Todd Howard went up on a new video with Wired to talk about his career, game by game.
The whole video is worth going through. For the purposes of this article, we’ll go through the games that the company made from the sixth generation of consoles and onwards. These are the games modern gamers know the most, and are most relevant to us to this day.
Bethesda’s most recent game, of course, is Starfield. Howard explained that it is the most ambitious game he has made in his 20 + career. It may not be obvious on the surface, but Bethesda built many different layers of systems, that just has not been done in other games before.
Next to that is Fallout 76, which Howard diplomatically states had its problems. However, he was quick to point out that with continuing development and feedback from fans, that it’s become one of their most successful games. Even if only the hardcore fans keep playing it, it’s still hit that landmark.
Of course, Fallout 76 existed as a reaction of sorts to Fallout 4, the only game made from the ground up for the eight generation of consoles. And Fallout 4 may have followed the trend of action shooters, but it still had Bethesda’s foundation of RPG systems, and also their crafting/creation systems.
The game Howard says they are most famous for today is The Elder Scrolls Skyrim. Howard states his belief that his studio was “firing on all cylinders”, but also notes that they were already a 100 person team. Much like many other companies, Bethesda felt the need to ramp up greatly during the sixth console generation (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360), and the need to ramp up has just kept growing since.
And before Skyrim, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 got Fallout 3. Todd shared the uncertainty of Bethesda taking over what was originally a Western style RPG that followed the pen-and-paper GURPS rulebook very closely, to an open world shooter. But Todd also pointed out they were able to make Fallout 3 because they had already gotten familiar to the sixth console generation at this point.
And the reason they had become familiar with the sixth console generation is thanks to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. At this point, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 were not released yet, so Bethesda developed this as one of the first games of that generation.
As Todd points out, this was the most difficult environment to make games in. The targets for hardware could keep changing at any time, so they could only make smart guesses on what would be available to them. But, they were fortunate to have still had the team that made The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. That meant the team was familiar with each other and what they could do, so they could learn the technology and the new console together.
Todd states that they did their first work with pixel shaders for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and, in his words, ‘changed the technology hugely again.’ And here, Todd retells the story of how Bethesda threw themselves a party when they were told that Microsoft would double the available memory on the Xbox 360.
You can watch Todd’s video, and go all the way back to the start of this career, below. On the side, we made a video on why The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was such a big deal ourselves. You can watch that video here.