The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Official Website Oblivion is a single-player game that takes place in Tamriel's capital province, Cyrodiil. You are given the task of finding the hidden heir to a throne that sits empty, the previous emperor having been killed by an unknown assassin. With no true Emperor, the gates to Oblivion (the equivalent of hell in the world of Tamriel) open, and demons begin to invade Cyrodiil and attack its people and towns. It's up to you to find the lost heir to the throne and unravel the sinister plot that threatens to destroy all of Tamriel.
In keeping with the Elder Scrolls tradition, players will have the option to experience the main quest at their own pace, and there will be plenty of opportunities to explore the vast world and make your own way. Numerous factions can be joined, such as the thieves or mages guilds, and each contains its own complete storyline and the chance to rise to the head of the faction and reap further rewards.
Oblivion features a groundbreaking new AI system, called Radiant AI, which gives non-player characters (NPCs) the ability to make their own choices based on the world around them. They'll decide where to eat or who to talk to and what they'll say. They'll sleep, go to church, and even steal items, all based on their individual characteristics. Full facial animations and lip-synching, combined with full speech for all dialog, allows NPCs to come to life like never before.
Game Chronicles goes inside this groundbreaking new RPG experience with a GCM exclusive interview by Mat Houghton.
GCM: Thanks for taking time out to talk with us. If you would please start by introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about the team that is behind Oblivion. Todd Howard:I’m Todd Howard, boy-in-charge. The team that’s making Oblivion is comprised of the same folks who made Morrowind and a whole slew of new amazing talent.
GCM: Since Oblivion’s story will revolve around a character the player will design, could you tell us a little about the plot of the game, and perhaps a favorite sequence of yours?
Todd Howard: The game starts inside a prison cell, which happens to be a secret escape route the Emperor and his guards, the Blades, are using to evade an assassin. You make your escape and before the Emperor dies he hands you the Amulet of Kings, the token of the true emperor, and implores you to find the rightful heir to the throne and shut the jaws of Oblivion. Favorite sequence, hmmm, there’s a part after you find the heir and reunite him with the Blades that I love.
GCM:One of the things highlighted during the E3 demo of Oblivion was a fairly advanced physics engine in the game world, did you use the Half-Life 2 engine for this or was it something of your own creation?
Todd Howard: We use Havok for all our physics. It’s fantastic.
GCM: Could you detail for us how the forests in the game were constructed, and how this was integrated into the rest of the game?
Todd Howard:It’s one of those things we’ve always wanted to do in a game – full real-time forests for you to explore. Our tech for creating forests is something we spent a long time on. We’re combining procedural generation of landscape (based on its soil type and years of erosion), trees (based on species and random growth clustering), and grass (base on regional patterns) to create some really amazing areas. Combine this with full canopy shadows from the trees and it really takes you to another place. As far as gameplay – a forest really is one of the richest environments you could explore. The dynamic compass helps you find things because the first thing we experience with the forest was “I’m lost.” Being lost in the forest was not the kind of heroic experience we envisioned.
GCM:We’d like to know more about the radiant AI that was used for the NPC’s, aside from saving time and space, what advantages does it have over scripting these characters?
Todd Howard:Using the Radiant AI system, we have the ability to do things on a larger scale. Where other games’ NPCs require individual scripting, we can simply provide our NPC’s with goals and our system allows them to think on their own and complete the task. It allows us to have that same advanced behavior, but on a massive scale. The other thing it does is give the game a more organic feel than scripting could. NPC’s won’t always be standing there doing the exact same thing at the same time. The fact that your experience and what’s going on in the world around you in your game is a bit different than other people is pretty cool. The conversations you’ll overhear and subsequent quests you’ll be able to get as a result will vary. It makes the world feel much more realistic and alive.
GCM:Oblivion is scheduled to be released for the Xbox 360 and high end PC’s. Will it be a launch title for the 360? What sort or system requirements will be needed in order to run Oblivion from a PC?
Todd Howard:We’re shooting for the holidays, but can’t give you an exact date yet. As far as system specs for the PC… you know us! If you want the full-on graphics, expect to buy the best thing you can when the game comes out. We plan on having it run on as many systems as possible, but it’s too early to say how far we can drop the spec right now. We do have that as a goal – having it run on a wider variety of systems than Morrowind did.
GCM: What was different about developing this title for the PC and for the 360?
Todd Howard: The content in the game is the same, but the interfaces differ and the rendering pipelines are different. We use the same source art on both, but how they get drawn in-game differs.
GCM: One of the things Microsoft is pushing with the 360 is the ability to connect with anyone anywhere in the world. Will Oblivion take advantage of the online capabilities of that system?
Todd Howard:We’re planning some cool Xbox Live things, mostly involving lots of downloadable content and mods, but I can’t really get specific yet.
GCM: Moving on to some game play specifics, how in depth will character creation be? Will all the original races (including Khajiit & Argonian) be playable? Will there be any new ones introduced, such as the various races of Akavir? What form of Khajiit will be prevalent in this game?
Todd Howard:You can expect all the classic Elder Scrolls races to be available. All the beast races will be there again. The appearance of your character can be customized much more than ever before. Character generation is very different than our previous games. It takes the Morrowind paradigm – that you play the character generation – even further. We let you play the game for a while and watch what kinds of things you do before you get to the point where you pick your class. We offer up a class suggestion based on your style of play, but ultimately you can be whatever you want to be.
GCM: Are you planning on including features that were found in Daggerfall but left out of Morrowind, like banks, mounts, wagons, or the ability to climb or buy/own a ship or a house?
Todd Howard:We’ve added a lot of new features, including some you mention. We’ve brought back the fast travel map to allow you to instantly travel to any location you already know about, and there are mounts you can buy and use for traveling “on foot” more quickly. Yes, there will be houses you can buy in each major town where you can keep all of your stuff. At the same time, we spent a lot of time and energy on “features” that people do and experience all the time in our games: talking to people, killing stuff, NPC AI, etc. We wanted to do some new things in these areas to make the overall experience more enjoyable. More time having fun and less “down time.”
GCM: Will characters be encouraged to wear different types of clothing based on situation (i.e. more favorable reaction from NPCs if character is wearing formal clothing for a formal occasion)?
Todd Howard: The clothing you wear does affect certain NPC's, but not in a big way, it’s subtle.
GCM:Many old fans of the TES series were disappointed that the clothing customization options in Morrowind did not match up to that in Daggerfall. Will Oblivion remedy that?
Todd Howard:Hard to say, it’s different in Oblivion. We have much better looking clothing, and it mixes and matches better, but you don’t have the huge range of options you could in a 2D system like Daggerfall’s.
GCM: How much of Tamriel outside of Cyrodiil will the player be able to explore?
Todd Howard: The game takes place entirely in Cyrodiil and in Oblivion itself. It’s huge.
GCM: What familiar guilds/factions will be available for player membership? Todd Howard:The four main guilds are the mages, fighters, thieves, and Dark Brotherhood (assassin’s guild). Each of these is a main quest unto itself and you can join all four if you like. There’s also the Arena, which is a lot like a guild in that you can spend a lot of time fighting in the Arena circuit and improving your status. We feel all of the guilds are a lot more rewarding and polished than ever before and each will be a lot of fun if it’s the only thing you do in the game.
GCM: Will reskinning existing game objects be made easier in the TES Construction Set?
Todd Howard:That still works pretty much the same. The TES Construction Set was not designed to modify existing objects – we have other programs that do that much better. Rather, it’s designed to help create and edit the game world itself and the objects in that game world. To that end, it’s enjoyed the benefit of a number of enhancements and improvements that made creating the game easier for us, and will making modding the game much easier for fans. The whole system of creating a quest is exponentially better than it was in Morrowind.
GCM: The title name Oblivion sounds pretty final. Where do you see the series going from here?
Todd Howard:I can’t imagine a scenario where this is the last game, but I do love the title. The series after Oblivion? We always have crazy ideas, so we’ll see.
GCM: Thank you again for answering our questions. Are there any final thoughts, comments, jokes, anecdotes you’d like to leave us with?
Todd Howard:There’s a certain theme to your questions, and it’s natural, which is to ask for or compare features from one game in the series to the next. And in a nutshell, everyone should expect Oblivion to be its own unique game, just like Arena, Daggerfall, and Morrowind were. Each game is pretty different from the last, and has evolved the series into new directions, and that’s what keeps it going. We certainly look at things we think worked in each game, but we’ll always try new things, some will work great, some won’t, but we’ll keep trying them. Thanks for listening, and we hope you enjoy the game.
Check out screenshots here.