Joel Burgess Talks Horse Armor, A Failure That Keeps Bethesda Going

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Joel Burgess Talks Horse Armor, A Failure That Keeps Bethesda Going

It's easily one of the the lowest points of all downloadable content (DLC) points out there; more specifically, it's the Horse Armor found as part of Bethesda's "The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion." But recent word from Joel Burgess--Bethesda senior level designer--who had a hand in the development of horse armor recently talked about the DLC item in question, and noted that, while horse armor wasn't a great move overall, it meant greater moves to follow.

Burgess offered up some remarks while at the Game Developers conference, and talked about how the "Elder Scrolls" series has always been known for its ability to mod the games, going as far back as 1996 and the release of "Daggerfall". Indeed, Burgess pointed out that "Morrowind" came with an editor built right in in a second disc on the release, so modding was clearly important. That philosophy carried on into the release of DLC in general, which was a comparatively new concept in the console market that only really started with the last generation of consoles.

So when the idea came for DLC for 'Oblivion', no one was really all that sure what to put into play; sure, some games were doing gun packs or cash packs, but with Bethesda, it was whole new branches of gameplay like "Shivering Isles" and "Knights of the Nine," both excellent examples of add-ons that provided more story for the user's dollar. But horse armor came before all that, and offered up an example of what people didn't want in a field where no one was really all that sure of what to offer up. Bethesda could therefore offer up horse armor, discover that people thought it was a terrible value, and from there carry on to the "Knights of the Nine" game pack and blow some minds. Because let's face it; horse armor was about as terrible an idea as "Knights of the Nine" was amazing. And from there, it seems that was where the idea to add extra parts of games came from. Look at "Dead Rising 3," for example; four new story components following various parts of the plot that weren't seen in the main story. "Dead Rising 2" was no different; look at the prequel release of "Case Zero" and the subsequent release of "Case West." Plenty of games--particularly those in the RPG vein--have extra story components as DLC, and that might well be traced back to "Oblivion," one of the first games to do it and do it well.

Sometimes you have to fail in order to find out where your real strengths are, and horse armor basically paved the way for a really good piece to come out, one that in a lot of ways set the standard for what DLC should be. That's a move that's no doubt welcome for gamers, and it all started with a terrible idea no one really wanted.

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