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How Skyrim will increase the immersion factor

3 min read

Game Informer has a two page article on some of the tech underneath Skyrim’s hood. It’s a good read, but for the impatient amongst you, here are the best bits.

Previous Bethesda games like Oblivion and Fallout 3 were excellent titles that many people were able to get completely immersed in. However, there were limitations, which meant that that immersion was shattered on occasion.

Dialogue with and the movement of NPCs are two examples of this. In recent Bethesda RPGs, when initiating dialogue with another character, the game world would pause and the camera would lock in a close-up of whoever you were talking to. NPC movement was equally cumbersome and embarrassing to look at. Bethesda is entirely aware of these facts and so they’ll be using the Havok Behaviour SDK to give characters a little more life and believability.

Havok Behaviour has been used by other games in the past, but this is the first time it’ll make its way into a Bethesda RPG. The SDK covers the movement of characters; all NPC AI is still being done by Bethesda’s Radiant AI tech but it has been significantly overhauled since Fallout 3 and Oblivion. What Havok Behaviour will add is believable movement and reactions to environmental variable on behalf of NPCs and creatures.

Engaging in dialogue with NPC characters no longer causes them to stop everything they were doing in order to chat with you. Characters will continue their tasks while the conversation unfolds and Game Informer gives an example of a barkeep continuing to polish glasses, pour drinks and move about behind the counter while you navigate your way through dialogue trees. The Havok Behaviour tool will make sure that the barkeep does this with far more fluid, believable movements.

Characters in Skyrim are also able to form feelings about your character based on the actions you do around them and for them. Befriend a villager and it might open up a new quest. Characters might also react hospitably when you enter their house late at night; they could offer you a place to stay until the morning if they consider you a friend.

Radiant Story is the other trick up Bethesda’s sleeve for Skyrim. All random encounters and side quests are governed by this new quest delivery system. The previously mentioned, befriended NPC might give you a quest to perform. The protocols of that quest will depend on your character’s actions up until that point. It will determine where the quest takes place, what the requirements are and more. You might be sent to rescue people from a mine, but the Radiant Story tool will ensure that the quest is placed in a dungeon that you have yet to explore, and that is populated with enemies at the right level for your character.

Expect to see more random encounters like the ones in Fallout 3 making an appearance in Skyrim. They will be, however, more believable and less out-of-the-blue. For example, you might discard a sword to free up some inventory space. A child could see you do this, pick it up, run after you and ask you whether you meant to drop it. Alternatively, two NPCs might reach for it simultaneously and begin fighting over it.

The overhauled Radiant AI, coupled with Radiant Story and Havok Behaviour sounds like a recipe for a thoroughly immersive RPG.

Source: Game Informer

Last Updated: January 18, 2011

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