Release in the East exposes gameâ??s testing troubles

Bethesda discusses Oblivion development and Japanese deployment

Celebrating the recent Japanese release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on the PS3 and Xbox 360, Bethesda has been speaking to the Japanese press about the development and localisation process behind the massive-world RPG.

Describing the company’s view behind making such a large, intricately detailed game world in an interview with, Bethesda’s Pete Hines said: “Distinguishing what can be touched from what can’t is difficult. So we kind of think, ‘Well, let’s make everything touchable.’

“That way you can get more immersed. For example, if you steal someone’s belongings, that’s a crime. But if you take some food in an inn that you’ve paid to stay in, then that’s not stealing. It’s representing real things from the real world, but those sorts of small details are immersive gimmicks that games can use.”

Because of the game’s huge level of freedom, the game had to be continually tested thoroughly during its four year development timeframe. Hines revealed that at first the game was thoroughly checked with the three fundamental classes – warrior, mage and thief – and then took on other problems as they occured.

“To get all those little problems as best you can, you’ve got to do things you wouldn’t normally think of. You’ve got to spend years breaking the game to make a high-quality title,” he remarked.

Speaking of the difficulties faced in localising such a large title, Akira Takahashi, the game’s producer at Japanese publisher Spike, said: “We broke down the huge amount of content in the game, all the while thinking that if we did a bad job of it we’d end up losing money.”

To make sure it went smoothly, they kept on checking the huge amount of translation they were doing. Bethesda themselves supervised the process, with Bethesda CEO Vlatko Andonov going as far as to joke “We had to play the game so many times that we ended up learning Japanese!”

Finally, touching on the future of the Elder Scrolls franchise, Hines said that the development team is currently focusing its efforts on Fallout 3, but is thinking about the future of the series. He also said that they only managed to release one title on the Xbox in its lifetime, and that Bethesda hopes to be able to deliver a second within the 360’s lifecycle.

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