Have you heard the news yet? Fallout 76 wasn’t very good!
No, really! I was surprised too!

It seems that Bethesda Game Studios are in a bit of a pickle; having not touched their golden child in what is fast approaching a decade, it was announced at E3 2018 that the Elder Scrolls VI is finally in pre-production, following a slew of Skyrim ports and Fallout titles with a decidedly mixed reception. What is everyone’s favourite glitch developer to do in a time like this?

Well, wait it out, apparently; in the meantime, the next thing we can expect from them Starfield, a brand new IP which aims to add Science Fiction to the list of things Bethesda has undercooked. This is a good thing. See, if TES VI was Bethesda’s next title, they’d have zero time to majorly pivot away from any of the design mistakes they’ve been making as of late- be it Fallout 4’s voiced protagonist or the move away from NPCs seen in 76. Starfield, if anything, will take the final blow, and TES VI will hopefully benefit from a few hard-learned lessons. So, let’s discuss a few things in no particular order, yeah?

The Engine

Gamebryo has been the base of Bethesda’s games for several decades now, forming the framework for their proprietary Creation Engine. The creation engine is something of a hot button topic for the Elder Scrolls fandom, being the basis of every game in the series that people still care about- as well as Fallout 3, New Vegas, 4, and indeed 76. It’s even going to be the tool behind Starfield and – apparently – TES VI.

Look, I’m not going to pretend I understand the tech behind the creation engine. I’m a humanities student with an interest in design theory, I don’t have the know-how to dissect the software architecture bit by bit- so all I have to comment on is the modding community. In case you don’t know; I’m a fierce advocate for modders – I think they’re artists, I think they deserve to be paid for their work, and I believe in giving them as easy a time as possible for when they’re hard at work giving us free content. Good beans, them modders. And modders have been working with more or less the same kit since Oblivion, with a half-dozen creation kits and GECKs floating around somewhere. Bethesda’s modding work is laser-refined, and the community knows exactly what it’s doing- hell, if you design a piece of software so simple even I can use it to build a level in an afternoon, you can be damn sure it’s a good bit of kit. I don’t want this community – one of the pillars of the TES experience so strong it literally managed to get mods onto consoles – to be screwed over by a change in a kit that leaves them out of help and unable to use their decades of expertise. If a new engine is built, fantastic – but it has to be made with the idea that it succeeds a toolset some people use every day, some even making a living (or a part of one) off of it.

Story Themes

What were the major themes of ‘Skyrim’? If your A-level English Teacher assigned you an essay on it, what would you discuss? Uhh, Civil war? Tradition vs Modernism? Nationalism vs Unionism framed through imperial language? Elf Nazis?

Point being, The Elder Scrolls hasn’t had the strongest stories as of late- a far cry from the glory days of Morrowind. The newest Elder Scrolls needs a more streamlined vision for what it is as a narratively- focused product- the events need to be felt across the world, the characters in on the plot and the quests written side-by-side. Fallout 4 came close to this, but stumbled over a big rock labelled ‘Blade Runner’; with luck, perhaps TES VI will be the richest story Bethesda have told in a long time. Throw in the fantastic character writing of Fallout 4 and we’ve got a recipe for a strangely emotional setting. I don’t want the same guy 17 times, I want 8-10 fully fleshed out characters with their own perspectives on the culture and politics of the world around them, adding a human (or indeed Lizard) element to the series that’s been sadly lacking of late.

Set it in Argonia, you cowards

What’s the difference between Skyrim and High Rock? Between Cyrodil and The Summerset Isles? I’m sure you lore nuts could come up with a thousand answers, but the fact remains that they all threaten to be different interpretations of a completely stock fantasy setting- ‘Oblivion’ might as well been set in Yorkshire, and Skyrim was essentially that again but colder and with funkier accents.

I don’t have the time as someone who is soon gonna be graduating and entering the workforce to play something that looks and feels like something I’ve already played. No point.

Set the game in Black Marsh. A uniquely alien world filled with a rich history – a history of warring tribes, slavery, shamanistic magic, and a tree-based religion – the region of Black Marsh is rife with story opportunities, and ones that will feel completely unique. It’s time to give the Lizard people their time in the limelight.

But that’s just my thoughts- want to join the discussion? You can find us on Facebook and Twitter, and we also stream regularly on Twitch and Youtube.

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