A massive info dump on Bethesda's new engine, the purpose-built Creation, has turned up to whet out Skyrim appetites even further. Major changes to graphics, animation, AI and quest management are all on the cards; hit the break for details.
GameInformer got together with Bethesda and had a good old jaw about Creation with creative director Todd Howard.
The Elder Scrolls' tradition of huge game worlds necessitates dynamic lighting, and Creation's emphasis on shadows lends greater realism than in previous iterations.
"That's something we had a little bit of in the past with shadowing, but not on everything," said Howard. "Now we have it on everything. It just makes the whole thing a lot more believable when you're there."
Another touch of immersion comes from a new foliage creation system, which allows for individualised trees, down to the weighting of each branch, for diversity in wind animation.
Further weather effects have been overhauled, with a new precipitation method eschewing shaders in favour of realistic drift effects. Snow will now build up unevenly according to an individual feature's characteristics.
Finally, Creation enables much greater draw distances than Oblivion's; necessary for Skyrim's mountainous, vista-filled landscape.
Skyrim builds on Oblivion's system of NPC behaviour, which drove characters to different locations at different times of day to pursue various activities, by assigning them a greater number of more specific traits.
NPCs will now be found working at local features such as farms or mines, rather than spending their empty days wandering aimlessly around town.
When interrupted for conversation, characters may carry on working as they talk, and react to the player in different ways depending on existing relationships. In Oblivion, NPCs were universally disgruntled by midnight awakenings, but Skyrim's inhabitants will welcome friends.
Bethesda have licensed the Havok Behavior animation suite for use in Skyrim, which Howard describes as state-of-the-art.
"This is about the tippy-top state-of-the-art stuff out there. I think we're the first real big game to use it," he said.
Using Havok Behavior, Bethesda artists can smooth transitions between various movements, lending a much more natural feel to third-person view. Characters will struggle with environmental hazards, and can continue their activities during dialogue.
Enemies and creatures will also benefit from the Havok treatment - including the famous dragons - and their actions and animations will not be scripted.
Morrowind and Oblivion shared a similar system of side quests, but Skyrim ditches fully scripted quest lines for semi-randomised encounters. A system called Radiant Story tailors missions to your character's location, personality, and past.
This overcomes the character death issues of previous games, as quest givers will be replaced by appropriate characters - who may or may not alter their behavior towards you based on what happened to the previous quest giver and their relationships.
Check out the full rundown through the link above. Thanks, BigDownload.