I can see right now that the corporate dream is largely in effect and the PC users lose substantially yet again.

    • Doesntmeananything says:

      What is simplified about speech interaction?

    • geldonyetich says:

      You should probably read the article.

      The speech skill: “There is not a Persuasion wheel. It’s much more simplified. There’s not a mini-game for it.” He declined to describe it until later, however.

    • Doesntmeananything says:

      Well, you could argue that this is in fact a simplification, but certainly, could this ridiculous atrocity be counted as something that makes talking with NPCs more complex?

    • JFS says:

      Think he means the fact that there won’t be a persusasion minigame anymore.

    • ulix says:

      Which is a good thing. Just let the NPCs have persuasion thresholds, and when my skill is higher I can persuade them.

      The minigame in Oblivion was just stupid and ridiculous. I don’t mind having a lockpicking minigame, if it roughly resembles picking a lock. But how did the (or how could any) persuasion minigame in Oblivion resemble real persuasion?

    • Soon says:

      Well, it apparently worked for you in Oblivion.

    • Premium User Badge

      Mo says:

      But wait, wasn’t Oblivion a dumbed down no-good made-for-consoles version of Morrowind? And you liked that game? OMG, you’re part of the problem!

      (sounds silly when I put it that way, no?)

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      You say simplified speech interaction, I say speech interaction hopefully no longer ridiculously stupid.

      Potato, intergalactic spacecraft and all that.

  31. geldonyetich says:

    “There are three main stats: magicka, health, stamina. In Oblivion you have 8 attributes and 21 skills. Now it’s 18 skills and 3 attributes. What we found was those attributes actually did something else. e.g. intelligence affected magicka. They all trickled down to some other stat.

    Apparently, there was nobody on staff at Bethesda at the time to deck that guy and tell him he’s officially reached the level of over-streamlining.

    So, basically, what we’ve got here is Fable. You start a character with little more than cosmetic choices, then you organically grow them through play, ultimately ending up with some combination of Warrior, Mage, or Thief depending on what skills you come to lean on the most.

    It’s not necessarily irredeemable, but if they haven’t made up for the depth they gutted somewhere else in the game, it won’t be the dragons that killed the Elder Scrolls world.

    • ulix says:

      You have read that part about perks, right?

      And from the screenshots I’d wager that there are about 6-10 perks for every skill (lets take an average 8), which would mean 144 perks. Instead of 8 attributes. How is that simplifying?

    • Wizardry says:

      Maybe because attributes have a scale of 1 to 100 while perks have 1 to 3 (varying) or something like that? It might not seem like much but it completely changes the dynamics of character building. In games with perks or talents, you end up with very limited options for the type of character you want to make, usually due to the amount of perks or talents you can get per character within the game. If you can get half the talents in the entire game, and you want to make a strong and powerful close combat sword and shield type warrior, you can filter out most of the perks or talents and max out the remainder. In games with a really solid system of interconnected statistics, skills, perks and proficiencies there is far greater flexibility and far greater choice.

      Try playing something like later Wizardry games or the Might & Magic games. Wizardry 8 has a fantastic system which is both deep and highly flexible. The Might & Magic games have really satisfying character advancement, even though the games became increasing unbalanced as the series went on. Scrapping everything interesting in favour of perks or talent trees is a shame. Even Fallout has a great mix of perks, skills and attributes that all fit nicely together into one satisfying system.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      That’s true, but the difference between a character with one perk or another *should* be much greater than the difference between a character with 71 strength and 72 strength, for example. Attributes over some illusion of depth but only actually differentiate on large scales. Perks can offer immediate and appropriate differentiation at all levels.

      It’ll depend how it’s implemented, of course.

  32. lunarplasma says:

    The Kilrathi have landed on Skyrim!

  33. sinister agent says:

    The stamina/fatigue dilemma: “in the other games the stamina is called fatigue. It’s backwards.”

    FRIGGIN’ FINALLY.

    God, that was a long overdue correction of complete belmitude on Bethesda’s part. Extremely minor, but man was it annoying. The fact that they’re paying attention to details like this is a pleasant surprise.

  34. Jimbo says:

    The lock picking in Two Worlds 2 was quite enjoyable, if they’d like to steal it. Ha, steal it as in… nvm. About the only minigame I can ever remember not dreading.

    I always thought the levelling systems in Morrowind and Oblivion were pretty terrible tbh, so I’m glad they’re changing it.

  35. Very Real Talker says:

    I AM AN ORC, GRARRGH

  36. Vandell says:

    I won’t mind this if they also provide attributes on weapons.

  37. oldsam says:

    “He declined to describe it until later, however.”

    Should’ve tried Admire or Coerce on him if you ask me.

    “I wouldn’t fight you” “not now not later not ever” “Dont! Please I’m sorry” “Sure that’s cute”

    Saw a mudcrab the other day….

  38. Snuffy the Evil says:

    For a second I thought the Kajhit in the header image was wearing sunglasses, and that made me unreasonably excited.

    • Eagle0600 says:

      Khajiit make me unreasonably excited too, for some reason.

  39. MattM says:

    It’s not that we don’t understand the leveling system, it’s that we hate it. There are some problems with static enemy levels in a large open world but enemy auto-leveling is a solution worse than the problem. Building up your character so that they can overcome previously insurmountable obstacles and explore new areas is one of the best parts of many games.

    • Zyrusticae says:

      Um, I’m pretty sure they said the auto-leveling isn’t going to exist like it did in Oblivion… Reasonably sure… however, my lazy time-limited ass prevents me from looking up the source. Either way, I’m still pretty sure.

    • Vinraith says:

      It’s pretty clear from the Fallout games that Bethesda learned their lesson about Oblivion’s level scaling. You need to do some of that, actually, or you end up with the Morrowind problem (once you’re level 30, everything on the planet is a huge pushover, which is just boring) but obviously you can’t do what Oblivion did either (there’s a reason there are so many mods that remove or alter level scaling, after all). I think Fallout 3 and New Vegas managed to strike a pretty good balance, though of course there are always going to be mods that alter these things if you don’t like the particular balance struck.

    • Yosharian says:

      Fallout 3/FONV did seem to indicate that they had learned their lesson, yes. But there was so much fucking whining about it that I wouldn’t be surprised if Beth went back to Obliv-style creature levelling. People were bitching that they couldn’t explore certain places because they were getting one-shotted by Deathclaws or whatever. “Waaagh I can’t go where I want just cos I’m too low-level, this game sucks!” etc.

    • Manley Pointer says:

      Once you’re max level, nearly everything should be a pushover, though. You have to spend a long time grinding your way up there, and usually you’re pretty much done with the game (at least for that playthrough) once you reach the level cap. It’s cool for developers to put in some endgame monsters to challenge max-level players, but I don’t think it’s a “problem” when they don’t; players who grind up fast are usually trying to break the game anyway.

      I hate when RPGs have items with worse stats if you find them at a lower level (guess I have to wait until I’m level 20 to kill this boss, cause his loot will suck if I do it at level 19), or when they make you level up fast just to see the interesting high level monsters. That sounds like an obsessive power-gaming thing, but really, anyone who’s played a few RPGs will catch on to games that keep manipulating stats and encounters to suit the player’s level. And when you do catch on, it shatters the link between gameplay and the game’s fiction.

      Even the scaling in the recent Fallout games was distracting, though it didn’t reach the farcical levels of Oblivion, where you’d run into bears that were tougher than demons you fought just earlier. It gives the player the idea that the world is constantly reshaped to suit them, rather than being the vast and solid world that Bethesda’s own narratives try to evoke. It’s a joke for Bethesda to say they’re going to make Skyrim more alien and intimidating when they scale the game to stay in the player’s comfort zone.

      No offense to Meer for writing these interesting articles based on Bethesda’s comments, but PR sources are usually either terrible at describing these mechanics or are deliberately deceptive. Game journos usually miss these big mechanical complaints when speeding through preview copies, too — how many reviewers actually called out the level scaling in Oblivion, which any gamer you ask will complain about today?

    • Wizardry says:

      I think Baldur’s Gate II did “level scaling” the correct way. If you were too high level for a zone, the game would switch an iron golem for an adamantite golem, or a low level pack of skeletons for a group of greater mummies. You never even notice unless reading a walkthrough. Very subtle.

    • Vinraith says:

      Once you’re max level, nearly everything should be a pushover, though.

      Well no, not really (no point letting you get to a level where no challenges remain, after all), but even if you believe that it’s worth noting that 30 was less than half of max level in Morrowind.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      @ Wizardry – Morrowind and Fallout 3 used a similar system, scaling monsters in a particular zone to an appropriate type for your character level.

      Oblivion, of course, didn’t (or at least didn’t in a believable manner) so hopefully Bethesda have learned from that.

    • MattM says:

      Its worth noting that F:NV isn’t a Bethesda developed game and was the most willing to have certain areas be too hard for low level characters. I thought the enemy replacement system worked OK in F:NV and F3, but I would still prefer less of that sort of thing. One thing that works decently is to have the same enemies grant less experience as the player level increases. It allows player who like to explore more to not get as over-leveled. Designing enemies that can still be dangerous if the player gets sloppy or distracted can also keep combat exciting for higher level characters in lower level areas. In STALKER:CoP, even once I had the gear to take on an army of zombies I could get taken out by one if I let it sneak up on me with a shotgun.
      Another good approach might be to have difficulty affect amount of experience gained. If you want to do more side questing you can select a higher difficulty. In F:NV I installed a mod that doubled the XP to gain a level. It made exploring and fighting much more rewarding since I really needed that XP before I could go into areas like the deathclaw canyon or fight cadazors.

  40. ScubaMonster says:

    Screenshots look awesome. Hopefully this will scale well, otherwise I’ll be forced to play it on PS3.

  41. Yosharian says:

    Wow that clarified… nothing. Skyrim’s system could be piss-poor or could be very good, can’t tell by these vague comments. Not holding my breath, frankly.

    (not your fault RPS, just saying)

  42. zbeeblebrox says:

    “I find most people, no matter what character they want to make, they use the best thing that you give them. ”
    No crap! It always floors me when I see designers act surprised when players choose the “badass sword of badass” over the “fancy sword of fancy”. Oh boo hoo you spent more resources making the fancy one and it looks nicer. Thems the breaks. The best you can hope for is people treating it like a trophy, but more than likely they’re not even going to bother going after it if they’ve already got something better. It’s a failure to reconcile aesthetics with gameplay.

    • Brumisator says:

      Well of course.
      However, the cool thing in games like Morrowind are the cursed items, which are seriously badass, but kill you slowly, or drain stats, or something.

  43. IsaacNocturn says:

    Alec, any word on the depth of customization allotted in Skyrim?

    I’m kind of a HUGE character creator nerd, i.e. the physical features from height to weight to facial features, body types and etc. and after doing the customization in APB ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WhOTrc5554&feature=related ) and Eve Online ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJ_DQFVuixM&feature=related ), I can’t settle for presets anymore.

  44. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    Still skeptical about the skill/perk/levelling system, but excited none the less :D Oh GOD so many good/promising AAA Games this year, along with exciting Indie games, oh god, I’m going to explode!

  45. Laephis says:

    I’m prepared to give a lot of money to any game developer willing to make an RPG that is *more complicated* than what’s being peddled these days. Call it a spiritual successor to Eye of the Beholder, Wizardry, Realms of Arkania, whatever, I don’t care. Just give me some stats like I used to have. Please. Anyone.

  46. gritz says:

    Stats in my RPG? No thanks! I want things easy to understand, like stars.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      You are fundamentally missing the point of a TES game if you think it’s about stats.

      There’s nothing wrong with wanted an RPG about stats. But that’s not what TES games have been about for a long time.

    • Wizardry says:

      @drewski: You obviously haven’t played Daggerfall then.

    • CapeMonkey says:

      I’m not sure a fifteen year old game is a valid counter-argument to “But that’s not what TES games have been about for a long time.”

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      Even Daggerfall wasn’t really about stats, it just shoved them in your face an awful lot more than Morrowind or Oblivion did.

    • Wizardry says:

      If that’s your view then no CRPG is about stats. I’m happy with that.

    • gritz says:

      Who the hell are you to tell me I shouldn’t care about stats in games that have stats? Minmaxing was a huge part of the Morrowind experience for a whole lot of people, buster.

      Besides, my main point was that it’s funny how they’re ~streamlining~ all sorts of crap out of this game, but are adding a totally superfluous constellation-based menu system.

  47. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    The more I hear about this game, the more it sounds ridiculously awesome.

  48. bill says:

    “Every skill affects your levelling. Every time I get a skill raise there’s a level bar that moves. The higher the skill the more it pushes you to levelling, so you want to use your higher skills.”

    I hope this doesn’t continue the ass-backwards system in morrowind where you wanted to actually avoid training your major skills and focus on training your minor ones. They should probably just have all skills affect leveling equally.
    The lack of level cap might prevent this this time though.

    The Atributes in Morrowind were opaque and ridiculous, having strange effects, or no effect. And thief characters needed to train the same atributes as warriors. Made no sense.

    Having to run around and bunny hop everywhere made no sense either, but on the other hand, I loved the exploring and climbing that was possible with high run/jump skills – so i hope they wind that stuff into some perks. Their system has always been full of that kind of paradox. (like the ridiculous way the armour skills worked).

    This means they are making attributes purely as dynamic meters, and everything else will be purely skill based. So that’s a lot more flexible – i can have a character who’s good at short blades and archery and bribery, without having to worry if they have different “governing attributes”.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      “I hope this doesn’t continue the ass-backwards system in morrowind where you wanted to actually avoid training your major skills and focus on training your minor ones.”

      …why did you do that, exactly?

    • bill says:

      Because, as several others have pointed out above too, if you put the skills you actually used into the major skills, they levelled too quickly. So at each “level up” you hadn’t raised many attributes, got less points, got lower stats, and ended up with a level 50 character who could run and jump like a crazy guy (as those skills trained through everyday use) and couldn’t hit/cast for toffee.

      It was totally counterintuitive, and basically meant that if you did what seemed logical (eg: made a warrior character with a load of strength major skills) the you were stuffed.

    • Wizardry says:

      Yes, it’s an utterly broken system, but it can be fixed without gutting it. The attribute gain based on what skills you levelled up between levels was a stupid idea that fundamentally weakened high level characters who didn’t plan ahead and grind. But so many CRPGs have had stats and skills. They work together absolutely fine.

      If Bethesda allowed you to level up based on both major and minor skill gain, but made your major skills better than your minor skills by some modifier (x1.2 or something), always gave you ~15 attributes to assign per level up, but recommended where to put those 15 points into by looking at the skills you levelled up between levels (for newbies who have no clue), then you’d actually get a far better system. It wasn’t even that hard for me to come up with. Took me 2 minutes.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      @ bill – you obviously played very, very, very different characters to me.

  49. bill says:

    It occurs to me that Heath, Stamina and Magika AREN’T really attributes – at least in the TES sense. They are meters.

    Does this mean they’ve totally done away with attributes, or that the 3 attributes are something else?
    If I was to streamline rpg attributes/stats then I’d go with Power, Speed, Intelligence and Charisma – but thats 4.

    • Wizardry says:

      Well, no one knows for sure but Bethesda themselves. My guess is that all attributes are out, because stamina, health and magicka are (or were) merely derived statistics. I think Bethesda are mentioning those three to trick people into thinking there are still three statistics left, when in reality there aren’t any.

  50. disperse says:

    The video isn’t working for me (I’m in the US), does anyone have a YouTube link? Thanks.

    Nevermind, it’s working now (and isn’t anything new in any case).