Morrowind Editor Q&A

We spoke with Bethesda about the extensive game editor that will be included with the forthcoming RPG, Morrowind. Also check out these exclusive shots of the editor in action.

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Bethesda is hard at work on the follow-up to The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, the enormous 1996 role-playing game that helped revitalize the traditional RPG dungeon crawl. GameSpot recently spoke with Todd Howard, project leader on The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, about Bethesda's plans for including a powerful game editor for the game.

GameSpot: What does the Elder Scrolls III construction set do?

Todd Howard: Just about everything. Every piece of data that goes into the game goes in through the construction set. Towns, landscape, weapons, lights, dialogue, quests, races, classes, non-player characters, skills, animation, menus, sound, and so on. Everything. All of this data can be changed, added, deleted, whatever. When you're making a game the size that we are it's really important to have a robust tool that you can rely on to build stuff quickly, get to it quickly, review it, change it, whatever. It's also good for translating the game into other languages. You could actually do a plug-in that makes the game play in German, French, or whatever you wanted. Oh, and books. You can write your own books, put pictures in them, and put them in the world for players to buy, read, and all of that.

GS: Why do you see an editor as important for a single-player RPG?

TH: I think it really extends the life of the game and is even more important than an editor for a multiplayer game. The reason is twofold really. First is to tweak the gameplay experience. You can change formulas for movement, combat, magic, levels, and all of that. So it's actually a cool way to tweak the game (like High Heat Baseball's tune files). Second, people can create their own add-ons for the game. I think most of these will take the form of a quest or story, and many times it will be with new game environments to play in. I also imagine it will be a great delivery system from custom classes, weapons, and so forth. It takes about 30 seconds to make a new weapon, place it in the world, and save out the plug-in.

GS: Does the editor pose any balance issues for the included campaign?

TH: I'm sure it does. People will really, really be able to break stuff if they know what they are doing. They could modify races and make certain elves 50 feet tall, or delete people quests depend on. That's one reason we made it plug-in based. If you download one plug-in, and it's messing with your game, you can just unload it, and everything is back without the changes from the bad plug-in. But it's like a toy - people will play with it and see how much they can screw things up for a while, and then go back to seriously playing. It's their game. They paid for it. Let them do what they want.

GS: What sorts of editing tools are included? Will users need any extra applications for model or texture creation?

TH: Since we use building blocks or objects, the editor does not support raw art creation (like a new hut model). The game ships with an enormous amount of stuff to use, though. If people want to create new 3D art, they'll have to have 3DStudioMax, and download our Max plug-in for exporting art. The textures are standard TGAs and BMPs though, so people will be able to edit and create those through standard art programs.

GS: Using these tools, how would a user build a new quest within existing environments?

TH: Most quests just take the form of dialogue. Dialogue doesn't really exist in specific characters, though. Dialogue is a huge database, and a character will look up in the database for what he should say for a given topic. So you can add dialogue to the whole world by writing dialogue and then defining the conditions for when it is said. Like, all guards will say this if you are over level 3, in this area, the guard has a sword, and knows that the duke is dead. That way, even if you make a new NPC, he will know what to say and you don't have to add any new dialogue in him. Dialogue can still be specific, like "Bring me this sword," but the conditions for that dialogue might only be for one guy. So basically you just create the dialogue asking for the PC to do something, write some journal entries and then have somebody or something check for when it is complete. It's very easy. We'll have hundreds of quests in the construction set to use as models.

GS: What built-in features help get a user started in building a town or dungeon from scratch?

TH: They can start with an existing one, and just copy all the objects, paste them down somewhere new and start editing - that would be the easiest. Or they can just drag and drop objects from the database into the world. Since these objects already have their data set (like "I'm a fire that does this...") you only have to place the stuff around. You'll also want to find a place in the world for it. You can place it in the wilderness, which would generally be safe, or build a new land area (the map can be increased) and put it there, which would be even safer. When I say "safe," I mean lowering the chance that another plug-in has put something in the same spot. Plug-ins have summaries they come with, so if you're running with a big number, you'll have to be careful that you don't have three plug-ins trying to put a town in the same place, but it will be easy to see.

GS: How does a user go about distributing and importing plug-ins?

TH: The construction set loads and saves them. You just save your plug-in and put it on the web. They're pretty small too, since the raw art data is in the game, not the plug-in file. We hope to sponsor the best plug-ins on our web site every week.

GS: What applications do you see for the editor's scripting language?

TH: That's really for the hard-core editors who want to go beyond base functionality. That's where you can go wild and make doors give riddles, create crazy weapons that talk to you and ask for souls, or really anything. We use it for complicated traps also. They work best scripted. But scripts can be attached to any object, so I imagine most people will just modify or apply the ones we have. If we have a SuperSpikes script that makes something act like a trap, you can attach it to any of your barrels, doors, or anything else.

GS: Thanks, Todd.

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