Elder Scrolls 6 and the Creation Engine

I’m seeing quite a lot of talk this morning about Todd Howard stating that future games will continue to be built using the Creation Engine. The source seems to be this Forbes article, which is based on a Gamestar interview that I’m not paying to see in english, so I’ll take their word for it. Headline of the article is “‘Fallout 76’ Shows Bethesda’s Engine Has Gone From Meme To Liability.”

Now I saw some comments about past iterations of this engine, so I’m going to start there.

What would become the Creation Engine eventually started as NetImmerse. Now, the first thing that struck me, looking at the short list of games made using NetImmerse is that different things that were built with it. Morrowind is one of them, but so are Dark Ages of Camelot, Zoo Tycoon 2, and Star Trek: Bridge Commander. So this was a very versatile code base. It appears to have been and be a cross-platform engine written in C++.

Six years after it’s initial launch in 1996, it’s updated and renamed Gamebryo. Now imagine my surprise when I see just how many games were and are based on the Gamebryo engine. From Bethesda we have Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Fallout: NV. Yeah, I know, Bethesda didn’t actually make New Vegas. Other notable and sometimes surprising entries were Rift(2011), Civ 4, and the much more recent Defiance and Maplestory 2. Maplestory 2 is the most recently active title having been released in 2015 on July 7th.

Now, since Skyrim came out in 2011 I’m going to guess that Bethesda probably started development on the Creation Engine sometime during or before 2009, possibly as early as 2006/7 since Oblivion came out in 2006. The Creation Engine is a proprietary in-house engine used by Bethesda with their own in-house editor which is based on Gamebryo. I have no idea to what extent. As already shown, a Bethesda game seems to be defined more by Bethesda and less by the engine behind it. It’s how they’re using the tool, not the tool itself, that people seem to be taking an issue with.

The quote from Todd in the article is “The game uses a new renderer, a new lighting system and a new system for the landscape generation. For Starfield even more of it changes. And for The Elder Scrolls 6, out there on the horizon even more. We like our editor. It allows us to create worlds really fast and the modders know it really well. There are some elementary ways we create our games and that will continue because that lets us be efficient and we think it works best.”

So we’re getting into that weird territory at this point, where if you change every part on your car, is it the same car? I feel like the Creation Engine is probably just an interface optimized for the type of game Bethesda likes to create. It probably helps that I like their games for what they are and the underlying engine isn’t really a concern to me. Maybe I’m just used to the loading screens and relatively simply combat they’re complaining about in the source article. Yeah, I feel they probably need to step the game up a little to compete with the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2, but I don’t think the engine is the problem there. I think AI scripting and dialogue scripting are where they need to improve.

Of course, I’m not overly bothered by visuals as long as the overall experience is a good one, so maybe that’s the root problem. I want my Elder Scrolls games to feel like Elder Scrolls games and my Fallout games to feel like Elder Scrolls but with guns? Yeah, maybe not so much on the second one.

I for one am looking forward to Starfield and ES6. I’m interested to see what they can do with a new IP instead of iterating the same two ad nauseam.

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