The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, considered by many to be one of the most revolutionary RPGs to come out in a long while. The huge, elaborate world, countless quests and options, and breathtaking visuals; all the result of one of the top PC game developers in their prime But what's this? Judging by the popularity of Bethesda's Xbox conversion of the smash hit, proven by the huge sales numbers, the company seems to have made their mark in the console gaming market as well, providing the Xbox with it's one and only RPG. So we go right to the source, as we sit down and discuss all things Morrowind and Xbox with Project Leader, Todd Howard.
First and foremost, we at Gaming Target would like to congratulate you and the rest of the staff at Bethesda on the huge success of both the PC and Xbox versions of Morrowind. Speaking of which, when you began work on Morrowind, did you ever expect the game to leave its PC roots and hit a video game console, and why did you decide to make the Xbox the sole owner of the game on that front? Todd Howard (TH): Thanks, we're very proud of the work we've done on this one. When we first started? No, we hadn't considered making it a console game at all, but when Xbox came along, we thought it was a good chance to bring our style of RPG to another audience. We did feel it would translate very well. Why Xbox? Speed and the hard drive. It just would not be technically possible on a PS2 or Gamecube.
GT: The month delay we saw between the PC and Xbox releases, was that in fact a bug related setback, and if so, did the team ever think of delaying the game even further to make sure they were all taken care of?
TH: It wasn't bugs really, it was just logistics of testing, making disks, etc. There were a few things we wanted to do to the game yet too, so it wasn't ready on the exact same day.
GT: Morrowind has been a large success on the Xbox -- does the accomplishment of success in the console arena overshadow the rave reviews of the PC version, if only because it is a style of RPG that has never been seen for a game system?
TH: I don't think one has overshadowed the other, which is good. It's viewed the way we hoped, which is just "Morrowind", regardless of platform. I'm a little surprised, pleasantly, at how fast the Xbox folks jumped on it. They were really ready for that kind of game, which is great.
GT: So, exactly how does it feel to have monopoly in the Xbox's RPG department? And I'm not sure if monopolies are measured by size, but I think it's pretty safe to say that Morrowind has a fairly "big" monopoly, no?
TH: Yeah, it's nice being the only game in town. We'll enjoy it while it lasts.
GT: Of course, the previous question was hinting on the extreme size and scope of the game, how long did your team spend with the actual writing of the countless quests and storylines?
TH: Actual quest writing? About a year with several people. We have a really nice set of tools. But the planning for the whole game was about 6 months.
GT: Was it difficult to take the PC interface (using a keyboard and mouse) and transition it to a console system such as the Xbox?
TH: A little. We did 3 versions of the menus until we got one we liked. That was the biggest change between the two versions.
GT: From the conception of the Xbox version of Morrowind, was there ever a time when you actually considered implementing the construction set that was shipped with the PC version of the game, or did you know immediately that it was something that just wouldn't work well on a console?
TH: We didn't really consider it. It's apples and oranges. The Construction Set is a Windows tool, like Photoshop. Really no fun on a console.
GT: While Morrowind has very few flaws, especially ones considered to be major, the general consensus seems to be that the combat could have been better. As such, is there anything you wished you'd done differently in that department?
TH: Yeah, I wish it was more violent. That sounds shallow, but animated violence is fun and everyone knows it.
GT: What influenced the decision to keep the non-playable characters from going through daily cycles? Such as in what was found in say, Sega's Shenmue.
TH: Just the sheer size of it. Schedules for 3000 NPCs would have taken huge amounts of time away from other things, like quests and such, so we spent our time on the other gameplay elements.
GT: Did the visuals in the Xbox version turn out to be as good as you expected, or do you think you could have pushed the system even further?
TH: They came out great, it's basically the same art as the PC version. It's easy when you finish a game though, and get used to a piece of hardware, like the Xbox, to see how things could be better. The GPU on the Xbox can do a lot more than anyone is doing now. It's really an untapped resource. We used it for the water effects and such, and future games can do a lot more of those kinds of things.
GT: If another Elder Scrolls game is created in the lifespan of the Xbox, is it possible that it could be built from the ground up on the system (be it separately for Xbox and PC), instead of making the game for the PC and then porting it over to Xbox?
TH: It's something we'd build in from the beginning for our future games, because we've had such good success on a console. So one wouldn't really be a port of another. And Morrowind wasn't really a "port" in the classic sense. We were developing it along with the PC for the last 18 months. But the origins of the game were PC, and you have to think different when making console games.
GT: I know this question was recently asked by a, ahem, pretty big gaming site, but I figure it's worth a shot -- has the team yet to reach any sort of decisions regarding any Xbox related plug-ins?
TH: We really want to do it, but don't have a nice scheme yet as to how they get on the system and work with the game. It really comes down to a security issue, the Xbox, even though it has a hard drive, is a closed system. We're still looking into it.
GT: What plans does Bethesda have for the immediate future? Anything involving the Xbox?
TH: We're publishing "Sea Dogs 2", which is a throwback to the old game "Pirates!". It looks amazing. Really good graphics. It makes me jealous.
GT: After hAF0F0Feading up both Elder Scrolls Redguard and Morrowind, when the time comes to begin work on The Elder Scrolls IV, do you think you'll be up to taking on such another huge undertaking, or will you pass your duties on to someone else?
TH: I'm very attached to The Elder Scrolls, so I'd probably be involved in future games in the series that we would create, whatever they may be. Part of me feels like making Pong next, but I'd probably get bored.
GT: Last question, exactly whose idea was it to create a drunken mudcrab merchant loaded with moolah, anyway?
TH: I'm not positive, but I'm sure it's Lead Designer Ken Rolston, the most entertaining person I've ever known.
GT: Thanks for your time, and good luck on your future endeavors.
TH: Thanks, anytime.
Whether you're a fan of Morrowind or not, you just have to respect Bethesda Softworks for all the time and hard work they put forth in creating such an incredibly epic videogame experience. And if you've been hiding away in a dark, loot filled cave this past year, you can get all the details on Morrowind for the Xbox in both our in-depth reviews, located here. Once again, we'd just like to thank Todd Howard for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions, and we look forward to speaking with him in the future.