For this week’s Media Consumption, a column that looks at the media and art diets of our favourite industry personalities, we spoke to Todd Howard, executive producer for Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls
series, as well as the upcoming Fallout 3
The game was originally in development under the name Van Buren
by Black Isle Studios, before lay-offs by parent company Interplay lead to the cancellation of the title in December of 2003. Shortly after, the rights to the series were sold to Bethesda, who reportedly started work on the game in July of 2004. The reaction from both fans and creators alike was mixed at best, with original Fallout
co-designer Leonard Boyarsky commenting that the sale felt like “our ex-wife had sold our children that she had legal custody of”.
Howard is unconcerned about this, however. “I wouldn't say doing Fallout
has any more pressure then doing Elder Scrolls
,” he says. “Most of the pressure comes from ourselves, trying to make a better game than our last.”
Vice president of PR and marketing Pete Hines recently told Gamasutra that the team was “a fairly good ways into the process”, and noted that “Fallout
is not a quick two year process, and we are already several years into the project”.
Howard confirms this, stating that development on the game has “been full steam for a while now, and preproduction is coming to an end and we hope to show it off soon”.
“There's certainly a lot of people who want to see it,” he continues, “so that's always a good sign. I just hope people ‘get it’ for what it is, and for what it isn't.”
We spoke to Howard recently to ask him about the portion controlled servings that go into his media diet at the moment.
"Well, I'm incredibly late to the iPod generation, and recently got one, so I've broken through to the whole iTunes things and have been sampling a large number of things, from Gnarls Barkley to Social Distortion. It's so easy to browse new music, sample it, and buy what you like in small chunks. I've bought more music in the last few months than I've bought in the last five years.
In general I listen to classic rock stuff, like Springsteen and the Stones. Born to Run
and Darkness on the Edge of Town
are still my favourites - they are very raw albums, and not overly produced. The songs have great imagery and storytelling, while still rocking. I pretty much like all of Bruce's stuff, even the new stuff. It's nice to see an artist continue to grow, and not overly repeat himself. With the Stones, I love the live album Stripped
I've also been listening to a lot of music for Fallout 3
- stuff from the '40s."
"Lord of the Rings, Star Wars,
and Raiders of the Lost Ark
: those are my all time favorites.
Recently I've come to really respect and admire Chris Nolan, who did Memento, Batman Begins,
and The Prestige
. The Prestige
was the last "great" movie I've seen. His movies seem to challenge you on another level. Outside of his excellent visual storytelling in all his movies, even Insomnia
, he directs his characters with subtle enough performances to give you insight into something much deeper, while not hitting you over the head repeatedly with it.
Oh, and [I enjoyed] Borat
"I don't have the time to read as much as I'd like, only when I'm on a long vacation or something do I find the time. Last book I read was Cormac McCarthy's The Road
, which is absolutely brilliant. That book will stay with you long after you read it.
I've made it required reading for a lot of people here. There's great Fallout
type stuff in there: a post-apocalyptic world with people struggling to survive. It's a very harsh story."
series is still my favorite, and probably is still my biggest inspiration as far as presenting a fully realized world in a game. Ultima 4
are so ahead of their time it's just unbelievable. In regards to storytelling and visual storytelling [I take] a lot [of influence from other mediums].
Movies can still push the visuals without ever wondering, "Will this run fast enough?", and so most of the new ground is still being broken there. Overall though, I still look to other games for gameplay ideas, as it's pretty easy to pick something up that is done and out and mess with it, if it has an idea you are already thinking about. It could be any game. I even played Barbie Horse Adventure
to see how their horses worked. Embarrassing, but you get my point.
Lately I’ve been playing smatterings of stuff from Gears of War
to Viva Piñata
. I’m making my way through Rainbow Six: Vegas
right now. I also get addicted to NCAA Football
every year, too; I had my online ranking in the top 200 for a while. I think regardless of the genre, there's something you can take away from every game provided it's well made. So many little ideas in how UI works, or player reward."