Bethesda’s Howard: People Discount Graphics

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the DICE Summit is a place where a bunch of game developers congregate to say things. Lots of things. Promising things, important things, silly things. But these sorts of events tend to have a unifying thread running through them – something that stitches all the itsy-bitsy baby things into a mighty Thingzilla. This year, though, it was a bit strange. The conference’s main refrain was “So yeah, what’s next?” But the reply was a chorus of “Errr, I dunnos.” The future’s right around the corner, but is it bite-sized and lo-fi, biometric, entirely user-driven, mobile, console, open, closed, or something else entirely? On edge, is how I’d describe the general sentiment. Unsure. Well, except for when I spoke with Bethesda‘s Todd Howard. He didn’t seem particularly worried, in large part thanks to these here personal computing devices we’re so fond of.

“We’ve worked on the PC for a long time, so it’s always new and marching forward,” he explained in a brief chat with RPS. “So when there are new boxes, it won’t be that much of a sea change for us, to be honest.”

Naturally, then, Howard’s primary concern is the same as it’s always been: making worlds that feel more tangibly alive. So I asked him how he plans to go about doing that next – whether that means improved AI, more expansive environments, better combat, or a host of smaller details – and his answer surprised me a bit: graphics. Then again, I guess it makes sense. Howard always has been about the big picture.

“Everybody always wants more power,” he said. “As a developer, you always want more. How good will it look with more memory? How many people can we put on screen if we have more processing power? But even with all of those things, I think people discount graphics. They’ll say, ‘Well, the gameplay’s what really matters,’ and it does. But I do feel that graphics and your ability to present something that feels new, real, and believable puts people in that environment where they can really enjoy what they’re playing.”

But just exactly what sort of environment will that be? Well, while Howard openly (and completely non-shockingly) confirmed that Bethesda proper has something new in the works on top of Skyrim DLC, he refused to narrow its setting down to Bethesda’s sci-fi/fantasy bread and butter.

“When I look at gaming, I like to go live in worlds and do things I can’t experience,” he said. “That I want to touch and explore. There are certain types of fantasy that appeal to me, but there are also period pieces, and if something was good in the modern day, I’d want to do that as well. Writing anything off at any point in time is silly.”

So that’s… broad. But honestly, I’m all for seeing Bethesda break out of its typical mold. And, I mean, if The Elder Scrolls has its wayward heart set on MMO glory and Obsidian’s chomping at the bit to blow up even more of the world, it does make sense. Just, you know, maybe stay away from modern conflicts and gangster dramas if you’re going current day. We already have plenty of those, and other things do occasionally happen. Sometimes. I have heard.


  1. FurryLippedSquid says:

    A sea change? What on Earth does that mean?

    • amateurviking says:

      ‘A big change’

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        Well, yes, I phrased that poorly.

        *Archer* Phrasing! *Archer*

        I have never in my life heard that expression before, and I’m OLD.

        • amateurviking says:

          Hmm, tis pretty common where I’m from, but then I grew up on the Atlantic coast. Possibly a turn of phrase for the more tidal-minded?

          • Beefeater1980 says:

            @FurryLippedSquid – Blame Shakespeare’s Tempest for ‘sea-change’: “Full fathom five thy father lies; of his bones are coral made. Those are pearls that were his eyes; nothing of him doth remain, but that suffers a sea change, into something rich and strange.” I hear the expression from people every so often but it’s definitely uncommon. I always assume that they just studied The Tempest at school.

          • Acorino says:

            English isn’t even my native language and I heard it lots of times. Didn’t read this Shakespeare guy’s wordthing either. I feel it’s a common phrase.

        • JB says:

          I’m fairly old and I’ve heard/read it many times. Maybe it is a regional thing, as amateurviking says. Though I’m not particularly close to the coast myself.

        • FurryLippedSquid says:

          @ Beefeater1980

          Gosh, well done, sir.

        • Ultra Superior says:

          Seamen. Seamen never get old.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Businesses use it to refer to an entire market shifting normally. A sea change requires us to act with synergy and dynamism so that we can fully embrace the new paradigm.

      link to

      • Jim Dandy says:

        Batman, you’re being sarcastic, right? It’s hard to tell sometimes – there are actually people who speak like that. Makes me feel like dynamically contra-situationalising the contents of my lower intestine…

    • UpsilonCrux says:

      A Beck album

  2. Rollin says:

    I hope they do another proper Elder Scrolls game and not just focus on that awful MMO. I don’t see why every single company needs an MMO, are they really that lucrative given the fact they have to share the market between all 10,000 of them?

    • RedViv says:

      Bethesda Game Studios doesn’t work on that, so it’s unlikely that the MMO will delay anything here. They’re in all likelihood working on greatly misunderstanding the themes of Fallout once more right now.

      • Triplanetary says:

        They’re in all likelihood working on greatly misunderstanding the themes of Fallout once more right now.

        This is why I come to RPS every day. I feel that here, as in no other place, I can find understanding.

      • Spider Jerusalem says:

        i love you.

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      gritz says:

      I think the odds are pretty good we’ll see another Elder Scrolls game in a couple years.

  3. vodka and cookies says:

    This in a nutshell is why I’ve always disliked Bethesda games, I found them dull with nothing left to the imagination & far too much of an emphasis on graphics.

    • paddymaxson says:

      If Bethesda’s putting an Emphasis on graphics, I’d hate to see the work of a company that doesn’t care about graphics because Bethsoft games look truly awful without some community modding.

      • Farcelet says:

        I think vodka and cookies suggests there’s a pretty vast gap between the quality of the content and the quality of the graphics in Bethesda games*. I think paddymaxson suggests there’s a pretty vast gap between the quality of the graphics in Bethesda games* and something that one might call “pleasing to the eye” rather than “not entirely dissimilar to cat vomit”.

        I think they’re both right.

        *Alright alright, Morrowind excluded!

      • Triplanetary says:

        Seriously, this side-by-side is mindblowing YOUR MIND WILL BE BLOWN PREPARE FOR THAT:

        link to

        I almost feel sorry for Xbox and PS3 owners. Almost. But not quite.

        • D3xter says:

          If you’d do a full comparison of a fully-modded game with the console version of such (in all its low-resolutiony, low line-of-sight and low poly glory) instead of taking a comparison shot between a unmodded and modded version of a single object to try and ridicule the notion of graphics making something better you just might feel sorry.

          Something like this for instance: link to

          • Triplanetary says:

            Wait, what was I ridiculing? My comment was sincere. I was just agreeing with paddymaxson’s statements that Bethesda’s graphics can be kind of unforgivably awful in spots.

          • Surlywombat says:

            Getting the impression you didn’t click the link.

          • Triplanetary says:

            Wait, are you talking to me or him? Oh, bother, this conversation is getting so confusing. I need to take notes.

            If you’re talking to me, I didn’t mention the image on the other side of his link because I was too ashamed to admit that I’m not 100% certain whether the top image is actually just a photograph or not.

          • Cinek says:

            Top is a screenshot from heavily modded game (texture packs, modified shaders, etc, etc.)

          • effervescent says:

            So what’s the game and what are the mods?

      • Saiko Kila says:

        Indeed, I always think that they take care of graphics as an afterthought. Modders deliver, thanks to the popularity of Bethesda games, but the original thing is usually years behind competition.

        Also, they always seem to forget that games are not static pictures. There is movement involved, like you know, in an animation. But this is actually quite common. For example, when I see a wondrous landscape at first, only to find that: grass and vegetation don’t react to my movement, half of textures is of low quality (I call it a phone or console quality), select shadows forget to exist when I move, the ground is made of painted ice (friction? what’s that?) and I learn that my avatar’s mother had sex with three different alien species at once just before conception. A pretty image doesn’t look so pretty when you can go everywhere, touch it, and learn that it’s fake.

        Plus, when someone talks like this guy, it always reminds me of some chart made by developer of PS3 title (Killzone or something). There was processor power and/or memory abstracted, and it had graphs representing different things over it: AI actions, graphics, animations, pathfinding and other. The more power was committed to one thing, the less was left for other, and they had to compromise. PC is not PS3, but I suppose that design isn’t much different, especially if there’s rule of a lowest common denominator used. Make a good graphics (which won’t be too great anyway) and forget about the rest.

    • SelfEsteemFund says:

      Morrowind was good. Fallout 3 was ok. That’s it, imo.

      • wearedevo says:

        Daggerfall was amazing, and ugly as sin even when it was released.

        • phlebas says:

          And buggy as bugger.

          • MentatYP says:

            Buggier than a buggy bugger, even. There should have been a skill for falling into cracks in the world. I would have leveled that up pretty quickly.

    • BwenGun says:

      Ah but here’s the thing. Bethseda makes a beautiful game engine. Then Obsidian comes along and makes a game with it. That way everyone wins.

      • Triplanetary says:

        They really need to just hand Fallout over to Obsidian. Keep developing bland fantasy games, let Obsidian carry the Fallout torch. They can still publish them! They’ll still get their cut!

    • gstaff says:

      The answer from Todd was actually specific to the question of what’s a point of emphasis when you’re talking about the prospect of new hardware.

      Gameplay, story, etc are always important, but BGS and other dev studios don’t need more memory or gpu power for the gameplay. There’s already more than enough for that. :)

  4. karthink says:

    Well, I agree with him, to a point. When you’re twelve rungs up the ladder of diminishing returns, it’s probably best to turn your focus elsewhere.

    Such as–well, I’m trying really hard to avoid reaching for low hanging fruit, but it’s hard when it comes to Bethesda’s games.

  5. Alexander says:

    All those marketing money and still no real writers for their games.

    • Focksbot says:

      It’s hand-on-forehead time really, isn’t it?

      He’s concerned about the “ability to present something that feels new, real, and believable” and associates that more with graphics than good writing.

      And no one ‘writes off’ graphics – he’s confusing graphics with polygon count. Some of the most beautiful games of the last few years weren’t even in 3D. What people write off (and rightly so) is the ridiculous idea that you’re improving the gaming experience by continually making trees and grass more detailed and adding more frames to the animation of your increasingly bland-faced protagonist.

      • DarkFenix says:

        Indeed, increasing graphical fidelity is entirely redundant when their animations are awful, physics laughable, voice acting cringeworthy and writing downright criminal.

        Way to miss the point entirely Bethesda.

      • Alexander says:

        “he’s confusing graphics with polygon count”

        Amazingly spot on, I wish someone would show him this. I was thinking if he might be right when it comes to atmosphere (related to gfx) but, for example, Gothic 2, which came out in 2002-2003, kicks off a lot of today’s games when it comes to atmosphere. So graphics can’t even guarantee atmosphere. I admire and respect TH greatly, but I guess even great people lose it.

    • All is Well says:

      Nor voice actors!

  6. Klingsor says:

    Ahh graphics – ofcourse. Maybe that gentleman could explain me the success of Minecraft for example.

    But now I understand why Bethesda’s creations have always a rather beautiful world – which feels completely empty and not alive. Without mods I wouldn’t touch Skyrim at all.

    • RedViv says:

      Modding is what keeps the game alive for me. Far more than I actually should be comfortable with, and I’m having a way better time than I should have too, for some reason. There is *something* in this game that I like, the itch that Morrowind scratched on its own, but that I have to yet sculpt and flesh out through modifying the game.

      It’s a weird love-hate relationship.

    • paddymaxson says:

      Perhaps he didn’t mean to say “ALL GAMES NEED GOOD GRAPHICS”? Everyone seems to be assuming that’s what the message was.

      As for minecraft, it’s graphics are “charming” I suppose. that’s an intentional thing, all those 8-16 bit style 2d platformers of the last few years have gotten by a lot on their charm.

      Personally I think Bethesda’s games could benefit from nicer graphics as character models typically look like turds and nobody is ever animated properly, everyone has the same loop of animations, be they a khajiit female or a human male…or a supermutant, they all hold a weapon the same, they all jump the same, and they all appear to be made of latex with hair made of strips of cloth.

      • Rawrian says:

        I’ve noticed quite some time ago that there’s a significant difference between watching somebody else play Minecraft and playing yourself – unlike more cinematographic games. Guess the thing with Minecraft isn’t that just it’s “charming”, it’s just that the make believe part of the brain/mechanism/whatever kicks in when you play, and the meaning of objects starts to prevail over their appearance. Hope that makes some sense.

      • Cinek says:

        Yes, ALL GAMES NEED GOOD GRAPHICS, but pixel-art if made well also qualifies as good graphics. Good graphics doesn’t mean photo-realistic DX11 stuff. It just means that: Good graphics. :)

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      It’s the “realistic” graphics themselves that make the game lack character/soul. Abstraction is needed to really get immersed. It seems counter-intuitive, but more realistic graphics actually take away from immersion.

      • Mark says:

        I was about to write the exact same post. I’m an environment artist (in games) for a living. Higher fidelity graphics mean less is left to the imagination, so generally immersion and atmosphere takes a hit. Strong fantasy or sci-fi settings are ok, but realism is hard to make interesting and atmospheric though – the closer you get to reality the easier it is to see how bare the game’s depiction of the world is. Also real life looks pretty boring most of the time, it’s only the overlay of human interest which we’re all acutely aware of and feel all the time that renders the world interesting. The guy late for work, the awkward couple of a first date, the smile on someones face after getting a text from someone they fancy, the look of tiredness in an old person eyes. It’s that human part that games are shit at giving us.

        It’s not just a case of “hiring good writers, derp” though. People think storyline and writing are something you and just hire and fucking inject into your game.

        We’re great for rendering skies, reflections, waterfalls and grass for now, the biggest leaps in atmosphere in games will now come from animation and AI, unfortunately also the hardest things to crack convincingly.

    • DrZhark says:

      Yes Graphics… that make you go ohhh and ahhhh…. I love shiny new graphics and I have a beast of a computer that is under utilized. I played crysis 2 and it felt like a chore, however I enjoyed immensely Terraria, Minecraft and FTL…. and those games have the ugliest graphics. Nowadays I’m playing the ugliest games first and I’m staying away from AAA titles.

  7. bigjig says:

    Rather than graphics on a technical level, I’d rather Bethesda focused on developing their art style. I hate how most non-Japanese game devs go for this boring ‘gritty, realistic’ look. You could have the highest resolutions in the the world, it’s not going to help if all you ever see is the same drab environments fighting the same bland enemies.

    • RedViv says:

      I actually find the art style of Skyrim a massive improvement over the dull Oblivion. Too few variety in foes and people though, that is something I can agree with.

  8. rustybroomhandle says:

    Can’t tell if this article is supposed to be written in a sarcastic tone, or if I just read it that way.

    • Squirly says:

      I think it’s purposefully written in as non-confrontational a style as possible, that way you can apply your own tone. Personally, I imagined Todd sucking up huge slurps of drool in between sentences.

  9. Marik Bentusi says:

    I think I’ll just have to disagree with the guy. I’d rather they crank down the graphics budget and give me more depth and complexity when it comes to gameplay and general interactivity. There’s a certain sweet spot to be found in that balance and in this generation I’m seeing far too much emphasis on graphics for my taste. Just cause someone’s pretty doesn’t mean they’re fun to talk and hang out with.

    Sadly you can’t really charge people full price anymore if your game doesn’t look like it, and especially the PC crowd is creaming itself over engines delivering more polies and textures and shaders rather than great optimization or more complex AI behavior. Sometimes these changes go hand-in-hand with each other, sometimes it’s regarded as revolutionary-innovative-immersive when modern NPCs look at you while talking (a trick at least as old as HL2 but frequently forgotten).

  10. Beernut says:

    I like nice graphics as much as the next guy, but it’s irrelevant to me if a title suffers from tedious gameplay or a consolified interface. I tried so hard to like Skyrim, but the horrible, horrible controls coupled with the sluggish and cumbersome menu-system eventually put me off. The game would have been so much fun if it had had some bars with bindable hotkeys to put the spells on, instead of the awful “press button to take the spell in your hand and then click to cast it”-method they went for (I’m still sad about that, because I really wanted to like the game :()

    • rapchee says:

      didn’t it get an ui-mod that made it all bearable? i didn’t play it but i heard so

      • Beernut says:

        Well, there were at least some mods which fixed the layout of the menu and made it sortable and added icons etc.
        I wasn’t comparable to a proper drag-and-drop-inventory though. I haven’t found a mod that would change the casting-behaviour to make spells cast instantly instead of the equip-in-hand-and-then-use-approach, but it’s been a long time since I’ve looked.

  11. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Can’t believe all the non-love for Skyrim. Is there an RPG with a better, more “alive” world?

    Please don’t cite The Witcher series, just as sparse if not more so.

    • RedViv says:

      Skyrim’s world is not alive. It’s filled with things and stuff to do, chief among those getting or killing other things for blank ones in human/mer shells.

      • rapchee says:

        disclaimer: i don’t really play rpgs (recently started path of exile with a friend(i know it’s an arpg, not like skyrim, but this is the closest thing now))
        RedViv, that might be true, but the question is still there, unanswered: Is there an RPG with a better, more “alive” world?

        • Nick says:

          Ultima 7 for one.

        • RedViv says:

          Ultima 7, by far. Gothic, and the other European series that I am not supposed to bring up, which is debatable.

        • Dowson says:

          Depends, what counts as a world feeling ‘alive’?

          I’d say it was immersion, a believable world feels more alive than anything else.
          Skyrim didn’t have that, which is why it felt dead and dull compared to even Morrowind or Oblivion.

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            Seriously? Morrowind felt busier to you? Wow.

            Morrowind felt more immersive, I’ll give you that, simply because you were dumped in a world with no fucking clue what to do. Did the towns and villages give more of a sense of place? No.

          • Premium User Badge

            gritz says:

            Morrowind didn’t even have NPC schedules, that’s just crazy talk.

        • guygodbois00 says:

          “i don’t really play rpgs”, but when I do *insert joke here*

    • zeroskill says:

      Skyrim could have been so much more then it is. That’s the really sad thing. The Elder Scroll series, unfortunately, has been adjusted to the given market and that is that. It’s just unfortunate that it isn’t more like Morrowind or Torment. It’s just too shallow to match those games.

      Edit: I don’t want to be misunderstood. I don’t want this section to derail into mindless fanboy bashing of Bethesda games, as in “herp derp my favorite game/developer is better because I say so herp” . Skyrim is still a very good game if you can overlook some of the infuriating immersion breakers and general shallow-ish nature of the game. However there are legit complaint being brought forth by people that love deep RPG experiences like Morrowind, like the Baldur’s Gate series, like Torment:

      And when these complaints are presented it is clear it doesn’t serve to fuel childish fanboyism but because people want Skyrim to be a better game.

      • tetracycloide says:

        Personally I found the constant use of loaded language pretty childish in spite of the salient points.

    • Rawrian says:

      I don’t know, I really like all the random rabbits and foxes and hunters and sudden dragons. Of course, there are some patterns behind that all, but it really was something new for the first time. Witcher 2 is better at building environments and architecture, I think, but there’s not many non-essential living things in it, so to speak.

    • mike2R says:

      The feel of the world is great. Personally I thought the graphics were too. I didn’t even mind the interface (played it on a 360 controller).

      But it did feel empty to me – although it took me well over 50 hours to come to this conclusion, so I can’t really complain that much.

      It just has this kind of neither fish nor fowl thing going on. Its an open world game, but the only way you really affect the world is via quests – so it is like a linear game in that you can’t change the world in the way the developers haven’t intended. But as a linear game it doesn’t work since it is open world, and you can approach the quests in any order, meaning NPC dialogue and the like has to be generic to account for the fact you could be either a brand new player of the grand high saviour of the universe. As soon as mosts quests were finished, they might as well have never been apart from the loot.

      So I played it a lot, got my money’s worth and then some, and like the game in many ways. But it left me feeling unsatisfied.

    • D3xter says:

      Gothic 1+2 and even Risen > any game Bethesda has ever made.

      Unfortunately they aren’t as adept in marketing as the guys over at Bethesda. They always seem to manage to hype their empty/bland worlds and make people look forward to it.

      I remember facepalming about them “showing off” their game by saying that it has “unlimited dragons”: link to

      • Berzee says:

        In some ways I agree with you about Risen’s *world*, but their *towns* and *NPCs* suffer from the same problem of being pretty static and being set up to provide a line of voice acting or a vendor location, no matter when or where you meet them.

        (They get over the static towns problem by swapping them out for slightly different versions after you complete main quest bits).

      • Jenks says:

        Yes, Risen is rated in the 70s on metacritic while Bethesda games constantly win GOTY from various publications because of marketing. We need to get some better marketing people for Obsidian while we’re at it, because I’ve learned from the RPS community that their games aren’t mediocre, but actually superior to the games they make sequels to but score far lower than. If only the gaming press didn’t base every one of their review scores off of pretty trailers and interviews with that smooth talking Todd Howard! Damn you, marketing!

        • D3xter says:

          I’m not sure if you are being sarcastic (you sound very sarcastic), but you are right anyway.
          KOTOR 2 > KOTOR
          Neverwinter Nights 2 > Neverwinter Nights
          NWN2 Add-Ons > NWN1 Add-Ons
          Fallout: New Vegas > Fallout 3
          Dungeon Siege III I can’t tell since I never played the earlier ones, but I didn’t particularly like it very much.

          And yes, they have a problem with Marketing too, for instance they are always attacked for their “buggy games” (one of the latest examples being New Vegas) when Bethesdas games are at least as buggy, if not even more and Fallout 3 was full of crashes, NPCs disappearing/falling through the world, quest/scripting bugs etc. Skyrim didn’t/doesn’t even run properly on PlayStation 3 (and apparently only one Reviewer seemed to have noticed that particular niggle: link to while a lot of users did) and they somehow still manage to get away from all of that with an intact “industry luminary” reputation, while everyone gives Obsidian shit for Bethesdas broken engine/features.

          • Jenks says:

            Show me all the KOTOR 2 reviews that talk about how the entire final 1/3 of the game is an incoherent buggy pile of shit. I’d say we can call it a wash on what the media lets slide. Every one of your opinions on which of those games are better are the minority opinions. That’s nice, but try not to pretend the minority opinion is fact, because it comes off as silly.

          • D3xter says:

            “Game Journalist” reviews are serious business and Metacritic the only scale to measure the quality of a game.
            Depth, story quality, characters and general writing, which Obsidian seem to be able to consistently nail apparently don’t play a role o.O

          • Jenks says:

            Right because only you factor story and characters when reviewing a game, no one else does.
            “Game journalist” reviews aren’t serious business, but “RPS comment section denizen” reviews are? Do GOTY awards mean anything? Probably not, “RPS comment section denizen opinions” > “GOTY awards”

            More like “Marketing of the Year,” am I right? (can’t help but laugh as I type this)

          • D3xter says:

            Yep, “GOTY awards” sure are the final and best stamp of approval for a game: link to
            That’s why there are so many of them out there.

            Because RPS gave Skyrim their “GOTY award” I suddenly all but longed for it, because that’ll make it a much better game and solve the usual Bethesda problems of bad writing, world void of any depth, lifeless/boring characters and quests and general blandness of it all.
            I’m going to assess every game only by aggregated score it gets from all of “Professional Games Journalism” around the world and won’t judge the quality of the games myself, listen to friends and people whose well-worded opinion and arguments I actually give a shit about or in general players of the game. You got that right :P
            Fallout: New Vegas for instance was a total failure because Obsidian didn’t get a 85 on Metacritic and couldn’t cash in their Bonus checks, and it was just my impression that they improved on just about everything that was wrong with Fallout 3.

            Here, have some Doritos and Mountain Dew with that: link to

          • Jenks says:

            So you’re implying Rock Paper Shotgun named Skyrim GOTY because they got paid to do so?

            I want to know how deep your retarded conspiracy theories go.

            How about the GDC Awards? Did the industry professionals who vote get paid off, or did Gamasutra get paid off to ignore the voting? Bethesda won 2 of the last 4 GOTYs there, they must be shipping over tons of cash!! :D

            Here, have a tin foil hat with that:
            link to

            edit just to make this even funnier:
            You seem awfully fond of implying that GOTY awards can be bought by using that doritos / Halo 4 picture. Where did Halo 4 win GOTY? I can’t wait to see this list of major publications that were bought out by that marketing machine.

          • tetracycloide says:

            You know Jenks. Can I call you Jenks? Jenks, I think in your effort to point out the flaws in games that are basically cult classics, please look that up on wikipedia since you’re apparently unaware such a thing even exists, you’ve overlooked the flaws in your yardstick. Do you know what the second highest rated PC game of all time is according to metacritic? Assuming you clicked the link you’ve learned it’s Out of the Park Baseball 2007. Is the picture becoming clear at all now because it should be? Games with tons of reviews and wide appeal get to the top of metacritic. Games with narrow appeal and equally narrow reviews get to the top of metacritic. Games that are sequels to games with tons of reviews and wide appeal but are themselves niche titles get middling scores. None of this says anything about the actual quality of the games beyond perhaps the loosest of correlations between quality can metacritic score.

          • Jenks says:

            Hello tetracycloide.

            Could you provide me with a link to the GOTY awards that “Out of the Park Baseball 2007” received? That would be most helpful since we were talking about GOTY awards, as well as Metacritic score. Thank you friend!!

          • tetracycloide says:

            You must not have clicked the link because I literally just did. It says it won metacritic’s goty for 2007.

          • Jenks says:

            Ah, how silly of me. A game with only 5 reviews, most of which are from high profile sites such as “Operation Sports,” “Gameshark” and “AceGamez,” and metacritic automatically lists its “game of the year” as whatever has the highest metascore. That’s completely relevant and comparable to 2 games which sold in the millions, have 40ish reviews, and one won Game of the Year from many of the biggest gaming publications. You must have been captain of the debate team. What a fantastic, relevant argument.

        • Berzee says:

          I tend to like Obsidian expansions better than the originals, too. =)

          I also like gamerankings better than metacritic, but I really need a MetaMetaCritic to tell me if that’s okay.

          • Jenks says:

            CBS owns both. If you start metametacritic, they’ll probably buy that from you as well.

    • Berzee says:

      Not the sort of answer you’re looking for I think (since I am about to suggest a 2D, primarily text-based CYOA game) but the game that springs to mind when I think of a world that feels alive and convincing is King of Dragon Pass.

      I’m surprised no one has said STALKER yet (I don’t say it because I didn’t play it because I hate mutants, but it usually comes up in conversations like this).

      For my part I like Skyrim and its world =) Granted, the feeling of interactivity is just too transparent and I’m always afraid to look it directly in the eye because I know it will fade away and reveal itself to be a Bandit Themed Tourist Trap…but I can’t really think of any non-linear games which don’t eventually bump up against that crisis.

    • Brun says:

      I didn’t find Morrowind to be particularly deep in its storytelling. Hell Skyrim’s story is basically the same as Morrowind’s (random outsider chosen by the Gods and/or mysterious powers to save the world from BAD GUYS). Morrowind benefits A LOT from being many peoples’ first Elder Scrolls game (as well as being one of the first games of its kind). My first TES game was Oblivion, and when I went back and played Morrowind after the fact I wasn’t terribly impressed.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Kingdoms of Amalur, for one. I’m sure there are about a dozen more.

  12. Mario Figueiredo says:

    How to make “worlds that feel more tangibly alive”?

    Perhaps “improved AI, more expansive environments, better combat, or a host of smaller details”, to which I would include engrossing non-generic plots, better dialog systems, or even perhaps a combination of all these things?

    Bethesda answer: Graphics.

    Ok, Bethesda…

    • WedgeJAntilles says:

      Or maybe even “fixing any fucking bugs before you release the game.” Nothing tears me out of immersion faster than having to stop and deal with a game that’s constantly breaking.

    • gstaff says:

      Gameplay, AI, and things you mentioned are all important, but the question asked wasn’t “what’s the most important part of your future projects?” It was a question about looking at new hardware.

  13. sdancer says:

    … and then they were bought by Futuremark.

  14. Barnox says:

    Skyrim’s world was dead. Wide open areas of a few animals, towns of a few people who want things done. It wasn’t fantastic to look at for more than a few minutes. My sense of wonder wore off after reaching the first village. The pretty graphics work for a couple of minutes, then you need to back it up with substance or atmosphere.

    Pathologic’s graphics are subpar. But it does “present something that feels new, real, and believable”. Although, it’s not something I enjoy playing, as I’m constantly on the edge of my seat…

    • Jenks says:

      How many animals should be in the wide open areas to make it more realistic in your opinion?

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        72 should do it.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Go out to any human-free area on the earth, sit down for ten minutes, and you’ll get your answer.

        • Jenks says:

          I’m an avid backpacker, I camp 20ish times a year usually up and down the eastern US. I was curious as to how many animals he thought there should be considering he raised it as a complaint.

          • Brun says:

            I’m not a huge outdoorsman, but I do know that in most places you aren’t exactly tripping over deer, bears, mountain lions, boars, etc. every 5 steps. While there may be animals all around you in nature, most of them have learned to avoid human contact and stay hidden.

          • Barnox says:

            My problem is that that’s all there really is: A few animals. The mines/caves/ruins were typical Bethesda work, 90% completely without interesting features and just identikit.

            It’s not that I think there should be more animals, just more… everything.

        • tetracycloide says:

          Human free doesn’t sound like a fair comparison. Skyrim is pretty well populated. The density isn’t all that high but there’s not much space between settled areas.

  15. Nick says:

    Trouble is the more realistic things look the more jarring it is when they don’t behave the way they should. For me, at least.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Well, definitely not just you. I have a big problem with that too. I cannot avoid trying to put at the same level the believability of a graphical representation with movement and behavior (including human behavior down to how they speak, what they say or how they react.) When that fails it breaks suspension of disbelief in a nasty way.

      What’s interesting is that the exact opposite is not true. A crude graphical representation is still well met if the world behaves in a very credible manner and dialogs are rich, well voiced and entirely plausible. There’s a whole lot of love towards games that, while being the graphical equivalent of a cartoon, still manage to produce an engrossing experience, by instead concentrating on dialog, speech, story, plot, gameplay.

      It tells a lot about Todd Howard completely missing the point on “But even with all of those things, I think people discount graphics. They’ll say, ‘Well, the gameplay’s what really matters,’ and it does. But I do feel that graphics and your ability to present something that feels new, real, and believable puts people in that environment where they can really enjoy what they’re playing.”

      Trouble is none of us are making games. He is the one doing them. A complete waste.

  16. Runs With Foxes says:

    Naturally, then, Howard’s primary concern is the same as it’s always been: making worlds that feel more tangibly alive.

    If that’s their primary concern, why are they so bad at it? Their games are as static as theme park MMOs. You complete a huge number of quests but none of them have any impact beyond the quest itself.

    • Triplanetary says:

      It’s funny to me how the ability to blow up Megaton in FO3 gets so much attention as an example of the player being able to influence the game world. It stands out because it’s not the norm for Bethesda games, people! People point to it and say, “Look, Bethesda games give you so much power to influence the game world!” but I’ll be damned if I can think of any other examples.

      The effects of the player’s choice of Empire or Stormcloaks in Skyrim is laughably superficial by comparison. Meet the new jarl, same as the old jarl.

  17. Hazzard65 says:

    Ray Kurzweil talks about exponential technological development. Things changing so fast that massive transitions, which used to take centuries, may occur every year, or month and eventually every day. This “Err, dunno” may just be a symptom of that. They genuinely don’t know what to expect because things are changing so fast that, where in the past larger corporations could make pretty bold assumptions and generally come out on top – now a days it’s very easy for this bold assumptions to leave a larger corporation flat on it’s face (but obviously with enough cash to shrug it off).

    It’s a bit like the uncertainty principle. For years we were certain about the position of the industry, but now that momentum is increasing exponentially every year, it’s making it impossible to tell where it is, or where it’s going.

    • D3xter says:

      Things sure are changing very fast…

      Skyrim was still a game developed for 10 year old hardware with DirectX9 and 512MB of RAM and now they’re thinking of finally jumping over to the “Next Generation” of consoles as the Minimum for their next game after PCs have been subject to console hardware design for that long.

      Hoo boy, don’t take things too fast there with that “transition” that’s been at least ~7 years in the making!

    • MrUnimport says:

      I don’t think the singularity is going to save us from bad game design.

  18. Drake Sigar says:

    As I said on the forum, a core part of the Elder Scrolls for me is the jaw-dropping environments. If I’m not gazing longingly at the snow-covered peak looming over an enchanted forest miles away, it’s not the Elder Scrolls I know and love. Graphics are a huge part of the experience, and there are fans of the series who don’t understand that just because ‘graphics’ has been turned into a dirty word in recent years. They seem to have forgotten that their beloved Morrowind was absolutely stunning on release. I couldn’t even make the intro trip to Balmora without wasting an hour looking at seductive rivers and animals on the way.

    Yes, I’d like a more exotic landscape and better writing for the next game. I also want the graphics to be top-notch. Do we have to choose now?

    • ChromeBallz says:

      Exactly my sentiment.

      Too many people forget that Morrowind had a very, VERY strong focus on graphics back then, so did Oblivion. Morrowind even was one of the GeForce 3/4 showcase titles! It was actually Skyrim that took a step back from graphics, focusing more on the art style than raw graphics.

      Even then, the graphics are a large part of the Elder Scrolls, for better or for worse. Since Daggerfall they’ve always been trying to push the envelope in some way. A bad looking Elder Scrolls would detract from the overall experience imho.

      Most importantly, i don’t see any reason why you’d have to choose between good graphics and good gameplay.

      • Premium User Badge

        gritz says:

        Even Daggerfall’s xNgine was pretty damn revolutionary, it’s just that it had so many delays that by time it was released Quake had just come out and basically upended the entire world of video game graphics.

      • mouton says:

        Bethesda obviously does.

      • yonsito says:

        The latest Elder Scrolls game is usually one of the games I revisit after a graphics card update.
        I think the beautiful graphics mix very well with the game focus on exploration and discovery.
        There are some really impressive shots of the game on deadendthrills:
        link to

        • Triplanetary says:

          The dead-end thrills guy is an artist who can make games look way, way better than they naturally do (with the help of mods), and incidentally, the condition he mods Skyrim into in order to create those screenshots makes the game functionally unplayable. It’s hardly a practical demonstration of the game’s graphical prowess. It’s more akin to a pre-rendered cutscene.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Don’t believe everything you hear. No one is discounting graphics as an important element to games the likes of Skyrim.

      The argument however is that there’s in fact more important things than graphics in order to differentiate a good experience from a great experience. Especially when you already arrived at the wow! level of graphical quality.

      For Skyrim to have become a legendary game, it would need to have tackled its deficiencies in gameplay, combat, narrative and I dare say plot. What Todd Howard is telling us is that the focus for future games will remain on Skyrim’s strong points, instead of trying to deal with the lows.

    • Squirly says:

      Well, if you’re making your game for both PC and console, sooner or later you will have to choose, yes. There’s only so much time spent on optimizing things for the PC so they focus on consoles and if you have to sacrifice a bit of AI routine or the game remembering what you did to each individual for the sake of beautiful vistas…. well, then you get Todd to choose for you.

  19. amateurviking says:

    Loved Skyrim, but there’s definitely a sense of diminishing returns with regards to graphics. I would love to see the focus move away from pushing the fidelity and focus more on other aspects of the experience: AI, dialogue, questing and – in particular – combat.

    • Klingsor says:

      I always dream of Skyrim with Dark Souls combat system…..not to speak of believeble character bevhaviour and and generally more immersion

  20. Themadcow says:

    It’s not the realism of the graphics that’s important, it’s the experience they convey. WoW got that experience just right by having graphics that were cartoonish, low poly-count and garishly colourful yet I’ve never played an MMO (or RPG) since that has ‘better’ graphics in terms of immersing you in the environment.

    I agree with the posters above who say that the more realistic (read ‘better’ in gaming press terms) the graphics, the less immersed you feel when something interrupts that illusion.

  21. DestructibleEnvironments says:

    Yup, Bethesda, still dislike them. But RPS will still make 50 articles about their next game. Their games are the definition of quantity > quality. Hire some better writers, voice actors and animators, for gods sake, Bethesda.

    • The white guar says:

      But, but, didn’t quantity have a quality all of its own?

    • Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      Morrowind has better writing than your favorite game.

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        Gosh. How do I tire of Morrowing references. Is this some kind of fad now? Morrowind was the greatest of ES, Morrowing had great depth, Morrowing saved my marriage… it is the kind of thing that gets repeatedly endlessly because it’s just what people are saying. Monkey see, monkey do.

        The goddamn game was as awful as anything else. A beautiful, if barren generic fantasy world, unimaginative dialogs and plot, too much time walking between quests with not many encounters. The game journal was the most horrible thing imaginable, combat had serious balance deficiencies, particularly on its bias over single handed weapons… darn, the list can go on!

        It was a huge graphical step from Daggerfall, while the subsequent Oblivion didn’t meet the expectations. This is why Morrowing is fondly remembered. Not because it was particularly good at anything it did. It wasn’t.

  22. Jason Moyer says:

    It’s funny seeing people picking at what Todd said while there are other active comment threads going where everybody is bitching about model detail and texture resolution. The whole “OMG GRAPHICS DON’T MATTER” thing that PC gamers like to whip out periodically is highly disingenuous.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Or perhaps you are wanting to see it that way?

      In the context of graphical quality, it seems appropriate to me to discuss what’s good and what’s bad. More, even if the context is about the general quality of a game, discussing its graphical quality (especially when the artists are trying to depict a believable world) is perfectly acceptable.

      Because no one is really saying graphics don’t matter when they say graphics don’t matter. No one wants for Skyrim to be a cartoonish game. But no one wants either for graphics (after they have reached acceptable quality levels) to still remain as the main focus of game development. I think this much should be obvious from these type of discussions.

      Everyone wants for graphics quality to increase. But it’s clear games are failing to deliver on other fronts. And people want developers to start acknowledging that.

  23. Dariune says:

    I actually quite strongly disagree with this sentiment. I think one of the fore running problems of today’s AAA games is a heavy emphasis on graphics (And stream lining).

    I think he has also managed to put into words, why I find myself enjoying Bethesda games less and less. So I guess for that I congratulate him.

  24. Screamer says:

    This is the man that said there will be dynamic snow that will collect on the scenery in Skyrim. Take whatever he says with bags of salt!

    • Acorino says:

      Probably there would have been if Skyrim hadn’t been designed with console limitations in mind.

    • Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      What are you talking about? Dynamic snow is in the game.

  25. frightlever says:

    Gameplay > graphics, but there’s nothing wrong with pushing the graphics envelope. Thing is, like owning a new anything, after a day you’re used to it and no longer impressed.

  26. D3xter says:

    Well, I was just ready to come in here and rage my way through the comments, since the theme for the recent DICE conference seems to have been “Let’s get on stage and say something stupid”, but at least he’s said something sensible, more graphics. While that won’t make Bethesdas games any better in the long term, at least it will make them more bearable and closer to what Modders make out of them.

    The talks have been about how the gaming industry has to be more like Hollywood: link to
    How games should be less like games and more like “interactive experiences” (and how when someone asks if you aren’t thinking about retiring, it might just be a subtle hint): link to

    • D3xter says:

      How game demos now are apparently a bad thing, because players might find out that your game is horrible and not buy it (hyping a game with Trailers is much better, very fitting with the recent Aliens: Colonial Marines Release): link to
      And how making “RPGs” is about any of those things: (Free2Play, mobile, casual, social, engagement, DLC, monetisation, virality, Achievements, business models, value, analytics, telemetry, “software as a service”): link to

  27. spongthe1st says:

    Here’s a fun story:

    I started TES with Morrowind. I bought it mainly on the graphics and the fact it was a first-person fantasy game.

    I adored the world, the immersion, the visuals, the quests and the freedom in character creation. I hated the combat experience.

    I must’ve re-started a billion times to get a character which gave me combat gameplay I enjoyed and settled on an ambitious Televanni mage, because that way I wouldn’t have to deal with the appalling swordplay (even though I’m more naturally inclined towards melee than magic).

    Then Oblivion came out. It ran badly on my PC but I played it for a little while before shelving it. I eventually bought a new PC specifically for running the game on max settings and got into it properly. Again I found the combat disappointing, modded the crap out of it but discovered by talking to very techy mod-maker types that despite fancy combat mods the fundamental gameplay mechanics were what held it back.

    At the very least I managed to fix the awful levelling system.

    Again, I ended up playing a mage to high level. No fun melee combat for poor Spong.

    Skyrim was announced. I was sceptical. I was determined not to be stung by Bethesda again. Eventually I caved, and my goodness am I glad that I did.

    I didn’t need to upgrade my PC at all, and yet even on fairly middling settings the game still looked fantastic and ran reasonably well. It looked even better with a few carefully selected mods.

    I made a melee focused character straight away and have played him and only him consistently, he’s around mid-40’s and I must have sunk well over 300 hours into the game without having touched the expansions yet.

    There are still tons of places for me to find on the mainland and plenty of quests I haven’t picked up yet.

    Combat has been very satisfying and I haven’t had to do any stupid stuff with the levelling or character advancement, it all just works. I did tweak the combat slightly with a mod called Deadly Combat but apart from that it’s great – this is my first magic-free RPG character – the first time I’ve felt the gameplay was good enough to go full melee.

    I can honestly say that as someone who loved Morrowind and hated Oblivion, Skyrim is by far my favourite TES game to date.

    I don’t miss Morrowind’s weirdness, I think Skyrim needs a different flavour and has enough of its own weirdness without over-egging the pudding (Dragonborn gives a Morrwind weirdness fix anyway). I do miss Morrowind’s depth of quests and characters, but for overall atmosphere and enjoyability I think the trade-off is worth it.

    My point is this, I was really pissed off with Todd Howard’s direction on Oblivion and didn’t trust that Skyrim would be good as a result. I think he and Bethesda have listened to people about Oblivion’s faults and although Skyrim is streamlined it’s not just for the sake of it. It’s been finely distilled and the end product is delicious.

    • ChromeBallz says:

      Actually, Ken Rolston was in charge of Oblivion (same guy who was in charge of Kingdoms of Amalur).

      Todd Howard was in charge of Skyrim though.

      • RedViv says:

        Todd Howard had about the same rank of “in charge” during all of these, that being that of game director/executive producer/project leader. Rolston was lead game designer of Morrowind and Oblivion, Skyrim’s lead was Bruce Nesmith.

  28. skinlo says:

    I really enjoyed the atmosphere of Skyrim, where you could stand on top of a mountain, see for miles around and hear the wind blowing around you. Sure the storyline and characters weren’t amazing, but for me just wandering around exploring areas more than made up for it.

  29. aliksy says:

    The prettiest graphics in the world won’t help immersion if your game has people not reacting to axes to the face or being set on fire. Skyrim’s underlying mechanics were pretty weak. So were oblivion’s, and (in different ways) Morrowind’s. At least morrowind you could understand the combat was abstracted a lot, but Skyrim’s trying to be an action game.

  30. Christo4 says:

    Am i the only one who liked the graphics of Oblivion and Skyrim (i could play skyrim with oblivion graphics and i would still have the same enjoyement, with HD textures pack ofc), but the only thing that broke immersion for me in almost all bethesda games was the distant view?

    I mean really now, walking around a desert/grassy plain/ mountain top just to see stuff popping up in front of me only when I’m 100m away as opposed to them appearing 500m away was VERY immersion breaking for me (am i usually put the sliders to the max). For example i just played a Fallout 3 a little maxed out at graphics and i didn’t see big town unless i was very close to it, after which it looked like it just popped into existance. Same with Skyrim, going around Whiterun’s plains just to see stuff pop up was very annoying for me.

    And anyone that says that views from looking from a mountain peak is “nice” in these games should get his eyes checked out. I all looks weird and uncanny, with low polly count, bad textures, and when i usually go down there i see many more houses or structures and i wonder why didn’t i see them before if they were so big?

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      I believe your settings are just off. If you have the hardware you can push draw distance and there isn’t any pop up.

      • Christo4 says:

        I dunno, as I’ve said, i played fallout 3 a week ago with everything maxed in the view distance tab on the advanced setting from the launcher and it still did that. Well it’s not so much as a pop-up as it is a fade in, but still it’s pretty in-your-face and for me it’s immersion breaking. Similar is the Skyrim uGrids setting you can make in the ini (yes I’ve done that also). It is especially noticeable as I’ve said before in the plain near Whiterun.

  31. Werthead says:

    “Well, while Howard openly (and completely non-shockingly) confirmed that Bethesda proper has something new in the works on top of Skyrim DLC, he refused to narrow its setting down to Bethesda’s sci-fi/fantasy bread and butter”

    Between Bethesda’s comments about expanding the FALLOUT universe beyond FO3 and NV, that they would make one more game with the Creation Engine and the fact that they researchers were going around Boston telling people they were looking at the city for FO4, it’s pretty clear that Bethesda Studios are making FO4 as their next game. And unless they want to go potentially 6-7 years between (single-player) ELDER SCROLLS games, it’ll be onto ELDER SCROLLS VI after that.

    Maybe he was referreing to Bethesda as a publisher, with other non-Bethesda-developed games lined up for the next few years (DOOM 4?). Given the development times on these games, I can’t see them breaking away from the FALLOUT and ELDER SCROLLS franchises long enough to make something else without risking people forgetting about those games, not something you do when they’ve made you close to a billion dollars.

  32. TukkerIntensity says:

    I’ve actually been seeking out more and more games with less and less graphics (i.e. a lot of rogulelike games). The revelation came to me after playing a lot of Dwarf Fortress. I get far more imerssion in a game if I am allowed to use my creativity and experiences to forge what that wolrd looks like in my mind. Similar to reading a book versus watching a movie. A movie shows you exactly what it wants you to see and doesn’t allow you to think or be creative. Books allow you to fill the in the gaps and complete the look and feel of a world using your own creative mind and experiences and in my opinion this leads to a much more rewarding experience. Keep your graphics…..give me great emergent gameplay and I can flesh out the rest.

    • Christo4 says:

      I can say that i agree with this. If a game has very good gameplay it can be a lot more immersive. One example is Space Rangers 2, which to me is one of my all-time favorites. Another one is Abe’s Exodus which really felt alive and gave the world a very distinct and unique feeling.

    • jrodman says:

      I think strong graphics can definitely support a certain kind of experience. For example Flower requires them to be captivating, and I appreciate Flower as a good experience that was different and enjoyable and I feel a game (if experimental).

      But yes I also enjoy low-graphics experiences. Text adventures, c64 dungeon crawlers, and roguelikes are extreme examples.

  33. animlboogy says:

    This gives you a pretty good idea of where their heads are at when it comes to making games these days, as well as why a lot of us enjoy them for about 30-40 hours before suddenly realizing we have been hoodwinked.

    They’re incredibly good at building a world you want to be in. I felt a nearly intense drive to keep playing Skyrim. Because they get all these intangibles right in a way few other developers do, mostly sense of scale. Their worlds are big only in video game terms; you’re really in cities that are fairly tiny, and traveling very short distances between locations. They know how to build a world that is incredibly easy and fun to travel, even without using the fast travel system. They know where to put a cliff that overlooks something, where to put just enough trees that you feel like you trekked through a massive dark forest even though it was probably as big as a couple city blocks at most.

    Too bad they don’t know how to make rewarding, fun video games. I don’t even need it to be hard, like many people imply, just to offer something that doesn’t feel like the same simple switch activating jog through a cave over and over and over and over…

    • Christo4 says:

      Honestly, it is pretty rewarding and difficult if you don’t use smithing or enchanting. You always need to rely on what you find in the dungeons or what you can buy from vendors. The instant i started smithing because i wanted to make the dragonbone armor and an ebony mace upgraded at max and enchanted i started feeling OP and stopped playing after 30 or 40 hours.

      EDIT: I mean that I’ve played for 30-40 hours and after doing smithing i completely stopped even though i already played for quite some time.

    • Triplanetary says:

      Well yeah, you can walk clear across Skyrim in 20 minutes at most, which makes it about the geographical size of downtown Atlanta. It’s at least better than Oblivion in terms of scale, but still pretty heavily abstracted.

      Personally I wouldn’t mind a game where there’s more land than you can practically visit in your lifetime. Kind of like, y’know, the real world. This is technologically possible, but only with heavy amounts of randomization and/or procedural generation. Daggerfall did this to some extent. A better example is Evochron Mercenary, whose procedurally generated universe still has large swaths that have never been visited by any human, including the games devs. But that works far better for space sims than it does for fantasy worlds. A procedurally or randomly generated Skyrim would be even blander. The horror…

  34. Jack-Dandy says:

    Fucking bullshit. All the graphics in the world couldn’t make up for that godawful gameplay and writing Bethesda games offer.

  35. f1x says:

    Always nice to read 3 pages of random Bethesda hating

    so refreshing!

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      A refreshing change when compared to the usual parade of Bethesda ass-kissing.

  36. Beelzebud says:

    This explains why I can still play Fallout and Fallout 2 at least once a year, but haven’t touched Fallout 3 since I beat it.

    Style over substance.

  37. Wedge says:

    In a bizarre reverse turn of roles, Bethesda will be making Alpha Protocol 2.

  38. Strangerator says:

    There was a lot wrong with Skyrim, but honestly graphics is really low on my list. Extremely low.

    A world is only as believable as its least believable aspect.

    If the next Elder Scrolls made no major graphical advances and instead focused on fixing the “rules” of their world, I’d be standing on a soapbox heralding Bethesda as the greatest company ever.

    Skyrim felt too much like a god-game, where I was the all powerful deity of the land taking human form for a brief time. NPCs came to me so that I could grant them miracles, and offered what tithe they could. I created artifacts that would put Hephaestus to shame.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, open world games need to impose some limitations on the player. When the player pushes against the world, it should have some reasonable “push back” that can only be overcome with a combination of player skill and experience. I want to feel like I’m in the world, not above the world. Another great example is the quest GPS markers. Only a god would know exactly where everything in the world is located, a mere mortal would need to use clues and logic and even exploration to find points of interest. One of the few times in Skyrim where I felt I actually found something on my own was with the treasure maps. They give you a clue as to where to find the chest, but it is not marked on your map. Stop witholding the joy of discovery Bethesda!

    It’s also too bad that Bethesda has the crossed the “fully voice acted NPC” bridge, because now they can’t go back. We’re stuck with “efficiency of dialogue” instead of deeper conversations. People now expect “full voice acting” because they feel like that’s what a high budget game needs. They might be able to get away with BG2 style partial voiceovers, and add more depth afterward.

    • Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      “Skyrim felt too much like a god-game, where I was the all powerful deity of the land taking human form for a brief time.”

      This is by design and literally the premise of every Elder Scrolls game since Daggerfall. (Tip: google CHIM)

  39. Dread Pirate Rogers says:

    Of course that’s what he said, all Bethesda does is worry about graphics, and then releases games that are kinda pretty but require the fans to come in and actually make pretty. They focus on it and forget everything that makes a good story. My brother puts it best when he says that they do an ocean of content with the depth of a puddle. Yes, they create an engine that’s amazingly moddable, but I don’t want to have to spend a weekend to download, install, change load orders, retry, get it working, play for a while, have a crash introduced by mods not playing well several hours into the game, figure out what’s wrong with which mod, play around with load orders and mods again, and so on to get a decent game experience. I’d much rather uninstall it and play some Mass Effect or Knights of the Old Republic, or Ultima and have a fun story with characters that don’t seem like 2D idiots placed to simply populate the world without making them interesting and worth interacting with. I haven’t liked a Bethesda game since Morrowind, and find Fallout 3 to be the worse of them. As i was playing I’d keep coming up with questions that were never answered and ended up ruining my experience. From the first time I asked “How are all these people surviving without farms? Are they scrounging food? Then why isn’t this supermarket completely picked clean after 200 years? And how is this food still good 200 years later? And why is there enough water pressure that I can get a drink from every water fountain, fire hydrant, and sink I come across? Why do these buildings have electricity?” I eventually gave up when I got to wondering just how the mall was still standing after the White House got hit by a nuke and destroyed. I understand willing suspension of disbelief, but those games seem to ask me to hang it until it dies.

  40. Arglebargle says:

    Howard’s a bit of a blowhard. A visit to some of his previous PR-style paeans of glory for Oblivion or FO3 or the like pretty much shows that. Go hear him talk about how wonderful the Radiant AI is or the great story of FO3. Makes me want to do awful things, like throw mudcrabs at him. Awful things, just awful things!

  41. iridescence says:

    Bethesda sucks at telling stories but they are good at creating graphically beautiful (at least with the help of mods) worlds that are fun to just explore (well, with the exception of Oblivion). They should stick to what they are good at and leave the story-driven RPGs to Obsidian or CD Projekt.

  42. fearmonkey says:

    I don’t get people who say “we don’t need better graphics, we need better gameplay”. Obviously great gameplay is needed, but the better the “looks” of the game (Textures, polygon density, lighting, animations, etc) the more immersive it is. A good example outside of Bethesda’s games is Assassins Creed 3. No matter your opinion of the actual game, the PC versions textures, higher resolutions, filtering, and amount of characters on the screen makes the world feel more alive. As technology improves, so does the immersion. Graphics dont make the gameplay better, but they do make the overall game better. Not every game needs high end graphics, but a series like TES really benefits from it.
    As pretty as Skyrim is, it could have been better if they would have made it Directx11 using tesselation, its the consoles that held it back this time. Hopefully with Fallout 4 they added Directx11 but im not holding my breath, as its still the creation engine, im hoping it will be enhanced though.

    All this nagging about TES not being this or that and pointing out its flaws cracks me up. I have played just about every open world RPG and nothing comes close to the TES series. The Gothic series is more hardcore but its not near as fun to me. Arcania (not as good as the previous Gothic inspired games) was meh, I finished it and have no reason to go back, unlike TES games that I keep going back to.

    When is the last time you people who talk about the world being “dead” been in a real forest. Outside of birds and insects how many rabbits, deer, wolves, groundhogs, etc did you see? Not many i would guess. Their could be more “life” in the games but reality wise its not too far off.

    I wish more of these open world RPG devs would look at what makes the TES series so special and improve on it. I would love a morrowind style RPG filled with text and more traditional leveling and stats but have that amazing immersion that TES has.

    • jrodman says:

      More graphics != more immersive.

      They can be used that way. They can also work against it. Iconic simple presentations can also be effective. Text can also be effective.

      The one problem with “more graphics” is that it takes more legwork to do effectively so you spend more for the same buildout, which means you buildout less, which can hurt immersion.

      I’m definitely curious if more graphicsism can provide a new experience, but claiming that it will necessarily create more immersion is not correct.

  43. poohbear says:

    well i totally agree with him! every new game takes new technology and presents a new immersive world for us to play in, the better the graphics the more immersive it is! otherwise we’d all still be playing and replaying those 8 bit AD&D gold series games, cause thsoe were the most original stories, and also BG1 &2 & Planescape…..but it pains me to play them now, their graphics really turn me away.:(