Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Your Questions Answered
Written Sunday, April 24, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Earlier on this week when we threw our Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim preview your way, we turned the tables over to you to ask for your questions on what we saw when we went eyes on with it in Utah last week. You know, to clear a few things up, go into more detail and what not. In other words, to prepare you for the release of one of Bethesda’s key franchises this year. Why? Because we’re nice like that. The response to our request for questions left us with loads to answer, so without further ado, let’s get on with the show!
Grummy opened the questions up with a few questions. He first asked:
“Did they say, or do you have any idea, what effect improving or ruining a settlement’s economy has, if any? It sounds like improving the economy should make things visibly better, cleaner, tidier, perhaps with better stock in shops, and hurting the economy should mean that the settlement becomes dirty and shops have less stock.”
Todd Howard, Bethesda’s Game Director, did touch upon it briefly, but not in an incredible amount of detail, so I will basically reiterate what he said. For example, if you kill the chap running the wood mill in Riverwood, that would ultimately affect the wood production for the region, which in turn would affect the amount and the quality of the arrows that the town and its shops would produce. Conversely, spend money in the town and invigorate the economy and the arrows that Riverwood would produce would then improve in quality and in quantity.
“Second. That weak moment of AI in the dungeon. Did that get mentioned at all?”
Not really, unfortunately. Hopefully it was a case of an early build of code that Bethesda had produced – seeing bizarre things happen in early pieces of game code is nothing new.
“Third. A slow time shout, right after he's already used a slow time perk? Seems pointless to have a shout for it when you already have it as a perk. Did this get mentioned at all?”
The slow time perk is actually a bow specific perk, whereas the Slow Time shout was a general one that you have to find. So, with the slow-mo arrow perk, basically, as soon as you pull back the bow and arrow to take a shot, you have a few seconds of time slowing down so you can make that key shot – think of it like the passive ability for the Infiltrator class in Mass Effect 2 when using the sniper rifle. On the other hand, the Slow Time shout – depending on which stage of the shout you use, AKA 1, 2 or 3 pieces of the spell – actually slows down time for a pretty long period of time, allowing you to use any weapons/spells as you see fit. Of course, this uses your Shout meter though.
hmp bogeet asked:
“You kept referring to the hero as Dovahkiin, this doesn't mean we are stuck playing a predetermined character right?”
No. The name is the only predetermined thing and it’s basically to signify that you are Dragonborn, which is the main story arch of Skyrim – AKA, you are a Dragonborn who has the power to absorb the souls of dragons you’ve slain and that you are the only one who can stop Alduin. You can choose the sex, look and race of you character, so fear not.
“Noticed the bloody sword, no bloody faces like Dragon Age are there?”
Not that we saw, no.
“How was the frame rate?”
The frame rate was flawless in all honesty. In the hour long demo there was no let up in intensity and no moments where the game struggled from a frame rate or even technical perspective... which is fairly impressive with a piece of game code that’s still prone to refinement in the next 6 or 7 months.
“I have only 2 question: is there ANY way to jump around like idiot? And did they talk anything about houses and possible how much they would be? (like 1 house = selling 20 swords etc.)”
Although we didn’t actually see the character jump in the gameplay demo – there was no need for him to – from what we can gather, they’ve only removed the acrobatic skill stat, so you don’t get rewarded for jumping. As far as we’re aware though, you can still jump around as an idiot if you wish. As for the houses, the only thing that Howard would say about that aspect is that there will be properties to purchase – like there was in Oblivion – but other than that, that’s all he would say.
“Speaking about the combat: How reflective is the damage caused by a weapon/spell to the enemies themselves? Will foes be knocked back after being hit by a blunt object? Will cuts show on the bodies? Will an enemy attempt to flee if badly wounded? As for these executions how graphic are they, I’m not expecting like condemned or manhunt brutality but is it like having to pull your axe out of enemy body, limb removal/decapitation etc?”
The damage is pretty reflective, you can knock foes back, and they’ll even block at times and taunt you too. I guess it all depends on the enemy type, bandits for instance seem to act more human – blocking, taunting, etc – whereas the beasts tended to be less tactical and more savage. I can’t say I noticed any gashes opening up on enemies when hit with an axe though, but Howard said that if the wound was clean, they would lose health over a period of time. Whether the wounds will be visual will be something that could even be added in later. We’ll check at E3 and report back, that’s for sure. As for the executions, from what we saw, they were quite brutal indeed and we saw one where a sword was speared straight through a bandit’s chest. No word on dismemberment yet, although it was brought up, Bethesda wouldn’t comment.
“1- You mentioned that "the enemies in Skyrim level up like those in Fallout 3, rather than Oblivion". I honestly don't know the difference since I haven't played Fallout 3. Could you maybe explain this?
Firstly, the levelling in Fallout 3 was a lot fairer than Oblivion’s system. Oblivion used level scaling to make the enemies you faced a similar level to you, whereas Fallout 3 used area specific levels mixed with a little level scaling – open areas tended to scale enemies to what you were, whereas the actual areas (like dungeons for instance) had set levels. For instance, in Oblivion, if you went into a dungeon as a level 10, the characters would be a level 10 and thereabouts. If you left, and came back, the creatures in the area actually became tougher. With Fallout 3, if you went into a “dungeon” as a level 5 and got your ass kicked, you could come back as a level 15 and kick ass yourself. Skyrim is like Fallout 3 then, thus giving you a reason to level up, because with Oblivion, it was effectively pointless as the world scaled with you.
Secondly, lag outside the city? I’m not sure I ever came across that, but Howard was keen to note that any issues that Oblivion had suffered that impeded gameplay had since been patched and because it’s a new engine, it shouldn’t be a problem here.
Thirdly, I couldn’t honestly give you a specific answer on how many there were in Oblivion, but it’s probably near the 200 mark. Those figures as well are a work in progress I would assume – they usually are in most early showings – so that number could rise. The difference between Oblivion and Skyrim though is definitely its diversity. While Oblivion may have had a lot of dungeons, inside, a lot of the interiors were rehashed and unchanging as you scaled through them. Skyrim on the other hand, the dungeon we got to see in action had so many different looks and feels, that the one dungeon alone put all the Oblivion dungeons to shame. Seriously. And that is something that Howard said was a typical dungeon experience.
Bash Callihoo asked... a lot actually, 7 in fact, so I’ll split them up...
“1. You mentioned that they now have a sort of economic system in the game correct? Well would you know how deep this system goes, whether you can purchase shops or potentially even start a makeshift "career" as a merchant?”
Correct. I touched on the economic system supra and that’s as much as we really know at the moment. I’m not entirely sure whether you can purchase shops – you can houses – and I’m not sure to what extent you can start up a “makeshift career” aside from that you can do jobs around towns. I think when Howard said, “What they can do, you can do” – or something to that effect – really speaks volumes on what we could expect, but of course, that would all be speculation.
“2. Do you know if perks and shouts stack? As you said at one point he uses a slow down time perk and then later a shout that does the same thing. Could you perhaps use the shout and then boost its effects by using the perk afterwards?”
Like I said above, the two different things were to do with two different aspects. I guess you could theoretically use the Slow Time shout and then zoom in with the bow for a super slow mo shot, I can’t see why not, but I’m not sure it’d combine the effects to be a super devastating attack. The shouts in actual fact though are stackable in essence. In short, each shout has three stages – i.e. three words that make up the phrase. On its own, one shout can have a short effect, but with the second or even third word as well, you can extend its effectiveness – the Slow Time would give you more time, whereas with the Unrelenting Force shout, the more words you have the stronger it’ll be and the wider its field of use is.
“3. As far as the combat goes did you notice an improvement in the AI? I know at one point you said the AI was weak for not noticing his bludgeoned companion, but during combat do they use spells more prominently, block, parry, etc? Overall does it look more natural, challenging and fun?”
Actually in combat, the AI looks a lot stronger. That one moment we mentioned was a moment outside of combat. Before we got wowed by the leaping fish in the opening minutes of the demo, we saw our main man, Dovahkiin, take on a few bandits. The first one taunted, didn’t just rush in swinging a sword, and he even blocked, rocked back a few times and looked to attack when it thought it would connect, rather than at certain junctures. So yes, it looks a lot more natural, fun and challenging. And yes, the demon spirit in the Hall of Stories used spells.
“4. How fluid was the demo in terms of keeping the gameplay fast-paced? You mention he uses plenty of spells during the demo, how did the transition look to you? As much as I loved being a mage it was annoying having to switch to your inventory every time you wanted to one that couldn't fit on your spell wheel.”
The demo was setup – I’m not sure whether this is the end UI, so it could change – with drop down menus on each hand, meaning you didn’t have to go into the inventory, so being able to switch them on the fly was easy enough. Howard was able to flick spells mid-battle and use what he thought would be best served on whichever enemy came across his path. This involved him switching from sword/shield combos to spell/spell combos with just a quick navigation of each hand menu.
“5. A simple one here, what were the load times like? I remember them being rather long in Oblivion (Maybe it was just me) but was there ever a time when you thought to yourself "Is it done loading yet?"”
I never once thought that, although, even if I had, it’s hard to judge load times on a preview build as it’s usually one of the things that is fixed last during development.
“6. Could you go a little deeper into the 3D book system you mentioned? It piqued my interest and I would love to hear more about the fancier menu systems.”
I’m glad you asked! The 3D book and scan mode – where you can look closely at items in your inventory from flowers to weapons – is bloody brilliant, and not only can you use it to read bits of scrolls, books or get clues for puzzles from quest items, but you can use it to perv over your weapons or anything in your inventory. It is as it sounds though with the 3D books... rather than reading reams of text on-screen, Skyrim actually gives you a 3D representation of the book – it’s the same for scrolls/parchments, etc – that you can open, zoom in, read the text, flick the pages, etc, etc. It’s a very unique and fancy way to represent something that is usually dull and imaginative.
“7. Last one. When he fights the dragon you make it seem like he was just another enemy with a bigger health bar. In your opinion, did it really look like a challenging fight at all, or was it a matter of "hitting him lots of times" (Sort of relates to question #3)””
Well, when they fought the dragon this time around, Howard mentioned that they upped the health and damage on Dovahkiin simply because they didn’t want to die in the demo – that happens a lot in live demos and is usually counter-productive. So in this instance, it didn’t look too challenging and just looked like a bigger beast with a bigger health bar, but Howard promised us that every dragon encounter is really going to test your resolve and that they’ll be resource sucking beasts in the final version. The key to winning the encounter in the demo was the Slow Time shout, so as long as you buff your character with dragon shouts and perks that suit your play style, you should be fine. It was tricky when the dragon took to the air though... it looked like a complete pain to hit, so maybe it’ll be challenging no matter what. The animations and how they react though – especially when you damage them to a point where they crash and are wounded and can no longer fly – are incredibly impressive.
“Does this have an improved third person mode? The Oblivion/Fallout 3 third person is somewhat clunky.”
Yes, vastly improved, both in terms of animation and usability. Howard was keen to push though that Skyrim – like the rest of the franchise – is a first person game and best experienced in first person, but the short time we saw it in action, the third person mode looks like a marked improvement over its predecessor’s.
“I know you probably didn't see many item drops, but were they all the same generic stuff like in Oblivion? I loved Morrowind because all the items were unique and diverse, whereas it seemed in Oblivion there was just generic item after generic item and the occasional Legendary one. Same goes for the creatures, they were incredibly unique in Morrowind, then they just switched to 'Wolf', 'Bear', 'Goblin', etc etc, which was bloody tedious, so have they changed that too?”
As you guessed, we didn’t see many item drops in the one hour demo – and most of them were staged drops according to Howard – but in the swords alone, there was a huge diversity in the pick-ups. Take for instance the glass Elven sword that I mentioned in the preview. Its shape, colour and texture was vastly different to the sword that Bethesda booted the demo up with. I hope this is an indication as to what we can expect. As for the enemies, the demo saw us take on trolls, bandits, guards, Draugrs – undead skeletons, a demon of some sort, a dragon, sneak past an ogre, slay a giant spider... and this was all in an hour’s gameplay. That’s not including the wolves, mammoths, serpents and ice wraiths that Howard had mentioned either. I think that speaks volumes as to what kind of variety we can expect.
hoopzers7 asked – after a conversation about killing children came up…:
“Were there children in Oblivion?”
They were in Fallout and they’re in Skyrim – I’m fairly sure they were in Oblivion too. And before anyone asks, no, you can’t kill children... you sick puppies!
“Do spells interact with the environment? Such as using a lightning spell on a pool of water.”
Not that we saw, no, but that doesn’t mean they don’t... It just means, we didn’t see anything like that, although we did see Dovahkiin cut down a pot of burning oil onto a bunch of Draugr which was pretty damn cool.
And to finish off as we started, Grummy had a few more questions...
“How is the new Havok engine working? Does it have the cloth dynamics included with it? Does it work on hair?”
Well, the engine in terms of animation and physics seemed spot on – watching the charged Chain Lightning ping someone across a cavern was a particular delight – but as whether there is cloth dynamics or seeing it work on hair, it’s hard to judge as we spent most the time in first-person view. Havok combined with the Creation Engine seems to be creating a game that is head and shoulders above everything – from that respect – that Bethesda Games Studios has created though. Bold. Words.
“What sort of finishing moves did you see? Any magic ones? Did they lop off any limbs?”
We didn’t actually see any magic ones and Bethesda wouldn’t say whether there were plans for dismemberment, although it was brought up, but the executions we did see involved some sort of spearing with a sharp weapon or sword. They were pretty brutal, which is the main thing, right? RIGHT!?
“Was there any noticeable damage or wear and tear to weapons/armour/clothing? Does your character sport any noticeable scars from battle.”
Not that we saw, no.
“What can you tell us about the 18 skills? Do you know what they are? Do different weapons have different perks? Axes have different perks from maces, 2 handed sword different from 1 handed sword different from a dagger?”
Different types of weapons have different perks – as in the bow stuff we talked about earlier. Whether axes and maces have different perks rather than being lumped into blunt or two-handed weapon categories with perks, I can’t answer at this time.
As far as a list of skills we “know” are in it... Well, there’s:
You should note that those are 100% confirmed and not 99.9%. As far as speculation and educated guesses go though, you should probably expect smithing, speechcraft, marksmen, armour skills, one-handed, two-handed, blocking... and more that haven’t been confirmed yet. Myticism, acrobatics and athletics are all gone though.
“You mentioned the zoom perk for a headshot. Are headshots with bows insta kills? Can you still get headshots with the same effect without the perk? Do bows get finishing moves too?”
No, they’re not insta kills. It was very similar to Oblivion in this respect, for instance, an unseen arrow from the shadows can do more damage to an enemy than one where they see you, thus raising the potential for a one-hit kill – like what happened in the cave in the preview. It all depends on your skills and the health of the person you are trying to take down. And no, we didn’t see any bow finishing moves. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any... we’ve just not seen them yet.
“Strange one, but did a sword have less effect on skeletons (they really should), did they bleed? (I hope not).”
Honestly, that’s something I couldn’t answer without the question being asked specifically or by playing it. Neither of which happened.
“Is M'aiq the liar making a return in any way?”
I could say yes or I could say no, but one of them would be a lie. In short, we have no idea...
“Did you see a big doggy in the settlement? Did it bark?”
Actually... no, which come to think of it, was a little bizarre. Jeez, these RPG makers sure love their dogs though, so maybe that’s only a matter of time before we get that back. I mean, Dragon Age has since followed suit, right? Well, they did in Origins!
“Was there a character called Nigel?”
Well, we didn’t see one... but does a bear shit in the woods? No, I’m being serious! Who says they don’t shit in caves or something?
“ARE THERE CHEESEWHEELS? For the love of God tell me about the cheesewheels!!!”
Although we didn’t see them, I would assume so... I mean after all, cheese wheels are a big part of the Elder Scrolls world. An Elder Scrolls universe without cheese wheels is like an Elder Scrolls universe with no Skooma! And that’s unthinkable!!
And we’re done! If for any chance your question isn’t answered, it’s not because we didn’t find the time to answer it, it’s because being the first reveal to the press, they tend to hold some stuff back. So for instance, all talk about the Guilds, specific job-types and how they worked, armour types and so on, they were all off the table, met with your traditional “We can’t comment on that just yet” comments from Todd Howard. Hopefully we answered most – if not all – of all your questions though, so thanks for asking!
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is out on the 11th November 2011.