The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon Q&A
We talk to Bethesda's Ashley Cheng about the upcoming wintry add-on for Morrowind, in which you might just turn into a werewolf.
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Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind featured a huge number of side quests that could keep players busy with the role-playing game for quite some time. But since Morrowind's release last May, the studio has been steadily producing more new content for Morrowind fans, first with last year's Tribunal expansion and now with the Bloodmoon expansion that's due out next month. We recently spoke with Ashley Cheng, Bethesda's project lead for Bloodmoon, to find out more about the new wintry island setting, the intriguing possibility of playing as a werewolf, and the major quests introduced in the add-on.
GameSpot: Generally speaking, what kinds of content and features did you feel you could add in Bloodmoon to best expand the world of Morrowind?
Ashley Cheng: Ever since we finished Morrowind, it has been our intention to revisit werewolves in one of our expansion packs. It is easily the most requested feature from our fans. Throughout development, we kept telling ourselves over and over again--you are a savage beast, you are a savage beast. I think we succeeded pretty well in conveying that feeling. Hopefully our fans will feel the same.
We knew we wanted to add new types of landscapes and weather to give Bloodmoon a very different look. You can easily look at the screen and quickly tell the difference between Bloodmoon and Morrowind. You'll see tundra, natural forests, snow, and blizzards. We created new architecture and buildings that are very distinct as well. They almost feel like two different games.
One of the best features of Morrowind is the sheer size, the freedom to explore the world. Bloodmoon allows for much more of that kind of exploration. You want to keep going to see what's over the next hill, or to pop into each dungeon along the way to see what's lurking within.
GS: Bethesda released the first expansion for Morrowind in November. How long have you been working on the second expansion?
AC: We've been working on Bloodmoon since November, so about six months. We immediately started work on it right after we finished Tribunal.
GS: Tell us a little about Bloodmoon's story. How does Bloodmoon tie into Morrowind and Tribunal?
AC: Bloodmoon's storyline is independent of Morrowind and Tribunal. We want to allow any player of any faction and level to play Bloodmoon at any time. That's always been our philosophy with our expansion packs. We want to give you total freedom to do whatever you want, anytime you want.
That doesn't mean you'll necessarily survive the experience, but you are certainly welcome to try.
Bloodmoon is a prophecy that revolves around werewolves and a daedra trying to escape from his plane of existence. Anyone who has played Daggerfall will instantly know who this daedra is, but we're keeping him under wraps for now.
We also expand on our stronghold concept and allow you to direct the construction of an entire town. At certain points, you'll get the make decisions about what building is put up next--an armorer, a trader, and so on. It is one of the best parts of Bloodmoon, second to being a werewolf.
GS: What character levels will Bloodmoon be designed for? How much progress can characters make over the course of the expansion?
AC: The open-ended wilderness and non-quest-related dungeons in Bloodmoon are open to anyone of any level. We went out of our way to level all the creature lists for players ranging from level one to level 60 and beyond.
The quest lines will require characters of level 20 or higher. There is a lot to do on Solstheim, the island where Bloodmoon takes place, and you'll find yourself leveling up fairly quickly. Not just in combat, either--you'll find many opportunities for sneaking and unlocking chests and treasure in dungeons. There are new ingredients for alchemists, too.
Howling at the Moon
GS: The initial announcement of Bloodmoon mentioned that players can either fight menacing werewolves or actually join the werewolf ranks. How do you become a werewolf? What will the game be like for characters who become shape-shifters?
AC: What I love best about Bloodmoon is that you actually can role-play as a werewolf. You live this secret life at night--no one knows how powerful you truly are. You start to keep very careful track of the time of day. When you're escorting people, you think to yourself: What if they see me change and find out the truth about me? What if we don't make it to our destination before nightfall and I have to kill them to quench my blood lust?
To keep it easy to understand, we used the vampire model from Morrowind--if you catch sanies lupinus from a werewolf and wait three days, you're a werewolf. It can be cured with a simple cure disease potion, but if you don't cure it you'll get a fevered dream on the third night. After the dream, you'll immediately wake up and you'll find your clothing stripped away and you'll feel an overwhelming thirst for blood that must be quenched.
Every hour that passes, if you do not kill an NPC, you'll lose a percentage of health. You'll never die, but if you do not feed, a substantial amount of health will be gone when you change back to human in the morning.
We first focused on making the werewolf fun. You are a killing machine. You growl and snarl as your claws rip through creatures and NPCs. You'll howl at the moon after making a kill.
Of course, it is a curse, not a blessing, to be a werewolf. If anyone ever sees you change to or back from werewolf form, it will be immediately broadcast, like crime, to everyone. You'll be a hunted man (or woman) forever. No one will ever talk to you again. Guards will attack you on sight whether in werewolf or human form.
But, if no one knows you are a werewolf, you can live your human life as a normal human being. It creates a brand-new way to play Morrowind. I defy anyone to become a werewolf and then go back and finish the Morrowind main quest as a werewolf, without anyone ever knowing--become the Nerevarine werewolf!
GS: We've seen some screenshots of Solstheim's snowy landscapes. Tell us about the setting. Where is the island located, and what's its history?
AC: Solstheim is an untamed land that the Empire has decided needs to be explored. The East Empire Company, a new faction you can join, has received a charter from the Empire to find out what resources are on this island.
The first rumors you hear are about problems at Fort Frostmoth, a remote outpost on the island. When you arrive, you'll realize that none of the soldiers want to be here. It's boring being in the middle of nowhere. And they haven't really put any effort into taming the wilderness. There are no roads anywhere. The forests are full of wild bears, wolves, and spriggans.
The natives are a cast-off tribe of nature-worshipping nords. There's a subset of these nords who broke off and built a mead hall where they do nothing but brawl, drink mead, and sing drinking songs.
There is a mysterious castle to the north guarded by rieklings, small ice minion creatures.
Smugglers use Solstheim as a place a refuge from the authorities. You'll find their camps along rivers and the coast.
GS: What kind of quests can players expect in Bloodmoon? How does the mining colony figure into the expansion's progress?
AC: We have much more content in Bloodmoon than we did in Tribunal. The main quest will take you all over the island. At a certain point, if you choose to become a werewolf, the quest line will branch and you'll receive werewolf quests through your dreams.
The mining colony is a separate faction and quest line. You can join the East Empire Company as an employee. You eventually work your way up to the top rank as the person in charge of the colony when it is complete. Along the way, you'll be asked to decide what kinds of buildings and NPCs should be brought over from Vvardenfell, and perhaps even where you'd like your own home to be built.
GS: What will the new weather effects be like? What other new features can we expect in Bloodmoon?
AC: The weather effects are great. The snow feels very realistic, and the blizzards are just crazy. The map notes and new journal functionality are also available, for those who do not have Tribunal. There are several new functions that we think the mod community will be pleased with. We've even created a way for them to create their own custom summon spells. We've made other minor tweaks to the game in terms of maintaining the code base.
GS: Tell us about the new monsters and the new weapons that are planned for Bloodmoon. What are some of your favorite new creations?
AC: We have lots of new creatures for Bloodmoon. We have several types of bears and wolves. The spriggans are my personal favorite--only because I personally implemented the scripting for their multiple deaths. Spriggans will resurrect three times before they permanently die, just like they did in Daggerfall.
Toward the North, you'll find tusked bristlebacks, a cold-weather boar--some of which are even mounted by rieklings. We have horkers--seals with insectoid mouths--that can be found in the rivers and oceans around the island. We also added two new undead creatures: draugrs and bonewolves.
We also went one step further and created unique character creatures--that is, there is only one of them in the game. You'll encounter them in the main quest and in the Thirsk mead hall quests.
GS: It seems like Bethesda has had plenty of ideas about how to expand on the original Morrowind experience. Can we hope to see more expansion packs following Bloodmoon?
AC: It's been tremendous fun making expansion packs. As any developer out there can attest to, it's a great luxury being able to create content on a stable code base. We have lots of stuff in the works, and we're planning on announcing a few new things very soon that I think our fans will be very pleased with.
GS: Anything else you'd like to say about Bloodmoon?
AC: I'd just like to thank everyone who has played Morrowind and Tribunal, and let them know that if they liked Morrowind or Tribunal, they'll love Bloodmoon. If you didn't play Tribunal, I recommend you consider getting Bloodmoon, as it really does look and feel like a completely different game. We even have people who didn't play Morrowind who are saying they're going to buy it now just so they can buy and play Bloodmoon and the werewolf stuff. In any case, it'll be worth your while.
GS: Thanks, Ashley.