With only a few months left until the long-awaited, long-requested release of Elder Scroll V: Skyrim we checked in with game director Skyrim Todd Howard and had a chat about everything from working on Sony's platforms and 3D to developing modern RPGs and the state of the gaming industry
You mentioned you considered waiting for the next wave of HD consoles. How serious were you about that?
As a conversation? Very serious. Because we want [Skyrim] to be fresh. We don't want it to feel, visually or technically, 'Oh this is Fallout 3' or 'this is Oblivion.' And if we couldn't do that we'd have waited.
How long do you think you would have been waiting?
I think it's going to be a while still, I really do. I think consumers are happy with the current ones, there's a lot you can do with them. So I don't think it's coming next year or the year after.
Ken Levine is talking about doing a BioShock on PS Vita. Is Sony's new handheld something you're interested in?
We're not working on it right now. We're interested in everything that supports the kind of games we want to make and that, hardware-wise, would be one. So, when that judgement comes along it's going to be a bandwidth/time thing, deciding where we want to put our resources. But it's a very cool device.
Are you interested in 3D technology at all?
Honestly, I couldn't care less - having to wear those glasses! I'm not a 3D fan. It ruins the image for me. I want the clarity
Do you think it's going to stick, as a technology?
I think everyone's going to keep trying. But I'm not sure.
Why aren't more RPGs set in the modern day? Like one based around office culture, with added corporate espionage? They all seem to be olden times or sci-fi. Did you ever look at doing something like that
It was on our list when we finished with Oblivion. We made a list and that was on the list, but we ended up getting Fallout because that was top of our list.
If you could change one thing about working in the games industry at the moment, what would it be?
I'd like there to be only one platform. It's a lot of work to make the games look good on every platform you're on. I often equate it to DVDs or Blu-rays. Once I've bought a DVD I can use it in my TV, in my computer, in my car, here, wherever. And I think it would be good for gaming if it was like that.
Do you think that's realistic?
No! [laughs] You said I could have whatever I want! They spend billions of dollars selling consoles at a loss for years, but then make the money back with games. It's not like the industry is hurting, we're doing really well. But if I had one wish, you know, we would have better games for a single platform.
There seems to be an ever-widening gap in the market where you get triple-A stuff like Skyrim - with hundreds of hours of gameplay, lavish art, a brand new engine and so on - then all sorts of other games that don't show that kind of polish or quality, but they're coming out at the same price...
I've thought for a long time that games are too expensive. I don't put us in that category of course - for what we give you, for sixty bucks or however many 'quid' it is.
That's a lot of money for entertainment, so I think the good news is that in certain markets - PC, iPhone, mobile - we can see prices coming down. But I do think industry-wide we would benefit from more games out at $19 or $29.
I would try more games. Because I'm not going to try a game for $60. It's a tough decision.