Bethesda released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in 2011, and ten years on, we're still finding things and learning new secrets that stun us. Today's is the fact that foxes do lead the player to loot hidden in Skyrim, though they weren't really meant to.
The iconic opening scene of the game almost didn't happen due to a tricksy little bee sending that horse and cart into space. Someone in Solitude is actually a vampire who is hiding in plain sight. The Gildergreen quest doesn't really require you to murder everyone in your path. Skyrim is filled to the brim with all sorts of hilarious and intriguing stories. And, now we know that foxes are actually taking the player towards treasure chests, though that wasn't the studio's plan.
Check out Icarus, a savage survival game from developer RocketWerkz. The idea is that humanity tried to terraform a new planet for their future yet the project failed... due to the emergence of highly valuable and highly toxic materials. Long story short: if you like PUBG, Valheim, or Skyrim, this'll be your cup of tea. Watch some gameplay below!
This tidbit comes from Joel Burgess, studio director for CapyGames and former Skyrim developer, through Twitter. It turns out that Bethesda was surprised to discover stories from players who claimed that following foxes in the open world would lead them to loot. That wasn't something that the team consciously coded in the game and when Burgess sifted through Skyrim's scripts, there was nothing that suggested this should be the case.
"Skyrim uses something called 'navmesh' for AI navigation," explained Burgess. "For non-dev folks, this is an invisible 3D sheet of polygons that is laid over the world, telling AI where it can and cannot go." As such, NPCs are using artificial intelligence that can see that mesh and choose what to do next - charge towards you, sidestep around you, swim across the river, and so on.
Fox AI is rudimentary in Skyrim. They just run away when they are startled by the player. This behaviour incidentally led to the animals tracking towards points of interest which often had loot for the player to pocket. "Swaths of the outdoor world have simple navmesh. You don't need to add lots of detail in a space with basic topography, little clutter, or a low chance of combat. So wilderness = small number of big triangles," continued Burgess.
"When you stumble across something like a camp, however, navmesh gets way more detailed. Added visual detail means added navmesh detail, and if we're placing NPCs of any kind, we also tend to add even more detail," said the developer, adding that these areas have a high number of smaller triangles as part of the mesh. "The Fox isn't trying to get 100 meters away - it's trying to get 100 *triangles* away. You know where it's easy to find 100 triangles? The camps/ruins/etc that we littered the world with, and filled with treasure to reward your exploration."
There you have it. A ten year debate settled through the magic of emergent gameplay.
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