Todd Howard - Gamelab Legend Award Interview

We caught up with Bethesda Game Studios' Todd Howard in Barcelona as he received his Gamelab Legend award to talk about Fallout 76, The Elder Scrolls, Starfield, and more.

Audio transcription

"Alright, so we are at Gamelab 2018 and we are so lucky to have you twice in a Fortnite, Todd, right after the so many games you announced at E3.
Thank you once again for joining us.
Thank you."

"And also congratulations on your Legend Award.
Thank you, it's an incredible honor, not just for myself but everybody on the whole team.
So now the E3 dust has settled, so to say, when we had you two weeks ago, all those games were just announced.
Now looking back at the reception Fallout 76 got, how do you feel about the whole project?
The direction is taking until very soon launch, and how do you think you should approach communication of the new features?
I was happy with how E3 went, it's a lot of work, and our games are big and complicated, so just explaining them in a short period of time is always tricky."

"But there was so much excitement and the buzz about the game was beyond even what we expected, because it is a different Fallout game, it's not what we usually do, so you never know how everyone's going to react.
And it's a little bit scary for us, and it's scary for a lot of our long-time fans, but it's a game we've wanted to make for a while, it's turning out great.
And how we communicate those things, there's still a long time to launch, there's a good amount of time, and people are, I would say they're desperate for information, they keep asking us."

"And we want to find the right way to explain systems in the game, because if we say too little, it's confusing and it leads to more questions, and we need to find a good way to, say, take a system, whether it's PvP or building or other things, and really dive deep for our fans and say, here's how it works, not just here's how it works, but here's why it works that way, and some of that stuff we're still tuning.
Yeah, we of course got some clues and some details on how it works, or the different systems work."

"It really looks like a more emergent gameplay-focused experience for players to find out stuff by themselves, and the game just creates things to happen, not just very scripted, but by systems.
Do you think that kind of gameplay and freedom could be more appealing to new audiences that are now understanding open-world games differently, perhaps?
Maybe, I don't think about that too much. I think our hardcore gaming audience that plays our stuff is pretty big, so I think if you try to go after a certain demographic ever, you can get in some traps."

"Mainly, if we make something that we love, it'll find a good audience, but to your point, the emergent gameplay is what we love about games, and that's one of the things that our games, we try to push, and with 76, you know every other human is a real player, and I don't know what they're going to do, and you don't know what they're going to do.
That's a pretty exciting thing to see happen, and I get to experience it as well. I don't know what's going to happen, so that kind of excites all of us on the team."

"Yeah, since it is online, we know we'll be able to update it on a regular basis, and what the game is when it launches is not what it's going to be a year from now.
What's the status of the game right now? How do you feel about the final stretch of development for it?
Well, the final part is always very tiring for everybody on the team. Everybody puts in a lot of work getting it ready, making it the best it can be for our audience."

"We're able to play it for large periods of time every night, and there are some moments that are really unique that we haven't experienced in other games. That excites us.
But right now, too, it's messy in that there's so many systems. That's normal for this part, and we try to make sure they all hook together really well so the game feels right, isn't too hard, isn't too easy.
You don't get bored, you don't get frustrated, and that's still where we're at right now, but it's turning out to be a ton of fun for us."

"Okay, changing game because you had so many. Starfield was perhaps the most surprising of the bunch. I'm really looking forward to that different concept.
But I know, or we know, you cannot share much about it, but I don't know if you can share about the inspirations you took for that space game.
Well, I don't want to talk about the exact inspirations yet because that will spoil some things, but I think if you look at the teaser, there's a tone to that and the type of science fiction universe it's in as opposed to some other ones."

"And something we thought about for a long time, not just the style of game, meaning what you'll do in it, but what's the vibe. Much like if you look at Fallout for post-apocalyptic has a certain vibe, and Skyrim for fantasy has a very specific tone.
We wanted to make sure Starfield had its own unique one as well because there is so much science fiction.
As in a space opera, your style."

"That would be accurate, yeah. It's very, very big. It's not a small game.
Space big. Elder Scrolls Blades is something we didn't talk about at E3 during our interview. That is something I would love to learn more about.
What can the game mean to perhaps newcomers to the franchise?
Well, that's certainly one where we know a lot of new people are going to play it based on our Fallout Shelter experience, where we had well over 100 million players on Fallout Shelter."

"And so we know that we're going to have a lot of new ones with Blades, but we still want it to be, if you like the Elder Scrolls like we do, if you like RPG dungeon experiences, that you have one on your phone that scratches that itch.
And it's very, very easy to pick up. I think that was a key point with it.
But it has a lot of depth. It feels good in a minute when you play it, but then it still feels good after 20, 50 hours."

"Is it coming out same date on both iOS and Android platforms?
That's our current plan, yes.
You also announced Shelter, now that you mentioned it, on Nintendo Switch.
I'm a huge Nintendo Switch fan player. We got Skyrim already, and also Bethesda is publishing Warface 10, I think it's tomorrow, and also Doom already."

"So, other than Shelter, do you think there is room or there is interest in bringing main Fallout entries, like for example Fallout 4, to the Nintendo Switch?
Well, there's definitely interest. Not something that we are exploring right now.
And we think the Switch is a great platform. It was the first time we really worked closely with Nintendo on Skyrim and a really, really great experience."

"And we'll certainly be doing more things there in the future, but right now it's not a mainline Fallout 4.
How do you feel personally about the platform? Do you play yourself? Did you play Skyrim a lot on it?
How do you feel a huge open world can feel on this portable platform?
I love it. When Nintendo came to us, we were one of the first people that they showed the Switch to."

"So I got to play it very, very early and immediately felt, this is unique. It's not just another handheld, it's also a console.
And it's very uniquely Nintendo. And so I think a lot of people sort of associated Nintendo with the Wii or the Wii U.
Think about the consoles, but Nintendo's main audience was always on the Game Boy or the DS.
And them saying, we're going to do a full console handheld. And I love the controllers."

"So when it came out, we were there very early as developers. And in one hand, we got lucky how popular the platform was.
But we felt strongly it was going to be popular. I love Zelda. The Switch became the Zelda device when it came out.
And Mario's great on a lot of other games as well.
With so many games announced recently, what can you tell us about Bethesda Game Studios' current structure and your own personal role?
I don't know how much hands-on you get with every single project, if that's at all possible."

"I still get pretty hands-on, just not the whole time. I'm very involved in beginning a project. I'm very involved in the end.
And in the middle, I'm kind of jumping between things, but we overlap the projects.
So we have three studios, Maryland, Montreal, and Austin.
All with really great people and separate directors at each studio."

"So it makes things easy for me to kind of jump in and work creatively with the teams.
And everybody now is really working well together. There was a period where it was tricky because we grew very quickly.
But felt that for games we're doing in the future as well, for Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI and our mobile things, that we needed to get bigger to pull off some of the things that we had in our heads."

"Thank you very much for your time, Todd. And again, congratulations on your award.
Thank you."





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