I’m getting pretty burned-out on remastered vintage videogames, partly because they’re ten-a-penny now and partly because PC graphics settings and mods mean it’s often straightforward to make a golden oldie look better than ever. There’s one notable exception to that for me, which is Elder Scrolls series peak Morrowind. Its spindly world of shroom’n’insects’n’ash’n’gonzo weirdness is seared onto my memory forever, but in 2018 it has neither the remarkably fresh stylisation of proto-3D like Quake or the just-about-getting-away-with-it Xbox 360 era. I love its look, but I have to play it with mods, to overcome the likes of draw distance limits and smeary character models. I’d love a remaster that kept the fundamentals but loosened up the limitations.
Bethesda Game Studios director Todd Howard thinks differently: “for something like Morrowind, my personal preference is not to remaster it.” Dagnabbit!
Howard’s remastering comments came as part of a wide-ranging interview with The Guardian‘s Keza MacDonald, in which he also hinted at where things are currently at for The Elder Scrolls VI and their sci-fi RPG Starfield (active development for which began once Fallout 4 was released, apparently), as well as offering his take on anxiety around the relevance of big, singleplayer games in an age where the market often inclines to multiplayer games-as-service.
Sure, I’ll take TESVI and whatever Starfield is, but my heart is forever taken by Morrowind. I’d love a remaster, to bypass some of the pain of juggling multiple mods if nothing else. Though Bethesda recently remastered Skyrim for PC and console, Howard at least isn’t keen on other olden Beth-games getting the same treatment.
“I’m happy that you can play Morrowind now on an Xbox One, as it’s backwards compatible. I actually prefer that over remasters,” he told The Guardian. “I’d rather you play Morrowind the way it was … I think the age is part of its identity.
Howard argued that the Skyrim remaster for current-gen consoles (and PC) happened because “it was already pretty visually close. But for something like Morrowind, my personal preference is not to remaster it.”
SADFACE. The same apparently goes for the original Fallout and Fallout 2, which though not developed by Bethesda, were acquired as part of their Fallout rights deal with Interplay. “If you have a PC you can play Fallout the way it was. I think that’s how it should be.” I’m not sure the original Fallouts need a remaster per se, but overall this all sounds a bit like Bethesda isn’t interested in keeping its oldest, pre-crossover hit games alive themselves.
That said, Bethesda has returned to Morrowind recently, as an expansion pack for The Elder Scrolls Online. It wasn’t bad, though lurid MMO jank all over Morrowind’s quiet and lonely spaces wasn’t entirely the aesthetic that haunts my dreams.
And if Bethesda won’t remake Morrowind, fans will – there have been several attempts to do so, including recreating the game within Skyrim and Oblivion, or Beyond Skyrim‘s take on what Vvardenfell would be like the much later (in terms of in-lore time) era of TESV.
Or there’s even OpenMW, an ambitious plan to build an open-source version of the game, complete with a new multiplayer fork.
There’s more about TES VI, Fallout 76, Rage 2, VR and the enduring appeal of Skyrim over in Howard’s Guardian interview here.
As for the original Morrowind itself, it’s officially one of RPS’ 50 best RPGs ever, by the by.