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Bethesda’s Pete Hines: on Dishonored, bugs and apples

Tuesday, 28 August 2012 09:23 GMT By Stace Harman

Pete Hines, Bethesda’s VP of PR and marketing, speaks to VG247 about squishing bugs, pushing the boundaries of in-game freedom and the publisher’s current hot property, Dishonored.

“With Dishonored, it’s not trying to be the scope of Skyrim and is more of a hub and spoke set-up, but within that mission there are lots of different ways that you can go through. The funny thing on Dishonored is that we have been looking at bug reports with a view of, ‘Well, is that really a bug or is that just an unintended consequence that we didn’t plan for?’”

When I meet with Pete Hines on the last trade day of gamescom, he looks a relaxed and happy man. It’s not difficult to guess why: “Dishonored” has frequently been amongst the most popular answers to the oft asked “highlights of the show?” question, which trade visitors have been posing to one another all week between appointments.

There’s a buzz surrounding Dishonored, which has been fed by the opportunity for members of the press to sit with the first-person stealth title for a full hour without being harried by well-meaning PRs. It seems that when it comes to Dishonored, there’s no need for anyone to ensure that we’re “playing it right” because, on current evidence, it’s very difficult to play it “wrong”.

“So, it’s not Skyrim in so far as going wherever you want and doing whatever you want, but it does have a similar thing where you’re in the demo room and you’re looking around the room and seeing 13 or 14 people approaching the same problem in different ways and just embracing that part of the game,” Hines explains.

“The other thing is that people are excited that someone is doing something different this holiday season and doing something that isn’t part of an existing franchise. That’s not to say that games that are part of a franchise are doing nothing to innovate, but obviously when you’re doing new IP you’re starting from scratch and so it’s an additional benefit to Dishonored to be doing something different; to be a breath of fresh air.”

Breaths of fresh air are surprisingly common at gamescom 2012, making it an altogether gusty show. There’s the expected number of solid and steady sequels and games developed for existing IPs, of course – Bethesda itself is showing off the Doom 3 BFG Edition – but there’s also a bountiful supply of titles based on new properties. Titles such as Dishonored, that will likely spawn their own sequels a short way into the next generation.

Being able to fulfil the role of both publisher and developer puts Bethesda in good stead for the next hardware round. It’s able to leverage huge, existing IPs like Fallout and Elder Scrolls as well as branching out with new properties in partnership with studios both inside and out of its parent company, ZeniMax Media. It’s a role that Hines feels works because Bethesda is realistic about which cap it should be wearing and when.

“I think we’re pretty up front with whomever we work with,” Hines says. “We do want to be involved and they welcome that because they understand that we come from a developer background and there are things that we can bring to bear in terms of usability, functionality, pacing and all of those different things; that we can bring some expertise and insight.

“Ultimately, though, we believe strongly that it’s the people that are making the game that still have to make the game; it’s not like we say, ‘Why don’t you sit in that room and we’ll sit here and shout ideas at you while you implement them all?’ I think that’s how developer-publisher relationships go bad: they think they know how to make the game and are telling the people that are actually making the game what to do.

“With Dishonored, we’ve done a lot of stuff with those guys with internal play-testing and having those guys show the game to other studios for them to provide feedback. All of this is with an eye to saying, ‘Look, we’re just trying to fine tune the things that you’re already doing and point out things that are perhaps not quite as clear as they could be.’

Dishonored’s Lady Boyle mission.

“It’s something that’s useful for developers who have an inkling that something may be a problem but aren’t really sure how big a problem something is: having other people that make games try it out can give a great deal of insight on whether something needs to be changed or not.”

Impassioned gamers

As well as providing feedback, Bethesda is no stranger to receiving it. Primarily this feedback comes from its community, a legion of impassioned gamers who make no bones about telling the developer-cum-publisher what they‘re head over heels in love with (such as the freedom that can be experienced in Bethesda’s ambitious, open-world RPGs) and that which gives them the heebie-jeebies (like the bugs that can be experienced in Bethesda’s ambitious, open-world RPGs).

Hines acknowledges that, sometimes, things happen that shouldn’t and bugs that really should be foreseen and squished, escape undetected: such as the GPU driver incompatibility issues that afflicted the PC version of id Software’s FPS, Rage. However, on other occasions, Hines feels that it’s simply not practical – or even possible – for the team to adopt the Pokémon mentality of catch ‘em all.

“With something like Skyrim there are literally an infinite number of permutations,” Hines ventures. “Or if it’s not literally then it might as well be in terms of the ability to test every possible permutation of every single thing. We do the best we can to try to kick out all the things but there are inevitably going to be things that pop out.

“With Dishonored, it’s not trying to be the scope of Skyrim and is more of a hub and spoke set-up but within that mission there are lots of different ways that you can go through. The funny thing on Dishonored is that we have been looking at bug reports with a view of, ‘Well, is that really a bug or is that just an unintended consequence that we didn’t plan for?’

“So, is it something that’s odd or funny but within the game it’s actually OK and if so we’re just going to leave it alone. That comes from the fact that you can just do so much crazy stuff that we didn’t necessarily plan for, but that still works within the framework of the game.

“I would say that rumour and speculation have rarely, if ever, piqued our interest in doing or not doing something. We have a pretty good idea of where we want to go and what we want to do.”

“Certainly, when you give players freedom they want to explore the boundaries of that freedom, to find out how much they’ve been afforded. I think that’s why games like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout have done very well because the audience does appreciate that freedom, because not every game gives that to them. Sometimes that might involve the player saying, ‘I’m going to set up a thousand apples at the top of this hill and let them roll down, just because I can.’”

It’s this freedom that fans of Bethesda respond to and why a great deal of people are excited by the recurring rumour that Bethesda has acquired the development rights to GSC Game World’s S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Unsurprisingly, despite his current chirpy mood, Hines is not playing ball when I ask if he can clarify Bethesda’s position on this succulent claim, merely repeating the expected line that the company does not comment on rumours and speculation.

With time running out, I try another tack: in light of the level of interest in the rumour expressed by the press and gaming public, if Bethesda hasn’t acquired the rights to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., would it consider it a missed opportunity?

“I would say that rumour and speculation have rarely, if ever, piqued our interest in doing or not doing something. We have a pretty good idea of where we want to go and what we want to do.”

So, that’s a maybe, then?

PS3, PC and 360 owners can expect Dishonored Doom 3 BFG Edition to release in October. PC and Mac owners can expect The Elder Scrolls Online next year.

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5 Comments

  1. JimFear-666

    bethesda doesnt have any quality standart in the games they do. Everything with the tag “bethesda” on a game is doom to be bullshit and buggy as fuck

    - Oblivion
    - fallout 3
    - Fallout new vegas
    - Brink
    - Rogue Warrior
    - Skyrim

    All of these game are shit or a buggy mess… They cant do a game right, they dont know how. They are the most incompetent studio ever. You know what? I dont know how to repair a car, im not a garage owner and if they dont know how to do a 60$ game playable on day 1, maybe they should stop doing games.

    I hate bethesda and i think its sad to see they have a legion of fanboys behind them when they clearly dont care about giving a quality product.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Pytox

    @1 Forgot to add -Hunted & -Rage

    #2 3 years ago
  3. tommygunzII

    @1 I dont play games to see the pretty textures and seamless animations, or whatever your definition of a quality game is. I play them to have fun.
    Bethesda can build a house of cards better than ANY other studio out there, even Rockstar. Finding bugs in a game like Uncharted compared to Bethesda’s ambitious projects is like comparing cleaning a house to cleaning a skyscraper.
    What I hate is seeing ignorant shit from simple minded people on every gaming website. People like you are a disease to the industry and half of the reason publishers run the show in certain studios.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. MidlifeAxe

    @1 I don’t think Arkane Studios made any of those games that you listed.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Telepathic.Geometry

    I don’t think that they should be demonised for making bug-ridden janky games, because by enlarge they’re pretty interesting and fun games. Also, it has to be said, they do come by their jank honestly I think.

    That said, it’s also unacceptable to me to pay for a piece of software as broken as Fallout, Skyrim and New Vegas were. I had save files disappear, severe frame rate problems (making my late game basically unplayable) and all manner of shitty bugs. Not cool at all.

    Still, I always end up shelling out, and experiencing those highs and lows… /shrugs

    #5 3 years ago

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    Microsoft is giving everyone the ability to claim their free Xbox One Games with Gold titles from their Xbox 360 console, even without owning an Xbox One. If you don’t yet own an Xbox One and want to make sure you don’t miss out on all those free Games with Gold games, you’ll be pleased […]

  • Destiny weekly reset for March 3: Heroic and Nightfall detailed

    Bungie has reset the weekly cap of Crucible and Vanguard marks and added new Heroic and Nightfall strikes, now with burn. From now until next Tuesday, the weekly Heroic strike will be The Devil’s Lair with Heroic and Lightswitch modifiers. As for the Nightfall, you’ll be fighting Sepiks Prime with the help of Arc burn. […]

  • Few Mass Effect FemShep cosplays are as elaborate as this one

    The internet is full of Female Commander Shepard cosplay from Mass Effect, but very few are as terrific as this one. Visual artist Freya Willia has spent over two years painstakingly creating the perfect suit of armour and the best weapons to make her cosplay of Female Shepard as authentic as possible, Omni tool and […]

  • Deals with Gold: Assassin’s Creed Unity, Red Dead Redemption and more discounted

    This week’s Deals with Gold titles for Xbox Live subscribers is a good mix of modern games and old favourites. The list of discounted games through this week’s Deals with Gold is live with discounts on Assassin’s Creed Unity, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Red Dead Redemption, Max Payne 3, and more. The deals are live now […]

  • Destiny guide: how to maximise your Grimoire Points

    Destiny players regularly compare the size of their Grimoire Points. Learn how to make yours the biggest. Destiny guide: how to earn Grimoire Points In Destiny, earning most Grimoire cards is just a matter of playing the game, maybe a little more attentively than usual. You’ll either need to complete a certain number of actions […]

  • Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows will let you play as a baddie

    Shovel Knight owners will benefit from the generosity of Kickstarter backers quite soon. Because Shovel Knight was overfunded during its Kickstarter campaign, developer Yacht Club Games committed to releasing free content updates. The first of these, Plague of Shadows, has now been detailed. The expansion stars baddy Plague Knight, who turns on his former allies, […]

  • GTA controversies, from Hot Coffee to PR manipulation

    GTA has a long history of controversy. The latest Did You Know Gaming tells the full stories behind the sensational headlines. Grand Theft Auto is such a byword for controversy that it’s easy to forget the full context of what actually happened to bring mainstream press, politicians and interest group awareness to the Rockstar series. […]

  • Infamous 2 one of five new PlayStation Now additions for March

    PlayStation Now will expand to the tune of five new games this month. The March PS Now additions are Infamous 2, Twisted Metal, R-Type Dimensions, Alone in the Dark: Inferno and Operation Flashpoint: Red River. PS Now will set you back $20 per month or $45 for a three month subscription. It offers all you […]

  • Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster gets PS4 release date

    Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster hits PS4 in May. The PS4 release date for Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster is May 12 in North America and May 15 in Europe. Gematsu reports a special pre-order bonus calendar with art by Yoshitaka Amano is available through the Square Enix Store and participating retailers. In Europe, pre-ordering […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare getting 15 new Prestige levels

    Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare players can now aspire to the ranks of Grand Master Prestige. Advanced Warfare developer Sledgehammer Games will add 15 more Prestige levels to the latest Call of Duty, giving players at max XP a chance to grow even further. According to the Sledgehammer Games blog, when you enter Master level […]

  • Destiny: Crota’s End recreated in Minecraft

    Destiny’s toughest challenge gets even nastier if you throw Creepers into the mix. The ultimate Destiny challenge – for now – is the Crota’s End raid. Taking place in an alternate dimension accessed through the Hellmouth on the Moon, the Raid takes Guardians through a pit of darkness to the resting place of Crota himself. […]

  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3D trailer introduces the Heir to the Monado

    Xenoblade Chronicles 3D protagonist Shulk is the Heir to the Monado, his distinctive red sword. Let this trailer fill you in on what that means. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D releases for New 3DS on April 2 in Europe and April 10 in North America. As well as all the content of the Wii original, it has […]

  • The Elder Scrolls: Total War mod covers Morrowind, Oblivion and more

    The Elder Scrolls: Total War is a terrific mod allowing you get get intimately involved with the history of Bethesda’s detailed fantasy universe. The first release of The Elder Scrolls: Total War dropped on the weekend, giving players their first chance to try out LoRdNazgu1‘s creation. This version runs from 3E 427 to 4E 45, […]

  • Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 out now on Steam

    Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 is out now. Yes, we’re surprised too. You can grab Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 on Steam for $8. Developer Scott Cawthon really doesn’t mess about; the game was only announced in early January. Here’s the blurb: Thirty years after Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza closed it’s doors, the events that took […]

  • EVE Online heister makes off with $13,000 worth of goods

    EVE Online is a hotbed of villainy, espionage and backstabbing, but one intrepid corporate thief has made waves even in this setting. The thing about EVE Online is that it’s a true sandbox: the game’s rules are very loose, and allow players to make careers out of theft, piracy, assassination and espionage in addition to […]

  • Marth Amiibo getting a stock refresh in North America

    Nintendo of America has announced a fresh supply of the difficult to find Marth Amiibo. The Marth Amiibo will be back in stock in the US in late April, the platform holder said on Twitter today. Planning to pick up Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. and don’t have a Marth amiibo? More are headed to stores in […]

  • Skyrim beta update upgrades creation kit file size

    Skyrim has been granted a new beta update – more than three years after launch! – to improve the experience for modders and those who use them. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim released in November 2011. I think that’s worth noting before we discuss the beta update that dropped today, even as Bethesda is working […]

  • Paradox’s next epic RPG is, uh, Knights of Pen & Paper 2

    Knights of Pen & Paper 2 is very serious business so please enjoy this very serious trailer. “Return to the dicey world of Knights of Pen & Paper for a new turn-based adventure, where players get to take on the role of players, and also of the game’s encounter-designing, rules-laywering GM in a fully customizable […]

  • Amplitude looks amazing in new gameplay trailer, has a team multiplayer mode

    Amplitude may have been delayed but we still get something this March: a fine new gameplay trailer. Amplitude is coming to PlayStation 3 and PS4 sometime in northern summer. It’s a reprisal of Harmonix’s classic rhythm action game, a forerunner to its later efforts with Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and was crowdfunded. Update: Turns […]

  • DayZ creator’s “crazy”, “esoteric” next game developed with Improbable

    DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall has dropped the first vague details of his new game project. “I do not want to make safe games. I do not want to make games the way we have been making them. What if the most experienced video game staff in the world collaborated on the most esoteric and […]

  • Battlefield Hardline will support AMD’s Mantle

    AMD has confirmed what most Battlefield fans thought. Battlefield Hardline will indeed support Mantle. Battlefield Hardline will support Mantle, AMD has confirmed. Some players weren’t sure whether the retail version of the game will support AMD’s API, due to its absence from the recent PC beta. AMD did not say whether the feature will be […]

  • Unreal Engine 4 GDC 2015 sizzle reel shows what the tech can do

    Unreal Engine 4 is a pretty versatile bit of tech, as this new sizzle reel shows. As one of the more ubiquitous engines, Unreal will be on show at GDC this week. Developer Epic produced the following sizzle reel to quickly demonstrate what it can do – cutting edge graphics (there are very few games […]

  • Survarium’s latest patch removes limit on battle ammo, rebalances experience gain

    The latest Survarium patch has readjusted the value of experience and reputation points gained and removed the limit to the maximum amount of ammo you can use in combat. Survarium developer Vostok Games has released patch 0.27a to the public, having recently finished testing it. The patch is a major one and covers changes to […]

  • The Hunt Begins in new Bloodborne TV spot

    Bloodborne is so close you can almost smell its coppery tang on the wind – and also you can watch commercials for it. Bloodborne arrives on PS4 at the end of this month (March 24 North America, March 25 Europe, March 27 UK) so excitement is starting to build. Sony isn’t helping keep us calm […]

  • World of Warcraft: you’ll soon be able to buy game time with gold

    Blizzard will soon allow World of Warcraft players to exchange in-game gold for game time and vice versa. Blizzard has announced a new system that will launch soon for World of Warcraft. The system is called WoW Token. Using this system, players will be able to buy game time using in-game gold. Here’s how it […]

  • 3D Realms’ Bombshell returns with the first gameplay trailer

    Remember 3D Realms’ Bombshell? The isometric ARPG that was announced last year? Well, it’s back, and we get to see gameplay footage. The game stars Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, a bomb technician turned mercenary with a mechanical arm. She will embark on a quest to rescue the president and save Earth, all while shooting aliens. The […]

  • Unreal Engine 4 is now free for everyone to use

    Epic Games has made Unreal Engine 4 available for anyone to download and use, for free. Unreal Engine 4 is now free. Anyone can download it and start using it, the developer announced today in a blog post. The download features the the full set of tools used by Epic, and includes 100% of the […]

  • Call of Duty European Championship winner announced

    The winner of the European round of the Call of Duty Championship has been announced. This past weekend, 28 teams representing UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, the rest of Europe and Middle East attended the final of the European round of the Call of Duty Championship. UK team Epsilon eSports was crowned […]

  • GOG brings back Insomnia sale with discounts up to 90% off

    GOG.com is bringing back its Insomnia sale event with even more games. GOG’s Insomnia sale is back with double the amount of games. This year, there will be two sets of games available at once. The sets are seasoned classics and fresh new titles. Each set will feature games with discounts up to 90% off, […]

  • 2K is shutting down NBA 2K14 online servers, won’t affect career save files

    2K will be shutting down the servers for NBA 2K14 this month. The publisher revealed yesterday that online servers for NBA 2K14 will be turned offline on March 31. “You will no longer be able to play ranked games/online association,” reads the announcement. NBA 2K14 relied on online servers to store save files for MyCareer […]

  • One Dead or Alive tournament organiser is proposing ban of “over-sexualised” costumes

    A Dead or Alive tournament organiser has suggested a soft ban on some of the game’s “over-sexualised” costumes, and not everyone is happy. Tournament organiser “The HuBBs” took to the FreeStepDodge forums to suggest a list of rules that other offline tournaments can follow. The list goes over stages, characters, moves, which is certainly in […]