After the official announcement of The Elder Scrolls 6 some time ago, the airwaves have been relatively quiet concerning the title. This silence has stretched on a lot longer than many of us avid franchise fans would have hoped, leading gaming journalists like myself to pick on any slight thread or inkling given about the game a run with it.
However, all of this changed thanks to one man, Lex Friedman.
As many of you will know already, Lex is the host of his imaginatively named Lex Friendman Podcast, wherein he sits down with people from almost every walk of life for long and in-depth conversations, the only barrier to entry being you must be interesting. You can find Howard’s interview with Lex here!
As someone who listens to Lex’s podcast quite frequently, it was a real shock when my Spotify feed showed me a nearly three-hour-long conversation between himself and the God of TES franchise, Todd Howard.
Of course, I slipped on my headphones and devoured the entire thing in one day, eager to hear everything I could about the new Elder Scrolls title. I knew Lex was a big fan of Skyrim, so I could only imagine that he would routinely try and pry some information out of Todd, and, thankfully, I wasn’t wrong.
However, as the podcast ran on, I felt that Todd was there to promote his other projects, such as Starfield and the Fallout TV show, more than TES 6, which was a little bit disappointing. Regardless, Lex did manage to push him for some details on the project, which we will discuss and dissect in this article. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into the good stuff!
Headline Grabbing Stuff
When I search for information about a game I love, one of the things I hate the most is looking through a long article to find the release date. So, to save you all the trouble and heartache, here it is:
The Elder Scrolls 6 has no official release date.
According to Bethesda and Todd himself, the team is entirely focused on getting their latest IP, Starfield, out the door, having already delayed the title’s launch by several months.
During his conversation with Lex, Todd talked in great detail about the development cycle of his games, mentioning how the vast majority of his staff are currently working on Starfield, leaving other projects out in the cold for the time being.
However, he also mentioned that once this title is nearing the end of its life cycle, he will move many of these team members over to “new projects,” from context, he could only have been speaking about TES 6. From this podcast section, I would guess that TES 6 will only be released, at the earliest, in the last quarter of 2023 or the first quarter of 2024. However, these are hopeful estimates.
If we are to believe more pessimistic reports, industry insider Tyler McVicker has stated that it is possible we won’t see TES 6 until 2026 or 2027. Also, according to another insider, Phil Spencer, the new Fable game is slated for release before TES 6.
According to recent reports, this title is not expected to reach the market until 2024. Therefore, TES 6 will likely not emerge until 2025, according to Mr. Spencer.
How Long will TES 6 be with Us?
During his conversation with Lex, Todd talked about the success of Skyrim and mentioned how, even now, more than a decade post Skyrim’s initial launch, it is still Bethesda’s most played game concurrently. This crazy stat was new to me, but it makes sense with YouTube playthroughs based on the game continuing to this day.
On this note, Todd began to speak about TES 6 and how when he and his team design the game; they are doing so with longevity in mind, remembering that a game of this magnitude will be played for many years to come. With Lex, Todd states, “We’re going to make sure we do it right for everybody,” continuing to say, “Skyrim’s 11 years old – still probably our most played game, and we don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.
People will be playing it ten years from now also, so you have to think, okay, people are going to play the next Elder Scrolls game for decades, two decades, and that does change the way you think about how you architect it from the get-go.”
For me, this speaks to the sheer size and scope of TES 6 project and kind of give us a clue regarding the development cycle and the sheer amount of time it will take to develop such a large and long-lasting game. We can also assume that this game will be bolstered with additional DLC content in the years following the initial release. After all, Bethesda loves milking every last penny out of their fans.
The Development Process
As I have already mentioned, Bethesda’s main concern at the moment is on Starfield and getting that title on digital shelves. However, during this recent interview, Todd did speak on some things that might give us some clues regarding the game’s current development status.
First of all, he mentioned that the team in charge of TES 6 has already had the beginning and end of the main story decided for some time now, probably since Skyrim was finished development, with these ideas requiring years of fine-tuning.
What Has Been Done So Far? – Gameplay, Audio and More
Todd also stated that the first couple of hours of the game are pretty much cemented by now and will, therefore, likely be unchanged by the time of release.
Also, in regard to the game’s continued development, Todd spoke about how they utilize voice actors for years during a project, recording snippets and dialogue trees for years before the finished product is seen or heard by anyone outside the company. We can therefore assume that voice acting has already been going on for some time.
At present, there has been no official word regarding the cast of TES 6 or how many voice actors we can expect. However, we do know that with each new iteration of TES franchise, we have seen great improvements regarding voice acting. For TES 6, the big requirement from fans is increased variety.
In Skyrim, fans loved when people got region or race-based accents; however, this advent was rare outside of a few notable characters. Therefore, fans are calling for each race, region, gender, and type of NPC to have its own unique voice-acting options.
This will allow players to really feel immersed in the game as accents change throughout their travels. Regarding TES 6 audio development, we do know that a good portion of the music has been crafted or put down on paper. However, Howard stated that this music is always subject to change and nothing is, by any means, final.
The Current Tech Available to Bethesda
Lastly, I want to comment on something Todd said later in the interview that wasn’t actually anything to do with TES 6. During his conversation, he began talking about Bethesda’s recent deal with Microsoft, being taken over by the giant corporation to the tune of $7.5 billion.
This section of the podcast saw Todd speak about the current generations of Xbox consoles and how impressed he was regarding the power and performance they could get out of the machines, especially now that they can work together with the people who designed the console, squeezing every last drop of performance out of the machine.
I mention this because back in 2016, Howard went on record stating that the technology he and his team needed to create TES 6 was just not there yet.
“I could sit here and explain the game to you, and you would say, ‘That sounds like you don’t even have the technology—how long is that going to take?’
From this comment back in 2016 and his more recent praise for current generation consoles, which has also praised the PS5, we can assume that Howard has finally gotten the technology he and his team need to produce the next ES game to their vision.
TES 6 Engine
Howard has previously commented in an interview with PC Gamer that they are going to need to take another look at the Creation Engine 2 and make some additions that the gamer will require. He later spoke on the engine, stating, “I think most people who aren’t making games confuse the word ‘engine’.
They think of an engine as one thing. We view it as technology. There are lots of pieces, and with every game, parts of that change. Whether it’s the render, the animation system, the scripting, the AI, the controls [and] some of its middleware, [like] Havok Animation.”
Finally, and most recently, Howard stated that the engine was in the middle of a “major rewrite,” which will take a great deal of time, slowing down the game’s development process.
New Tech, New Opportunities
As with any massive game like Skyrim, Bethesda did not get everything right or perfect. In fact, as most of you will attest, a lot needs to be changed/fixed for TES 6 to be truly considered a suitable game for this current generation of gaming, never mind a decade from now.
So, let’s take a look at some of these expected changes that this new technology will help with.
Improved AI and The Wider World
While Skyrim’s AI was somewhat impressive in 2011, it wasn’t long into Skyrim’s life cycle that people began to see cracks in its armor.
Throughout several interviews over the years, Howard has spoken about the AI in his games and how people like to compliment him on his guards regarding how they react to changes in the game around them. For me, the guard AI system and the general AI of the TES franchise need massive improvement.
At the moment, Skyrim and the NPCs that populate seem to live their own lives, walking about their set paths and completing their routine jobs.
However, if you happen to sit down for a while and actually watch these NPCs, it becomes clear that what we are seeing is not AI. Instead, it is scripted movement and dialogue that Bethesda has accounted for up until something strange happens.
This is where the new AI must improve; it must have the ability to react to stimuli that Howard did not anticipate, reacting in unique and character-specific ways.
Howard states during his interview with Friedman that he wants TES 6 to be a living, breathing world that does not need the character to function, with characters and events playing out around the world regardless of the player’s presence. We can, therefore, assume that such a world is planned for TES 6.
In fairness to Howard and Bethesda, it seems like back in 2011; the technology simply wasn’t there yet to enable the constant running of such a complex AI across so many NPCs.
However, by Howard’s own admission, the current generation of consoles is now more than capable of such a feat; all that remains is some great AI design and some troubleshooting to resolve some of the more silly elements of Bethesda AI’s.
Now, I will be the first person to say that I don’t come to a Bethesda game for breathtaking visuals that are actually consistent across the map; after all, a game of this size simply cannot have the same attention to detail and cinematic look as something linear like The Last of Us.
However, I expect TES 6 to be a step up from Skyrim, in the same way, that Skyrim blew Oblivion out of the water at launch. As I will cover later, this next Elder Scrolls game will be developed alongside the technical wizards at Microsoft. Therefore, Bethesda will be developing a game for a console fully capable of running at 4K resolution and 120 fps.
Of course, I do not expect TES 6 to hit this kind of target; after all, Todd has said time and time again that he prefers his games to run smoothly on lower fps rates.
Therefore, with Starfield officially announced as running at 30fps, I expect TES 6 to at least hit this performance metric. However, if the reports regarding a TES 6 release date not occurring until 2027 are true, this expectation will shoot up.
Exclusive to Xbox?
As mentioned, Microsoft recently purchased Bethesda; this purchase sent a shudder through every PlayStation gamer in the land who loves the TES series, as we all knew what it meant – that we aren’t going to see TES 6 on PS5.
Of course, Howard never actually commented on TES 6 specifically during his interview with Friedman, although he did say that Starfield will be exclusive to Xbox and that they have been working with the Microsoft team to optimize the game for their consoles.
Continuing, Howard stated that he has had a close relationship with Microsoft in the past, with all prior editions of the TES franchise getting early releases or extra content on Xbox. From this, it is pretty safe to say that we will not be getting TES 6 on PS5.
Previously, in an interview with Games Industry back in October of 2020, Howard stated that TES 6 is an Xbox exclusive was “hard to imagine.” However, since then, Bethesda has been acquired by Mircosoft, so we can only imagine that this statement no longer holds any water.
However, this does not mean that the PC gamer out there should be worried. The current Xbox Game Pass allows players to play several Bethesda titles on PC as part of their subscription service.
Therefore, I imagine players will be allowed to play this game either through this service or just by purchasing it from the Steam or Microsoft store. Regardless, I wouldn’t worry.
For me, the only thing that keeps me playing Skyrim or Oblivion all these years after its initial release is the vibrant and thriving community of modders who continue to work on the games, creating everything from minor bug fixes to DLC-worthy content requiring hours of IRL gameplay, all out of love for the game.
Thankfully, in recent years, the big brains over at Bethesda realized that these mods were not hurting their games or their sales but, in fact, boosting them, keeping players interested in the franchises for years after they had washed their hands of the titles.
Recently then, we finally got some proper mod support in the console version of the game alongside the advent of the Creation Club, allowing players to easily create mods using developer-specific tools. Of course, I still stick to Nexus for all my mods, but the effort is appreciated.
So, the real question is, will TES 6 go to the same lengths to support mods and the content creators who give us so much joy?
Well, of course, Howard works for a multi-billion dollar corporation these days, and, therefore, we cannot trust pretty much anything he says, but he did make a point of saying that he loves the modding community of games such as Skyrim and Fallout 4.
To me, this admiration did seem genuine as he seemed to have a pretty good amount of experience with these mods and even admitted to playing some of them from time to time.
Therefore, when he continued to say that future games in his franchises will continue to support these mods and their creators, I am happy to say that I believed him.
Theories, So Many Theories
While actual information regarding TES 6 is very sparse, fans of the series have been left with too much time for speculation, coming up with theories left and right.
Some of these theories are actually kind of interesting and could conceivably happen; however, others are simply crazy. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the more likely and fact-based theories floating about the forums.
TES 6 Will Take Place in Hammerfell, or High Rock
There is no official word on where the game will be based; at the moment, we are left with mere speculation revolving around a simple tweet and the game’s teaser trailer. The tweet, which you can view here, seems to show that the new game will be based in Hammerfell.
Of course, this is mere speculation at this point, but some fans have investigated the photo included in this tweet, reading into candle placement, assuming that it means Hammerfell.
However, if you watch the teaser trailer and look at the world’s typography shown in this small snippet, the environment looks more similar to High Rock than anywhere else. To bolster this High Rock theory, some fans have gone to great lengths.
During a release trailer for Starfield, some of them spotted a piece of dirt or a scratch on one of the ships, which they state is a reference to TES 6 location. According to them, this scratch or dirt is in the exact same shape as Illiac Bay, a location situated in Tamriel between High Rock and Hammerfell. Check out this picture below.
The Game will Be Called “Redfall”
Another rumor and theory that I can wholeheartedly get behind began when Bethesda entered into the process of trademarking the term “Redfall” back in 2018.
According to the mega-fans of the series, this term, “Redfall,” could both be the name of the new game and the principal issue facing the realm of Tamriel in this new edition to the franchise.
According to this theory, Redfall could be a plague of some sort, spread by the Daedric Prince of pestilence, Peryite. The theory suggests that this plague could see the victims coming out in red boils as part of the disease, hence the use of ‘Red’ in the name.
They also assert that ‘Fall’ then comes from the origin of the plague, Daggerfall, one of the kingdoms of High Rock. Of course, this is all just speculation at this point, but I wouldn’t put it past the Elder Scrolls community as, time and time again, they have managed to figure out things that Bethesda previously thought impossible.
However, the only issue I could see with this plan is that since 2018, the world has gone through its own pandemic in the form of Covid-19, so I am not so sure how ready current audiences are for another plague-like experience.
Possible New Mechanics Supported by Leaks
While we cannot ever confirm that developers will actually listen to their fans, making the changes that they have cried out for over the years, we can hope. Therefore, let’s take a look at some of the big changes that fans are looking for in TES 6 that should be considered key to the game’s success.
Big Changes to the Magic System
While Bethesda has always been known as the producer of the jankiest games known to man, I really do think that in this new generation of consoles, combat, and magic like this are no longer acceptable. Therefore, we can expect some big changes in TES 6.
Firstly, regarding the magic system, it is widely believed, thanks to the well-regarded leaker Tiffany Treadmore (you can check out some of her work here), that TES 6 will take a much more serious approach to its magic system than in Skyrim.
It is believed that the game will return to a more advanced system more akin to the one seen in Oblivion. the key phrase seeming to bound around the internet regarding this change is “Rune Drawing.” This system could allow players to craft their own spells, similar to the Alter of Spellmaking found in Oblivion.
Thanks to Bethesda’s new title, Starfield, it is also believed that their current engine will see massive improvements regarding physics emulation, allowing for custom spells in the game to be far more varied and interesting than ever before.
A Brand New Survival System
Prior to the 2021 release of Skyrim’s anniversary addition, many industry insiders and leakers believed that TES 6 would introduce a brand-new survival system to the franchise. However, it seems Bethesda wanted an excuse for players to purchase this new edition of Skyrim, throwing it in at the last moment.
This, of course, does not mean that a completely new survival system won’t be found in the new Elder Scrolls game. However, I would suggest that any new feature we see like will be just another iteration of our current one.
While not all leaks are created equal, having the same reliability or support, I see no harm in speculating on any current information.
According to several tweets published back in April 2022 and covered in an article by EarlyGame, all of this could be coming in TES 6:
- TES 6 will feature a political system.
- Marriage, betrayal, and faction choices will make big, world-spanning impacts.
- No dragons will be found.
Question: When will The Elder Scrolls 6 be Released?
Answer: At the moment, there is no definitive answer to this question, only speculation. Some reports place the game’s release as the final quarter of 2023. However, other accounts have the game released in 2027.
Question: Is The Elder Scrolls 6 a Sequel to Skyrim?
Answer: While we cannot say for certain, we do know that every game within TES franchise has existed as its own entity, not following on from a previous game. We can, therefore, assume that this trend will continue.
Question: Where will The Elder Scrolls 6 be Based?
Answer: Again, there is no way of knowing this at present. However, fan theories have the game taking place either in Hammerfell or High Rock.
So, there you have it, a comprehensive look at everything we currently know about one of the most anticipated games of all time, TES 6.
While there is very little tangible news out there at present, Howard’s recent interview gave us all a lot to think about and speculate over. For me, at least, this will take up a good chunk of my time in the coming months.
I really hope that you enjoyed this article and that it got you even more hyped for the release of TES 6. Hopefully, I will see you back here for some great content and guides when the game is released. Until then, I wish you good luck!