RPGamer was fortunate enough to be able to catch up with Bethesda Softworks's Todd Howard, who has been acting as producer for the upcoming PC/Xbox RPG Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.
RPGamer: How long have you worked at Bethesda Softworks, and on what products did you previously work?
Todd Howard: I've been here since 1994 and worked on too many things to remember. The big ones were Terminator: Future Shock and SkyNET, Daggerfall, Redguard, and now Morrowind.
RPGamer: Have any games, movies, or books inspired the Elder Scroll series?
TH: Everything really. Mostly Tolkien and D&D. Tons of games, from the old days like Ultima, Ultima Underworld, and the little known Legends of Valor. Some recent inspirations include System Shock 2 and Deus Ex, which did a great job of mixing 1st person action with role playing. I love the character creation in System Shock 2. Brilliant.
RPGamer: What was the easiest part about creating Morrowind? The Hardest?
TH: The easiest part is coming up with ideas. The hardest part is making them work...on a massive scale. The game is really huge.
RPGamer: Morrowind has been in development for a long time. Did anything major storywise change throughout, or were any changes only of a technical nature?
TH: Actually nothing "major" changed. The story got "simpler" only because it was too confusing and too big. But not by much. The technology is right where we planned it. We were thinking very long-term when we started.
RPGamer: Morrowind is described as an open-ended RPG. Can you elaborate on what exactly that means?
TH: That means that you create your own story, it is a wide-open game. You can join the Thieves Guild or become an assassin if you want, and the game has things for you to do. Or you could go out and just save the world, and be a good guy. And it's BIG! You can start the game and decide to walk across the world going in every dungeon you see, and nothing will stop you from trying that.
RPGamer: Has the transition from an entirely PC oriented series to the Xbox affected the game?
TH: Yes, but for the better. It forced us to optimize more and think more about new players. I think sometimes the fact that the user has a keyboard is a crutch for game designers. You get in this mode of adding keys all over the place, when you really want to keep the system as simple as possible.
RPGamer: What do you feel most sets Morrowind apart from previous games in the Elder Scrolls series? From RPGs in general?
TH: From the series? I think it's a cleaner more polished and balanced experience. The world around you is tons better than the previous games. Much more real and less generic sameness, while still being huge. Personally I like Arena better than Daggerfall. I think Arena was a tighter package.
From RPGs in general? I think the Elder Scrolls series itself is so different, because you really have total freedom. It harkens back to the kinds of games people don't make anymore like Elite.
RPGamer: Aside from the Elder Scrolls series, what game is your favorite RPG?
TH: Ultima 7 is still the landmark RPG for me. Simply the most real world I'd ever been to. I'm sad to see the single player Ultima series go away. My dream is that Morrowind has the same effect on a kid that the early Ultima's had on me.
RPGamer: Are there any plans to release Morrowind themed merchandise, such as soundtracks or action figures?
TH: The Collector's Edition of Morrowind comes with a pewter figure and a soundtrack CD and a book of cool concept art for Morrowind. It's a great package. Visit our website, we have pictures of it. Looks great.
RPGamer: Will there be a fourth Elder Scrolls title?
TH: Definitely, but that's a long way away.
Our thanks go to Todd Howard for taking the time to chat with us. If the above sounds like your bag, you can find out more by checking out our Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind page. Meanwhile, start saving those pennies. The regular and collector's PC versions of the game are set to hit shelves across North America on March 26, with the Xbox version bringing up the rear on the 24th of April.
Update (02.21.2002): Bethesda contacted us today to inform us that the actual shipping date has not been finalized, but that both PC versions and the Xbox version will go on sale some time this Spring. Ubi Soft is planning to ship the game in June in Europe.