Former Starfield developer Bruce Nesmith discloses that game director Todd Howard has a significant influence in decision making for Bethesda RPGs, despite Howard's denial.

Bethesda RPGs Decisions Dominated by Howard, says Ex-Starfield Developer

GAME developer Bruce Nesmith, long-associated with Bethesda's games like Skyrim and more recently Starfield, claimed in a recent interview that most decisions regarding Bethesda's role-playing games (RPGs) filtered through one man: their director Todd Howard. These insights, revealed during his conversation with the MinnMax YouTube channel, shine a light on the operational hierarchy within the gaming studio.

Nesmith took a trip down memory lane during the interview, describing his significantly long career at Bethesda, starting with Daggerfall, transitioning as the lead designer on Skyrim, and contributing to Starfield prior to his departure to embark on a novelist's journey. Over time, the success of various Bethesda games led to the expansion of the team, a transformation that Nesmith admitted felt slightly uncomfortable. The restructuring responding to the pandemic and other necessary modifications meant less interaction with Todd Howard.

Nesmith was sympathetic about the reconfiguration. He rationalized that administrating half a dozen different game studios and overseeing numerous concurrent projects sufficed to occupy any individual, no matter how competent. Despite a more rigid communication structure, Howard, Nesmith emphasizes, was the final authority on most creative determinations. All decisive matters were purportedly vetted by Howard, a fact Nesmith speculates would irk him, insisting Howard does not acknowledge this dynamic at the studio.

On a more complex note, Nesmith recalls that developers seeking unconventional or innovative ideas deviating from the well-established Bethesda norm had to ensure their proposals received Howard's attention for approval. Despite Nesmith's accusations, he was careful to put forth that Howard was not fond of this managerial structure either. Nesmith praised Howard's many attempts to deter being the ultimate decider, positing that while he intellectually combated this role, Howard’s valuable opinions shaped this intricate structure.

Nesmith commends Howard's prowess to align with the mindset of an average player. It is this capability that gave him an unprecedented edge over the rest of the team in decision-making and ultimately made him the critical voice in the room. He had mastered the ability to perceive the gaming world from the Joe Average player's point of view, thereby naturally making him the most sought-after opinion.

Despite the dominant influence of Howard, the creative force behind games like Starfield, the company's processes have worked themselves out, as evident from the recent success of Starfield. The interview encompassed a wealth of details highlighting the "hubris” involved in the creation of Fallout 76, the elements that could transition into The Elder Scrolls 6, and Baldur's Gate 3 in comparison to other RPGs. The gaming community may reel under the revelations, but there's no doubt this provides an exceptional peek behind the scenes at one of the industry's leading game developers.

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Darryl Polo

Hey there! I'm Darryl Polo, and I've been deep in the web design and blogging game for over 20 years. It's been a wild journey, evolving with the digital age, crafting websites, and sharing stories online. But hey, when I'm not behind the screen, you'll likely spot me rocking my all-time favorite kicks, the Air Jordan 4s. And after a day of design? Nothing beats unwinding with some Call of Duty action or diving into platformer games. It's all about balance, right? Pixels by day, platforms by night!

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