Skyrim’s new Radiant quest system allows for the procedural generation of new quests, meaning you can effectively play the game forever.
Past titles in the Elder Scrolls series have been dauntingly huge, but in theory if you invested enough hours in them you’d be able to see everything. Eventually, you’d have completed every quest, beaten the main storyline, robbed every house, looted every dungeon, murdered every one murderable, read every book and levelled up every skill to its highest possible level. You would walk the lands of Tamriel, a veritable god among men/women/catpeople/scaly things/orcs, able to fell enemies with but a single glance, and only occasionally would guards come running up to you demanding that you “stop right there, criminal scum.” Eventually, that would get tiresome, though, so you’d either stop playing, or roll a new character and start all over again.
No such need to do that in Skyrim. Once you’re in, you’ll be able to play forever. In theory, anyway.
Speaking in a phone interview with Wired earlier this week, Skyrim’s director Todd Howard explained that Bethesda’s latest would feature a theoretically limitless number of things to do thanks to the new “Radiant quest system.” This dynamically generates new tasks for you to complete according to your progress through the game as a whole. The procedurally-generated tasks might introduce you to new locations that you haven’t been to yet, or challenge you to find a selection of ingredients you haven’t discovered in the wild yet.
The various Guilds and factions in the game will also feature these randomly-generated quests. Once you’ve completed the scripted questline for each group, you’ll be able to continue to take on missions for them — the Dark Brotherhood might task you with assassinating troublesome city officials, while the Thieves’ Guild might want you to subtly procure some precious gems from an overconfident merchant.
According to Howard, the Radiant quest system is designed to encourage players to explore the world in greater detail. Bethesda RPGs have always been about environmental storytelling rather than strong characters and epic plotlines — though both the Elder Scrolls series and the recent Fallout games have their fair share of both, too. The new setup gives players a nudge off the beaten path every so often rather than making them feel like they should constantly be pushing forward with a faction story — or the main questline, for that matter.
Skyrim is out on Friday. PC players can preload the game from Steam right now.