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Indiana Jones game is a ‘bucket list’ dream for Bethesda director

MachineGames ‘is the perfect fit,’ creative director says

Indiana Jones supervises the dig, at sundown, of the Well of the Souls, where he will find the lost Ark of the Covenant Image: Lucasfilm/Paramount Pictures
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Todd Howard was 10 years old when Raiders of the Lost Ark premiered. “No debate; it’s the best movie ever,” the creative director of Bethesda Game Studios explained on a recent podcast. The adventure game Bethesda Softworks is now developing is a “bucket list” project, the kind of thing he’s wanted to do for around a dozen years.

“I met some people [at Lucasfilm] and I pitched them back in ’09, and I pitched them this Indiana Jones concept,” Howard told Lex Fridman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist and podcast host. “The deal fell apart, they wanted to publish it, we were a publisher, and so we didn’t do it.”

More intriguingly, Howard says, “I didn’t really have the team to do it; I was going to figure that out after we agreed.” Lo and behold, Bethesda Softworks picked up Sweden-based MachineGames in 2010. Over the next decade, they demonstrated their Indiana Jones-like aptitude for kicking the shit out of Nazis, in the form of three Wolfenstein games. So when Howard, Disney, and the newly reconstituted Lucasfilm Games later revisited the pitch, Howard had his A-team in place.

MachineGames, Howard said, “is the perfect fit for this game. […] If you like Indiana Jones, it is a definite love letter to Indiana Jones and everything with it.”

Fridman pressed Howard for more details on the game, but didn’t really get anywhere. He asked Howard to characterize the game’s experience or genre, whether it was an action-adventure title or something else.

“It is a mashup. It isn’t one thing, intentionally, it does a lot of different things that we — myself, Jerk [Gustafsson, a studio co-founder] and the folks at MachineGames have wanted to do in a game so, it’s a unique thing,” Howard said.

It’s heartwarming to hear Howard — who’s no slouch in developing heavy lore franchises himself — swoon over getting a chance to put his thumbprint on the kind of high adventure for which Indiana Jones is known and loved.

“You can talk about the world of Indiana Jones, but at the end of the day, it’s about this character,” Howard said. “Raiders is still my favorite movie of all time.”

“On a tangent, what do you love about it?” Fridman asked Howard.

“I saw it when I was younger […] and I believed it, I believed this happened,” Howard said. “I’ve found, over my life, it’s still really watchable, every time. I still enjoy it, every single time.”

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