"There’s very little today you can’t do in a game. You just can’t do all of it. That’s a function of technology, but also your own time. Any studio is limited."
- Bethesda Game Studios' Todd Howard, speaking to Geoff Keighley onstage at Gamelab in Barcelona.
Veteran Bethesda game maker Todd Howard was at Gamelab in Barcelona last month to accept an "Industry Legend" award, and during the show he took part in an onstage chat with Geoff Keighley about his 25-year career.
It was a wide-ranging and interesting conversation (readable courtesy of GamesBeat's transcription) that shed some light both on how Bethesda Game Studios makes games these days, and how it shipped some in the past by relying on dirty coding tricks.
"Morrowind was very difficult. The company went through some hard times there. If that game didn’t do well we were probably out of business," said Howard. "It was also our first time on a console...that was, technically, a really hard one. We actually crashed the game if we were running out of memory, intentionally crashed the game. It just looks like a load screen. It’s a trick you could do on the original Xbox."
Now, looking back, Howard says shipping a game is still a big challenge for BGS ("it’s what we’re doing now on Fallout 76, trying to bring all those pieces together where it doesn’t feel like seven different games") but that game industry tech has hit the point where a studio can make almost anything -- the question is what, specifically, you have the time and resources to create.
"There’s very little today you can’t do in a game. You just can’t do all of it. That’s a function of technology, but also your own time. Any studio is limited. 'What do we want to focus on?'" Howard said. "Another thing I like to say is that we can do anything. We just can’t do everything. We try to live by that at the studio."
He went on to speak a bit about everything from how BGS collaborates internally with 400+ people spread out over at least three offices ("we went through some growing pains") to what he does on a week-to-week basis ("I've become anti-management"), and all of it is recorded in the (web)pages of GamesBeat.