Skyrim’s dragon attacks, like Oblivion’s gates, won’t start grinding you into fishpaste until you’re nominally ready for it.
“We decide when those random events can happen and how,” Nesmith explained.
“All of our ‘random’ systems are actually sophisticated decision systems that use randomness as one part of the process.
“Random dragon attacks won’t happen right away. When they first start, you will have companions with you or be able to use the environment to your advantage, and the dragon will be one of the weaker ones. As the game progresses, you fight tougher dragons and are on your own more often.”
It sounds similar to the way Oblivion didn’t start opening hell gates all over the countryside as you were completing the tutorial; these dynamic features began springing up once you’d completed some of the main quest line, increasing in frequency as the plot progressed.
Fears of sudden spikes in difficulty are well-founded, with both Morrowind and Oblivion notorious for a messy enemy-scaling system which could see the character unable to defeat low-level monsters. Bethesda is working on it.
“This is a system we continually tweak and improve. It’s extremely complicated and detailed at this point,” Nesmith said.
“Its main goal is to make sure that the player is always finding new challenges that do not devolve into unavoidable failure or trivialize success.”
Skyrim releases on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on November 11.