Interview with Gavin Carter - by PCGamer.com
RPGamer recently had the privilege of interviewing Gavin Carter, the producer of the upcoming PC and Xbox 360 title The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. This title impressed many of our staff members at E3; one staff member declared that the game was so beautiful that it "made the real world look terrible." As the fourth title in the Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion builds on the foundation laid by its predecessors while bringing next-generation innovations to the series.
RPGamer: Could you please introduce yourself, and explain your relation to TES: Oblivion?
Gavin Carter: My name is Gavin Carter and I'm a producer at Bethesda Softworks, working on The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
RPGamer: Patrick Stewart aside, have any well-known voice actors been involved with the Oblivion project, and if so, who and how large a part do they play in the game?
Gavin Carter: We just recently announced that Lynda Carter, Wonder Woman herself, will be doing voice acting in the game, so we're very happy to have her aboard. Aside from that, there are a few other names people will recognize that we'll announce in the coming weeks. We're very excited about Oblivion's voice talent.
RPGamer: The addition of a 'quick travel' system is most appreciated; have any other common suggestions or complaints made by the TES community been taken into consideration for Oblivion?
Gavin Carter: Our fan community is an endless generator of great ideas for the game. We've implemented a great deal of things they suggested after Morrowind. Full AI schedules, mounts, revamping our combat system from the ground up, adding in a fast travel system to eliminate the tedium of long trips - all of these things are features the fan community has requested again and again.
RPGamer: Given the massive popularity of the TES Construction Set, is a revised and updated version of a similar mod creation software going to be released with Oblivion?
Gavin Carter: The new TES Construction Set should feel very familiar to anyone who is experienced with modding for the original. We've made a host of changes from small to minor to help us build Oblivion. The most major of them is undoubtedly the introduction of our procedural content tools, which allow us to churn out realistic environments much more quickly and efficiently than we could in Morrowind. We've also completely redone the dialog and questing systems, made improvements to scripting, and incorporated features that will make it much easier for modders to create their own autonomous worlds.
RPGamer: Many of the screenshots that have already been released appear to take place in the wilderness or in small villages; will the city of Cyrodiil be a playable location as well?
Gavin Carter: Cyrodiil is actually the name of the province that Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion takes place in. For all intents and purposes, Cyrodiil is the "game world" that you play in. The capital of Cyrodiil is simply referred to as the Imperial City. It is the seat of government for the empire that rules the known continent, and it is big. People who thought Vivec or Balmora from Morrowind were big are going to be in for a shock.
RPGamer: Compared to Daggerfall, Morrowind didn't seem to have that many large dungeons to explore. Will there be a decent amount of massive dungeons that will satiate the hardcore dungeon crawling fans?
Gavin Carter: We don't go in for the endless, generic-maze style dungeons that Daggerfall featured, but you will find great improvements over Morrowind. There are plenty of very large dungeons, to be sure, and we're trying to provide a higher density of content than we did in Morrowind. This includes monster encounters, quest NPCs, puzzles, and our brutal physics-based traps. We've hired some really fantastic, dedicated level designers for Oblivion, and they've churned out some stellar environments to explore.
RPGamer: The Radiant AI system appears to be capable of great things; do NPCs obey a set of randomly selected - but still predetermined - actions, or do they actually define their own changing schedule of events based on things like the weather, the appearance of enemies, etc.?
Gavin Carter: The system has the flexibility to do all the things you mention. I'm very excited about all the possibilities that our AI system offers modders. I'm sure we're going to see some great stuff. For our purposes, all of Oblivion's NPCs are controlled by the Radiant AI system. They all feature full 24 hour schedules and they have the ability to complete their schedules in different ways based on changing conditions.
RPGamer: You could literally spend hours creating different unique types of potions and spells. How has the potion and spell creation system changed from Morrowind?
Gavin Carter: Both of them have a whole range of changes to address balance concerns that were raised with Morrowind. For one, spell creation and item enchantment are now services that you have to earn by raising in rank in the Mages Guild. Once you've progressed enough, the halls of the Arcane University in the Imperial City are opened to you, and the services become available. For alchemy, one new feature is the ability to create a "poison" potion, and apply it to your weapon as a one-shot buff. It's a great feeling to play a stealthy character stalking your mark, carefully choosing which poison to apply.
RPGamer: How has the research of geological and meteorological events changed the scope of Oblivion from its original inception; specifically, has the system used to generate the landscape affected the outcome of the story or the inclusion of quests in some way?
Gavin Carter: Our research into procedural generation systems was primarily something we did for efficiency purposes. The time required to generate the landscape for Oblivion was significantly lower than for Morrowind. And whereas Morrowind featured primarily smoothed over hills due to being done by hand, our programmers incorporated erosion algorithms into our landscape generation, giving us awesome craggy mountain vistas that would take us forever to do by hand. Of course, the visuals influence the design to an extent. With so many great sights to see in our huge exterior world, we had to come up with a lot of content to fill it up. So you'll find a few wilderness quests, lots of ruins and random dungeons, and lots and lots of flavor touches, like ambient wildlife and hunter NPCs.
RPGamer: In what ways does Oblivion differ most from its predecessors, Arena, Daggerfall, and Morrowind?
Gavin Carter: It would probably be a shorter list if I told you how they were the same. Anyone who's played our previous games knows that we love to reinvent the wheel each time, and improve and refine things. Oblivion is no different. We started from scratch, taking the best of Morrowind, the best of Daggerfall, the best of Arena, and adding a whole layer of new stuff as well.
RPGamer: Is there anything that you would like to say to our readers?
Gavin Carter: Thanks for the support, and I hope you enjoy closing shut the gates of Oblivion!
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