Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Interview

We talk to Bethesda’s Peter Hines about world building, in-game romance, and dragon-slaying the highly anticipated fantasy RPG

We’re very excited about Skryim at SFX. So excited that if next month’s issue inexplicably fails to materialise now you know why. The reason we’re so excited is that between us we ploughed dozens, if not hundreds, of hours into its predecessor The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and that didn’t even have random dragons appearing across the epic landscape for you to slay with your custom-built warrior.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is released in the UK this Friday, 11 November. To make the torturously long week ahead a little more bearable we picked the brains of Bethesda Softworks’ Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing Peter Hines about what to expect from the game. And be sure to check back on Thursday 10 November at 2pm (on the dot!) to read our review.

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SFX: How big is the open world you get to explore compared to Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? And how diverse are the environments this time round?
Peter Hines: It’s roughly the same size as Oblivion in terms of square miles, but it is much denser than Oblivion in terms of amount of content in that space. It’s easily the biggest game we’ve undertaken in all my time at Bethesda.

We heard that in Skyrim you’ll be able to “smith” weapons and armour as a skill. Are you adding more skills and abilities? How do skills like this work in the game?
Yes, we now have a Smithing skill that allows you to craft and enhance your own weapons and armour. We now also have the ability to cook foods at special cookfires. Both of them work at special “stations” where you create or enhance an item, or cook foods, based on recipes you get by using the station. We’ve combined some skills and enhanced others, and also added Perks for each Skill that allow you to further enhance what you can do in each skill. You pick a perk every time you level up.

Will spellmaking still be a skill? How will magic work in this new game?
No, there’s no spellmaking in the game. We still have alchemy (to create potions and poisons) and enchanting (to enchant weapons, armour, and items with spell effects).

Tell us about Dragon Shouts and how the player will communicate with dragons.
As the Dragonborn, the player has the ability to learn Shouts, or special words of power. This is the language of the dragons and when you see a dragon attack with flame or frost breath, what they are actually doing is shouting these words of power to create the attack. You can also learn and use these Shouts to attack dragons (with battles essentially becoming debates, or a “war of words”).

Dragons supposedly appear at random and can attack anything including NPCs and towns – how will the game remain balanced? Couldn’t this disrupt quests and story arcs?
Well, it can certainly disrupt a quiet walk in the woods, but it won’t really interrupt quests or story arcs. Consider it a powerful incentive to find out why the dragons have returned and do something about it.

Elder Scrolls games always start with the player as a prisoner. What is it about outlaws and lawbreakers that the writers think make for a good game character?
It’s part of the fun of our games to decide for yourself why you were imprisoned and what kind of person you are. Were you wrongly accused? Are you an assassin who finally got caught? It’s up to you to fill in the blanks and decide.

What have you learned from Fallout 3 that you’ve put to use in Skyrim?
How to tell better stories, create compelling characters, interesting dialogue, and more dense worlds filled with interesting locations.

I read on a forum a reference to an “in-game spouse”. Will romance be an option in Skyrim?
Yes, you can get married in Skyrim. There are many eligible spouses-to-be to choose from.

One of the things Terry Pratchett told us he loved about Oblivion was its extendibility – people wrote their own mods for it, and still do. Will people be able to modify Skyrim too?
Yes, we are releasing the Creation Kit that will allow people to create mods on the PC as much as they like, just as they could for Oblivion. Also, Terry Pratchett is awesome.

What are your thoughts on open world RPGs (such as Skyrim) versus tightly scripted RPGs (such as the Dragon Age) as there seems to be a bit of a split developing in the market?
I think there’s room for games of all shapes, sizes and types in our genre, and in gaming in general. It’s healthy and necessary in order for gaming to continue to evolve and grow.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim UK release date is Friday 11 November.

Like RPGs? Then why not read our Mass Effect 3 interview.