Fallout 4 Director on Why Bethesda Intentionally Held Back Info Before Launch
Todd Howard also teases that Bethesda's future games could have an even shorter announcement-to-release window.
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Though leaks revealed Fallout 4 years before its release, Bethesda only officially started talking about the game in June 2015--just six months later, the game was out. That is a rarity for AAA games. It is often the case that publishers will announce a game and drip-feed information about it over the period of many months or even in some cases years. Fallout 4 director Todd Howard tells GameSpot in a recent interview that he prefers the announcement-to-release window to be short, though he notes that Fallout 4 had an advantage: it was a sequel to one of the biggest and most beloved gaming franchises in history. Not everyone has that luxury.
"I really prefer it, for multiple reasons," Howard said about announcing a game and releasing it relatively soon thereafter. "There are moments when you get excited about hearing about something. I think that's a special moment. Then you take Fallout, people already wanted it and that helps tremendously."
Howard recalled Fallout 4's first trailer, released in June 2015, as being an example of one of these moments. "We knew. We're just going to hold back and so we can just go [poof] here it is. And that moment of excitement is really great," he said.
The game industry veteran, who also directed The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 3, went on to say that it can be problematic to talk about a game so long before its release. Game development is a fluid, ongoing process, and game mechanics and systems can change as development progresses.
"The other thing is, while you're making a game, you're figuring out, 'OK, what's really good about it?' 'What's this?' 'What's this?' If you're talking about that too early, people aren't getting excited, they're getting anxious."
"Tell me about this," a fan might ask. Howard would have to reply, "I can't." Another fan might ask, "How does this work?" and because the game isn't finished yet, Howard would say he's not sure.
"It's just a bad conversation to have," he explained. Instead, Howard would rather wait to announce a game until he's confident in what the team can deliver.
Even when Bethesda did finally announce Fallout 4, the developer held back what it told people about what to expect. Howard said this was intentional because he wanted people to set forth into post-apocalyptic Boston and discover the world for themselves, without having pre-conceived notions of what to expect.
Given that Howard recently announced that Bethesda was working on three "longer-term" projects, we also wondered if the company would follow the same formula for them.
"Absolutely," Howard said.
He even teased that the time from announcement to release "could be a lot shorter," though we don't expect a Beyonce-style situation.
"How long that time is, is to be determined," he said. "It could be a lot shorter, believe it or not, or [six months] could be the right amount of time. It differs per project."
Howard also teased that one of Bethesda's three longer-term projects is "not as big as the other two." But for all three, "They'll each find their own way of being announced and released," he said.
Will we hear about any of these games this year, potentially during Bethesda's E3 2016 briefing?
"I can't say," Howard replied.
Though it seems like we won't hear about these games for a while, Bethesda will talk more about Fallout 4's three recently announced expansions much sooner. The first, Automatron, is due out in March. Howard said Bethesda enjoys the months after a game's launch, in part because it gets to have a back-and-forth with fans on a level it could not when the studio is in secret mode, plugging away at a game.
"DLC for us--we've done it every game and a ton of it over time," Howard said. "It's great for us to see what people like about the game, find any holes are that we can expand on or do new things. It's good for the studio. We're putting more things out, we're making the game better. We're more engaged, as opposed to that period when we're not saying anything. Now we're engaged and we like that process of hearing from our fans and what they want more of."
"It's really important to us that it's not just like the game comes out--it's a platform in many respects," he added. "What the game is a year from now is going to be very different."