Eurogamer: You did a level-cap bump in one of the Fallout packs. Is that an appropriate thing to do in premium DLC? It feels like a feature that people would associate with the core game, whereas a lot of the content you did was more discrete.
Todd Howard: I don't know - I mean, a lot of games do it, like World of Warcraft, so we tried it. I think it worked out okay for that game, but going forward if we had to completely redo Fallout 3 we'd probably not have a level cap, because it just makes the game more fun to level up.
It just does. The sense of accomplishment every time you do something to get some XP. So I think we'll make efforts in the future to not have one.
Eurogamer: What do you think of what other people are doing with DLC? Particularly EA's Project Ten Dollar, which aims to hurt second-hand sales. Is that a motivating factor for DLC?
Todd Howard: I always have a joke when we talk about second-hand sales in the office. What can we do to combat second-hand sales? Make a better game.
If someone doesn't want it, they're going to trade it in, and there's little you can do about that. So I ignore all that and my view is make a better game and it takes care of itself.
Eurogamer: And I guess all your games are about 150 hours long anyway.
Todd Howard: Yeah. People trade in our games too, so I'm not suggesting we're outside of the norm. But at the same time I haven't done online stuff, so I don't know what it costs EA to do all that bandwidth stuff, and I'm sure there's a big cost involved and they need to find a way to monetise that if someone is going to trade in the game.
Eurogamer: Are you going to buy any more developers? You seem to be doing that quite a lot.
Todd Howard: [Laughs] It wouldn't surprise me if we did! If they're the right fit. We're not looking to expand just to expand. It's like, hey, this feels right, it makes sense, let's do it.
Eurogamer: You announced the other day Matthew Perry being involved with Fallout: New Vegas. You've worked with talent like that in the past, like Patrick Stewart with Oblivion. How is that experience and how does it work?
Todd Howard: I'm telling you, they are phenomenal. We've been lucky in that we've picked actors who really add some gravity to the game and give it a good tone and flavour.
Patrick Stewart, Terrance Stamp, Liam Neeson. They're famous actors because they're really good actors. It blew me away. My biggest worry was they'd be like, "I'm doing a video game to make some money," but they took it really seriously.
Before Liam accepted the role he was like, "I want to talk to the director and talk about the role, so I'll think about it."
He approached it like anything else - a lot of conversations about his character, and when he would read lines he would get a page and take notes, ask questions.
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Eurogamer: So it's more of a collaborative process than simply giving him some lines to read?
Todd Howard: With Liam it definitely was. With Patrick Stewart, because of the role he was playing, he felt pretty comfortable with the role. But when he goes to read, that guy is a machine.
He reads perfectly, every time. Some guys mess up and need to redo. Never, ever, ever. He was done [snaps fingers] like that. He does a lot of voice-overs too, so he's a good reader. And if you want to tune it, a little bit more like this, he can nail it.
Eurogamer: You mentioned earlier that for a game to come to Bethesda it needs to be a certain fit. What would you say the philosophy of a Bethesda game is?
Todd Howard: Phew! That's a good question. We know it when we see it. I know for the internal studio, but in general if it's going to be on the label it is going to hit the action-adventure, fantasy, sci-fi, it's got something cool about it.
Doing a game for the core gamer, it's going to be in those kind of genres.
Eurogamer: And I guess the ability to have your decisions have resonance in the game world is something that's quite prevalent in your games.
Todd Howard: In mine, yes. We like each game to be novel in some way, to do something special or cool so that if you're into playing games you're like, "I've got to play this game."
Todd Howard is executive producer at Bethesda Game Studios.