Everybody knows that publisher and developer Bethesda has built its
reputation as a game studio by consistently delivering incredibly deep,
lengthy, and immersive RPGs -- and built a huge audience for its titles by
maintaining that commitment.
But what may not be as clear is that the company
has managed to keep interest for its titles alive for years after their
introduction, in stark contrast to many publishers, whose titles disappear from
retail after mere weeks, in many cases.
Here, Pete Hines, VP of PR and Marketing for Bethesda and product
manager for Fallout 3, discusses the fate of titles like Morrowind
and Oblivion, and the strategies that the company has developed for
maintaining retailer and gamer interest in its titles.
As a developer of open-world games, I imagine there is some degree
of creative restriction on what Bethesda can do with
DLC, in that discrete content has to be integrated in some logical way. You
can't just add another racetrack to the menu, or whatever. How do you approach
Pete Hines: It is a constraint from one standpoint, which is that
if you're going to plug it into the existing world then it has to be adaptable
for anybody at any level that we discern, at least for the first two [in Fallout
3]. We don't discern whether you're level 1, level 10, level 15, or level
20, so we have to allow for all of that.
But in general, no. We like building our games that way. Having
the DLC exist within that world allows us to, once we're done making all the
content for the game and we've finished the game from that standpoint and then
spent lot of time playing it, look for areas that we'd like to do more of -- to
do something different than when you're looking at the whole spectrum of content
Bethesda's Fallout 3
In the third [Fallout 3 DLC pack, Broken Steel, out this month, which continues the game beyond its original ending], it really allows us to
react to what the response was once the game came out. We were genuinely
surprised how many people were disappointed or upset that the game had an
ending. Because most games have an ending, but most Bethesda games don't.
guess it was just the case where people have come to expect that our games
don't end and that they can keep playing.
So we said, what would we need to do to address that? It has taken
us a while because there are all these different ways that the game can end,
and we needed to account for them and tell the story of what happens after
that. How does that story continue on in the D.C. wasteland?
There are a lot of bases to cover there. There's a lot of things
that we want to account for. We don't want to just say, "Oh, you can keep
playing but the world feels exactly the same as if you had finished it."
We had to go through and spend time doing that.
With Oblivion, you obviously tried a number of different things.
There was some backlash with the horse armor and all of that, which at this
point I guess has been discussed to death, but you also went to the other
extreme in terms of volume of content. Did you learn some big lessons from that
PH: Definitely, because we did the entire spectrum for the most
part. We did small things and then we did the really huge thing [with The
Shivering Isles]. We did what I think was the first ever full expansion on
a console for download. We looked at what we liked and what we didn't, and what
the people liked.
What we discovered was that we want to be able to do stuff that
doesn't take a year to come out.
All these people are out there playing our
game by the hundreds of thousands on a daily basis and we want to be able to
bring those folks something they could do in a much shorter time frame, rather
than just saying, "See you next year." That instantly ruled out doing
a big expansion because those things just take so damn long to do.
So we started looking at the biggest stuff we'd done that people
really liked, but that we could do in smaller, digestible chunks.
we came to the Knights of the Nine model -- it's substantive and it adds
multiple hours of game play and new items, but we can do it in a time frame
that allows us to get it out without waiting forever. That's what we've gone
for with Fallout 3.