I thought this week we could do a spotlight on a developer. One of my favorite developers/publishers is Bethesda Softworks and their in-house Bethesda Game Studios. A software company that is known now for their Elder Scrolls series, Doom (after they merged with id Software), Fallout (after the fall of Black Isle), publishing Arkane Studio’s Dishonored, Wolfenstein, etc. Every game they have released has created some sort of splash. It is too bad that they have not made their games cross-platform for those of us on Linux! and Mac. But all in due time. I wanted to highlight two of these series in this spotlight.
Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Series
My personal favorites are those from the Elder Scrolls Series. Set in the mythical Tamriel on the “planet” Nirn, it is a high fantasy setting. The modern Elder Scrolls games have a very flexible engine that allows extensive modification capabilities
The series began on the PC way back in 1994 with the release of the Elder Scrolls: Arena. With it, Bethesda was pushing the open world concept from the very start of the series. Although it was originally released for MS-DOS, it was later released for free from Bethesda. As was Daggerfall, its prime successor, which was also released for free by Bethesda.
One notable fact about Daggerfall, other than its predecessor Arena, it has to date not been superseded by any of it’s successors in sheer size:
Bethesda claims that the scale of the game is the size of Great Britain: around 229,848 square kilometers (88,745 square miles), though the actual size of the map is 161,600 km² (62,394 mi²). The game world features over 15,000 towns, cities, villages, and dungeons for the player’s character to explore. According to Todd Howard, game director and executive producer for Bethesda, the game’s sequel, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, is 0.01% the size of Daggerfall, but some aspects of Daggerfall‘s terrain were randomly generated, like thewilderness and some building interiors. The explorable part of Morrowind, Vvardenfell, is 24 km² (9.3 mi²). By comparison,The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is approximately 56.97 km² (22 mi²), and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is 37.1 km² (14.3 mi²), with a quarter of this terrain as unplayable, as it is stuck behind invisible borders.
In Daggerfall, there are 750,000+ non-player characters (NPCs) for the player to interact with, compared to the count of around 1,000 NPCs found in Morrowindand Oblivion. However, the geography and the characters in these later games are much more detailed.
Morrowind the successor to Daggerfall, has been and is a beloved title among many fans in the series. It marked the first game from Bethesda that used Gamebryo, which has been the foundation that every subsequent game was based on. It was the engine that enabled the enormous modding capabilities that exist in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series. Many of those who started with Morrowind found Oblivion’s medieval fantasy conversion of the Elder Scrolls lore and setting to be disappointing.
Morrowind was set in the northeast corner of Tamriel on the island of Vvardenfell. It’s a creepy and weird landscape lends a certain charm that the later introductions into the series failed to capture, although Skyrim did manage to create a setting better than Oblivion did. With modifications, Morrowind looks just as good as the big boys nowadays, thanks to the modding capabilities of the Gamebryo engine and the modding community:
Skyrim and Oblivion also continued the storyline started in Morrowind. They also brought enhanced capabilities to the engine, like the loading of distant land, graphical improvements, cross support for game consoles, improved combat, etc. Of the two, Skyrim was considerably better in story, setting, and execution. Gone were the boring medieval landscapes of the Oblivion. Skyrim also introduced the best thing of all, in my opinion, large creatures like Dragons, Giants, and Mammoths.
But of course, the modding community hasn’t been idle with these two titles either, they have considerably expanded their community and have been doing backporting of features in various total conversion projects like Skywind and Enderal. Of course there are other mods for fun:
Bethesda’s Fallout Series
The Fallout Series has been one that I came to relatively recently. I never played the original series from Black Isle Studios when they came out in the 1990s. But for those wanting to replay them, www.gog.com does have them for sale. I have heard nothing but great things about the original series.
While the modern Fallout games diverge strongly from the genre and perspective of the original, Bethesda has done a good job in capturing their setting. The Fallout universe has always been a little crazy with their post apocalyptic flair and downright craziness sometimes. However, the way modern Fallout games diverge from the older games in the series, did isolate some of the fans of the old series. Although the modern Fallout games are role playing games, they are at a different pace completely when compared to the traditional Fallout 1 and 2, which were more in tune with games like Balder’s Gate.
The most recent incarnation in the series was Fallout 4, recently released to great fanfare. Set in Boston, Massachusetts after nuclear war, it is a great entrant into the Fallout franchise. In addition to several major improvements over its predecessors, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, it allows almost a Minecraft-like experience with the game allowing you to build settlements. Some people have done some wacky things with it: