With the official launch of Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim just two days away, the game is slated to be the biggest edition yet... so big that it will offer an infinite number of quests. That's right: when Elder Scrolls XX is fresh and new and current/future hardware is incapable of supporting "retro" Skyrim gameplay, the fifth installment will still offer something new each and every day.
Monday in a phone interview with Wired, game director Todd Howard said that the game's Radiant quest system will keep new quests coming long after the main storyline is complete. In fact, the quests will be endless. "The vibe of the game is that it’s something that you can play forever," Howard said. "The world is probably the one thing that sets [Skyrim] apart from other games. It feels really real for what it is … It’s just fun to explore."
According to Howard, the Radiant quest system randomly generates new minor tasks based on the player's progress. It will also toss out extra work for each of the game's factions like the Dark Brotherhood and the Thieves Guild. Once the scripted quest lines for each group are completed, players can go to their respective hubs and pick up randomly generated missions like stealing gems or assassinating shopkeepers.
Of course, not everyone will want to endlessly steal jewels or collect herbs. However, Howard said that Radiant quests play into the game's overall environmental storytelling: it opens up avenues to discover the world's little secrets and bits of narrative. It may not be a massively multiplayer title, but the Radiant quest engine and the massive, virtual open world combined should make it feel like a persistent environment.
Howard said that Bethesda got its first taste of environmental storytelling with Fallout 3. After all, exploring a barren, post-nuclear wasteland isn't exactly like strolling through a field of green grass and daisies. "With Fallout, it’s not as beautiful a world to everybody," he said. "We had to find ways to make exploration of [a destroyed wasteland] interesting."
The team cranked up the environmental tricks for Skyrim even though the landscape is more palatable. According to Howard, completing quests won't be the most enjoyable aspect to the Radiant system: it will be discovering the little things along the way like a terrifying lighthouse or a bandit-infested fortress.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will land on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC on Friday, November 11. The full Wired interview with Todd Howard will be published on Thursday.