>New Details on Skyrim’s Engine!

>According to GameInformer Skyrim’s engine borrows a bit from its predecessor GameBryo, don’t worry the engine sounds amazing.

Creation Engine

Draw distances are great for creating those postcard-worthy landscapes, but the players eyes aren’t always fixed on the horizon. To give the immediate surrounding a more believable look and feel, Bethesda increased the emphasis on the play between light and shadow on the entire world.“Because our worlds are so big all of the lighting has to be dynamic,” Howard says. “That’s something we had a little bit of in the past with shadowing, but not on everything. Now we have it on everything. It just makes the whole thing a lot more believable when you’re there.”

A lot of the environments are dominated by the untamed wilderness, which look great thanks to Bethesda’s overhauled foliage system. In previous games the team licensed the SpeedTree middleware to render the forests. For Skyrim, they’ve created their own platform that allows artists to build whatever kind of trees they want and to dictate how they animate. Artists can alter the weight of the branches to adjust how much they move in the wind, which is an effective way of, for instance, actualizing the danger of traversing steep mountain passes with howling winds violently shaking branches.

Radiant AI

You won’t find townspeople loitering aimlessly in town squares anymore. Each denizen performs tasks that make sense in their environment. To impart the towns and cities with a greater sense of life, Bethesda has populated them with mills, farms, and mines that give the NPCs believable tasks to occupy their day. In the forest village we visited during the demo, most of the citizens were hard at work chopping wood, running logs through the mill, and carrying goods through the town.

The improved Radiant AI technology is also more aware of how a citizen should react to your actions. As you perform tasks for them or terrorize them by ransacking their home, the NPCs develop feelings about you. If you’re good friends with a particular NPC and barge into his house during the middle of the night, he may offer you lodging rather than demand you leave the premises. “Your friend would let you eat the apple in his house,” Howard says. If you swing your weapon near an NPC, knock items off their dinner table, or try to steal something of value, they’ll react with an appropriate level of hostility given their prior relationship to you.

Havok Behavior

Havok Behavior is a flexible animation tool that allows the developers to rapidly prototype and preview new animations and blend them together seamlessly with a few mouse clicks and minimal code support. Bethesda is using it to create more nuance in character and creature movement, govern special effects, and even to control how characters struggle to move when trapped in environmental hazards like spider webs. Characters now transition more realistically between walking, jogging, and running, and the increased nuance between animations has allowed Bethesda to better balance the combat in both first- and third-person perspective by adjusting the timing values for swings and blocks depending on your perspective. “We definitely have made a significant jump in how it plays [in third person perspective],” Howard proclaims.

The increased animation fidelity and diversity has enabled Bethesda to ditch the awkward dialogue camera perspective that paused the game and presented you with an extreme closeup of the person with whom you were speaking. Now camera stays in the same perspective used during combat and exploration, and players are free to look around while engaging in conversation. Rather than drop their activities to give you their undivided attention, the NPCs continue to go about their business while in discussion. For instance, a barkeep may continue to clean cups while talking, and even move from behind the counter to a seat. A mill worker chopping wood may engage in conversation without turning away from his duties, only occasionally glancing toward you during the exchange.

Radiant Story

The Radiant Story system also helps deal with untimely deaths. Predicting player behavior in an open world is tough, as many often stray from the main quests and get into trouble by murdering quest givers. In Skyrim, if you kill a shop owner who had a few quests to offer if you spend the time to get to know him, his sister may take over the shop and offer the quest that was formerly ascribed to him. The quest logic automatically picks up with pre-recorded voice work because Bethesda already assigned her that contingency role. Tread lightly though, because she’s not oblivious to your dastardly actions. She will still recognize you killed her brother and perhaps even try to exact revenge later in the game.

Radiant Story is also smart enough to know which caves and dungeons you’ve already visited and thus conditionalize where, for instance, a kidnapped person is being held to direct you toward a specific place you haven’t been to before, populated with a specific level of enemy. This helps Bethesda avoid repetition and usher the player into areas the team wants you to explore.

The story manager is always watching you, which can leads to strange random encounters as well. If you drop a sword in the middle of town, someone may pick it up and return it to you, or two guys may get into a fight over who gets to take it. If you’re really good at a particular skill, like one-handed weapons or destruction spells, a stranger who knows of your reputation may ask for training, challenge you to a duel, or beg you for a favor that will require you to show off your skill.

Skyrim also tracks your friendships and grudges to generate missions. Do a small favor for a farmer and it may eventually lead to a larger quest. Some NPCs will even agree to be your companion to help you out in specific situations.

GameInformer

Sounds like Skyrim is shaping up to be the game everyone is wanting, I’m starting to shed any doubt I had about Bethesda’s upcoming title. Bethesda seems to have taken community criticism of Oblivion and fixed all the problems they’ve raised.

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About Zahk

I love video games :)
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7 Responses to >New Details on Skyrim’s Engine!

  1. Vapor says:

    >If it does what they say it seems like a very badass engine.

  2. Bart says:

    >never heard of this

  3. Choms1337 says:

    >yeah, I hope this engine "kill" cry engine 😛

  4. Mot Buchanan says:

    >This sounds like it could be pretty cool. I'll be paying more attention to this.

  5. BTN Hip Hop says:

    >dynamic in every sense of the word

  6. Speedy Ed says:

    >does sound interesting :O never knew much about this stuff

  7. >Thanks for telling us! 🙂

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