Bethesda Sticking To The ‘Core’

In an interview with Industry Gamers, Bethesda Game Studio’s Todd Howard has discussed his opinions on working with motion control, 3D, and their new owners ZeniMax, as well as his company’s lack of support for Nintendo consoles.

On the topic of supporting Nintendo, Howard said that the stuff his internal team works on “is a better fit on the other platforms”, agreeing that the Wii had got itself a largely casual audience: “Even if there’s going to be some bigger, more mature games on it, the system, for better or worse, has been moved to this demographic. If we had an idea that we thought would really take advantage of that platform, we would do something for it.” So will we ever see a Bethesda internal game on the Wii or DS? “You can never say never, but I think for the kind of games that we like to play and make, it fits the other platforms.”

Howard also talked about his excitement coming away from this year’s E3: “I was sitting there thinking as the Sony conference wrapped up, which I thought was really strong, “Wow, this is the first E3 in a very long time where I felt all three [had] a lot of cool new stuff.” From Kinect to the Move stuff, the 3DS… they all have a lot of cool new stuff, more so than just, “Here’s a big triple-A game, nice graphics.” There seems to be a lot of, “This is a new kind of game,” more so than I can ever remember, honestly.” Talking about Bethesda’s own presence at the show, he said it was odd to be talking only about third-party-developed, Bethesda-published titles, rather than the team’s own internal projects: “Unfortunately, this is one of those odd E3s where I can’t talk about what I’m doing and my group’s doing. We’ve spent a lot of time on new technology and re-doing a lot of the engine stuff that we’ve been using.”

Whilst Howard wouldn’t give up any details on his team’s latest project (widely rumoured to be a new Elder Scrolls title), he talked about lending the Fallout franchise to Obsidian for New Vegas. Rather than remotely-controlling development, Bethesda “pretty much handed it over” to the external studio. He feels that New Vegas “really benefits because the Obsidian guys are some of the original developers of Fallout. It’s a situation where they know it really well and they have the tech and everything from Fallout 3 to build on, and it was important to us…If it was somebody else, we probably might have to [say]: “Hey, no, that’s not the way it works in Fallout,” but they know it inside and out. They helped create a lot of it. It’s been a really good situation.”

Speaking about the acquisition last year of Bethesda by ZeniMax, Howard spoke about the positive relationship between his studio and new stablemates id Software: “The relationship is really good. We’re run as separate studios but there’s a tremendous amount of mutual respect. They’re very similar to us…they’re very low ego guys who just really like to do cool sh*t.” Howard also says that whilst it’s unlikely we’ll see a co-developed title “in the short term”, it could happen “one day”.

E3 really showed that motion control, social gaming, and platforms like the iPhone are the next big topics for the gaming industry. On Move and Natal, Howard said that there wasn’t a rush for the developer-publisher to work with the new control systems, rather he is taking a “wait-and-see approach”. “We do a bunch of games,” he says, “so “X” developer might decide, “Hey we can take advantage of Kinect this way.” I think it really depends on the game.” The same is true of mobile gaming, where he feels that id Software have got the mobile scene nailed for the moment: “For now, it’s definitely on the back burner. We have a game that I’d like to see made one day, but corporately now, with the id mobile stuff, they have a bunch of stuff that’s out, they have a bunch of stuff they’re working on, so I feel, as a company, we have a good foot in that area and we’ll see where it goes.”

Howard was more critical of games on platforms like Facebook: “I’ve got to be honest: I don’t get it. I look at it and try to understand but for now I’ve just decided to ignore it…I think, one day, maybe I’ll figure it out, but until then, I don’t see the allure of those kinds of games.” Much like the Wii, he feels that it’s a very different audience to those who are into his studio’s Elder Scrolls and Fallout games: “The light bulb hasn’t gone off for me. I just don’t get it. I get these little messages: “I’ve got a new horse, or fish?” I don’t know.”

It’s a pretty lengthy and in-depth interview, so head over to Industry Gamers to read about Howard’s opinions on massive budgets, eastern-developed RPGs, where he’d like to see any new Elder Scrolls game going, and more.


  1. Make The Elder Scrolls V already!

  2. Nice to see a dev not slagging off a platform they’re not developing for, and just basically say its not a good fit for what they want to do

    • He did come across as unusually pleasant and diplomatic!

  3. Great article and lovely interview. Cheers for that.

    Major gripe (but with Americans). What’s with the obsession of saying “bunch of” all of the time. It seems to have escalated exponentially in the last twelve months and it’s like they’ve had half of their vocabulary taken away so they’ve run out of options. :-(

    • I’ve heard “bunch of” maybe once in the past few months.

  4. “I’ve got a new horse” :-)

    I wish I had a cluster of pennies for every time I have seen a whole clump of messages like that on Facebook. I think to myself, a lot of people should not be spending a large batch of time playing a bundle of those games.

    Us Americans should not be saying “bunch of” all the time. We have a plethora of verbiage from which to cull.

    Yee haw!

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