TESV Skyrim: why there's no multiplayer

Plus: your dragon powers, enemy levelling.

Bethesda does "like" the idea of multiplayer for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - game director Todd Howard said it would be "a lot of fun". But no matter how many times the conversation comes up at design meetings, multiplayer "always loses".

"The two most requested features we get are dragons and multiplayer. We got one of them this time!" Todd Howard told IGN.

"We always look into multiplayer, put lots of ideas on the whiteboard, and it always loses. It's not that we don't like it. I can think of ways it would be a lot of fun, but at the end of the day, that dev time is going to take away from doing the best single-player game we can, and that's where our hearts are."

A team of 100 people works on Skyrim and production began shortly after Fallout 3 arrived in late 2008. All three versions of Skyrim - PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 - are developed in-house, and DirectX 11 is supported - but Bethesda won't "specifically" take advantage of its "big new feature", according to Howard.

In terms of size, Skyrim's world roughly matches that of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. "It's always hard to compare size in games this big," said Howard, "but it has about the same amount of geography and content as Oblivion.

"I say 'about' because the scale always changes some, and things like mountains change how that geography feels, and the time it takes you to get to and from places. It has a different flow when exploring. "

As well as Fast Travel, Skyrim will offer the travelling option of carriages, although Howard didn't explain how they'll work.

Dragons are a central part of Skyrim, and as a dragon-born your Skyrim hero shares powers with the giant lizards. These powers are referred to as shouts, and they're based on the dragon language your hero can speak.

"Shouting is based on certain words in the dragon language that, when used together, form magical attacks," explained Howard. "You learn these throughout the game by finding the words on ancient wall carvings or being taught them.

"It's all part of the ancient nordic culture in Skyrim. Each shout is formed with up to three dragon words. Some are crucial to progressing through the game, while others just provide you with more power or interesting things to do. "

There will be "maybe a dozen" dragons in the game. Howard recalled being hunted by three last week - "and I assure you that's too many at once".

"We went into the project being very conservative about how we'd use [dragons], but they've turned out great, so we want them to get good screen time," offered Howard.

He then excitingly added: "When you defeat a dragon, you absorb its soul, and that's all I should say about that for now."

Howard draws the line at dragon-riding, however, which won't be an option in Skyrim - "Not in the way you're asking," he told the interviewer.

Skyrim heroes gain levels by advancing skills, similar to how heroes grew in Oblivion. But in Skyrim there are now perk trees associated with skills, and they offer anything from extra damage to special moves - such as disarming - to critical strikes.

Skyrim enemies also auto-level to match a hero's level, but Howard is well aware of the flak Oblivion took because of this.

"You do need some [auto-levelled enemies] in a game like this, it's just a matter of how and when you do it," he said. "It's clear Oblivion had places it didn't work well.

"That's something I think we addressed well in Fallout 3, so Skyrim works similarly to Fallout 3.

"We want peaks and valleys, where sometimes you're really challenged, and other times you feel really powerful. The trick is telling a player in a wide open game, without locking stuff off, that 'this area is too hard for you, come back later.'"

Each Skyrim character archetype will have an associated crafting option, such as Enchanting for magic users. Curiously, however, Howard dodged answering whether you'll be able to make your own spells.

Incidentally, Howard said "there's certainly more" armour in Skyrim than there was in Oblivion. But he didn't quantify his statement.

Oh, and you can forget horse armour - Howard revealed that Skyrim DLC will offer a unicorn for $100 and a levitation ability for $300.

He was joking.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

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