Shivering Isles: Bethesda Interview
Kikizo talks to Pete Hines from Bethesda Softworks to bring you this detailed interview on all things Elder Scrolls as the release of Shivering Isles beckons.
By Adam Doree
With last year's multi-award winning Oblivion rated as one of the best games on Xbox 360 to date, many gamers look towards Bethesda Softworks in gushy awe these days. But the crack development studio isn't resting on its laurels.
On the contrary; with all-new expansion Shivering Isles released next month, and the PS3 version of Oblivion wrapping up too, Elder Scrolls has a big month ahead of it in March.
We hooked up with Pete Hines, Bethesda's Vice President of Operations and Marketing, to find out more about Shivering Isles (which, incidentally, looks gorgeous from the demonstration he gave us before the interview) and get the lowdown on what's next from the idolised development house.
Kikizo: Thanks for your time to talk about Shivering Isles. Is it going to be a disadvantage to use a new player coming into this game, rather than as an existing player from Oblivion?
Hines: Well clearly it's designed for people who have been playing Oblivion - those are the folks most likely to play an expansion - but it's actually designed such that it doesn't matter if you have a new character or an existing character. Shivering Isles is still open and available to you, but it is definitely skewed towards folks who have been playing for a while and are looking for a new challenge, and new stuff to do.
Kikizo: We have a very different world here to what we see in Oblivion, can you tell us about some of the inspiration behind the art design
Hines: The idea was that the artists wanted to create a world that was created in Sheogorath's image. He's the Daedric Prince of Madness but he's got multiple sides of that - so he'll greet you and tell you in a very cheery voice that he's so happy to see you he could rip out your entrails and strangle you with them. So he's a bit happy-go-lucky and a bit, you know, wouldn't mind seeing the skin peeled off of somebody.
And so, the world reflects these two sides; you've got the Dementia side that's very sad and depressed - almost lifeless looking, lots of moss growing on trees and feels very claustrophobic. And then you've got the Mania side, which is sort of the happy insane artist - very bright, over saturated colours, and even the creatures on both of those sides reflect the environment that they're in, so you get two sides of this world that are at very stark contrast to one another and at the same time, a stark contrast to the world of Oblivion.
Kikizo: And these two different factions make up the Realm of Madness...
Hines: Right, the realm is split - it's one continuous world, but there's sort of an invisible line - there's a bit of a transition area - but the lower half is the Dementia side, and the upper half is the Mania side, and it's very clear which side you're in as you're exploring around the world.
Kikizo: We have 32 new ingredients right? What are these new ingredients?
Hines: There's got to be more than 32! I am pretty sure there are more - there are a LOT of new ingredients, new stuff. If you're into Alchemy there's new stuff to add to all the other ingredients you found in regular Oblivion for potions and poisons.
Kikizo: Has the mod scene had any impact on development? Particularly with UI, has that influenced anything you have been doing?
Hines: We haven't changed any gameplay systems or any of that stuff... obviously we think our mod community is great, you know, we try and make the tools available to them for them to make whatever changes they want, we have the Construction Set Wiki where they can talk about, and keep track of, important information about what everything does, and obviously we have forums dedicated for people working on mods, and so forth. You know, I think our fanbase as a whole, provides us feedback on the kinds of things they like, the kinds of things they want to do, and want to see in the game, and then obviously a lot of it comes from us - things that we want to try. So we like to listen to their feedback in terms of what they're looking for, but then we have our own ideas about how to specifically implement the sorts of things that they might like to do.
Kikizo: In terms of mods, is there going to be an element of backwards compatibility between the new stuff and what people have been working on to date?
Hines: There shouldn't really be any issue with folks getting their existing mods to work with Shivering Isles when it comes in, we don't really touch the world of Cyrodiil at all, and as I say we haven't changed much in the way of gameplay systems or anything like that, so hopefully they won't run into too many conflicts there.
Kikizo: Another thing we want to ask which I understand people have been trying to get an answer to, is will the expansion fix or patch any of the non-English language localisation issues?
Hines: Well, we did updates for all four of the foreign language localised versions - French, Italian, German and Spanish, and we addressed all of the things that the localisation company had flagged as things that needed to be addressed, and have tried with Shivering Isles to run that through additional localisation testing, to make sure the localisation is proper. But honestly, as developers, our ability to address that is very limited because we don't speak French, Italian, German and Spanish, so we reply on folks that do, and do that for a living, to tell us this is right and this is the way it should be, and in certain cases we have to work within limitations in terms of character spacing and so forth, but you know, hopefully players will find that Shivering Isles is a fairly cleanly translated version.