Bethesda has redesigned the Elder Scrolls series' menus for new game Skyrim. The aim? To make something electronics wizard Apple would be proud of, were it in Bethesda's curly-toed deerskin boots.
"You know in iTunes when you look at all your music you get to flip through it and look at the covers and it becomes tangible? One of our goals was, 'What if Apple made a fantasy game? How would this look?' It's very good at getting through lots of data quickly, which is always a struggle with our stuff," Skyrim boss Todd Howard told Game Informer.
In Skyrim, you're presented with a compass menu offering an approachable four options.
Pressing right brings up the inventory, where you'll find a carousel of fully-rendered 3D objects and descriptions of each. Even flowers picked for alchemy can be examined close-up. Todd Howard calls this "an interesting time-sink".
Pressing left takes you to magical items, where you'll find all 85 of your spells and some blurb on what they do - so you won't accidentally heal someone with a fireball.
Bethesda has scrapped the eight-item limit governing what can be mapped to the d-pad, replacing it with a favourites-style system. Here you effectively bookmark spells and items to your heart's content - there's no ceiling, so personal preference will boss brevity. Favourites will be listed alphabetically.
Pressing up shows you the starry sky - a view linked to hero development. Skyrim doesn't define a character as a class, but roughly groups the skills into three archetypes: thief, warrior and mage. Within those are found six main skills.
These are reproduced as nebulae (class) and constellations (skill). Corresponding stars light the sky as each of the 18 skills are improved and perks added to them at level intervals.
"When you glance to the sky after you've played the game for a while, what you're seeing in the sky is different than what somebody else is seeing based on the constellations," said Howard.
Pressing down on the compass menu accesses the map, a zoomed out, actual view of the vast landscape - the parchment-style map of Oblivion has gone. From this map screen you'll be able to explore the world as well as manage quests, plan routes and opt to travel fast - i.e. get somewhere instantly.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's stomach has been sliced open gradually, its detail-guts slopping slowly out. [I worry about you sometimes. -Ed.] We know Skyrim will have finishing moves, dual-wielding and duels; we know a bit about the refined Creation Engine underneath; and last week we got an eyeful of the juicy combat.