Bethesda is working on a new game engine to power its upcoming next-gen games, The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield, and now Todd Howard has teased just how significant the update to the engine may be.
He said during a recent event (via GI.biz) that the overhaul to the engine is “probably the largest we’ve ever had, maybe even larger than Morrowind to Oblivion.” To help with this, Bethesda is heavily investing in the team behind it; Howard said there are more people at Bethesda working on the engine “by a factor of five” than ever before.
The new Bethesda game engine is likely to retain some of the things people know and love about the studio’s games, including support for mods and the general approach to open-ended worlds, Howard suggested. However, outside of that, fans can expect major changes.
“From rendering to animation to pathing to procedural generation… I don’t want to say everything, but it’s a significant overhaul,” Howard said. “It’s taken us longer than we would have liked, but it’s going to power everything we’re doing with Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6. When people see the results, they’ll hopefully be as happy as we are with what’s on the screen and also how we can go about making our games.”
As for when we may see the fruits of this labor, Howard said fans should get comfortable. The developer stressed that he personally enjoys being able to announce a game and release it in relative short order, as Bethesda did with Fallout 4 when it was announced at E3 in June and released just a few months later in November. There is no firm plan yet for the proper announcement or release timing for The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield, but Howard shared his high-level approach to keeping fans in the loop.
“You just don’t want to string them along too long. You get kind of fatigued,” Howard said. “You have to balance that fatigue of wanting something versus that consumer excitement. Also it takes time, to be frank. Preparing trailers, demos and assets take time away from development. I remember games we’ve done where you’re doing that for multiple years and it’s like you have to top yourself. You have to top your previous demo. I’d rather spend all that time focusing on the game and prepare one big demo.”
The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield were announced at E3 2018 with mood trailers, but not any gameplay or details about what to expect. Bethesda announced these games at the time to assure fans that it was working on what might be considered “classic” Bethesda games after the studio took a different approach with the multiplayer Fallout game, Fallout 76.
Bethesda and its parent company ZeniMax were recently acquired by Microsoft for $7.5 billion, which marks the second-largest gaming acquisition in history. It’s not clear if The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield will be exclusive to Xbox, and Phil Spencer can’t say more because that would be illegal.