The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion: Shivering Isles
with Pete Hines and Bruce Nesmith
- Vice President
of Marketing and Design Director at Bethesda -
(Xbox Community Network), with which Xbox Gazette is affiliated, has been able
to ask some questions to Pete Hines and Bruce Nesmith from Bethesda , about the
expansion for The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion, called Shivering Isles.
Shivering Isles expansion is available for download from Xbox Live Marketplace
since Tuesday March 27, priced at 2400 Points.
: How proud are you that people are still playing Oblivion
a year after release, sometimes racking up 100s of hours of playtime?
Nesmith : It's the highest praise that any developer can receive. One of our
catch phrases here is "great games are played, not made." It was never
truer than it is with Oblivion. We have a great team here that is dedicated to
making the best possible games.
: You've shown great commitment to Xbox Live Marketplace DLC. Was this always
part of you plans, and what has your experiences taught you about console DLC?
Bruce Nesmith : We always knew we would do DLC. We had a great mod community
with Morrowind, but it was limited to the PC. We were really excited to be able
to create official mods, i.e. DLC, for Oblivion on the Xbox 360. Now I have a
hard time imagining making a game without them. The biggest lesson that we've
learned from the DLCs is that players are hungry to play. The more gameplay a
DLC has, the more popular it is.
: Why is the time right for Shivering Isles?
Bruce Nesmith : Well,
we've released a lot of smaller downloadable content pieces, and even a moderate
sized one with Knights of the Nine. And as I said above, the more gameplay in
the DLC, the more our fans seem to like it. We had always planned on doing a major
expansion, just like with did with Morrowind, so we've been working on it since
Oblivion went gold. We think our players are ready for something big and grand.
It will be something new and fresh, especially for those players that have dedicated
many hours to Oblivion.
XCN : We
hear Shivering Isles will add over 25 hours of gameplay to Oblivion - surely you
could have released it as a fully-fledged sequel?
Bruce Nesmith : I
actually think 25 hours is a conservative estimate. With Oblivion we made a game
that has well over 200 hours of gameplay. We knew that any expansion would have
to have at least as many hours of gameplay as most full games have, or else we'd
look bad. We hate looking bad. Besides, our fans deserve this. And because it's
an expansion it allows you to continue playing with this character you've invested
so much time in, or create a whole new character just to play Shivering Isles,
plus you can go back to Tamriel and keep playing the original Oblivion quests.
: Can you explain how the Shivering Isles are linked to the plot and world
Pete Hines : The events in Oblivion take place at the
end of the third era, and the end of any era is always a time of big change in
the world of The Elder Scrolls. Those changes take places in other places besides
Tamriel, including the realm of Sheogorath, the daedric prince of maddness who
resides in, and rules over, his own plane of Oblivion and very different from
the one ruled by Mehrunes Dagon that you see in Oblivion. The big change taking
place in Sheogorath's realm actually happens at the end of every era. It's called
the Greymarch and it's basically the total destruction of everything in his realm,
forcing him to start all over again every 1,000 years, which he hates. So, in
an effort to put a stop to this Sheogorath believes he's found a way to get a
mortal champion to help stop the Greymarch and save his realm, which is where
you come in.
XCN : How and where
does the entrance to the Shivering Isles manifest itself in Cyrodiil?
Hines : A doorway appears in Niben Bay, just outside of Bravil. Unlike the
gates in Oblivion, this door allows people to enter the realm of Sheogorath and
is not a portal for Sheogorath or the people who inhabit his realm to invade Cyrodiil
(which would run counter to the events that takes place at the end of the main
quest in Oblivion, plus, he's quite content where he is).
: What effect is the presence of the entrance to the Shivering Isles having
Pete Hines : People talk about it but, honestly, given
that gates have been opening up all over the place with daedra pouring through,
having a door appear that lead somewhere else is pretty tame in comparison. So
the appearance of the door and the events of Shivering Isles remain separate of
anything you may be doing in Oblivion. You can move between the two worlds at
any time, so that it doesn't matter how much you've played Oblivion or what you've
done to that point...it has no impact on your experience in the expansion.
: How does the environment of the Shivering Isles differ from Cyrodiil?
Pete Hines : They're completely different. Everything you see is completely
new and different from anything you saw in Oblivion, from grass to the trees to
the sky and everything in between, it's all completely new and different. You'll
fight new creatures, explore new dungeon types, find new ingredients, armor, weapons...you
get the idea.
XCN : Why did you
want to go for such a different style of environment?
Pete Hines : One
of our big goals is that you're never confused whether or not you're playing the
original game of the expansion. We really wanted to avoid doing "more of
the same" and instead give players all new experiences within a game that
they're familiar with and a character they've invested time and effort into creating
and cultivating over some period of time, whether it's 20 hours or 200.
: What kind of experiences will Shivering Isles add to Oblivion?
Nesmith : We made an early decision to make everything new. All the creatures
are new. The rocks, trees, and landscape are new. The houses, weather, and ingredients
are new. You get the picture.
I can't possibly describe everything that a player
will experience in the Shivering Isles, so let me just hit a few highlights. There
are whole new sets of armor and weapons. You can even get someone to make you
new weapons and armor from raw materials. In one of the main story quests, you
are asked to question all the townsfolk about a plot and you can use an NPC that
accompanies you to torture anyone you want to get the information. As Sheogorath
begins to trust you more and more, you will rise up though the ranks of the Court
of Madness. I could go on and on.
: Will Shivering Isles add new spells, weapons, skills and abilities for existing
Bruce Nesmith : Spells, abilities, and weapons,
yes. I already mentioned the weapons and armor, but there are also a number of
new spells and powers that you will get. Sheogorath is very generous. One of the
more popular reward weapons is Duskfang/Dawnfang. It absorbs the souls of anything
it kills, and counts them for you. If you capture enough souls, the blade becomes
We made a decision not to tamper with
the existing game mechanics, so there aren't any new skills. We didn't want anyone
to feel like they had to start a new character in order to enjoy the Shivering
: Can players move between Cyrodiil and the Shivering Isles at their will?
Pete Hines : Yes, any time you want. With few exceptions,
the items you have go with you as well. Certain special artifacts can't leave
The Shivering Isles, horses can't enter Sheogorath's realm (Sheogorath hates horses)...things
like that. Also, you crimes in one world don't convey to the other. So if the
law is out to get you in Cyrodiil, the guards in Shivering Isles could care less
and are only concerned with your actions and behavior while you're there.
XCN : Give us an introduction to the
landscapes of the Shivering Isles.
Pete Hines : The
Shivering Isles are actually divided into two halves: Mania and Dementia, and
both look very different from each other as well as anything you saw in Oblivion.
Mania is bright and colorful and reflects the more creative side of Sheogorath...like
an insane artist. Dementia is the darker side...brooding, depressing, you can
almost smell the stink of decay.
: Tell us about New Sheoth - what kind of city is it and what will players
Pete Hines : It's the only real city
in the Shivering Isles and -- like the rest of the Isles -- is divided and has
a Mania side (Bliss) and Dementia side (Crucible). It's also where Sheogorath's
Palace is located, and so it's really a focal point for a lot of what goes on
with the main quest. There are a lot of great miscellaneous quests to do and interesting
NPCs to talk to and help, or kill.
: The Fringe looks like an interesting location - what is to be found there?
Pete Hines : The Fringe is basically the waiting
room for Shivering Isles. It's where people must wait until Sheogorath deems them
worthy to enter his realm. You can show your worth by figuring out how to defeat
the Gatekeeper, who guards the entrance to the Shivering Isles from within The
Fringe. Since he has the keys sown into his body, your first major task in the
expansion is figuring out to win this fairly large boss battle. The Fringe also
gives you a good taste for the kinds of personalities you're going to encounter
throughout the expansion.
XCN : What
kind of enemies and NPCs will the player meet in the Shivering Isles?
Hines : The enemies are all completely new. Some are
creatures that have appeared in previous Elder Scrolls games, some are entirely
new to the series. All of them are unique and offer some interesting challenges
and twists for characters of all levels. From the Grummites and Baliwogs that
regenerate their health when they are in water or it's raining, to the Scalon's
that turn invisible before attacking, to the Gnarls that get considerably bigger
and stronger when you attack them with magic...lots of new things to see and kill.
There are, obviously, fewer NPCs in Shivering Isles than there were in the original
game and so they all have a bit more personality and individuality than the NPCs
in Oblivion. In addition to the folks you can meet and talk to, there are also
the guards of Sheogorath's realm: Golden Saints (Mania side) and Dark Seducers
(Dementia side), who hate each other. Similarly you'll come across Zealots and
Heretics...or those that believe fervently that Sheogorath is a god, and those
that don't (also fervently), although they do share common ground in that they're
XCN : Tell us about
a couple of your favourite areas in the Shivering Isles.
Pete Hines :
I really like Split, a settlement that has fallen victim to a meddling
wizard who created two versions of NPC -- a Mania one and a Dementia one. None
of the people are happy about their counterpart, and each side wants you to kill
the other side. Also a big fan of Xedillian, one of the first places you go in
the main quest.
XCN : Can you
give us a clue to some secrets players may run across as they explore the Shivering
Pete Hines : Well, it's pretty perilous
ground because I don't want to give away any plot twists or spoil any surprises.
Overall I think folks will really enjoy a lot of the little things in Shivering
Isles and should take the time to talk to NPCs and hear what they have to say.
Because there were fewer of them to manage than in the original game, they all
have more personality, more interesting and unique things to say, and there are
a lot of great moments just walking around and talking to people. You have to
attack Sheogorath at least once, just to see what happens (save your game first).
Beyond that, you'll have to uncover all the secrets for yourself.
: What is the ultimate goal for the player in the Shivering Isles?
Hines : To rise up through Sheogorath's Court and become
the champion that can save his realm from the Greymarch. How, why, and from whom
are all questions to be answered as you go along.
: Do you have plans for other Xbox 360 DLC beyond Shivering Isles?
Nesmith : Yes, we do have plans for at least one more DLC. It will be smaller,
more along the lines of the Wizard's Tower or Vile Lair. Beyond that, we're leaving
our options open.
XCN : How would
you persuade someone who still hasn't played Oblivion that they should try it?
Bruce Nesmith : Well, showing it to them never hurts. How can you not want
to try a game that looks this good? But what really grabs people is that Oblivion
allows you to play in many different ways. It's not often you get the chance to
play a game however you want and have your experience be whatever you want, and
that's what Oblivion offers. If you like being sneaky, Oblivion does that. If
you like showing off your controller skills with sword and shield combat, Oblivion
does that. If you like to out think your enemies, Oblivion does that too. It's
a big role-playing sandbox where you get to decide how you want your story to
XCN : Xbox recently
rules for Achievements and GamerPoints in DLC - how will Shivering
Isles take advantage of this?
Bruce Nesmith : In the Shivering Isles,
as you advance in the Court of Madness, you will earn new Achievements and GamerPoints.
Ten Achievements in all, worth a total of 250 GamerPoints. It will work just like
any of the guild quest lines in Cyrodiil.
: Does all this DLC mean The Elder Scrolls V is a long way off?
Nesmith : The DLC is not a factor in the TES V schedule. We have had multiple
projects going on here for a while with DLC, Shivering Isles, Fallout 3, etc.
Right now, our primary focus is on Fallout 3.
: What can you tell us about your work on Fallout 3?
: Just that it's in development. We aren't talking at all about it yet, or
what platforms we're doing, or anything. When we're ready to talk, we'll let folks
XCN : What do you see in
the future for the RPG genre on Xbox 360?
Bruce Nesmith : There are
a lot of great titles coming up that we're looking forward to playing
Effect, BioShock, and so on.
In terms of game features, that's trickier. Because
an RPG by nature is an attempt to build a virtual world, I think we'll see an
emphasis placed on more realistic environments and animations. I also think more
natural character interaction is an area that is ripe for growth.
: Finally - can Oblivion get any bigger, or is it time for a whole new chapter
in the Elder Scrolls story?
Pete Hines : Shivering Isles is the only
expansion we have planned for Oblivion. After this we'll be moving on to new projects.
: Thanks so much for your time Pete and Bruce!
Elder Scrolls IV videos
Elder Scrolls IV official site
Other Xbox 360 interviews
Gazette, March 27th 2007
Thanks to : Pete Hines
and Bruce Nesmith, Bethesda, XCN