Elder Scrolls IV unravelled

Exclusive: producer Todd Howard on Bethesda's stunning new RPG epic

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is the newest entry into Bethesda's epic Elder Scrolls series. Following on from the critically acclaimed Morrowind, which was a revelation on both PC and Xbox, Oblivion is set to unleash a whole epic new world of swords, sorcery and RPG gameplay.

Although we're twitching on a firm release date like a Hobbit queueing for his breakfast, Oblivion has definitely been confrimed for both PC and next-generation consoles and has apparently already been underway for some two years in the dark dwarven forges at Bethesda.

Not only will Oblvion come with all Bethesda's trademark RPG greatness and vast game world, but the first shots and in-game screens have had us absolutely gasping in awe at its mesmerising visuals. This truly could live up to Bethesda's aim of creating "the quintessential RPG of the next generation".

High time then to hold our very own council of war with Oblivion's executive producer Todd Howard to get the very latest.

First off, how does Oblivion fit into the whole Elder Scrolls universe? What has happened since the last time we were here?

Todd Howard: It takes place after the events of the other games, but it's a standalone story. So the events previous to Oblivion really have no bearing on what happens in this game.

You've said that with Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion your mission is to take the idea of a virtual fantasy world as far as it will go. Just how far is that - are you able to support that statement with game details/plans at this stage?

Todd Howard: The big things include our Radiant AI system, which allows NPCs to have full 24/7 schedules and think for themselves. In addition, we have procedural systems to grow huge forests and almost unlimited view distance. It's all of these things combined that make our world come alive.

The game's been announced for PC and future generation consoles. Is this PC and Xbox 2, PS3 and Nintendo's Revolution, or will we have to wait until you discover the full capabilities of the next generation of consoles for confirmation on this?

Todd Howard: We hope to have it on as many platforms as possible and will have announcements in the future on that.

What key lessons learned through the development of Morrowind are affecting development of Oblivion?

Todd Howard: We learned a lot in dealing with large worlds and games that can deliver some immediate fun in that space. We also learned a great deal in getting something like that on a console system. So this time around, our low-level systems are designed better to handle such things and take advantage of technologies and new gameplay styles.

In terms of gameplay, what are the biggest changes we can expect to see in Oblivion from Morrowind?

Todd Howard: Most of the systems are totally redone for Oblivion, so it's really a new game and experience. So from Morrowind, there is very little that you will see that feels exactly the same. Combat is a good example where the feel of it and how fun and deep it is has really changed. I think you can look at the changes we made from Daggerfall to Morrowind and expect a similar jump from Morrowind to Oblivion.

You've spoken briefly about Radiant AI. Could you tell us more about that and its effect on the game world? For example, how does it affect interactivity between the player and NPCs?

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