The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion helped inspire Starfields dialogue system

Dialogue and persuasion systems in Starfield were partly inspired by Oblivion.

In the latest episode of developer update Into the Starfield, design director Emil Pagliarulo said that Bethesda knew it wanted to do “some kind of persuasion mini-game thing.” In response, quest director Will Shen said “it was funny, we didn’t start with ‘let’s do an evolution of, let’s look back at the old Oblivion system’, but there are a couple of beats there. You have to think about ‘What’s my risk here, which one do I want to choose?’ We didn’t want it to be a system where there was definitely a right thing to say.”

In Oblivion, attempting to persuade a character opened a mini-game featuring a wheel with various options to select. Players could Joke, Admire, Boast, or Coerce an NPC, and each character would have a different reaction to each option. By using those options across multiple ’rounds’ of conversation, players aimed to increase an NPC’s ‘disposition’ to get them onside. Increasing your speechcraft skill changed the impact of each choice, and also offered the chance to bribe characters to help your cause even further.

Now 15 years old, Oblivion’s system is a little dated, but Starfield game director Todd Howard seems pleased with the way that the persuasion system has been reimagined for Starfield. He says that “it feels like you’re having a conversation where you’re actually trying to persuade somebody of something. As far as the new systems in dialogue, I think it’s definitely one of the most successful ones that we’ve had.”

It does sound as though the conversation systems from Skyrim and Bethesda’s Fallout games will play a diminished part when trying to convince an NPC of your point of view. In those games, success or failure was often a case of making sure you picked the correct dialogue options, some of which would be limited by your speech skill, essentially locking you out of the ‘correct’ answer.

Elsewhere in the update, Bethesda’s developers discussed Starfield’s factions and companions, and may have showed off our first peek at Starfield gameplay.

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