Bethesda's Todd Howard: Skyrim Designer and Motivational Speaker?

Todd Howard gave the opening keynote at the DICE 2012 summit in Las Vegas entitled "Why We Create, Why We Play," which proved to be a highly entertaining speech with an equally hilarious PowerPoint presentation. Todd has been with Bethesda for 18 years, starting in 1984. When he joined the company, Terminator Rampage had just come out. E3 didn't even exist yet, and according to Howard, "We had CES, but the video games were in a big tent outside with the porn." Look how far we've come since then.

To put things in perspective, he noted that Doom came out right around the same time he was joining Bethesda. Terminator: Future Shock first game he worked on, which was promptly one-upped by id. "I've worked on a few games since then, and we bought id a few years ago. So..."

Check out Howard's full keynote below, which features things like a gorilla high-fiving a shark.

Here are some of the important items to note:

  • Your plan is not as important as your culture. Your ideas are not as important as your execution.
  • Don't define your game by a list of features, define it by the experience you want the player to have. Be who you want, go do what you want.
  • The original design for Skyrim was a Conan action figure. "People would come by and ask me 'What's the design for Skyrim?' and I'd just point at the action figure. For the longest time, dual-wielding was not in the game, and I'd just look at the figure and it would say 'DO IT!'"
  • Keep it Simple - "We can do anything, we just can't do everything."
  • Great Games Are Played, Not Made - "We play our own game a ton. Everybody does it, every week."
  • Admitting your mistakes is essential.
  • There was a friend/favor system in Skyrim that was trackable, but they took it out because it detracted from the game.

  • Do more of the great stuff. Do less of the crap stuff.
  • The designers in Skyrim could have easily had the horses in the game carry items, but they took it out because it would make horses too important.
  • The Bethesda Game Jame is awesome - check the video above for highlights. Especially that ginormous mud crab.
  • The Four Stages for a Player: They Learn Your Game, They Play Your Game, The Game Challenges Them, and They Get A Surprise.
  • Why do people put down games and stop playing them? Because hallenge is a fine line between boredom and frustration.
  • The average Steam player in Skyrim has logged 75 hours in the game.
  • Games can give you Pride, and you need to design for that moment.
  • This is the golden age of gaming. Do something great and you will find success. Make your player proud.

Now, who wants to get out there and design some games? Me? I'm ready to get out there and play those games. Time to get back into Skyrim and start making myself proud. First up, finally finishing the main quest. I'm way behind.

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