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Bethesda Comments Suggest 360 Hard Drive has Little Effect on Gameplay
news
happening
game: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
posted by: Aaron Stanton
publisher: Bethesda Softworks
developer: Bethesda Softworks
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date posted: 02:24 PM Sat Aug 27th, 2005
last revision: 10:39 PM Sat Aug 27th, 2005


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Click to read.Oblivion to use hard drive:

GamesFirst contacted Bethesda, makers of Elder Scroll IV: Oblivion, in hopes of getting more information after news sites like Game Informer, EuroGamer, RPGDot, and Evil Avatar posted items quoting Todd Howard, Oblivion's executive producer. "We've known since day one," said Todd Howard in his earlier comments to Game Informer, "that there would be versions of the 360 without a hard drive, so Oblivion will still work on every 360. That being said, Oblivion takes full advantage of the hard drive and uses it extensively, so we'd certainly recommend that everyone gets one."

Be reassured?

This quote made some of us at GamesFirst nervous enough to contact Bethesda with some questions of our own. The above quote can be read as confirming that Oblivion will run on either system and will make use of the HD ? or as hinting that the hard drive's roll in the game has been shunted, since it can be gotten rid of without much worry. If Oblivion does not need a hard drive to play, what advantages does the system gain to have one? Faster load times? Does it impact quality of graphics? Does it change anything in the actual gameplay? Has the use of the hard drive been crippled because it has to be always expendable, or as importantly, has the hard drive - even on the original Xbox - always been just for enhancing speed and nothing else?

For the most part, this is a question less about Bethesda than about Microsoft's approach to marketing and selling the Xbox 360.

It depends on how you read between the lines:

GamesFirst contacted Bethesda and asked if they could specify exactly what would be different between the gameplay of the two systems. We talked to Pete Hines, V.P. of Marketing and Public Relations.

GF!:Could you comment specifically on the improvements the Xbox 360 Hard Drive would make on a game like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion?

Pete Hines: We definitely plan to take full advantage of the hard drive for Oblivion and you will see the results in the game's performance, faster load times, etc.

How much of a difference? We don't know yet.

GF!:How about without the hard drive? Will the functionality of Oblivion on the hard drive justify the purchase of the $399.99 version of the 360? Will the game suffer without the use of the hard drive?

Pete Hines:Does the difference in performance justify buying a hard drive? Well if you were only doing it for Oblivion, it might not be worth $100 just for one game. But, considering that there will certainly be other games that will take advantage of the hard drive as well, not to mention other functionality the hard drive allows for, I don't think there's any question in our minds that the hard drive is well worth it. That's the version we plan to buy.

But there has to be more, right?

Many gamers have been concerned that the Xbox's dual configuration would prevent developers from using the hard drive in their games. Microsoft has assured us this is not the case. However, it seems that Bethesda is the first company to admit that the importance of the hard drive is now minor ? while they say that Oblivion will make extensive use of the hard drive, the most prominent feature they're willing to point to as an advantage to "extensive use" is a general performance improvement, like faster load times.

It's possible that additional features will be added as development continues, but it's vaguely unnerving that Bethesda isn't pointing to any of them when asked for details on how they're using the hard drive.

If Oblivion does not significantly change depending on whether or not you have a hard drive, it would suggest that developers are not taking full advantage of the 360 hardware. That's pretty much exactly what we've been worried about.

The fear that developers will not use the hard drive to do really unique things to avoid narrowing their customer base seems to be supported by Bethesda's comments, in my opinion. In terms of game development, the Xbox 360 has no hard drive, not really; the hard drive is a tool for Live alone. Live, and backwards compatibility.

In this case, the Xbox 360 might be taking a step backwards from the original Xbox, and we can weep at the loss. At $1200 dollars for a bundle, we shouldn't have to wonder if a $150 dollar system might do some things better.

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