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Default Bethesda Softworks - Interview @ Gamasutra

April 13th, 2009, 15:41
Pete Hines' latest interview is with Gamasutra, discussing their approach to DLC:
With Oblivion, you obviously tried a number of different things. There was some backlash with the horse armor and all of that, which at this point I guess has been discussed to death, but you also went to the other extreme in terms of volume of content. Did you learn some big lessons from that experience?
PH: Definitely, because we did the entire spectrum for the most part. We did small things and then we did the really huge thing [with The Shivering Isles]. We did what I think was the first ever full expansion on a console for download. We looked at what we liked and what we didn't, and what the people liked.
What we discovered was that we want to be able to do stuff that doesn't take a year to come out.
All these people are out there playing our game by the hundreds of thousands on a daily basis and we want to be able to bring those folks something they could do in a much shorter time frame, rather than just saying, "See you next year." That instantly ruled out doing a big expansion because those things just take so damn long to do.
So we started looking at the biggest stuff we'd done that people really liked, but that we could do in smaller, digestible chunks.
That's where we came to the Knights of the Nine model — it's substantive and it adds multiple hours of game play and new items, but we can do it in a time frame that allows us to get it out without waiting forever. That's what we've gone for with Fallout 3.
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April 13th, 2009, 15:41
So we started looking at the biggest stuff we'd done that people really liked, but that we could do in smaller, digestible chunks.

That's where we came to the Knights of the Nine model — it's substantive and it adds multiple hours of game play and new items, but we can do it in a time frame that allows us to get it out without waiting forever. That's what we've gone for with Fallout 3.
Multiple hours? You mean like more than one?!

This is exactly what I think of when I think DLC, and for me it's a big turn-off. If I've put a game down for a few months, am I going to get back into it for an extra five hours of content? No. If I haven't finished it the first time, am I going to download that content in the middle? No. I don't call an expansion like Shivering Isles a HUGE event in RPGland, and I don't think a year is a long to wait for something worthwhile. Am I supposed to be 8 years old or something? Actually, I think it's perfect because at that point I would have played the game out and put it aside for several months.

What they want is a business model that provides constant revenue with low risk and little investment in their bite-size games. From a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense, but I wouldn't touch it.

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April 13th, 2009, 20:17
No, I think it is assumed (for Oblivion at least), that you are still playing the game (even if you've finished the main quest) and so the extra X hours will tie-in perfectly. I mean, that's the sort of "vibe" I got from the TES games - they're not there just to be finished, it's really more of a world you're free to explore. Obviously, if you stopped playing it, then a few extra hours of content probably wouldn't draw you in.

Erm, in short: yes, you're supposed to download the content in the middle of that playthrough.
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April 13th, 2009, 21:47
Originally Posted by VPeric View Post
No, I think it is assumed (for Oblivion at least), that you are still playing the game (even if you've finished the main quest) and so the extra X hours will tie-in perfectly. I mean, that's the sort of "vibe" I got from the TES games - they're not there just to be finished, it's really more of a world you're free to explore. Obviously, if you stopped playing it, then a few extra hours of content probably wouldn't draw you in.

Erm, in short: yes, you're supposed to download the content in the middle of that playthrough.
But wait, you're saying that the playthrough never really ends. I don't think I'm in the minority when I finish a game (RPG), it's finished. It's not sort-of-finished, that's what MMOs are for. There are many games out there to play for me to keep every game I've played installed just in case they release a couple of hours of extra content (and no, I'm not going to waste 1 hour installing an patching a game just to see the 3 hours of extra content)
I don't like this DLC trend. Give me a full expansion where I can (or not) use the same character(s) from the original game, and make it a gaming experience on its own (i.e. 20-40 hours, not 2-4)
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April 13th, 2009, 22:37
Well, yeah, that's what I'm saying. I know 500 hours was the number thrown around with Morrowind, I'm sure Oblivion is good for at least 100. And yes, I do keep tons of games installed just in case I feel like playing them again.

Just to be clear here, I don't like Oblivion and I'm not really "for" DLC. I'm just saying that I can understand where they are coming from. Still, they might be still be a tad too "slow" (one expansion a month) for it to be truly worth it - if you were getting 5 extra hours every two weeks, it'd be much better (I mean, Fallout 3 is long and open enough that you can easily play if for a month if you can only play on weekends, or an hour a day).
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April 14th, 2009, 02:07
The 500 hours for morrowind was probably with mods and the default game is probably about a hundred and something hours.

If you just stuck with DLC it might not be worthwhile getting it since you would have stopped playing awhile ago but if you include all the fanmade mods out there you would be constantly getting new things for the game and also getting mods that drastically change the game would warrant another play through.

PS. I think that dlc for games that are not moddable is a waste of time for most people but Bethesda's games don't fall into that catagory.
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April 14th, 2009, 04:08
I wonder about something. If they made DLC for Planescape: Torment or Fallout 1 and 2 would you guys be singing the same tune of DLC sukz.

Everywhere I go no matter if it is Dragon Age DLC or Oblivion DLC or Fallout 3 DLC I always hear the same gripes like who wants a few extra hours? Well I do if the game is good. Anyone remember Premium modules for NWN? Those were great. It just seems to me that first the game has to be good enough to warrent DLC or a few extra hours of play and second the DLC must be good enough to buy. For example: I'm passing on all Fallout 3 DLC (Unless they come out with some stellar reviews for it) because it adds nothing to the game that I want.

However I'll shell out 5 bucks for a NWN2 module or any other game that I consider worth it. Like Drakensang, I wouldn't mind a new area to explore in Drakensang and wouldn't mind paying 5 bucks for it.

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April 14th, 2009, 05:44
It's funny to me that such a big deal is even made about it. What Bethesda really needs to worry more about is basic gameplay decisions, namely the (unfortunate) inclusion of level scaling.

They need to spend more time balancing the enemies\loot in the next Elder Scrolls game, instead of taking the easy way out like they did with Oblivion.
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April 14th, 2009, 06:18
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
It's funny to me that such a big deal is even made about it. What Bethesda really needs to worry more about is basic gameplay decisions, namely the (unfortunate) inclusion of level scaling.

They need to spend more time balancing the enemies\loot in the next Elder Scrolls game, instead of taking the easy way out like they did with Oblivion.
Indeed.

In addition to that they should put more effort on their storytelling and how they write dialog… Oblivion was so one dimensional if you observe it from storytelling's point of view. When will they get. If it is a rpg, there must be choises that have consequences. In morrowind they had conflicting faction paths, faction requirements, deep and complex main storyline&faction storylines with political, econimical, social themes etc. So its not like they didn't know about this stuff.
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April 14th, 2009, 14:49
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
It's funny to me that such a big deal is even made about it. What Bethesda really needs to worry more about is basic gameplay decisions, namely the (unfortunate) inclusion of level scaling.

They need to spend more time balancing the enemies\loot in the next Elder Scrolls game, instead of taking the easy way out like they did with Oblivion.
It's funny that you mention the enemy scaling in Oblivion, as that's the only example I see where DLC may be OK. Problem with DLC is that, once you've finished the game (RPG), you're probably at or near max level, so either the DLC is oriented to max level characters, or it's non-combat related. With Oblivion's enemy-scaling, DLC would make more sense, as no matter at what point of the story you are, DLC would escalate with you.
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April 16th, 2009, 12:03
In my mind, Bethesda's biggest concern should be to stop trying to endlessly impress people - and simply start hiring people who understand gameplay and writing.

When the basics are properly established, THEN they can go out of their way with the hype and over-indulged aesthetics.

The result would be both success and respect.
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April 16th, 2009, 16:27
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
In my mind, Bethesda's biggest concern should be to stop trying to endlessly impress people
Isn't that the point of games, and therefore sales?

- and simply start hiring people who understand gameplay and writing.
Like Emil?

The result would be both success and respect.
Judging from the critical and commercial sucess they're enjoying, I'd say they've got that result already.
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April 16th, 2009, 17:23
Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
Isn't that the point of games, and therefore sales?
The latter, sure.

Like Emil?
Someone other than who they used in Oblivion and Fallout 3.

Judging from the critical and commercial sucess they're enjoying, I'd say they've got that result already.
I'm not talking about the corrupted media, I'm talking about knowledgable gamers.
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April 16th, 2009, 17:53
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I'm not talking about the corrupted media, I'm talking about knowledgable gamers.
Ah, so their games were only enjoyed by unknowledgeable gamers? I see.
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April 16th, 2009, 18:58
Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
Ah, so their games were only enjoyed by unknowledgeable gamers? I see.
I can enjoy many things without respecting the talent of their creators.
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April 16th, 2009, 21:04
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I can enjoy many things without respecting the talent of their creators.
What a weird sentence

But yeah..benthesa games are fun to play, yet they could be so much better. Those fellas have the skills and resources to take their games to an other level.. For some reason they don't want to.
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April 17th, 2009, 07:55
Originally Posted by Dez View Post
What a weird sentence

But yeah..benthesa games are fun to play, yet they could be so much better. Those fellas have the skills and resources to take their games to an other level.. For some reason they don't want to.
That's basically my point.

However, I don't think they have the skills. The resources, definitely, but not the skills.

Not that I think it takes THAT much skill. They simply need to understand game design and they need a writer who wants to take his work seriously and perhaps be aware that gamers aren't all immature teenagers lusting for the most weird or violent dialogue they can find.

I mean what I said - they shouldn't obsess about impressing the player. Bethesda's approach reminds me of 95% of modern writers for TV shows. The first 5-10 minutes represent a scramble to make an impression to keep the viewer (or those greenlighting the series) interested. 5-10 minutes in game terms would probably constitute the first few hours - which is the tutorial and a chunk of the beginning.

The problem is that you can NEVER keep that pace - and you very quickly find yourself in the most ridiculous and implausible situations because you wanted to impress people so much, so soon.
Last edited by DArtagnan; April 17th, 2009 at 12:56.
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April 17th, 2009, 12:50
Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
Isn't that the point of games, and therefore sales?
Well, I kind of disagree from my philosophical standpoint that games should be foremost be meant to be played; otherwise they are per definition no games anymore.

From that philosophical perspective, GAMEPLAY should be the TOP priority in developing games, because only games with a good gameplay are are liked to be played, imho.
On the reverse, what's about games with no good gameplay ?

So, from that perspective, games shouldn't be about to impress people,
games should be about to be played by people !

This is imho a substancial different approach. Because trying to impress people could lead - like in movies - to a great number of stunning effects, but if the gameplay is neglected, then it will be played once, and that's all.

Or in other words: People need to be impressed by gameplay ! By all those things that help the game getting a better playability !

(And that doesn't mean streamlining everything like in Spacesiege !)

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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April 17th, 2009, 16:14
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
Or in other words: People need to be impressed by gameplay !
That's part of impressing people, certainly.
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April 17th, 2009, 19:04
Well, not THAT part of impressing (which I meant) …

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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