Highlights From the Todd Howard AMA

Critically acclaimed Game Director and Executive Producer Todd Howard of Bethesda Game Studios hosted an AMA on November 10th, 2021. He answered several questions about Skyrim and Starfield. Also, he provided some interesting tidbits about game development at BGS.

Highlights From the Todd Howard AMA Cover

On Wednesday, November 10th, 2021, Game Director and Executive Producer Todd Howard hosted an AMA on the IAmA Reddit Community. For those who don’t know, IAmA hosts crowdsource interviews called AMAs, which stands for “ask me anything.” This article covers highlights from Todd Howard’s AMA. I have embedded several responses that I found particularly interesting. 

In 2004, Interplay Entertainment agreed to allow Bethesda Softworks to create three Fallout spin-offs, which led to Bethesda’s purchase of the rights to Fallout years later. However, prior to that deal, Bethesda had planned to create their own post-apocalyptic IP called “Apocalypse Road.” Todd Howard talks a bit more about it in this interview with Ted Price (00:45:50).

Vault 120 was likely cut due to technical challenges. This would have been part of a quest called “20 Leagues Under the Sea,” which is a play on Jules Verne’s book, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Fans have been aware of this piece of cut content for a while, but this is the first time Todd Howard has commented on it.

So, Bioshock inspired Vault 120. Also, he says that a “massive sentient octopus” lives outside it, but fans have always thought it to be a mutated giant squid. That would explain the reference to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, since that story also contains a giant squid. In addition he referred to this octopus as sentient. So, was this a character rather than an enemy? I hope that Bethesda manages to execute an underwater quest eventually. Perhaps there will be one in Starfield on the planet Neon.

This is a funny tidbit from behind the scenes at Bethesda Game Studios. I wish he had mentioned who it was that pulled off this intricate prank. One of the many things I love about being a gamer is that gamers tend to share a common sense of humor. Even developers share it.

Fans are very excited about this project. Cinematic universes are a major craze right now and Bethesda’s universes are a great fit for the concept. The Witcher TV series is a major success and I think this Fallout show will be, as well.

Two things to speculate about at this point are the cast and setting. Will there be some big names or more B-level actors? Will it be set in a place we are familiar with from the games or a new region? Perhaps there will be an Elder Scrolls show one day, but for now fans must dream.

What could Todd Howard mean by this? Something does come to mind: synths. They are kind of like robots, but not really. Perhaps Starfield will have its own version of synths. However, it is also possible that his lack of commitment was motivated by the word “companion” and not the word “robot.” Maybe there are robots, but the only time that one might be considered a companion is temporary, or decision dependent. 

I wonder when mod support will hit Starfield. It only took a few months post release for Fallout 4 to get it, so will it be even quicker for Starfield? Now that Bethesda has experience delivering this kind of content, I think that it will be fairly easy to do it again. Maybe it will be part of the first DLC package.

This is great insight into worldbuilding. Bethesda is fantastic at setting tones for their worlds and giving each game a unique atmosphere. Balancing relatability with fantasy is one of the biggest challenges of being a writer, particularly in sci-fi and fantasy. One popular route is using characters as the primary source of relatability and using setting as the primary source of fantasy. It is very effective in sci-fi and fantasy. Bethesda walks this route frequently and executes it well.

Another tidbit about development at Bethesda Game Studios. Voice acting takes time, so Bethesda uses artificial voices during development in order to test games with voices. That is a clever way to maximize efficiency.

I am very glad to hear Todd Howard say that “there is no substitute for professional actors.” Voice acting is an underappreciated art. Giving personality to avatars takes a lot of thought and can take time to hit right on the money. The voice actors that work with Bethesda are excellent at bringing life to the characters we interact with in games. Also, the performances of Sean Bean as Martin Septim, and Liam Neeson as James are staples of Fallout 3 and Oblivion

Video game development is truly an art. Thus, as artists, as innovators, and as pioneers they cannot allow fear of failure to hinder them. If Bethesda did that, then Skyrim likely would not have turned out to be the masterpiece that it is. 

Being an artist is about pushing norms and not allowing external stimuli to define you. Bethesda does just that by making their games. As Todd Howard noted, sometimes things don’t work out but that’s part of development. I cannot wait to see what boundaries Bethesda will push in Starfield, which leads to the next comment.

He expects to show more Starfield gameplay this summer, perhaps at E3. I think that Todd Howard is very good at walking fans through games. He establishes the tone of each game very well when he’s on stage showing footage. Hopefully he will give fans a Starfield demo at E3.

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