Skyrim's Radiant Quest system brings infinite, tailored content to players
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s going to be the game that keeps on giving. According to director Todd Howard, who spoke to Wired.com over the phone on Monday, the title will feature a never-ending stream of procedurally generated content, meaning that players will never be wanting for something to do.
"The vibe of the game," Howard told Wired, "is that it’s something that you can play forever."
Skyrim includes a new feature known as the Radiant Quest system which will randomly generates tasks for your character to complete based on your progress through the story. You might have an alchemist approaching you to collect some ingredients you haven’t yet discovered. That same alchemist might, on discovering you helping yourself to his stock, hire a band of mercenaries to 'speak' with you about why theft is wrong.
It’s not just random, minor tasks you’ll be able to complete, either. One of my biggest problems with Oblivion was that, in terms of factions, there wasn’t really anything to do once you completed the main quest line. You got to the top of the pecking order, and… that was it. Everyone just kind of stood around and babbled at one another.
Bethesda has addressed this issue in Skyrim. Once you’ve completed the main quest for whatever faction you’ve joined, you’ll be able to travel to any of the faction’s headquarters to pick up randomly generated missions. It could be that a band of trolls is threatening a village, and they’ve sent a desperate plea to the Fighter’s Guild. Maybe the Thieve’s Guild has come across information on a huge stash of gems that they wish to ‘liberate’ from someone. As for the Dark Brotherhood, well… there’s always someone who wants someone else dead.
You’re not just going to be wandering around doing random, menial tasks. Howard told Wired that this Radiant Quest system plays into one of the game’s greatest strengths – environmental storytelling, in the vein of Fallout 3 – indeed, it’s something they picked up when they designed the game. There’s always some nook or cranny which might hold any of a vast array of secrets.
"With Fallout, it’s not as beautiful a world to everybody," Howard told Wired. "We had to find ways to make exploration of a desolate wasteland interesting." They’ve taken those very elements and applied them to Skyrim.
In Fallout 3, the moment which, for me best describes this environmental storytelling was the discovery of an unknown radio signal. It was a man, calling for help. "My son is sick," he said. "We need medicine. Please, someone help. We are at the following co-ordinates…" The message repeated over and over, and when I finally found the drainpipe from which the message originated… I found three skeletons, and an old, nearly-broken radio.
"The world is probably the one thing that sets Skyrim apart from other games," Howard concluded. "It feels really real for what it is…It’s just fun to explore."
Skyrim releases tomorrow. Are you prepared, Dragonborn?
A gamer at heart, Nick started writing when he was a child. He holds a BA in English, works as a freelancer, and loves every minute of it. One day, he hopes to net himself a career in game design - but that's something for the future.
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