Todd Howard believes “meaningful” character interaction is the future of RPGs

Thursday, 14th June 2012 18:48 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Bethesda’s Todd Howard believes the future of RPGs will be dependent on the character reacting in a way that’s “meaningful” to the player and the choices they have made.

Speaking in a video interview with GameFront’s E3 correspondent Wil Wheaton, Howard said RPGs in the future will come down to more than just “nice-looking” environments.

“I still think you see role-playing creeping into everything,” he said. “I see it in all games, with like–how do you reward the player, with whatever he’s doing? Exploring, building up his character, you see it with everything.

“The thing in general with gaming, and you see it with RPGs more, is having characters react to you in a way that you believe, or is really meaningful, with the choices you made. I think we can build pretty good environments. A lot of people can, not just us. In gaming, doing realistic and nice-looking environments, I think people are pretty good at that.

“I think the next wave is really characters. How they respond where it feels as real as the environments do. We’re not there yet.”

You can watch the interview below. In it, Howard also talks about how impressed he was with The Great Battles of Skyrim video which was created using various mods.



  1. DSB

    Wait… So this is the guy who made Skyrim?

    That don’t make no sense! Your games are full of cardboard cutout characters of absolutely no consequence.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Moonwalker1982

    If i miss one thing in Skyrim it’s exactly that. Character interaction, i find it hard to actually care for these characters at all. I love the game, don’t get me wrong…but that’s one thing that is missing.

    But in a way he admits it…’we are not there yet’

    #2 2 years ago
  3. OrbitMonkey

    So basically what’s needed is better story-telling.


    Though at least he admits it… Maybe he could have a talk to the guys on Final Fantasy?

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Moonwalker1982

    The Witcher 2 does a really nice job with the storytelling. But yeah i agree, the story in Skyrim is alot better than Oblivion’s but its still not incredible. As for what i said about character interaction and all that, i do believe it ain’t a easy task. There are not many games out there where i really care about the characters..well….Uncharted and Heavy Rain come to mind. And the Metal Gear Solid games, and of course Red Dead Redemption, i truly cared about John and what happened to him throughout the game.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Kabby

    I really dislike the NPC’s sharing the same body type and bad animations in Skyrim. Really lets the game down. I want my fat innkeepers, man.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Moonwalker1982

    Yeah or the voices man, jesus many times i’ve heard the exact same damn Nord voice. Another good example are companions, when one dies i’m like….ok…i’ll find a new one in the next town. But any sadness or feeling of ‘ah shit man…this sucks’ really ain’t there.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Stephany Nunneley

    @6 But do you work at keeping them alive? I cannot tell you how many times, I restarted a saved game in Fallout 1&2 because Dogmeat died. I really grew attached to the guy. He eventually made it out alive in both, but it took some doing. I was a horrible companion. :)

    #7 2 years ago
  8. DSB

    But…. YOU have to kill a companion to actually… kill a companion.

    So what you’re saying is… You’re all murderers!

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Moonwalker1982


    Oh i very much agree with that Dogmeat was awesome, but honestly…i grow attached to animals far more quicker than to humans too, it is what it is :). F3 had human companions too,right? I didn’t care much for those, otherwise i’d have remembered them. Same with Skyrim.


    Yeah i know, they are down on the ground and need that final attack, but i assure you…i didn’t deal the final blow to Lydia…i guess one of the Draug’r musta tried to hit me and hit her instead. However, some other companions died too, recently. I think it was by a dragon, so in some cases they can easily die.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Stephany Nunneley

    @9 Me too (on the animal part). I read somewhere to just skip getting a horse in Skyrim because it will die. Therefore, I part her someplace safe, save my game, and she is there when I get back. If I hear a dragon coming, we run like hell. Otherwise, she will try and fight the thing and always dies. :( I can’t have that, *chuckle*

    #10 2 years ago
  11. DSB

    There should be a name for that, like Tamagochi Syndrome :P

    I think it depends on a lot of things, literally every bit of design. X-Com had me completely attached to certain operatives (maybe because the average chance of survival was so slim) but the worst for me was definitely Grim Fandango.

    I was totally attached to Glottis, so when the thing happened I was devastated.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. YoungZer0

    @6: That reminds me when one of my companions ran directly between me and a target and took an arrow to … the head and died and i’m like:

    I’m okay with this. d(o_o)

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Beta

    Ah, Skyrim.

    I still mourn Lydia, killed by Potema’s inner council :’( Derkeethus the invincible has filled the void somewhat though :D

    #13 2 years ago
  14. HighWindXIX

    I think Mr. Howard needs to spend some time playing some JRPGs as they generally have much better characters. Try Persona 3 and 4. Valkyria Chronicles. Final Fantasy IV, VI, VII, IX, etc… No, they don’t change based your actions (excepting Persona) but they all have infinitely more memorable characters than any Elder Scrolls game.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Gigabomber

    Wow, Howard believes it? I’m confused.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. CameOnStrong

    Probably unintentional, but: “how do you reward the player, with whatever [he]’s doing? Exploring, building up [his] character, you see it with everything.”

    Slightly irked by the implicit assumption here that all gamers are male.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Puggy

    Ah yes, Valkyria Profile had some really memorable Characters. As well as Tales of Symphonia. Well I might not have liked them all, but I still remember their names.

    However having good companions is not the only thing. I mean SWTOR had all the story telling and companions yet it was not as successful as one should think. Mostly because your decisions hardly changed anything. You still went from Planet one to planet two. You still shot/lasersworded down loads of red Mobs. That is not choice that, in my eyes, is an illusion of choice.

    I do fear the same for TESO. I mean in the single player game you could do everything. You went out of that first hole you start and then… here, take a sword, a staff and some armour. Over there is some village, you can go there, really up to you.
    You could “improve” your character by picking flowers brewing potions. And if some wolf came by, you could take out your sword and slice it up, even though you are just a flower picking pansy.
    I doubt that will work in the MMO version, but that’s a different story.

    When it comes to reward people you will always get the Achievement players who think nobody but them should be allowed to reach the top. If a game would go the way of allowing character progression, no matter what you do, the achievers would start calling Care Bears and generally complain about it, since in their eyes a Game has to be a challenge. Something to prove their worth. Others see a game as a good, they purchased and they want to enjoy.

    Definitely looking forward to how it will develop in the coming years.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Henry

    That’s what Bioware was doing, until being indoctrinated by rEAper.

    #18 2 years ago

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