This is the third fan interview as published by Bethesda Softworks on January 24th, 2006. It does not contain answers to all the question sent to them, but it contains more answers than any previous interview.
As before, the interview questions were gathered on the Official Elder Scrolls forums and then organized and submitted to Bethesda by highly committed members of that forum.
Pete: Far and away the longest interview we've ever answered. These were answered by Gavin, Todd, and me. Hope you enjoy it.
1. Will dead bodies found by guards or other NPC's be reported or investigated. A heightened security alert of some sort? If yes, then is it possible to move the bodies, or will it remain the Morrowind "Remove Corpse" bit?
NPCs and guards will stop to examine dead bodies that they come across. They'll kneel down and express their sorrow or wonder at the sight. The biggest worry you'll have is that it will cause more NPCs to congregate around it, raising your chances of being detected if you're trying to sneak through. You can drag bodies around using the "Grab" button, but it's a slow process as bodies are heavy.
2. If you are completely hidden in the shadows and shoot an arrow at an enemy, will the enemy come straight at you, or will they have to look around for you? What if you fire an arrow at a rock wall next to an enemy, will the enemy hear the arrow ricochet, and then investigate? Can you lure an enemy to you/into a trap in this manner? Also, will your sneak skill be affected when wearing bright/shiny armor/clothes, as opposed to dark/dull armor/clothes?
If you shoot an arrow and hit an NPC while you are undetected, you drastically raise your chance of being detected. However, it's not guaranteed that the NPC will detect you immediately. If he doesn't detect you, he'll go into a combat ready state, waiting for you to show yourself. We don't go the full-on Thief level of detail with distracting guards by making noises, but you can definitely lead NPCs and creatures into traps if they're chasing you. The shininess of your clothing does not affect your detection chances, although the sound that comes from moving about in heavy armor will definitely make it harder to stay hidden.
3. Will creatures interact with each other? E.G. Will bears attack deer when they are hungry? Would this emulate an ecosystem? Also will there be more underwater creatures than there were in Morrowind, approximately how many?
We have a few situations in the game where animals will attack each other. But yes, it does happen. It depends largely on their AI settings. For water creatures we have slaughterfish again. There is far less water in Cyrodiil than in Morrowind. A few of the land creatures are capable of swimming, though.
4. We've read that it's possible for "friends" to join a faction along side you and you can watch them progress. Is this governed by RAI or is it a specific quest thing? Is it even possible to make friends like that?
Radiant AI is a global system that governs every action of NPCs. While we use it to do grand, overarching things like dictating how and where NPCs spend their days and nights, we also use it in much smaller sequences to do things as mundane as moving a character across a room to pick up an item. So, in a way, everything NPCs do is at some point governed by Radiant AI. In certain factions, you will meet what we term "continuing characters." These are characters who you will come into contact with at several different points throughout the questline. You can talk to them, watch them grow, influence them, and perhaps even go on quests with them and alter their paths through the game.
5. Will adventurous NPCs *claim* the loot from a dungeon before I get there to explore it?
No, we set them up so that they don't process while you're not in the cell to avoid just that situation. While it might be realistic that they'd clean out a dungeon before you'd have a chance, I don't think that's in any way fun. There are some "adventurers" who you will see in dungeons that will work with you and do their own looting, but you have to be there.
6. Will NPCs perception be affected by the low visibility/camouflage in forests?
If you mean ability to see you and detect you, yes.
7. Will NPCs take note of specific things you've done and comment on them?
8. A key limitation in Morrowind's scripting implementation was the difficulty to assign functions to random objects in the game world. E.g. there was no way to obtain an object reference for something in the players crosshairs or of an opponent in combat with the player and then manipulate that object from e.g. a global script. Has this been changed, and will more functions take objects as arguments?
Yes, objects (references) can now be used as variables and much more.
9. How does the game handle, different race and sex selections in regards to the body meshes, is there one or more meshes that are morphed according to your choice. Or are there separate meshes for male and female and for beast races respectively. If the bodies do undergo morphing, is the 3dmax morpher modifier supported. And if not what software is supported in regards to implementing into the game user made morphs for the body meshes.
All the NPCs share the same basic body meshes, with different textures and normal maps distinguishing the races. Males and females have different meshes, and some body parts, such as hands, heads, and tails, are different for beast races. Sharing the meshes helps with a host of technical nightmares ranging from our uber-complex clothing system to our animation system. Bodies can be scaled uniformly and non-uniformly in the game, but we do not do any body morphing and don't support that functionality.
10. I'm interested in knowing if the developers are considering releasing along with the new game some model templates and rigged biped source files (or animation blanks).
We haven't locked down our specific plans for post-release support. Right now our main concern is finishing up the game.
11. The scripting language was one of the most powerful tools given to Morrowind modders. Can you outline some of the most important additions to scripting? For example, is scripting set up to fully interact with the new features, like radiant AI, physics, and facial animations; are there new variable types?
Scripting is even better this time -- and yes, it interacts with the whole game.
12. To the developers: How are YOU going to handle the voice dialog when you make new mods for Oblivion? Will you make new voice recordings with the original voice actors? Or will the mod have no unique quest voice dialog? The purpose of this question is to sort out all the questions and fears we modders have about the voice dialog.
If we had specific needs for voice in a plug-in, we would probably find professional actors for the role. You can make characters that don't share dialog with others, so putting in a new character with a unique voice shouldn't be a problem.
13. Will there be a 3dmax Importer/Exporter which will enable the modding community to continue to input their own mesh creations, and if not, will it be possible to input modder mesh work by any means or will there be some kind of support for this?
We are looking into releasing an exporter similar to the Morrowind tool. Specific plans will be announced when the details are ready.
14. Has the scripting editor been improved for better editing and debugging capabilities?
A little, but it's basically like Morrowind for debugging.
15. Are you planning a team diary on Radiant AI and Scripting System?
Not at this time.
16. In Morrowind you can NOT add animations to the PLAYER. If you use "playgroup" on the Player Morrowind crashes. Will modders now be able to ADD new animations to the Player via the construction set?
Yes, though probably only idle animations. That is now an editor section and does not need heavy scripting.
17. Will it be possible to ADD new weapon types via the CS, defining new fight animations etc?
18. Will it be possible to ADD new skills via the CS?
19. A follow up to the skill question above. Will it be possible to define new actions controlled by skills such as activation of a specific device?
I'm not sure I understand this question. You can check the level of a skill through script if you wish. You can also change the skill.
20. Are alpha maps or transparancies supported again and what file types are being used for meshes and textures this time around? Example. Nifs and dds.
Yes, and NIFs and DDS.
21. Is the 3DMax flex modifier supported ?
22. Is the clothing movement handled by the Havoc physic engine ? Can it be taken advantage of by modders ?
No, we do not use cloth physics for clothing. I don't believe it would be possible to mod in.
23. What would you say is the most significant upgrade to the magic system? What types of skill perks come with the six different schools of magic? Are spell's effectiveness modified at higher skill levels?
How has magic been balanced so that mages are as powerful as thieves & fighters? Can custom spells (or enchantments) be created w/ negative effects to reduce their cost? Will spells still drain a mages magicka as fast as they did in Morrowind?
The most significant upgrade is the addition of physics to breathe new life into everything from telekinesis to plain old fireballs. Also significant is the inclusion of the Script Effect, which allows you to link the effects of a spell to any given script. Magic skill perks mostly relate to being able to cast more and more powerful spells. We've made a great deal of effort to balance all the character classes. The whole system of spell points has been completely rebalanced and the numbers from Morrowind bear little to no bearing on the numbers for Oblivion.
24. How exactly will Necromancy work? Will the Reanimate spell simply ressurect the NPC, or will it produce a zombie? Could a player play a Necromancer class from the beginning to the end? Can I ressurect skeletal corpses I find in dungeons? And will the reanimated NPC's be low level NPC's or will they become creatures and how long will they stay "alive"?
The Reanimate spell returns the NPC to life, but they become a shell of their former selves. The NPC is lifted off the ground, hangs in the air a moment, then returns to their feet to become your servant and assault your enemies. Only the recently dead can be reanimated. The reanimated NPC is returned to their full pre-death health.
25. Persuasion as portrayed by the E3 demo was shown to be exceptionally easy, is it like this with all npcs? Are some npcs reactions harder to read than others? Are there any hidden extras to persuation? E.G. PC talks with a warrior orc, and in order to become better friends, PC chooses to intimidate the orc instead of choosing admire or joke. Could the orc eventually come to respect PC? Could this respect come to lead to a greater friendship than admire and/or joke could have led to? Also can you please explain a bit more about the recent changes that have been done to the interface of the Speechcraft minigame? What about the demand button?
The persuasion minigame is very different from what was shown at E3. It plays much more like a game now. Similar to the one we showed, the game still uses a circular interface divided into four quadrants for the different persuasion types. The art is completely different and fully animated now. Each of the four quadrants will fill with wedges of different sizes. The size of the wedge reflects the scale of the potential effect of your choosing an action. Choosing a large wedge has a great effect; choosing a small wedge has a small effect.
As you highlight in turn the Admire, Boast, Joke, and Coerce quadrants, the person 's face shows his reaction to each of the actions. For each of the four actions, he will Love one, Like one, Dislike one, and Hate one. Don't take too long, because the person 's disposition is steadily falling. The person 's disposition goes up when you select a Loved or Liked action and goes down when you select a Disliked or Hated action.
The potential gain or loss for each action is based on your Speechcraft and how full the wedge is. Try to select fuller wedges when they are aligned with actions the person likes. Try to select less full wedges when they are aligned with actions he doesn't like.
26. Is there ANY kind of crafting in Oblivion?
27. Can we influence animals through speechcraft?
28. Is levitate in as a spell?
29. How many of the 400+ books are new titles, what is the general ratio of fiction to non-fiction, and are any written by new authors, or is everything still written by the old hands (Ted Peterson, Michael Kirkbride, etc.)? What updates can we expect for the 'Pocket Guide to the Empire', especially considering recent history? Are there any specific subject areas that have gotten some more love, such as this 'Argonian Compendium' we have heard about? In what other ways will the the lore be communicated apart from through books?
We commissioned around 50 books from Ted and Michael this time around. In addition, our designers here have cranked out all manner of texts, including notes, letters, books, newspapers, and more. With full voice for all characters, we're trying to rely on NPCs for exposition, and keep books for more background and world atmosphere. The Pocket Guide is part of the Collector's Edition.
30. How will the books and texts released after Morrowind (e.g. Vehk's Teachings) and the teasers and reports before Oblivion (e.g. Nu-Mantia Intercept, Love Letter from the Fifth Era, etc.) be folded into the official lore and will this lore appear in-game? Was the 'Trial of Vivec' RP (which culminated in the banishing of Azura from Mundus) a semi-official conclusion of the Morrowind storyline, or can we expect to learn more of its connection to recent events, along with the true fate of Vivec/Vehk?
Remember that only things that have been published in Elder Scrolls games should be considered official lore.
31. Daedra & Oblivion: Will we be granted any further insights into the Daedra's motivations and attitudes compared with those of the Aedra, as we were in Battlespire? What more are we likely to discover about the less well-known Daedra Princes (e.g. Peryite, Meridia). Will we see any new varieties of lesser daedra? What more can we expect from the 'Imperial Census of Daedra'?
Certainly, with any new game, we learn more and more about the motivations of the Daedric Princes. Oblivion is no exception. The other Daedric Princes are present in this game, so there's always more to be learned, but only one plays a major role in the story. As for the lesser daedra, we'll see the return of some old favorites that haven't been seen in years, as well as some varieties of other, more familiar ones.
32. Are there answers to mysteries about the dwemer?
33. Will dragons come help the Empire in its time of need?
34. The Pocket Guide to the Empire (and its environs) mentions that Cyrodil has some colonies of "true Akaviri", and people with Akiviri facial traits and last names. Will this lore be present in any form in the game?
The vagaries of Akaviri culture have been all but completely absorbed into the cosmopolitan social structure of Cyrodiil. Holding out hope for some kind of remote pool of "true Akaviris" was perhaps simply wishful thinking on the part of the author of the initial Pocket Guide. A new version is being composed to correct his mistakes and exaggerations.
35. Will seasons change, and if so will it have a more direct effect on the game like leaves change color and fall, will ponds freezing over, or even people putting on warmer clothes?
Seasons don't change during the game. Different areas of the world have different climates (the north is more prone to snow, for instance). But the chances for a particular weather type in a particular area will stay constant throughout the year.
36. Can you elaborate on the properties of water? For example, flowing rivers that affect PC movement or waves that vary depending on circumstances (i.e. ocean vs. lake waves; calm vs. stormy day)? Would these features be adjustable via script?
There are different water types, though we do not have them move or affect you -- it's really just a visual. The editor has a whole section for creating your own water effects. The game does have some great looking waterfalls too.
37. Do lightning flashes brighten windows and do we hear rolls of thunder while we are indoors?
38. Are there flowing rivers?
No, but you can see the water flow heavily near waterfalls.
39. Does water reflect the environment trees and grass?
Clarification by Gavin Carter: The water reflects the terrain, so all the mountain vistas and things like that get reflected in the water. It also reflects distant objects like cities, so you'll see for instance the giant imperial tower reflected in the surrounding waters. It doesn't reflect trees and grass - Reflecting something means you basically have to render it twice, and trees and grass are fairly expensive to render once :)
40. On Vampires, is feeding still done with the absorb spell or is there now a sucking animation? What about the disease itself, is it still curable? How widespread is it among the NPC population? Can the PC spread the disease? Also will there be different clans, powers, and Stat boosts? Will we see any outside Elder Scrolls myths about them come into play? Any other goodies you'd like to tell us?
You can feed off sleeping NPCs, and there is a feeding animation. The disease has a cure. While it would be incorrect to describe vampirism as "widespread" in Cyrodiil, you may come across some in very unexpected places. Be very careful if you have to face one in combat. Not only are vampires supernaturally powerful, many possess an invisibility ability that they will engage at will in combat to pop out of sight, only to emerge behind you in full attack.
41. Can you see your legs in first person?
42. It has been said that the game will feature physics based telekinesis (like Psi-Ops and Half-Life 2) but there has also been discussion suggesting that objects in the world cannot be thrown to do damage.
Can the Developers please clarify this? Can Telekinesis be used combatively, either by throwing opponents or by throwing things at them (and if so, should telekinesis be moved to the school of destruction magic)? What about long drops? What about ricocheting arrows?
Enemies will not be harmed by thrown objects. There's a lot of potential for frustration for players if we put that in, as it's pretty easy to unintentionally send something flying off a table.
43. Sinking in Water (Of objects and/or yourself when overweight)?
44. The announcement of the availability of regularly produced downloadable available content which will be charged for generated much controversy. Can you describe the overall strategy / philosophy behind the new approach? Is it purely a lucrative endeavor?
We are taking a different approach than we did with Morrowind. We want to be able to have content on a more regular basis and be able to dedicate the necessary resources to doing them at a certain level. Charging a small amount for this extra content allowed us to do this. Doing them for free this time around wasn't really something we contemplated. We didn't like the way it worked before and wanted to change it and do it better. Much like the game, if people think a plugin is worth it, they'll get it. If not, they won't.
45. Will the downloadable content facilitate or hamper the developement of regular expansion packs (on CD / DVD) for TES4 Oblivion?
It has no effect on our ability to do expansions.
46. Is there any plans to make the downloadable content available on CD or to integrate it as part of future expansion pack, so that it's easier to install?
At this time we have no plans to bundle them or distribute them in any other way.
47. How will you handle security ? Isn't this going to cause us problems when we upgrade our computer ? If a CD version become available, is it going to be free of those hassles ?
It'll be a very simple security solution using an established company that handles DRM. You can freely distribute it, but you must have paid for it to be able to use it, or you'll be prompted to pay.
48. What will be the impact on modding ? It was already hard for mod sites to identify Mods dependences on x-packs for Morrowind. Isn't this dependency on let's say horse armor and 10 other various plugins make it hard to identify user made plugins requirements ?
Our simple requirement is that if you use something of ours, the end user must own the original source to be able to use the plugin. If you mod Oblivion, they must own Oblivion to run it. If you use part of an expansion, they must own the expansion. If it uses our plugin, they must own the plugin. Very straightforward.
49. We know that Enchanting Items is one perk for the mage's guild, what is one of the perks for the Fighters guild or Thieves Guild or Dark Brotherhood?
Each guild has its own "headquarters" of sorts that contains various services relevant to the guild. Players can buy equipment and receive training there. The Thieves Guild maintains a network of fences that allow the player to sell their stolen goods. Getting to the top of the guild can unlock certain recurring benefits such as monthly stipends of gold or equipment, or the use of special plot-centric equipment.
50. We know the highest guild perk is recruiting other members and promoting lower rank ones, are we also able to demote/kick people out of a guild/faction?
No, and not all guilds allow control over membership like that.
51. Will there be traffic on the roads outside / between the cities? Armed noble escorts in carriages, merchant caravans, weary travelers, etc? It is the Imperial capitol, after all.
Yes, you will see NPCs traveling along the roads. Guards will regularly patrol the roads as well, making committing crimes outside of towns a bit more tricky.
52. Are any containers movable ? (sacks?)
53. When you release the requirements, do you plan to give us an idea on the quality compromises we will be making by choosing various hardware components such as CPU, Graphic cards, hard disk, RAM ? In other words, tell us what the impact of each component will be. Or will we still be in the blind like with Morrowind ? (RAM and hard disk speed had a huge impact on Morrowind performance, much bigger than having the latest graphic card and a bad hard disk, especially in the Bloodmoon area)
It's very difficult to provide a level of performance barometer for each variable in the system requirements, as they are often interrelated. As with all games, the lower towards the min spec you are, the more you should plan on scaling back options and settings to achieve a satisfactory game experience.
54. Do you plan to release technical details on what specific technical details TES4 will be able to take advantage of. Will it support all shader models that allow for HDR? Will it benefit from running in Windows x64 edition, or work in Windows ME? Will it take advantage of multiprocessor?
We'll let folks know what OS's it works with or takes advantage of. We've previously said we're using pretty much every shader effect out there as well as HDR lighting.
55. Will you take advantage of fast hard disk and large amount of RAM?
56. Will having a hard disk for the XBox 360 have a noticeable positive impact?
Yes, load times are faster across the board.
57. Did you do different optimizations for the various architectures, especially for multiprocessors versus single processors to avoid the overhead cost?
Some of the optimizations for the multicore Xbox 360 processor made it over to the PC side. It should perform faster on a multiprocessor system than a single processor system. At the moment I can't provide data on how dramatic the difference is.
58. Is FaceFX from OC3 entertainment used for the facial animation?
59. Will our actions and decisions in the course of the game have true consequences in the game world? Can you give an example?
This question hinges on how you define "true" in the context of that sentence. Certainly resolving the main quest is a major world-changing event that produces obvious differences as you walk around the world. There are several quests where you're offered a moral choice. For instance, whether to trust a guard's version of a story vs. a citizen calling the guard corrupt. Past actions may also come back to haunt you. There's a point in the main quest where you're tasked with marshalling armies from each of the counts of Cyrodiil to help in a particular battle. If you've made them angry through other quests, they may disagree to provide aid.
60. Can we "roleplay through dialogue" this time? Meaning, are there different dialogue options that may fit different character types? Some sort of "dialogue tree"?
There are many more places with dialog choices than there were in Morrowind. For standard dialog with characters we still like the topic lists, though we make sure they don't get anywhere near as long as they did in Morrowind.