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How a forgotten Terminator game laid groundwork for Bethesda's world-building

"The way we built Future Shock, you have a height map and instanced 3-D objects rendering on top—that, believe it or not, is still how we build today. It’s our basic paradigm for how to build a space."
"The way we built Future Shock, you have a height map and instanced 3D objects rendering on top—that, believe it or not, is still how we build today. It’s our basic paradigm for how to build a space."

- Bethesda executive producer and game director, Todd Howard.

Anyone who's spent any length of time playing Bethesda games will already know that each one feels like something of a stepping stone; a new chapter in an never-ending development cycle. 

Fallout 4 contains hints of Skyrim, which took cues from Bethesda's first crack of the post-apocalyptic whip, Fallout 3. It's a trend that many trace back to Morrowind, a game largely viewed as the project that gave birth to the unique Bethesda style that continues to sell so well. 

However, while Morrowind was undoubtedly important, it isn't the sole catalyst some believe it to be.

Tracing the studio's development lineage back even further in a recent interview with Wired, Todd Howard, executive producer and game director at Bethesda, explained that a long-forgotten title called Future Shock actually laid the framework for most of the developer's work, past and present.  

Future Shock, a 3D first-person shooter that made liberal use of the Terminator license, was a turning point for Bethesda, and aside from being the first game in the world to give players the ability to explore at will using a mouse and keyboard, it's remembered by Howard as the project that helped Bethesda find its niche. 

"They started me on Future Shock, I don’t know why. I guess they saw something I didn’t. I was very eager," recalls Howard. 

"We wanted these big, even in those days, expansive levels you could explore. The way we built Future Shock, you have a height map and instanced 3D objects rendering on top—that, believe it or not, is still how we build today. It’s our basic paradigm for how to build a space. 

"You can follow it forward from Future Shock, because you’re doing full 3D, the height map, and the instanced objects connected together on top of it. It’s still what we do now.

"I have great memories of that project. And then Quake comes out and everybody forgets Future Shock, which is what it is, understandably so. But that game has a real sweet spot for a lot of us."

Head on over to Wired for the full interview. 

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