How Todd Howard revolutionized The Elder Scrolls franchise

We took a look at how The Elder Scrolls has changed since Todd Howard became the lead game designer of the series.

We took a look at how The Elder Scrolls has changed since Todd Howard became the lead game designer of the series.

Todd Howard is an inspirational figure for many aspiring game designers and gamers around the world. He has contributed to massive franchises such as Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, and with each installment of either series, he shows new features that he and his team have brought to the table to give players the best role-playing experience that Bethesda can offer. With the success of each game that he has directed, it is no wonder that he has been the lead game designer of every Elder Scrolls game since The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. But how did it call begin?

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

For many longtime fans, Morrowind is still the best game in the series

Morrowind was the third installment in the greater Elder Scrolls franchise and the first game in the series directed by Todd Howard. It’s predecessor’s Arena and Daggerfall were presented in a 2.5 environment that left much to be desired. Although Morrowind may be hard on the eyes for some of today’s gamers, it was revolutionary for its time, and a big step for the franchise. It was the first truly three-dimensional Elder Scrolls game, and it also started the current trend of having the player begin as a nameless prisoner who makes a name for his/herself in the world of Tamriel.

Morrowind featured the most diverse and creative enemy types out of all of the Elder Scrolls games

While many fans accuse the series of becoming watered down over time, Morrowind took a step in the opposite direction by removing the fast travel that was featured in Daggerfall, replacing it with a limited silt strider travel system that encouraged players to travel to each destination. The game featured lore-rich dialogue via books, conversations with NPC’s, and the world of Vvardenfell. The game broke players down by having them begin weaker than a mudcrab, but by endgame they could attain the level of a god (and even kill gods).

Go ahead, kill him. We promise it won’t break your game

 The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Imperial City was a magnificent site to behold once players exited the tutorial area of the game.

As far as aesthetics go, Oblivion was a step in the right direction for The Elder Scrolls. A debut title for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Oblivion was one of the first games to demonstrate the power of the seventh console generation.  

Gone were the days of butt-ugly faces staring at you as you selected dialogue options that were often followed by walls of text. NPC’s were now fully voiced, and the game featured Patrick Stewart as Emperor Uriel Septim VII and Sean Bean as Martin Septim. NPC’s also had a routine that they followed every day, and this provided for a more immersive world for the player to experience. Combat, while still far from perfect, was improved by a bit of variation in attack types, and players could now see how much health their foes had as they did battle.

Oblivion also brought us this wonderful character creator…

In this installment, Todd Howard made the series more accessible to players who may have been turned off by some of the complexity of Morrowind that not everyone wanted to tackle. Many people did not appreciate how the arithmetic, dice-rolling system of Morrowind made them miss their blows when the attacks clearly hit just because they had a low skill level. While it kept the journal system, Oblivion also implemented a system where players would be aided by an compass that pointed them in the direction of their next objective, though they would still be required to consult the journal from time to time.

Many skills from Morrowind were also consolidated into broader categories, and some were removed altogether (ie. axes and hammers were now both listed under the “blunt” skill). Not all of the changes were good, however, as many good weapons and skills that added to the experience of the elder scrolls were removed, much to the dismay of hardcore fans. Some of these would see a return in Skyrim, but some of them were also worsened.

 The first of many menacing Oblivion gates that the player would enter

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Skyrim is undoubtedly the most popular game in The Elder Scrolls franchise. it attracted players from everyone who played simpler games like Call of Duty to those who enjoyed tabletop RPG’s like Dungeons & Dragons. And why shouldn’t it? You get to play as a badass protagonist who is the “chosen one,” and you get awesome shouts that bring even the mightiest opponents too their knees. Plus, it features something that has never been seen in The Elder Scrolls: Dragons. Who wouldn’t want that?

Few moments in this series compare to the moment you enter Blackreach for the first time

Skyrim returned to Morrowind in some respects. It had Dwarven ruins that the player could explore as opposed to the repetetive Ayleid ruins of Oblivion, and players no longer had a bounty for crimes that had no witnesses. Skyrim was also the first game to implement a crafting system into the series. Players could now level up their blacksmithing level to create armors that would only be attainable through luck in previous games. It improved upon Oblivion‘s NPC’s in that not only would they have schedules and routines, but dialogue flowed naturally and did not pause the game for any conversations, which provided for an even more immersive experience.

The combat was still not perfect, but it felt more fluid with the addition of kill moves and different ways to implement destruction spells. One step backward that this game had was that it oversimplified in some aspects. Attributes were done away with altogether and replaced with a perk-based leveling system that took out some of the major RPG aspects that fans loved so much. Enemy variation was even less than in Oblivion, and players grew tired of facing dungeon after dungeon filled with Draugr.

Todd Howard has used his artistic vision and his passion as a game designer and a gamer to provide the highest quality of game to lthe largest audience possible. With his direction, he brought The Elder Scrolls into the light, and it is now one of the most reknowned fantasy RPG’s in the world.

About the author

Austin Widmyer

Austin is an aspiring writer and 3D modeler hoping to make it somewhere in the games industry. He loves playing games, he loves creating models for them, he loves writing for them. He would be content doing almost anything in gaming as long as he is creating something or contributing to something.