We had a chance to catch up with Ken Rolston at ECGC, former Lead Designer on Morrowind and Oblivion with Bethsoft and current "internationally celebrated game designer and Director of Design for Turbine / Warner Brothers." That's a long title, but it's well-deserved for a man who started with pen & paper RPGs (Paranoia) and moved through one of the industry's most influential RPG franchises (TES). For a bit of a fun interview piece -- rather than talk about some upcoming title, as we did all of PAX -- we look back at Morrowind and Oblivion's behind-the-scenes design stories, talk about the importance of pants as a currency, and cover how difficult it is to stalk Rolston.
On a loosely related note, I realized post-interview that Rolston resembles Morrowind's introductory character, Socucius Ergalla ("Ahh, yes! We've been expecting you!").
Rolston also presented the opening keynote at this year's ECGC event in
Rolston reflected on Morrowind's charm in the interview, stating:
"The great thing about Morrowind is that we did far more than we could - far less polish than we could. It's a miracle that it even works at all, and I mean that not in an ironic or joke-y way; the great thing about Morrowind is that there's too much there -- and it's like jazz: There are so many notes that you may not like all of them, but you have so much to choose from that it's exciting. When you look at a product like Oblivion -- far better software. [...] But Morrowind, there's so much delicious nonsense in that."
When asked for his favorite bit of "delicious nonsense," Rolston referred us to the quest "Hentus Needs Pants," wherein a river-bound NPC refuses to leave the water until he first possesses a pair of fancy pants. Rolston also recalled that one of the major faction quests in Morrowind almost didn't make it into the game (the Imperial Cult), but after dedicating volunteer work on weekends, he was able to complete the quest line with support from Gary Noonan.
This next bit won't surprise any of you who work in the games industry, but Rolston reminded us that he never truly had time to play through the TES games as a player might. These teams build, tear-down, and rebuild their games over a period of years, giving a unique play-by-proxy route for developers. I asked Rolston if he'd had time to try Skyrim, since he hadn't worked on that one, but was told that time is too limited and dedicated to "unnamed projects."
Check out the video for further Morrowind, Oblivion, and pants discussion.
- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.