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Bruce Nesmith on Oblivion

Bethesda's senior designer gives us the inside info on how Oblivion's epic quests were forged!

Last month we looked back at Oblivion in all its glory, but there simply wasn't time to bring you all the goods we had on Bethesda's awesome RPG. That's a situation we're happy to correct today with an-depth natter with Bruce Nesmith, Senior designer where he unveils the inner workings on how Oblivion's epic quests were forged.

So how do you go about creating miscellaneous quests for Oblivion and its inevitable expansions?
We have a staff of designers and they all submit a collection of ideas. They're all then thrown together and reviewed - depending on the project they're sometimes reviewed by committee, sometimes by the entire group. In the case of Oblivion, it was the entire group and we picked the ones we thought would be the best ideas to implement. Then those ideas get handed out to the various designers to implement and they start creating them. It's very much a group process and we try to involve everybody - it's a chance for the whole team to be creative. One of the great things about the miscellaneous quests is they go in so many different directions because they have so many different types of mind putting together the basic ideas for them.


Does everyone get a say on whether they stay in?
Everyone gets a chance to put their opinion forward and the final decision is usually made by the lead designer or executive producer of the project. But everybody has a very strong voice; if the group by and large really likes a particular idea, then the lead designer or executive producer will realize that they're probably wrong if they don't and that they should keep that idea.

How do the guild quests work then?
Guild quests are a little bit different; they're usually given to a particular designer to oversee the entire quest storyline. That designer then puts forward an idea or over-arching story that he or she would like to implement. That's then put forward to the group, then the group looks at it and makes comments. Frequently in the early stages, the decision process can be very brutal; ideas can undergo dramatic metamorphoses. The group finds big flaws, little flaws, comes up with extra ideas to put in, but it's much more in the hands of the individual who's going to be managing that quest line from birth to death. So the group has an awful lot of input, but the original idea comes from one person.

So that one person is responsible for all those quests?
Exactly. For example, I did the Thieves guild and I came into the project when it was already going, so it was already an idea on the table. I presented a new idea and the group looked at it and made wholesale changes and told me where I was being really stupid and where I was being brilliant. Then we got past that stage and I implemented the entire quest line.


Did you write all the quest dialogue yourself?
Yes, that's one of the principle jobs of the designers of Bethesda - we write all the quest dialogue - so the design staff wrote 100% of the dialogue in the game. In the case of the guild quests, the particular designer in charge of that guild wrote all of the dialogue.

It just boggles the mind just how much stuff is in Oblivion doesn't it? There's a hell of a lot there...
Yes. We've provided the consumer a tremendous amount of content to play with; more than I think in any game in history probably. That's a bold statement, but I'd be willing to stand behind it as the content is staggering. I keep turning around and looking at something else that I'd forgotten went into the game, and I'm constantly amazed.