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Bethesda's Todd Howard on how games can make players 'proud'

Xav de Matos, @Xav

Set aside your favorite movie, music, or traditional piece of art, because there's only one medium that has the ability to make the one experiencing it proud: video games. This was the message Bethesda Games Studios game director and executive producer Todd Howard had for attendees during his DICE 2012 keynote.

Using the level end music from Peggle and the level-up sound from Modern Warfare, Howard explained that video games have the ability to reach people in ways others are unable because they can convey a sense of accomplishment. Helping to give players that feeling with intelligent game design "makes it the greatest," he said. Howard noted jokingly that he used the Modern Warfare sound for his email, to give him a sense of pride when he sends something off.

Much of Howard's introduction focused on Bethesda's three rules of development, which he discussed during his 2009 DICE keynote. Howard said the difficult balance of design is finding a harmony in creating a challenge for players that isn't so easy that it leaves them bored and isn't so difficult that they give up.

The gameplay loop (Learn, Play, Challenge, Surprise), as he explains, is presenting a game mechanic to the player in steps that entice them to continue. Howard discussed how Half-Life 2's introduction to the Gravity Gun is a perfect example of using the loop effectively -- players learn how to use the gun by playing with it, they are challenged to use it in new ways, and are surprised by what they can accomplish. This accomplishment helps to build the level of pride the players experience throughout the adventure. Howard urged game makers in the audience to be proud of their work and to make gamers proud in the process.

"Do something great. Make yourself proud," he said. "Make the player proud they played it. Make them proud they bought it."

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