Bruce Nesmith, a veteran developer at Bethesda, shares the challenges the company faced during the production of The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall.

Bethesda Almost Collapsed After Making "The Elder Scrolls 2"

Long before The Elder Scrolls series won over role-playing gamers worldwide, the development of its second installment, Daggerfall, nearly led to the dismantle of its creator, Bethesda. This revelation was shared in a recent interview with Bruce Nesmith, a seasoned developer at Bethesda, whose involvement with the franchise included lead designer roles for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Daggerfall.

During the interview, Nesmith expressed that the production situation was dire enough to potentially prompt the end of the studio. The company had invested colossal amounts of resources into the development of Daggerfall, constantly risking its future. Bethesda was a small studio at that time, and its large-scale engagement with Daggerfall put a temporary pause on all other projects. This decision not only limited its growth but also did significant financial damage.

Nesmith's depiction of the game's launch was nothing less than 'brutal', marking the most challenging phase of his career. He described an intense period of nearly 18 months of relentless crunch time that was hardly sustainable. The company was on the brink of collapse, the workplace environment became intense, and the job security of the employees was under constant threat. Simultaneously, the developer team had an unwavering belief in the game, despite recognizing its chaotic state.

Upon its release, Daggerfall was praised by critics, despite significant bugs which arose due to its revolutionary approach to the RPG genre. Bethesda had released seven patches to improve the game quality, an exceptional move back in the 90s. It was the team's passion and potential they held for Daggerfall that lead them to the finish line, according to Nesmith.

He detailed how the enormous scope of Daggerfall, featuring thousands of cities, towns, villages, and dungeons for players to explore while keeping a great deal of player freedom, posed an extreme challenge to get through development. But the recognition of how amazing the game could become motivated the team to push through.

Nesmith jovially claimed how he became the commonly referred person to recall the hardships faced during the game's development era, which he found amusing given Todd Howard, Bethesda director and executive producer, has similar anecdotes.

The following installment to Daggerfall, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, faced similar challenges. The indications of potential trouble were so palpable that the game was viewed as the team's last and first shot simultaneously. However, history had other plans in store.

Daggerfall survived through the hardships, being followed by the successful Morrowind release. Bethesda later accomplished greater victories with the exceptionally successful The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, Skyrim - you might have heard of it - and Fallout 4. Their latest gem, the sci-fi spectacular Starfield that scored a perfect review score, became another feather in their cap. The crunch culture at the studio seems to be a thing of the past; Bethesda has learned from their earlier missteps, as expressed by Howard in a 2019 interview.

In his conversation, Nesmith acknowledged Bethesda's improved work ethic and their support for developers to rejuvenate between projects. He shed light on the global impact of Skyrim, which in his words, demonstrated that open-world games were the "place to be".

Author Image

Adam Devine

Hey, it's Adam Devine here! When I'm not out and about, you can bet I'm either casting a line, hoping for the biggest catch, or lounging at home, delivering some epic fatalities in Mortal Kombat. Life's all about the thrill of the catch and the perfect combo move. Whether I'm battling fish or virtual foes, it's all in a day's fun for me. Let's get reel and play on!

Post Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment!