Started by Ktav, May 27, 2005, 07:24:59 AM
QuoteBethesda's environmental artist Noah Berry discusses the creation of the RPG sequel's breath-taking landscapes17:31 Back in 1996, Noah Berry was floored by the beauty and texture of The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall - something that led him to the doors of Bethesda after graduating with a degree in Fine Arts. As an environmental artist on both Morrowind - and now Oblivion - it's his job to make the land of Cyrodiil as real as technology will allow.Our thanks to our pals on PC Zone magazine for this interview.So what are you up to at the moment?Noah Berry: These days, towards the end of Oblivion's development, I'm spending the bulk of my time trying to finesse and optimise any and all environment artwork I've created before we begin to freeze game assets. Cyrodiil's landscape is a vast swath of land and it's no small task making sure that every bit of it is lush, dense and as polished as it can be. I use any remaining time I may have in the evenings to try and lovingly squeeze in last-minute detail art and polish. These small additions (anything from a colour variation to small ambient wildlife) can be quite rewarding to implement, as they add much more life and richness to gameplay spaces. Did you go on trips to local woodland before you started designing the trees and forests?Noah Berry: Real-world excursions are integral, at least in the initial stages, to designing and building landscapes for a game like Oblivion - so there are several local parks and forests that our art staff have visited to digitally photograph flora and fauna for use in the game. Most of my own forest and landscape research comes from a large reference library I've been compiling, which contains hundreds of photographs of visually striking realworld locations and settings. These always serve as great artistic inspiration and as an invaluable reference when building landscape art.How do you go about designing Oblivion's flora? Do you use realworld tree species, or do you 'invent' new fantasy varieties?Noah Berry: It was intended from the beginning that Oblivion's landscape would have a more tangible and realistic flair, especially when contrasted with more exotic Tamriel/Morrowind locations such as Vvardenfell or Black Marsh. So naturally, we rely heavily upon real-world species and varieties of vegetation. This said, many of the plants and trees we've created are fantastically exaggerated for the sake of atmospheric and other-worldly effect, plus there are many unique lore-specific trees and plants only found in Cyrodiil. The Oblivion planes are a different matter altogether however...So how much of what you do hits the editing suite floor?Noah Berry: Since our game worlds are generally so vast and require so many things to occupy them, usually very little - in terms of raw assets - gets cut from the final game. We try to create and hone as much art and content as we can before time runs out. That said, more is not always better and we do keep watchful eyes on which aspects are perhaps hindering the final gameplay experience. Occasionally, ideas or art will get abandoned due to technical or time constraints, but not to worry, as the mantra commonly heard around here says: "Next game!" Finally, what's your favourite sort of tree?Noah Berry: I'm quite partial to evergreens and old-growth forests with towering cathedral ceilings. I find the distant canopy, spacious and subdued reverb and sunlit-dappled fern understory very aesthetically pleasing. I'm by no means a tree-hugger or an overly dramatic and extreme conservationist; I just find forests very pleasant to the senses and soothing to the soul. They're still creepy at night though.
QuoteBethesda Softworks's Elder Scrolls series of fantasy RPGs have been highly praised in the past, including its last outing, the first person themed title Morrowind. However, their latest game in the series, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, could be its best yet. Screenshots and movies have blown people away at E3 and the game will not only be released on the PC but will be one of the launch titles for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console. Gamecloud got a chance to chat with Bethesda's PR head Pete Hines to find out more about Oblivion.Gamecloud - Oblivion has gotten some of the biggest advance praises for a game that's still not scheduled to come out for a few months yet. How much pressure does that give the development team to meet the game's expectations?Pete Hines - I guess you’d have to say it does increase the pressure because we obviously have very high expectations to meet, but at the same time we have had those expectations of ourselves and our game all along. I also think it’s a motivator as well, though. All these people getting excited about the game and talking about it…it’s very rewarding to know that people care about what you’re doing, a lot.Gamecloud - Morrowind made big advances in open-ended gameplay. When the time came to create Oblivion, what ideas did the team come up with to improve that aspect?Pete Hines - The things we tried to do with respect to that part of the game focused more on how we present information to the player; how we organize it, how we let them know where to go next when they want to know. It’s about getting out of the way when the player wants to walk around and explore the world and do whatever he/she wants, but when they say, “ok, I’m ready to do the next part of the main quest, where do I go?”, we have to be ready with an answer so there’s no confusion, no downtime.Another aspect we improved is in the way that quests work. We created quests and things for the player to do that they can not only choose to do (or not do) in any order, but they can accomplish in a variety of ways. Part of that is the AI system and the way our NPCs behave and interact. This gives the player more freedom to try some creative things in solving quests that they might not normally try in a more restrictive RPG.Gamecloud - Even though it can be played in first person, Oblivion is supposed to be a true RPG rather than an action-RPG. How hard is it to make the game a real role playing experience?Pete Hines - Well, most good RPGs have action. Somebody is always whacking someone or something with a sword or axe or blasting them with a gun or whatever. The trick is to find a balance where the player controls the action and understands what’s going on, but the skill of the person playing the game doesn’t override the stats and abilities of the character they’re playing. The way we handle that is to have combat that feels natural and realistic. You swing or block when you want, if the sword hits the enemy, or the shield blocks an attack, it hits or blocks. There are no “to hit” rolls or anything like that. Instead, the stats govern everything that happens after that. How much damage you do with a sword or a magic spell, how much damage your shield absorbs…all of that is determined by the stats of your character. So it feels both natural to the player (understanding everything they see happening on the screen) and at the same time, we’re able to keep it as a true role-playing experience where, ultimately, the success or failure of your character will be based on his/her stats, not yours.Gamecloud - What can you tell us about the main storyline in Oblivion?Pete Hines - The main storyline is about your character finding the long lost son of the emperor and getting him to take his rightful place on the throne. It’s a bit of a twist from what we’ve done in the past where you were the person who had to save the world. We’re really asking you to find the only guy who can save the world and help him do it. In a sense, it’s almost more noble and heroic than being the guy who does it all, because you’ve got to find him, protect him, and clear the path for him to do what needs to be done…things he can’t do himself.Gamecloud - What are some of the more memorable creatures that the player will encounter in the game?Pete Hines - I think you’ll find some of everything: undead like zombies and skeletons, classic fantasy creatures like goblins and trolls, and of course the Daedra, which are some of the more memorable creatures in the game for sure.Gamecloud - How will the magic and combat systems in the game be handled?Pete Hines - We’ve designed a system that allows magic and combat to work together seamlessly. You don’t have to unequip armor or weapons to be able to cast spells. So it’s great to be hitting a guy with arrows or bashing on him with a big weapon and then cast a quick heal spell or fireball and not miss a beat. We did three whole new combat systems before settling on the one that’s in the game now. We really are striving to get the feeling of guys bashing each other with swords. So it plays better and it looks better. You’re in control of it more and you understand what’s going on in the game. There’s no hidden “to hit” rolls that cause you to miss when your sword clearly hits the guy. The stats control the damage you do when you hit, not whether or not you hit. There are special moves you can perform and the blocking is active. So the timing of it becomes a key strategy in fighting. Gamecloud - How will the AI and conversation systems for NPCs in Oblivion work?Pete Hines - Our new Radiant AI system allows for full 24/7 schedules for every NPC and they also think on their own. We give them general goals to accomplish and the NPC figures out how to accomplish it. Radiant AI allows us to have that kind of advanced behavior on a massive scale. And that’s the trick for us, you may see something scripted in another game, and we have to figure out a way to systemize that so we can do it on a large scale.NPCs will engage in dynamic conversations in streets, in buildings…wherever they run into each other. You can listen in on these conversations and pick up useful pieces of info, new quests, or simply listen to them talk about a quest you completed or are currently working on. When you talk to NPCs, you have a list of topics you can ask them about. Any topics where they’ll only tell you something you’ve heard before will appear in grey so you don’t have to bother asking them again. The journal tracks everything useful for you automatically. There’s so much information in the game that we had to work really hard at making sure the player never felt overwhelmed or that there was too much to try to remember.Gamecloud - What other important gameplay elements will the game have?Pete Hines - More than anything, it’s just the freedom you have to do what you want. Be it good or evil. Join any guild you want, or all of them. Become the Arena champion, or just go to watch fights and place bets. Pick ingredients to make potions to use or poison your weapon with. Finish the main quest, or not. Gamecloud - How hard is it to make a game as graphically intensive as Oblivion?Pete Hines - Very. It’s funny how often we interview people here for jobs who, after seeing the game and what we’re doing, simply don’t understand how in the world we’re able to do the stuff they’re seeing…on this kind of scale, to this level of detail. I know I’m a bit biased, but as a guy that plays a LOT of video games it impresses the heck out of me every time I play it and I’m always finding something in the game I’ve never seen before. It takes a lot of talented programmers and artists and a lot of time and hard work to pull it off.Gamecloud - What sort of mod support will the PC version have?Pete Hines - We’ll be providing a new version of the TES Construction Set that PC users can use to create all kinds of plugins and mods for the game. We’ve obviously added some new functionality and changed some things to make it easier for us to make the game, and modders will enjoy the benefits of those improvements when they go to make their mods and plugins.Gamecloud - Are there any plans for a demo of the game to be released?Pete Hines - No, no demo. It’s really impossible for us to take a big, huge, open-ended world and try to cut it up or somehow restrict it for folks to be able to play just a little bit of it. It either is too restrictive to give a good representation of what the game is about, or it is far, far, far too big to ever release as a demo. Gamecloud - What is the current status of the game's progress and when will it be released?Pete Hines - Right now we’re spending all of our time on testing the game, fixing problems, and optimizing the code. Once everything is “in” the game there’s still a lot of work to do. A lot. Gamecloud - Morrowind had a number of commercial add-ons for the PC version. Are there any add-on plans for Oblivion in the works?Pete Hines - We definitely have plans to do downloadable content almost immediately after the game ships. With respect to add-ons/expansions, we prefer to focus on the game itself and make sure it’s great and get it done and in people’s hands. Until that happens, nobody cares about expansions. Gamecloud - Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Oblivion?Pete Hines - We appreciate everyone’s interest in the game and promise that we’re doing everything we can to make the game everything you hoped it would be, and more.
QuoteRPGamer recently had the privilege of interviewing Gavin Carter, the producer of the upcoming PC and Xbox 360 title The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. This title impressed many of our staff members at E3; one staff member declared that the game was so beautiful that it "made the real world look terrible." As the fourth title in the Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion builds on the foundation laid by its predecessors while bringing next-generation innovations to the series. RPGamer: Could you please introduce yourself, and explain your relation to TES: Oblivion? Gavin Carter: My name is Gavin Carter and I'm a producer at Bethesda Softworks, working on The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.RPGamer: Patrick Stewart aside, have any well-known voice actors been involved with the Oblivion project, and if so, who and how large a part do they play in the game?Gavin Carter: We just recently announced that Lynda Carter, Wonder Woman herself, will be doing voice acting in the game, so we're very happy to have her aboard. Aside from that, there are a few other names people will recognize that we'll announce in the coming weeks. We're very excited about Oblivion's voice talent.RPGamer: The addition of a 'quick travel' system is most appreciated; have any other common suggestions or complaints made by the TES community been taken into consideration for Oblivion? Gavin Carter: Our fan community is an endless generator of great ideas for the game. We've implemented a great deal of things they suggested after Morrowind. Full AI schedules, mounts, revamping our combat system from the ground up, adding in a fast travel system to eliminate the tedium of long trips - all of these things are features the fan community has requested again and again. RPGamer: Given the massive popularity of the TES Construction Set, is a revised and updated version of a similar mod creation software going to be released with Oblivion? Gavin Carter: The new TES Construction Set should feel very familiar to anyone who is experienced with modding for the original. We've made a host of changes from small to minor to help us build Oblivion. The most major of them is undoubtedly the introduction of our procedural content tools, which allow us to churn out realistic environments much more quickly and efficiently than we could in Morrowind. We've also completely redone the dialog and questing systems, made improvements to scripting, and incorporated features that will make it much easier for modders to create their own autonomous worlds. RPGamer: Many of the screenshots that have already been released appear to take place in the wilderness or in small villages; will the city of Cyrodiil be a playable location as well? Gavin Carter: Cyrodiil is actually the name of the province that Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion takes place in. For all intents and purposes, Cyrodiil is the "game world" that you play in. The capital of Cyrodiil is simply referred to as the Imperial City. It is the seat of government for the empire that rules the known continent, and it is big. People who thought Vivec or Balmora from Morrowind were big are going to be in for a shock. RPGamer: Compared to Daggerfall, Morrowind didn't seem to have that many large dungeons to explore. Will there be a decent amount of massive dungeons that will satiate the hardcore dungeon crawling fans? Gavin Carter: We don't go in for the endless, generic-maze style dungeons that Daggerfall featured, but you will find great improvements over Morrowind. There are plenty of very large dungeons, to be sure, and we're trying to provide a higher density of content than we did in Morrowind. This includes monster encounters, quest NPCs, puzzles, and our brutal physics-based traps. We've hired some really fantastic, dedicated level designers for Oblivion, and they've churned out some stellar environments to explore. RPGamer: The Radiant AI system appears to be capable of great things; do NPCs obey a set of randomly selected - but still predetermined - actions, or do they actually define their own changing schedule of events based on things like the weather, the appearance of enemies, etc.? Gavin Carter: The system has the flexibility to do all the things you mention. I'm very excited about all the possibilities that our AI system offers modders. I'm sure we're going to see some great stuff. For our purposes, all of Oblivion's NPCs are controlled by the Radiant AI system. They all feature full 24 hour schedules and they have the ability to complete their schedules in different ways based on changing conditions. RPGamer: You could literally spend hours creating different unique types of potions and spells. How has the potion and spell creation system changed from Morrowind?Gavin Carter: Both of them have a whole range of changes to address balance concerns that were raised with Morrowind. For one, spell creation and item enchantment are now services that you have to earn by raising in rank in the Mages Guild. Once you've progressed enough, the halls of the Arcane University in the Imperial City are opened to you, and the services become available. For alchemy, one new feature is the ability to create a "poison" potion, and apply it to your weapon as a one-shot buff. It's a great feeling to play a stealthy character stalking your mark, carefully choosing which poison to apply. RPGamer: How has the research of geological and meteorological events changed the scope of Oblivion from its original inception; specifically, has the system used to generate the landscape affected the outcome of the story or the inclusion of quests in some way? Gavin Carter: Our research into procedural generation systems was primarily something we did for efficiency purposes. The time required to generate the landscape for Oblivion was significantly lower than for Morrowind. And whereas Morrowind featured primarily smoothed over hills due to being done by hand, our programmers incorporated erosion algorithms into our landscape generation, giving us awesome craggy mountain vistas that would take us forever to do by hand. Of course, the visuals influence the design to an extent. With so many great sights to see in our huge exterior world, we had to come up with a lot of content to fill it up. So you'll find a few wilderness quests, lots of ruins and random dungeons, and lots and lots of flavor touches, like ambient wildlife and hunter NPCs. RPGamer: In what ways does Oblivion differ most from its predecessors, Arena, Daggerfall, and Morrowind? Gavin Carter: It would probably be a shorter list if I told you how they were the same. Anyone who's played our previous games knows that we love to reinvent the wheel each time, and improve and refine things. Oblivion is no different. We started from scratch, taking the best of Morrowind, the best of Daggerfall, the best of Arena, and adding a whole layer of new stuff as well. RPGamer: Is there anything that you would like to say to our readers? Gavin Carter: Thanks for the support, and I hope you enjoy closing shut the gates of Oblivion!
QuoteMichael Ryan - Level Designer Surface dwellers. They just never quit with the "Cyrodiil is sooo beautiful" talk. You'd think Cyrodiil was a perfectly lush world full of dense forests, majestic mountain ranges, and teeming cities the way these sun-loving freaks go on and on about the place. Me? I prefer the warm glow of torch light and the quaint, quiet beauty of a cozy dungeon. Why venture above ground at all when a good dungeon offers dark corridors to explore, dastardly traps to avoid, and creatures of unspeakable evil to fight? Even if you are a misguided fan of natural lighting, I think you'll come around to my way of thinking after a healthy, Oblivion dungeon romp.When I joined Bethesda I became the sixth member of a growing dungeon team - the portion of the Oblivion dev team that basically does nothing but design, build, test, and tweak dungeons. We've since added two more dungeoneers to our ranks and as a group, we have now hand-crafted more than 200 subterranean locales to explore and pillage while playing Oblivion.Our team's mandate, all along, has been to inject more fun and more atmosphere into the dungeon experience. We wanted to avoid creating a large collection of beautiful spaces filled with nothing to do. At the same time, we wanted to make sure that the dungeons were unique and memorable - not just a series of cookie-cutter holes in the ground with some loot and a few skeletons. Amazingly, we're now at the point where we are wrapping up work on the dungeons and putting the finishing touches on most of them. Honestly, there were times I thought we'd never make it this far. Some days, the dungeon list looked a little like an ever-stretching hallway straight out of a Hitchcock film.Because the game has so many dungeons, we tackled the job in stages, chipping away at the lengthy list and adding more and more polish over time. Each builder on the team has a preferred process for designing a solid dungeon, but we all start with the basic layout of the environment. Oblivion has a very powerful (and cool-looking) map feature that can help you find your way through the toughest of labyrinths, but that's still no substitute for a coherent, well-planned layout. Not only will the layout dictate the pacing of your combat encounters in the dungeon, but it will also determine the available lighting options at your disposal (which in turn, have a huge impact on how well the dungeon will actually run). As often as possible, we also try to incorporate elements such as multiple paths, dramatic overlook spots, and cool vista moments. Throughout the process, the dungeon type (marauder fortress, goblin cave, vampire lair, etc.) determines the architecture we use and the types of spaces the layout can and should use.Lighting is the next big hurdle -- and by far, the most time consuming part of the process (at least for me). Getting the lighting right is a tricky job and even in these late stages, the lighting of the dungeons is still an ongoing process. It's been a tough task to balance aesthetics with performance, as the lighting obviously affects both of these elements in a big way. Fewer lights mean a better frame rate, but will also lead to a dungeon so dark that no one will be able to navigate through it. We purposely made the dungeons much darker than those in Morrowind, since we really wanted them to feel like dark, foreboding places burrowed deep beneath Cyrodiil and not just a series of brightly-lit rooms that happen to be full of loot and monsters. However, you are simply not going to have fun in a dungeon if it's too dark to find your way. So we are constantly adjusting the lights based on our own testing, as well as on the feedback we get from the rest of the team. Once a layout is created and a basic lighting pass is in place, we populate the dungeon with monsters and/or hostile NPCs. Almost all of the dungeon encounters in Oblivion are leveled to the player, which means that as you progress through the game you will encounter tougher and more varied enemies. Note that this doesn't mean that all encounters are your level - not by a long shot. It just means that your level determines what types of creatures and NPCs you're likely to meet in the deepest, darkest places of Cyrodiil. Sometimes you'll run into low-level critters that you can dispatch with a single fireball; other times you won't be so lucky.You'll also encounter a variety of traps and other obstacles that - like everything else - are tied to the theme of the dungeon. So while bandits will protect their hideouts with hastily assembled log traps and trip wires, the undead lurking in an ancient tomb might have more magical - but equally as deadly - defenses in place. Many of our traps are physics based, which has led to some seriously devious fun during the level design process. Again, when it comes to traps and to monster placement we rely heavily on feedback from the rest of the team to keep us honest. For example, in one cave I built for the Mage's Guild quest line, I put in far, far too many monsters and simply had to delete a bunch after hearing that a seasoned warrior, like Emil, was not quite capable of fending off a mere seven headless zombies (what a wuss). We constantly tweak the creature and trap placement to make the dungeons challenging without being too frustrating.Each dungeon has a basic theme dictating the lighting scheme and the types of encounters to be found, but we've also added a little extra to individual dungeons wherever possible, to further differentiate them from each other. Most of my level design experience comes from first-person shooters, so I tend to draw a lot of inspiration from games like Call of Duty and Half-Life 2. I have stayed away from heavily-scripted dungeon events whenever possible, but I do like to tweak the environment and the AI to add more atmosphere to a dungeon. For example, I thought it would be fun to walk into a dungeon and stumble into a raging battle between rival factions. So while you won't find bandits, skeletons, and goblins all hanging out together in underground harmony, you may find a band of loot-mongering goblins fighting for their lives against hordes of angry undead. In other locations, you might actually bump into wandering adventurers who are out hunting for the same treasure you planned to take home with you - it's the chance to add subtle touches like this that make dungeon design so much fun.So you can keep your precious surface world. Give me goblins and grime and grisly traps and I will be content. That is, at least until I have to venture back to the surface to find the next dungeon to explore….
QuoteThe Elder Scrolls: Oblivion- An interview with Pete HinesPosted on 20 Oct 2005 by Matt CookOne of the most hotly-anticipated titles for all fantasy role-players this Christmas season has to be Bethesda Softworks’ Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. MyGamer’s been following the development of Oblivion for quite a while now, from our preview all the way back in February to the stunning sneak-peak we attended at this year’s E3 in May. As a further follow-up, Bethesda’s Pete Hines, VP of PR & Marketing, took some time from his busy schedule to give us a few more details about what to expect when Oblivion ships this December for the PC and as a launch title for the Xbox 360. Thanks so much for taking this time to speak with us, Pete. My first question is something near and dear to all fans of the series- the consistent depth of the writing. The Elder Scrolls franchise has built its reputation on the depth of its storytelling. What will Oblivion do to raise the bar on your past successes in regards to creating an epic narrative? Well, much of the “epic” part of epic narrative is drawn from the game itself. Given that our games are set in big huge worlds where you can go where you want and do what you want, our narratives always feel epic simply because of the way we design our games and game space. We’ve certainly done that again with how vast the world is in Oblivion. As far as the narrative, I think folks will find that the main quest has similar themes and tones as in past Elder Scrolls games while at the same time, it is a bit of a departure. We aren’t asking you to be the chosen one. We’re asking you to find him, protect him, and help him. You get to go to a lot of cool places (both in Cyrodiil and in Oblivion) during the main quest, so by the time it’s said and done you really feel like you’ve done something pretty epic.The demos we saw at E3 show that the physics engine you’re using for Oblivion is top-notch, and the things we’ve heard about the environment’s realism is astounding. People new to the Elder Scrolls will doubtless be amazed, but what will long-time follows of the series instantly notice is different/better in this latest installment? It’s hard to say. We find even amongst the most hardcore fans, different people latch onto different things. It may be simple things like the journal system or the way dialogue works. Some folks may focus on the new combat system or maybe the more detail we’ve put into our dungeons with things like traps and so forth. With the folks I’ve talked to lately that played the game at X05 – and here I’m talking about people who played practically every quest in Morrowind, or played it for hundreds of hours, not just any journalist – the things they commented on were a little bit of everything. They like the interface better, the lighting in the dungeon/cave in the beginning, and the way combat works, etc. It’s not just one thing; it’s all of the improvements to different areas of the game that people notice as different/better.Besides providing the complete Construction Kit, what other mod tools do you plan to release to the public? Elder Scrolls modders have several years of experience under their collective belts when it comes to creating content for ES games, but will Bethesda be providing any additional support in the form of, say, tutorials on new tools, web chats with the developers, etc.? I honestly can’t speak to what else we might do once the game is out. We’ve never hidden the fact that we really put out the TES CS “as is.” We let people use what we use to make the game, but we aren’t working on it as a separate product for release. As far as what tools or tutorials we might do, I just don’t know. As with Morrowind, we tend to tackle that after the bigger challenge of finishing the game has been met. One of the better aspects of modding Morrowind was the fact that the game took place on an island, so as new real-estate was created in both official add-on packs and by modders it was simplicity to just build new land mass out in the ocean. How will Oblivion provide the mod community the elbow room their projects will require? You can build off our game world in any direction. More importantly, you can have the game generate whatever terrain you want in that location for you. So it’s not just about having elbow room, but having the world generated with the click of a button so you can spend more time creating things and less time dragging the landscape around and placing trees/rocks/etc.Will the Thief-inspired game play aspects that Emil Pagliarulo is bringing to the table be a major factor in Oblivion, or are they there simply to add character and believability to the world? In other words, can a player build their entire concept around a character that *avoids* combat and instead chooses to follow a more stealth-based path? If so, how will such a character gain experience and skills as they progress? Emil is just one of a number of people that has focused on that area. Emil’s taking care of the Dark Brotherhood (assassin’s guild) quests and obviously had a lot of input on the thief skills and how they worked. Bruce Nesmith is handling the Thieves Guild quests and also spending time on balancing those skills. Can you spend the whole game completely avoiding combat? Not really. In many cases it is possible to sneak past an encounter rather than fight it, but bad guys still need to be killed. However, stealth cannot only help you avoid combat, but it's also a system that makes you more effective in combat. In addition, what you do with your stealth abilities also has a lot to do with the factions you join. Thieves Guild will grant you quests that require you to avoid detection and combat. Dark Brotherhood grants quests that require you to kill quietly and efficiently.Since Oblivion will not only be a PC title but also a Xbox 360 launch title, how will the mod community be able to support the Xbox fan base? Morrowind on the PC was an order of magnitude more complex that its Xbox counterpart because of all the mods that were available- will 360 users be able to share in the fun this time? Does Bethesda plan to make regular content downloads available to Xbox Live enabled players, and will the particular “flavor” of the Xbox being used (i.e. hard drive or no hard drive) influence the player?s experience and access to new content? We plan to make regular downloads available for both platforms. As far as what else might be possible on Xbox 360, that’s something we’ve talked to Microsoft about and will continue to work with them on what we might be able to do down the road. So for now, you can count on official downloads from the beginning.Morrowind players were able to enjoy not only one but two official add-on packs to that title- can we expect the same level of ongoing story support for Oblivion? We need to finish the game first and have it be great and successful before we start talking about what we might do afterwards. Thank you very much for your time, Pete, and MyGamer.com wishes you luck with your upcoming release. We can’t wait to get our hands on the game!
QuoteOblivion interview - Gavin Carter of BethesdaNo matter what your preferences in terms of gaming, be you a first-person shooter obsessive or otherwise, the name 'Elder Scrolls' will almost certainly mean something to you. Failing that, 'Morrowind' should certainly show a flicker of recognition. If you're still lost, then to put it simply, the Elder Scrolls series of games is one of (if not the) most popular RPG franchises out there, with a history that goes all the way from 1994 up to the most recent release, the already mentioned Morrowind. Click for full-size imageNow anticipation for Elder Scrolls fans is at fever pitch once again, with the next game in the series, Oblivion, drawing ever closer to its release date. The game is already looking like becoming a major success of both the PC and Xbox 360, thansk to its blend of immersive gameplay coupled with a simply fantastic looking graphics engine. We've been lucky enough to catch up with one of the producers of Oblivion, Gavin Carter of Bethesda Softworks, and fired off a slew of questions about this highly anticipated title. Click for full-size imageSo, without further ado, on to the questions: Elite Bastards: Can you give us an overview of the main features used by the games graphics engine (i.e. Shader Models, texture sizes, HDR etc)? Gavin Carter: Oblivion’s renderer is a mix of the Gamebryo renderer with a healthy dose of our own internally developed technology. The engine fully supports shader models up to and including 3.0. We employ a full HDR lighting solution throughout the game. Textures utilize all the latest shader technology including normal maps, specular maps, and parallax maps. We’re hammering away on our soft-shadow model. There shouldn’t be any technological buzzword out there that current games are using that we don’t have built into our renderer. Click for full-size imageElite Bastards: A previous interview mentioned using multi-threading to help speed up area/cell loading for when players move about the game world. Are the devs using multi-threading in other ways to facilitate game performance? Gavin Carter: The game’s code takes advantage of the multithreaded nature of the Xbox 360 and multithreaded PCs to improve just about every aspect of the game. The primary function is to improve framerates by off-loading some work from the main thread to the other processors. We do a variety of tasks on other threads depending on the situation – be it sound and music, renderer tasks, physics calculations, or anything else that could benefit. Loading also gets spread across hardware threads to aid in load times and provide a more seamless experience for the player. Elite Bastards: With the Xbox 360's advanced Xenos graphics chip from ATI, are there going to be any graphical differences between Oblivion on the PC compared to MS' new console? What are some of the technologies supported by the Xenos chip Bethesda's programmers are most keen on taking advantage of? Gavin Carter: The performance of the Xbox 360 GPU is something we’ve been extremely impressed with even going back to the alpha kits. It’s really a beast thanks to innovations like the unified shader architecture. It tears through our longest shaders like a hot knife through butter. As far as differences, if you’ve got a fast PC with a graphics card with full shader model 3.0 support, the differences should be miniscule in nature. Click for full-size imageElite Bastards: If it doesn't support it out of the box, will you patch to add support for the PhysX card, not necessarily to add new features, but just to hand off the physics work? Gavin Carter: The PhysX card is an exciting piece of technology, but it came about far too late for Oblivion to support. We rely on a heavily tweaked version of the Havok SDK for our in-game physics and it does a bang up job on its own. Elite Bastards: In these days of pixel shaders, AI, and physics, it's very easy to overlook another key component: sound. How have you improved/what new features have you introduced for sound? Gavin Carter: One of the new features that really improves the game experience is the use of physics-based sound. We associate sound categories with material types on objects and have ways we can mix and match up sounds depending on collisions that occur in the game. So dropping a sword on the stone floor of a cave will sound different then dropping it on the floor of a wooden house. The system is global, so even things like combat sounds get modulated by it. So striking a guy in full armor will give you a nice clang, while smacking a goblin with a warhammer will give you a satisfying flesh impact sound. Elite Bastards: In the early days of nailing down the Oblivion design, what were the key features that you held off implementing in Morrowind that you were determined to implement in Oblivion? Gavin Carter: There are innumerable elements that we wanted to improve from Morrowind. The AI was a primary focus, so we developed the Radiant AI system to allow us to breathe life into a world with well over 1500 characters. Physics are another feature that we made a priority from the start and they are incorporated into every facet of the game from magic to combat to traps. Other things we’ve done as direct improvements to Morrowind include jacking up the view distance to extreme levels, providing mounts for the player to ride, and changing up combat to be less of an abstraction and more of a visceral, kinetic experience. Click for full-size imageElite Bastards: Which element were you most disappointed at having to postpone until a future game? Gavin Carter: We generate tons of ideas for every single project that don’t make it into the game. It’s way too difficult to pick just one! Of course, none of these are thrown out, so you never know what you’ll see in an expansion or sequel. Elite Bastards: What were the most challenging elements of your design to actually implement in the game? What's been the most frustrating element to implement and how did you finally overcome it? Gavin Carter: The AI has certainly been the most challenging element to implement. It turns out that giving any sense of autonomy to a world with 1500 NPCs that are running 24 hours a day (no matter where you are) can be a dangerous proposition. We’ve had to deal with everything from NPCs killing plot-essential characters off-screen to them breaking the economy by purchasing everything in a town. However, our programmers have done a tremendous job plugging the holes that form and it’s grown into a very tight system that is fascinating to observe and interact with in the game. Elite Bastards: The economy in Morrowind is widely considered to be somewhat broken. What steps have the designers taken for Oblivion to avoid repeating this game flaw? Gavin Carter: Economy has been a much bigger focus for us in Oblivion than it ever was in Morrowind. Our designers have produced reams upon reams of spreadsheets, charts, graphs, and statistics examining player advancement and linking it up to the world economy. One major step we’ve taken is providing the player with higher level economic goals – things like houses and horses and high level weapons and armor in shops. These are meant to be goals to save your money towards over the course of the game. Also, we’ve introduced the concept of investing as a skill perk. Once you achieve a high enough mercantile skill, you can invest in a store and permanently raise the maximum amount of money the merchant has to purchase items from you. Over time you can use his increased wealth to your selling advantage because he’ll have more money to buy your loot. Elite Bastards: With the significant advancement of graphics, particularly in the portrayal of characters, what were the key challenges you faced in making sure that Oblivion's graphics didn't outstrip its gameplay, which would have left you with a pretty, but vacuous, game? Gavin Carter: We always try and think of ways to work improved graphics into our gameplay formula. For instance, physics are great to have in the game just from a suspension of disbelief standpoint, but we took it a step farther with physics-based traps. If you see a trap that hasn’t been tripped, you can lure an unsuspecting foe into it, increasing your strategic options in combat. For characters, we have worked our system of facial animation into the Speechcraft skill. Whereas in Morrowind persuasion was simply an invisible die roll against your skill, we’ve created a persuasion system where you look carefully at an NPC’s expression to determine how they’ll react to certain forms of persuasion. Click for full-size imageElite Bastards: The devs claim to have over 200 hand-crafted dungeons for Oblivion. How many hours on average does it take the devs to create a typical dungeon? Gavin Carter: It really depends. We spend a lot of time during pre-production constructing elaborate dungeon “sets” which can be split up into prefab parts and reconstructed in a variety of ways. That process takes quite a bit of time, but once we have our prefabs constructed, the actual production of a dungeon becomes far less time intensive. All dungeons also go through several different iterations as they get reviewed and improved. An average dungeon will probably take up about a week of man hours from a level designer before it is put in the game and played through by testers. At that point, feedback is gathered and based on that we can revise further or put a final stamp of approval on it. Elite Bastards: Can you tell us about how weather has been implemented in Oblivion to add to its realistic feel? Gavin Carter: Weather is similar to Morrowind in that it is dynamic in nature and region-based. For instance, the farther you travel north, the more frequently you’ll find yourself in the snow. We’ve made a number of improvements from Morrowind, such as a double-layer sky to provide more realistic cloud movements. Also, wind speed can affect the motion of trees, grass, and even store signs. We’ve really taken the weather concept to the extreme in the planes of Oblivion, as well. Elite Bastards: With Emil Pagliarulo hired on to help with Oblivion's stealth aspects, we're wondering if Oblivion is going to allow one of the more fun tactics from the Thief games, which is incapacitating human opponents by sneaking up behind them using stealth? Gavin Carter: Stealth got a big upgrade from Morrowind. The formulas for whether or not you’re detected now take into account light and sound, so marching around in those heavy iron armored boots probably isn’t your best option for sleuthing. Also, we’ve included special sneak attacks as skill perks. They aren’t instant kills all the time, but depending on your skills, a successful sneak attack can put a big multiplier on your damage. Elite Bastards: Will NPCs move between interior and exterior areas or are they limited to the area in which they're placed by the designers? Gavin Carter: Both NPCs and creatures can pursue you wherever you go. Click for full-size imageElite Bastards: The new combat systems sounds like it requires more interaction from the player, but it also sounds more twitch based since it'll test the player's reflexes to be successful in a hard fight. Will there be difficulty levels players can choose that'll make combat easier for us old timers who no longer quite have the reaction times of our younger years? Gavin Carter: There is a difficulty slider that functions similar to Morrowind – increasing the difficulty causes you to do less damage while enemies do more damage, and vice versa. Elite Bastards: Is the player's relationship with the Daedra purely one of defending Tamriel against them, or is it more ambiguous than that? Gavin Carter: You’ll get to interact with the various Daedra in a variety of ways. Finding their shrines scattered across the world will yield quests for the higher-level player. Elite Bastards: To what extent are the guilds competitive with each other, and to what extent is that competitiveness open to play? Gavin Carter: The guilds are definitely aware of one another and you’ll hear them refer to each other as part of the plot. Since the whole “Oblivion gates opening everywhere and spewing monsters” theme is a global crisis, you get some overlap between them. We like to keep guilds largely separated though, both to keep the plotlines more coherent and to allow the player to better wander from one to another at will. Elite Bastards: As a writer I'd like to know how you keep track of all the (creative) writing that needs to be done for a game like Oblivion, especially when there's so much dialogue, and when aspects of the game might change in development? How do you keep the writer(s) involved so that they don't end up 'adrift' from the development of the game? Gavin Carter: It really boils down to having the proper tools for the job, and the tools we have this time around for tracking and maintaining dialog are a quantum leap over Morrowind. We have much more control and changes are far easier to make and track. The writing for the game, much like the dungeon design, follows a very iterative process of drafting, review, and redrafting. The writers had most of the plots drafted out and most of the dialogue written before even putting them into the game. Early on, we actually made them present the plotlines of their quests to the entire team. Of course, then we play it, and things can and frequently do change drastically from that point. But everyone here plays the game and is always looking for ways to improve the quests. I think the strength of our dialogue and characters in Oblivion are actually going to surprise a lot of people. Elite Bastards: Your motto for the Elder Scrolls games has been 'Live another life'. Does Oblivion deal with sexuality at all? This has been an area you've shied away from before, so if you're not allowing play of it I'd be interested to hear why when it's such a key element of individual identity and life. Gavin Carter: It’s not something we pay a lot of attention to, mostly because we feel like it distracts from the dramatic focus of the plot. We like to keep the focus much more on the heroic than the domestic. Elite Bastards: Given how long you've been creating games in this setting, do you have a reference library for writers and other creative staff to refer to so that they can accurately create new in-game books for example? If so, have you ever considered making this library available online as an Elder Scrolls encyclopaedia? Gavin Carter: We have just about everything ever written pertaining to the lore of the Elder Scrolls world on our servers. Most of it has made it into our games in one form or another. A small amount remains internal as it could come into play in future games. Any lore aficionados who want to read up on more of the backstory on the Elder Scrolls world should head over to the Imperial Library, a fansite that has collected every piece of Elder Scrolls lore out there. Also, those interested in lore should keep their eyes out for the announcement of the Oblivion Collector’s Edition contents. Elite Bastards: Can segments of the `invisible wall' surrounding the Oblivion player area be dropped for expansions, either unofficial or in mods, to increase the playing area? Gavin Carter: Certainly. Players have the ability to construct their own worlds completely separate in every way from the main world of Oblivion. Though there are theoretical and practical limits to the size of the world you can create, the ability for modders to create worlds several times the size of Cyrodiil is there. Elite Bastards: The MW_Children_1.0 mod (which added 330 children to Morrowind and its 2 expansions) added a significant feeling of reality. What have you implemented in Oblivion to give similar illusions of reality? Gavin Carter: Children are problematic not only for ratings board issues, but also because doing dramatically different body sizes presents problems for our clothing system. The system we use to mix and match different pieces of armor and clothing to each character is very complex, and altering it to handle the differences in proportion and size between adults and children is not something we pursued for Oblivion. Elite Bastards: Has there been any considerations yet for a Deluxe/Collector's edition release of Oblivion for the PC? Gavin Carter: Yes, we are definitely doing a Collector’s edition for both versions of the game. Look for full details on our website soon. If you want to find out more about Oblivion, then check out the official web site here. Many thanks to Gavin Carter and co at Bethesda for their time and consideration in arranging and conducting this interview. Also, many thanks to our forum members John Reynolds and Craig (aka Voudoun) for compiling the questions for this interview - Without their input this wouldn't have been possible!
Quote"* Stire - Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion amanat Ultimul bilant financiar al Take Two Interactive ne aduce o veste proasta: mult asteptatul RPG al celor de la Bethesda Softworks, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, este amanat. Astfel, jocul va fi impins spre al doilea sfert al anului financiar viitor, deci nu va prinde perioada sarbatorilor pentru care era anuntat initial. Poate cel mai greu pica aceasta veste pentru Microsoft, care se bazau pe Oblivion ca titlu de lansare pentru Xbox 360."
QuoteSo Todd and I were talking last night and decided that we, or I, should post something on the forums to try and bring fans up-to-speed on what's up. So here goes.In short, the game is coming out in early 2006 because it isn't done yet. We still have things that need to be done before the game is released. So we continue to optimize, test, balance, etc. We've already gone way beyond what we did in any game previously in playtesting and balancing this game. Way beyond. But there is work that needs to be done and so development continues to go on pretty much around the clock. We will not put out a more specific date until we are certain we will be ready then. Like system specs, we aren't fans of putting out info that changes later on and only confuses or annoys our fans.We have a number of site updates planned between now and the game's release that we hope to do on a regular basis each week. We'll do the best we can to make it every week, but understand that sometimes PR/marketing stuff gets in the way of game development and so it has to get set aside sometimes for the good of the game (and the people making it). We'll be updating the Codex in stages, adding new concept art, screens, etc. in the coming weeks and months. We're open to doing another fan interview in the coming weeks as well to let you ask what it is you think we aren't telling you. In short, we aren't holding out on you, we just don't want to be done telling you about the game before it comes out.We appreciate your patience and continued support and ensure you that your dedication will be rewarded with what we think is the best RPG you've ever played.Best,Pete (and Todd)