I may have linked this back when it was first published, I forget, but it's a feature on Game Informer where Notch of Minecraft fame and Bethesda Software's Todd Howard interview each other:
I wanted to share some reflections I have now that I've watched it through a second time (along with general time indexes so you can follow my train of thought), and see if anyone else came away with any impressions they want to talk about. I won't note it below, but I found the (dare I say) eye rolling over the push for the Kinect one of the most revealing about how that control system is being marketed. I appreciated their candor there.
Seeds of a Disagreement (First Minute)
Maybe it's revisionist history a bit, but does it seem like there's a bit of tension on the release date for Minecraft ALSO being 11 11 11 at this point? Back when I first watched it I did feel that there was a weird, uncomfortable moment there and wondered if anything would come from that. For all the talk of Mojang's RPG Scrolls having a similar name to Elder Scrolls, I don't think Zenimax's lawsuit against Mojang is done purely on the grounds of consumer confusion. There's a chance Notch didn't know what he was getting into, but I get the impression that his impish personality may have encouraged him to ride piggyback on Skyrim, and I'm betting some at Zenimax are nervous about this cut into their share of the market. It's not just that when people enter "Scrolls" into a search engine they're going to get competing games, it's that the go everywhere, do everything of Minecraft is connected indirectly to the CCG Scrolls game, which both seem aimed at players that might also be into Skyrim.
It seems more about egos, this lawsuit. I do hope it resolves, since I don't see either game franchise hurting because of the existence of the other game. Maybe some lost souls will wander over to the wrong "Scrolls", but I don't think the losses will be worth noting. I do think, though, that Notch probably should have just chosen another name. The legal motivation for the lawsuit, that the title and theme are too close to Elder Scrolls, seems skimpy to me, even if it would hold up in court, although I doubt very many users will have the willpower to boycott Skyrim to back Notch, here. I tried, but I couldn't manage it. Depending on how it resolves, though, I may actually find some motivation to hold off on Skyrim.
The Primacy of the PC in the Creation of User Content (Around 4:00)
Despite those folks claiming the death of the PC, the PC will always have their place until gaming consoles become much more like PCs. The modding and customization that the PC allows is not eclipsed the relative stability of console platforms; as long as you can, say, find a new mod every week on Minecraft that revitalizes the experience for you, how much more value do you get than the rigidly controlled console DLC or heavily regimented and restricted user creation content bundled with some console games? How many people can just make a game, and have it be easily available, without worrying about distribution methods and cost?
Granted, and this is a big one, without sensible user tools most people will never bother to create anything. Most of the PC modding groups are much more hard core and dedicated than people who make a new level in a level editor, just because of all the technical wrangling involved. That, and when you restrict choice you often give a boost to creativity; telling people they can do all kinds of things when they mod Minecraft, anyone who actually goes through that process will likely do what is already set up for them to do. You get plenty of texture packs and player-character skins, but very few conversions like the Aether Mod that actually create new behaviors, graphics, and generated content, arguably the strength of the Minecraft system. It's a lot more work.
But as a consumer of user-created content, a PC owner will have tons of choices. In consoles you are limited by so many different proprietary limitations and content oversight that whatever mod tools they bundle with the games don't tend to realize the full potential of the engine. It's understandable, but when you see the kind of stuff people are creating on the PC it's hard to compare the two. The PC is still in a class on its own, I think.
So, user-generated content is great if anyone can make something, and platforms seem to taking interesting steps in that regard, but the power of the PC's fewer restrictions is immense when some random creative individual has the freedom to create a conversion of the world of Oblivion and have everyone play it without worrying about proprietary software and console restrictions.
The Elder Scrolls, Role-Play the Second Time Around Syndrome (4:30)
The way Notch talks about his experience with his two versions of Oblivion mirrors how I play Elder Scrolls games (after Arena, which is less flexible). I start out playing it as a player, and then when I try it subsequently, I'll often challenge myself by making the character pick different choices than I would have, which I guess is what some people call role-playing. I don't, necessarily, but it does seem to work out that way, like with my Orc guy in Morrowind, completely loyal to the Empire, who immediately joined the Legion and was going to pick a Dunmer House that was closest to the Imperial ideals. The value comes from making such choices matter, though, so here's hoping there's some mutual exclusivity to the choices in Skyrim.
A History of Main Quest Avoidance (5:10)
It's strange to me that Todd Howard seems oblivious (ha) to why people may want to avoid the main quest. Some people hit the main quest when they first start those sorts of games, but to me it's sort of like having dessert before dinner. Now that I've completed the main campaign of Morrowind I know that the dungeons for the main quest (like such dungeons in Daggerfall and to a limited extent Arena) have unique elements that you don't find in common dungeons, making them more interesting to see. I play Grand Theft Auto in a similar way, soaking up as much environmental content as I can before dealing with the story, which is always sitting there, taunting me to use it so I can unlock more game features. I really want to see more games try to make exploration be what unlocks opportunities, even informally, rather than there being a godlike, pristine set of tasks that loom outside the normal world. I know not everyone's into that style of gameplay, but I don't think trying to make a game that pleases everyone is a good idea anyway. I like that you could just dive into a game like this and not need to plan out any meta approach; you just say "oh cool, a forest" and just go, with the story, if any, piecing itself together as you go. Hell, pen and paper games do that, reacting to user choices; the more sophisticated computers and designers get at anticpating user actions, the closer such dynamic worlds come to actually happening.
A History of Main Quest Speed Runs (around 9:00)
Speed runs: I love them, but given that I tend to avoid the main quest I only participate them by accident. If there's anything I avoid religiously for games with tons to explore it's speed runs, at least until I've beaten a game. I learned that I was actually on the track to beating Morrowind a long time ago when I mistakenly watched someone jump the fence, and ever since then I've stayed away. Speed runs on games I've played or won't ever play, though, still fascinate me. It's almost like a sport.
The Difficulty of Balance (scaling) (around 10:30)
We already went into this to a great extent before, but general dissatisfaction with the Oblivion level scaling system still dogs Howard's design team even when they were pretty much resolved to drop the Oblivion style. He also talks about Fallout 3's endgame, but that gets overrun. At least Notch has the good sense never to mention horse armor.
Weekly Game Days at Bethesda (around 13:00)
The corporate features that make a business a bit more family-like, like featuring games, help break up what can be an annoying series of quiet-meeting-quiet that feels rigid and unnatural. It's done to show what everyone else is doing and keep everyone on the same page, I get that, but not only is it a nice diversion to just play games (even at work! on purpose!) but it helps break up the day and reduce exhaustion.
It's funny that they talk about how much they liked Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire, since the teams on those were worked probably too hard, yet despite what must have been a drop in productivity on some level still wound up producing what a lot of people felt were excellent games. Yet, I don't know how the workers felt about it at the end, how many of them wanted to stay afterward, how much harder they might work for competitors, or how much they might be willing to go through to sabotage their employer. Where one works is a big part of one's life; I don't much see the point in treating people like expendable resources, myself. I get the feeling that Bethesda may not create the most pristine, bug-free games around, but at least they seem to foster a work environment where people want to stay and put in their all. That means something to me.
Anything interesting that anyone out there picked up? Feel free to air your thoughts on the topics I mention, or any that come up. It's not the richest of interviews but I found myself wishing there were more of things like this. I may add links and a picture later to help break up the text, but I've gotta run. Going to have a busier day than usual.