‘Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim’ Director Explains Removal of Character Classes

Published 3 years ago by , Updated February 19th, 2011 at 10:45 pm,

Elder Scrolls 5 Skyrim Classes Removed

In a genre of gaming known as ‘role-playing,’ it goes without saying that the biggest factor in a game’s success is just how enjoyable a role is to inhabit. To grant the highest possible levels of player investment, fantasy RPGs generally allow players the ability to select not only the race of their in-game avatar, but the type of fighter they will be. A slash-first-ask-questions-later Tank, a long distance fighter who uses bows and rifles to control battle from afar, or a healer able to strengthen and protect those around them are just a handful of possible classes.

Fans of The Elder Scrolls may be sad to hear that the choice of classes has not only been adjusted, but removed entirely from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. But as the game’s director explains, the choice was not only in the player’s best interest, but a direct result of fan feedback.

We’ve already learned about the vast changes that Bethesda will be making to the combat mechanics of the game, as well as the complete overhaul of the game’s menus. But taking away the player’s ability to define their role seems like a step backwards, not forwards, and a decision that is likely to get fans fearing the worst.

Bethesda’s work on Fallout 3 gave a slight glimpse that the team was starting to rethink the generally-accepted practices concerned with class selection. Fallout 3 put the main character through a series of in-class aptitude tests to determine their class, and skill points were alotted accordingly. The whole procedure could have been avoided, however, by simply asking the teacher to skew the results however the player would like.

Since the developers had previously stated that they had learned some lessons from Fallout 3, fans may have begun to think that Skyrim would be implementing a similarly manufactured choice.

These choices often stick out like sore thumbs in a game that is otherwise bent on creating a believable world in which the player can escape. In a recent interview with Game Informer, Skyrim‘s director Todd Howard explained that their decision to remove the selection of classes is a direct answer to this problem.

According to Howard, the classes will still be there for players to choose, but with Skyrim, they’ll be doing away with the clunky manner in which they make the choice. With the new game engine giving players unprecedented amounts of detail and fluid story, the creators are going to make the customization of characters just as natural:

“What we found in Oblivion – you start the game, you pick your race, and you play for a while. Our intent was: you played for a while, you got to figure out some skills, and then depending on how you play… one of the characters asks you ‘okay, what kind of class do you want to be? Here’s my recommendation based on how you’ve been playing.’

“And sort of our thought process was, what if that guy never asked that? I was perfectly happy right before then, ya know, I was just playing the game and skills were going up, so we just got rid of that. You just play, and your skills go up as you play and the higher your skill, the more it affects your leveling. So it’s a really, really nice elegant system that kind of self-balances itself.”

With Dragon Age 2 recently revealed to be removing the robust race and origin aspects of its creation, the initial reaction to this news may be the same. But rest assured, the player still has the chance to choose their character’s race, along with the skill perks that come with it.

The more complex and nuanced a customization selection becomes, the larger risk there is for a player to get pigeon-holed into a role they didn’t want in the first place. Nothing is more frustrating in a role-playing game than realizing you made the wrong play choice and having to start over, replaying events for numerous times.

These are the frustrations that Bethesda has become aware of over the past few years, and Howard believes that adopting a free-flowing, anything goes class system is their best idea for fixing the problem:

“What we found in Oblivion is people would play, and even though they played for a half hour and then they picked their class, it’s still – in the scheme of the games we make - not enough time to really understand all the skills and how they work. So people would play, and the general pattern would be they’d play for like, three hours and then ‘oh I picked the wrong skills, I’m going to start over.’

“They weren’t necessarily upset about that, but to us, someone who’s making a game you’re like… ‘is there a way we can solve that? Is there a better way of doing it?’ And we think this is it.”

Hopefully Howard’s explanation will help to quiet the storm of fan outrage that was undoubtedly brewing. Unlike the previous changes to the game, this seems to be targeted at those already familiar with RPGs, and previous games in the series. What may seem like taking power away from players is Bethesda’s idea of giving them even more.

You won’t have to make a tough decision, but choose the exact type of fighter your character will be. If you prefer to stick to one class or another you have the option, but now you also have the chance to put just as much energy and skill points into magic as hand-to-hand combat. Or fashion a fighter who is deadly from a distance, but still able to hold their own in close quarters. Or even a battle mage who can slash and cast, which we know means no ability to block. No matter which you choose, you’ll always have your voice to fall back on.

There’s no doubt that the developers have the best of intentions, and are doing what they can to bring a unique experience, while solving a problem that few others seem willing to address. What we don’t know is how much this removal of rigid class types will water down the experience pool, and put players in danger of having a generic experience.

Bethesda has pulled off enough magic in the past to earn a bit of room to experiment, but serious RPG fans know what they like, and hopefully Skyrim can manage to please everybody.With nearly every change they’ve made, it will have to wait until the game is released to find if the experience has been improved, or simply ‘mainstreamed.’

You’ll have the chance to create your own kind of character when The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is released for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC on November 11, 2011.

Source: Game Informer

TAGS: Bethesda, PC, PS3, Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls

56 Comments

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  1. i love elder scrolls, can’t wait :-D

  2. I am quite happy that they’re getting rid of classes.

    I remember in Oblivion, I was always torn between picking which class I wanted my character to be for the sake of role play, and then which class made sense for the sake of playing the game. Like, I wanted to make my character a Knight for the sake of him being a knight and fitting that persona, but at the same time, I didn’t want all the skills attached. And with the way beasts leveled to match you, it was a mess when, as a rogue class, you leveled up quickly more or less by sneaking around, leaving your weapon skills low. It was a tedious balance between what made sense for the character, and what made sense for gameplay, if that makes sense.

    You did, of course, have the option of making your own class, but that still put limits on what you could do, and in trying to make a well rounded character, you almost always had to leave something or other off. I’ll be much happier without having to worry about class in Skyrim, and just enjoy playing thrugh.

  3. I’m thinking they’re going the Demon’s Souls route here. You build your character from the ground-up, and focus on what you want, rather than choose a class that focuses on some things you like, but others you don’t.

    It can work, but I just hope that race and gender choices aren’t getting the axe too. I mean, even the recent trailer keeps saying “he”.

    Oh well, it’s probably just that self-fulfilling prophecy of game companies thinking no women or men like to play as a woman. . .

  4. I’m upset there getting rid of the choice of class i loved being able to pick my class being able to pick the skills that come with it i was looking forward to the new elder scrolls i love oblivion and the fact you could do what you want when you want to do it but this seems like a big step back to the players ‘in game experience’ and would be much happier being able to choose who i want to be with what skills etc

    • I was also scared of Bethesda dropping the class choice, but with Todd Howard’s response in the interview i’m actually quite happy. Sure you can’t “officially” name your class from the beginning of the game, but it just gives you more room to level up ALL the skills you want to EQUALLY. If you think about it, it really gives the player a more fluent and free gameplay experience. The decision’s up to you, but i say trust Bethesda because they’ve failed to disappoint with every game so far (except maybe fallout, but that’s just cause i don’t like the post-apocalyptic setting). Hope this helped influence your attitude towards the new changes. -D.R.

      • “fallout” was not by Bethesda, my friend. They bought the Fallout franchise only after Fallout and Fallout2. Thus the open world concept in Fallout3.

  5. To be honest, I’m actually pretty glad they’ve taken that away; it’ll be nice not to have to worry about choosing skills, and simply allow the game to levek up what you use. Sure, I have my worries about it, but I trust Bethesda – hell, they came out with MORROWIND and OBLIVION. Didn’t play the others, but Bethesda has earned itself a bit of leeway with tghose two, surely?

  6. It doesn’t take a genius to see that games are being dumbed down. this is because of the enormous rise in development costs meaning a company like Bethesda has to sell to almost everyone just to break even! 80%+ of all AAA titles released do not make a profit, for example. The question is “how MUCH will Skyrim be dumb down, and in what ways”.

    Only time will tell whether the game has been too dumbed down, but so far I am still reasonably confident it won’t be too bad, and in any event it will be more of a cRPG than the Mass Effect’s and Dragon Age’s that Bioware now put out and have the cheek to call RPG’s!

  7. I trust in Bethesda. They have only given us some of the best experiences in video games. I do hope the combat is improved. I so wanna just start a character and just get lost. I can’t wait for November 11th to come.

  8. Removing classes is a good idea, as it normally means you can have a character just as you want. Be it a heavy armored mage, or a cleric with archery mastery you can be it and no skills or equipment are restricted.

    Opposite to this Bioware mad a terrible choice, they didn’t remove classes they restricted classes to specific “duties”. If you ever played pnp as a cleric you know how depressing is that everyone sees you just as a walking healing bottle, and Bioware mad that terrible thing translate into the game. A warrior can’t use a bow or dual wield weapons? Why the heck is only a thief (rogue) able to do that? They also removed the great origins and race options which made DA1 as great as it was, and this in turn removed much of the replay value. Let’s not even begin talking about how you can’t properly equip your party in DA2 anymore.

    I am not normally a fan of Bethesda, I didn’t like what Fallout 3 became as it was too different in my opinion from F2 to be called a real sequel, but this time I congratulate Bethesda on its choice to increase the options on customization, instead of lowering them as Bioware did.

    Bioware should not try to revolutionalize the RPG genre as long in their games you are not even able to swim, jump, climb, or have a mount.

  9. Best news in a while. I sure as hell remember spending, literally, HOURS playing with a class and restarting because of a tiny annoying detail. In Oblivion it was impossible to play with the stealthy classes. Being a Thieve or Agent was a joke when a freakin Troll or Ogre came right at you, a Bard and a Pilgrim is a way of calling someone who failed the combat test on the hero academy, Monks where as dangerous as… what’s the word oh yeah Monks, at least we had Assassins, but really Alchemy?! Who the f*** even used that anyway (BTW kudos on leaving that out on Skyrim).

    I’m really hyped up on this game, and with each new detai, that I read is just another reason for me to stock up and prepare for months of Role-playing junkieness.

    • But they didn’t leave alchemy out in skyrim, and it’s way useful. It’s an easy way to get lots of gold by creating potions.

  10. Hello bethasda that would be outstanding have a the serpent god in the game from lost tape’s animal planet.

  11. Will there come spears, javelins and halberds?

  12. honestly i love the idea that we dont have to worry about the whole class thing that kinda got a little boring after a while u know wen u get to certain parts in a game were ur like dam i shoulda made a mage or crap why do rouges have such $#!t defence this character trait idea works out for everyone even for the people who do like to choose there classes because thats exactly what there doing allowing u to choose ur class right if u wanna be a strait up warrior then by all meens do it this way u dont have to worry about stuff like in dragon age two were they say that warriors cant dual wield and mages cant use swords and thats why dragon age origions was the better of the two just think back to fallout three they did an amazing job on that i know that some people didnt like the whole post apocolytic thing but all in all it was rather interesting to change things up for a bit right some people couldnt understand it because it didnt fallow the original well thats the thing its awhole new story and the fact that u got to choose wat u want to be right and that is why im excited for skyrim i think itll be an amazing game looking forward to it guy thanks

  13. It’s a much less restrictive system. Hopefully this will be standard for RPGs in the future. Bethesda makes the only games in the genre I can stand to play, and this one looks to be (from the 5-6 hours I’ve put in so far) to be the best one yet. My only gripe (besides the Xbox texture issue) is my inability to change the character name— somehow I screwed up and now I’m “Prisoner” forever. Not really worth starting over for me, it wouldn’t have bothered Patrick McGoohan.

  14. So are they saying if i decide to say “Hey I been using mostly weapons most of the time but now i want to just use magic.” I wont get face pwnd in the game but actually be able to hold my own without bring out my sword that wrk so hard with and made it to lvl 20?

  15. i very like The Elder Scrolls 5 and beat it can’t wait to see the next The Elder Scrolls 6 or the new fall out

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