Breaking down the shifting design philosophies of The Elder Scrolls

During our recent Twitch stream with Elder Scrolls designer Ken Rolston, one intrepid viewer asked how his approach towards game design changed between Morrowind and Oblivion. 
Surprisingly, Rolston suggested he didn’t have a specific philosophy in mind when he worked on Morrowind, but after seeing how players interacted with that game, decided to take a more hands off approach with Oblivion. 
“I didn’t work nearly so much on the detail level of Oblivion. They’re almost two completely different lead design concepts. In Morrowind I essentially wrote the outline of all the quest lines — there were only three designers so that was practical — and I made an awful lot of the content myself.”
When it came to tackling the sequel, then, Rolston took a step back and invited others to design their own quests. He still oversaw the general direction of each storyline, but by letting his colleagues fill in the blanks and add their own unique twist, he hoped the game would become a richer, more diverse experience
‘[In Oblivion] I hardly made any of the content myself. Just a few scraps in the main quest, and a few other quests. So my design was changed from a highly, centrally controlled, centrally authored content, to something which had as many different voices as possible,” he continues. 
“I wanted the different designers to take my rough outlines for each quest, and simply make sure they hit all the basic elements. [Because, you know] the more designers you have, the more opportunities you have to create a larger game with many different voices and many different styles.”
You can hear more from Rolston by checking out the full stream right here. After that, why not subscribe to the Gamasutra Twitch channel for even more developer insights and commentary.

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Breaking down the shifting design philosophies of The Elder Scrolls