The Elder Scrolls VI is one of the most anticipated games of the decade — and we basically know nothing about it. Fans have been praying for news about Bethesda’s next installment of the series since the credits rolled on Skyrim back in 2011. It wasn’t until E3 2018 that we got an official announcement, and the developers have been tight-lipped ever since. After nearly a decade of silence, fans have been left with a ton of speculation and an over-abundance of hype.
That silence has been partly due to projects like The Elder Scrolls Online and the upcoming Starfield. It’s also because Bethesda realized it could reap the rewards of Skyrim for a really long time. During an interview with IGN, Elder Scrolls and Fallout creator Todd Howard hinted that Skyrim’s success is one of the reasons Elder Scrolls: VI is taking so long.
“Anything we put [Skyrim] on, it becomes a hit game. And they love it, they still play it, it’s almost infinitely playable, all of the mods and everything like that. And we’re eight years post-Skyrim. It lets us know going into Elder Scrolls VI that this is a game we need to design for people to play for a decade at least,” Howard said.
Bethesda Game Studios is clearly attempting to capture lightning in a bottle for a second time and no one knows exactly what that’s going to look like yet. The game could have cooperative multiplayer or player-versus-player invasions like Dark Souls. The map could be ten times as large as Skyrim’s! We have absolutely no idea. All we have right now is an announcement trailer and some behind-the-scenes footage of the new animation system being used to make The Elder Scrolls VI look as incredible as Skyrim did back in 2011.
So let’s dial back our expectations a bit.
Despite its trespasses, Fallout 4 is essentially a beautified Fallout 3. That’s due largely in part to the franchise’s dependence on the Creation Engine, Bethesda’s go-to since Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind in 2002. This reliable engine has proven to be a great canvas for the developer’s storytelling.
What wasn’t so reliable, or well-received by fans, was Fallout 4’s voiced player characters and Fallout 76’s base building and multiplayer. These additions to the Creation Engine detracted from the rich storylines and immersive worlds that made games like Fallout 3 and Skyrim great. If we think of the two most recent Fallout games as experiments, then Bethesda has likely learned that players aren’t looking for new features, they’re looking to see old features refined.
The Elder Scrolls VI doesn’t need any bells and whistles to be amazing.
A similar lesson can be seen in Rockstar’s transition from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to GTA IV. While the former was better on paper — boasting a larger world and more story missions —the latter’s success is a direct result of doubling down on the series’ strengths. The Elder Scrolls: VI should, and likely will, follow suit by utilizing the latest technology to create another immersive and visually-breathtaking world that’s a pleasure to live in.
We do know that the developers are utilizing technology to map photographic images onto 3D models, according to Bethesda artist Matt Carofano. This technique, known as photogrammetry, has been used in games like Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to great effect in order to create high-fidelity assets. It's also a foundational element of Epic Games' new engine, Unreal 5.
Some of the only images we’ve seen have been of the Skyrim Grandma, Shirley Curry, who has been captured and is due to be a fully realized NPC within the game after a successful 2018 fan campaign. Those few renders we have of her face point to a fantastic level of fidelity. Utilizing new tech like photogrammetry is exactly what Skyrim’s sequel needs. It’s one of the forms of polish that is going to contribute to what’s sure to be one of the most iconic games of the decade.
While that’s surely not the only new technology that’s going into The Elder Scrolls VI’s development, it gives us a more realistic bar to set our expectations. We know it’s going to be a hell of a lot prettier than Skyrim. And for millions of players, that’s more than enough.
Elder Scrolls 6 is currently in development.