E3 2001: Morrowind update

Bethesda gives us a look at an early build of its ambitious single-player fantasy role-playing game, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.

At E3 last week, we were treated to an extensive demonstration of Bethesda's upcoming role-playing game, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Todd Howard, the project leader for the game, and Ken Rolston, lead designer for the game, gave us a look at several of the game's vibrant environments, as well as some of the characters and buildings. They also gave us a brief demonstration of the game's combat and the powerful game editor that will be included in the game.

Like the previous games in the Elder Scrolls series, Morrowind is built on a huge gameworld and a nonlinear storyline. However, unlike the previous games, Morrowind features an advanced 3D engine that can compete with the latest first-person shooters and an extensive game editor that will let players build completely custom areas and adventures.

Rolston began the demonstration by walking us around some of the game's environments. Rolston explained that the team is trying to make the game feel like a real world, and with the amount of detail they are putting into the game and the option to completely minimize the interface in order to give the player a full-screen view of the world, the game already feels very real. In addition, the gameworld will be completely seamless, so players won't have to wait for load times between areas.

Some of the advanced effects featured in the game include realistic night-day cycles, complete with moons that move across the sky, and a full weather system. The game also includes both first-person and third-person perspectives, so players can see what their characters look like and look at the world through their characters' eyes.

Rolston showed off three of the cities that will be included in the game, each with very different architectural styles. One featured buildings with very organic, insect-like shapes, while another city was made up of medieval European-style buildings. The most impressive city, though, was the wizards' enclave, which was made up of giant mushroom-like buildings and fantastic towers.

All the dialog in the game is hyperlinked to give players an easy way to navigate the conversation. The information stored in the automatic journal is hyperlinked as well. The non-player characters in the game will also include a disposition rating, which indicates how they feel about the player character.

Later in the demo, Rolston showed off the game's combat system. The character came upon a large creature made up of an enormous mouth sitting on two legs. The system is similar to that used in Jedi Knight--characters will deliver different types of attacks depending on which direction they step. If characters step forward, they will deliver a thrust, while moving from side to side creates a slashing attack. There is also a timed power-up system that helps balance the weapons in the game. If a player holds down the attack button for a period of time, the attack will gain power. As different types of weapons require different amounts of time to deliver maximum damage, in some cases daggers can be more useful than swords, since they have a very fast power-up time. Swords have a higher maximum damage than daggers, but they require more time.

The game editor looked similar to what we had seen before. Howard gave us a general overview of the editor, which is window-based and looks very easy to use, with a straightforward database system and a drag-and-drop interface. According to Rolston, the editor we were shown is the same editor that the developers have been using to build the game and the same editor that will be included in the retail version.

The game is already looking very impressive. Every part of the gameworld that was shown was carefully detailed, and the 3D engine was running smoothly with some very nice visual effects. The game still has a long way to go before its release at the end of the year, but if Bethesda stays on track, it could very well achieve its goal of creating the ultimate single-player role-playing game.

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