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Six actually interesting answers from Todd Howard’s Reddit AMA

Even if he didn’t spill the beans on the Jarl and Mephala ...

Gamemaker Bethesda Holds Event At E3 Conference In Los Angeles
Todd Howard, Bethesda Game Studios’ executive producer, at E3 2019
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Todd Howard held a Reddit AMA on Wednesday, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the launch of The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, which is Thursday. (It’s also the day the game is re-released, for the 579th time, as The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim — Anniversary Edition.)

While the renowned creative director of Bethesda Game Studios didn’t give up any breaking news on Bethesda projects on the production line, Howard did offer quite a few entertaining tidbits for fans of the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series, both of which he directs. Here are our favorites:

Now we know what that spear gun was for in Fallout 4

One redditor asked about Vault 120, a location in Fallout 4 that was discovered by asset- and data-miners shortly after the game’s 2015 launch. Howard confirmed that the assets reference content cut out before the game was finished.

Smart play on going with a massive octopus as Vault 120’s boss: Cephalopods are a highly intelligent species.

There are other references to submarine gameplay in Fallout 4. Less than a month after launch, a modder found a harpoon gun, unused in the game’s prop library. Bubbles surrounding the weapon and its spears during a kill gave away that Bethesda at one point had plans to send players underwater.

Nukapedia says Vault 120 would have been the location for a quest called “20 Leagues Under the Sea.” Nahant, and its Nahant Oceanological Society, would have figured prominently in the mission, but no other details are known.

Seriously, where is the Jarl’s wife?

Jarl Balgruuf the Greater, whom Skyrim players encounter almost immediately, has three kids — Dagny, Frothar, and Nelkir. Yet no one knows who or even where their mother is. She’s never even mentioned by any NPC. Data-miners haven’t turned up any cut content that might explain her mystery, either. Also, evidently Dagny and Frothar don’t have the same mother as Nelkir.

Confronted about this, Howard refused to comment.

Redditor Archabarka noted that “Mephala’s artifact is in Dragonsreach” — that is, the Jarl buried her Ebony Blade below his keep in Whiterun. The player retrieves it during the Daedric quest “The Whispering Door.”

There are two implications here, one is that Mephala is Nelkir’s mother, but the other fan theory is that the Jarl cheated on and killed his wife while under Mephala’s influence. To acquire the Ebony Blade, after all, the player must kill someone who trusts them (usually a follower).

TheEpicNate315 gave a plausible breakdown of the Jarl’s secrets in this video from 2020. Either way, Howard wasn’t taking the bait, and confirms nothing!

Cough up some deets about Starfield, why don’tcha!

As one would expect, fans peppered Howard with several questions about Starfield, the science-fiction RPG and Bethesda Game Studios’ next big franchise. Howard offered a few morsels of information in reply. Firstly, fans should expect a big reveal next summer, probably during E3, the same way Bethesda showed off Fallout 4 about six months before its 2015 launch.

“We prefer to just show it, which should be next summer,” Howard said. “We’re happy with the advancements we’ve been able to make, some of which you can see in the trailer shot in-game.”

Other tidbits:

  • There will be robot companions in Starfield. “Kind of,” Howard said.
  • Character creation should be very detailed. “Really excited about what the team has done with character creation here,” Howard said, “including choosing background, skills, etc. You also can pick your pronoun (he, she, they) and we’ve recorded all the relevant dialogue to support that choice.”
  • Despite the fact that “ladders are our arch-nemesis,” they do exist in Starfield. “It’s an animation,” Howard said, “and we use sparingly.”

Bethesda had a post-apocalyptic RPG idea in case they couldn’t acquire Fallout

“It was called ‘Apocalypse Road,’” Howard said, “and had a great logo with a street sign.”

Howard has talked about “Apocalypse Road” before, most publicly in Noclip’s 2018 documentary “The History of Bethesda Game Studios.” In that video, Howard mentioned the game and its logo to show that he felt acquiring Fallout from Interplay was too much of a longshot to start planning his own game.

Fallout, or a post-apocalyptic RPG, was at the top of a list of potential new directions for Bethesda Game Studios after the success of The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion. After that, Howard eyeballed a science-fiction setting. Interestingly enough, we’re finally getting that in 2022 with Starfield.

Howard also talked about the list of post-Oblivion plans in a 2018 discussion with Insomniac Games founder Ted Price for The AIAS Game Maker’s Notebook:

I made this logo for a series called Apocalypse Road; it had this beat, phonetically, like The Elder Scrolls. I made this great logo, too, just this road sign that said APOCALYPSE, with the RD. Then we had … someone knew the folks at Interplay, and they said, ‘But you really want that to be Fallout, right? I think we might be able to get that. Would you want that?’ Absolutely, a million times.

Yes, Amazon’s Fallout TV series is still in development

We haven’t heard much about Amazon’s adaptation of the Fallout continuity since the series was announced during E3 2020. The series is being developed by Kilter Films, with Westworld’s Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan attached to the project

Howard said only that the show is still “moving ahead. Really excited to be working with Jonah, Lisa, and Amazon on it.”

Last year’s statement said Fallout’s executive producers are Joy, Nolan, Howard, Kilter Films’ Athena Wickham, and Bethesda Softworks’ James Altman. No launch window or casting choices have been announced yet.

Where’s The Elder Scrolls 6, Dad?

The number one question in the AMA, of course, was “Any updates on TES6?” And the short answer is: no.

However, Howard said his own son stands in solidarity with the Elder Scrolls fandom in all expressions of impatience. “For Father’s Day this year, my son gave me a card that said, ‘You’re an amazing Dad, but where’s TES6?” Check back around Christmas, I guess!