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Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz in a fireside chat during Develop:Brighton Digital, this new engine requires a heavy investment if Bethesda wishes to achieve its goals. Though the engine is refreshed with every game, this one "needs more work than it has in previous times," with "more people doing engine work now by a factor of five than we've ever had."
As the advent of the next-generation of hardware is on the horizon, Howard had explained that creating Bethesda's signature "vast worlds" will see "all new technologies" in the two new games.
"The overhaul on our engine is probably the largest we've ever had, maybe even larger than Morrowind to Oblivion," he qualified. "From rendering to animation to pathing to procedural generation... I don't want to say everything, but it's a significant overhaul. It's taken us longer than we would have liked, but it's going to power everything we're doing with Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6."
These ginormous game worlds may be Bethesda's specialty, but there's another thing that springs to mind whenever someone says "Skyrim." The scale of these settings strain at the seams, and it's the bugs and glitches that have wormed their way into players' fond memories of Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 4, and so on. The current engine also allows for copious modding, and one might expect that custom content won't be easily integrated in a powerful new engine.
"There are things we do that we still like, the way we build our worlds, the way people can mod it - these are things I think are fundamentally good about our tech stack," said Howard, and expressed that modders help to produce that "part of the vibe where, from the get go, a game feels endless." Another new arrival is a tool letting developers bring procedurally generated landmasses to life in both of the new games, and on a scale unseen in previous Bethesda titles. All of this is very exciting, but, he did say that it will be a while before we see more of Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6... and that's intentional.
"You just don't want to string [the fans] along too long. You get kind of fatigued," he explained. "You have to balance that fatigue of wanting something versus that consumer excitement. Also it takes time, to be frank. Preparing trailers, demos and assets take time away from development. I remember games we've done where you're doing that for multiple years and it's like you have to top yourself. You have to top your previous demo. I'd rather spend all that time focusing on the game and prepare one big demo."
This is reminiscent of FromSoftware's approach to Elden Ring, which is definitely still in development, thanks for asking. On the other hand, one game that has suffered from "fatigue" is Cyberpunk 2077, which was delayed for the third time to December 2020. Numerous Night City Wire events which flaunted the depth of the RPG and the stories of six-day work weeks and mismanagement clashed, leading to an unsteady outlook on the game. Bethesda is keen to circumvent this sort of situation for Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6, and after all, good things come to those who wait.
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