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General:Julian Jensen AMA

General: Interviews
The following "interview" is an Ask Me Anything. This page collects all comments with responses from the interviewee in chronological order, cutting each thread off at the last reply by them. The original source has been copied and may contain errors, spelling or otherwise, that are not individually marked with [sic]. Links that have been inserted onto this page are denoted like this.
Ask Me Anything: I'm Julian Jensen, programmer, designer and "Father of the Elder Scrolls"
Medium/Format Online Forum
Date November 6, 2017
Interviewee(s) Julian Jensen (jjdanois)
Interviewer(s) r/Daggerfall
Hosted By Reddit

Posted by u/jjdanois:

You can ask me anything but I don't remember everything, so no promises on the quality of answers. I will do my best, however.

Edited to add; I answered as many questions as I could get around to, leaving many unanswered, but will continue to answer more in the coming days. I skipped some of the longer ones because I felt they deserved more time and attention than I could fit into what's left of the evening. Anyway, I ask that you have a bit of patience with me as I come back and try to get through all of the questions. I will try to answer some every day.

Johannihilate: What are you up to now? Still working on games?

jjdanois: Nothing AAA. I occasionally get involved in smaller titles, mostly educational games. These days I real just focus on my programming skill. I don't care what I program, honestly. In other words, I don't care about the product and I don't care about my job, but I care greatly about my work. Not a speech that tends to get you employed but my reputation is good and once they start giving me tests... I'm not sure that I would work on an AAA title again. Occasionally an opportunity comes up but I don't think I'd like the environment on games that employ so many people. I did a very little bit of work on Skullgirls but that's as close as I've gotten to a real game in the last few years. They people behind that game are very passionate about it and it's a small team. It was much like it used to be. I could definitely work on a game that was developed like that. However, that project was still a bumpy ride and didn't have the best of endings but a rather glorious rebirth. Making a game is a very personal creative experience, not something made piecemeal on an assembly line. Just my view on things. I might join the fray again one day. Once more unto the breach and all that... We'll see.

crushfield: Is the god Julianos based off of you?

ThalmorInquisitor: Further to this, did you and the others involved in making the early Elder Scrolls game feel that each god represented one of you? Aka who’s the most Akatoshy out of the early gang?
jjdanois: Most of the gods are actually named after our testers. We had a small but solid group of people who spent a lot of time play testing, as well as submitted a number of books for the game. The gods were named after the testers nicknames or we twisted their names a bit to get them to sound right, so R. K. became Arkay and so on.
jjdanois: Obviously. :D I named the god, after all.

swaggman75: Aaaand we got duped

jjdanois: Yeah, Julian sucks. Surely, he couldn't possibly have other things to do, like a job.

VMblast: Hi Julian,

I saw your interview at the IndigoGaming YT channel (great show btw)(Ian told me to ask this question here), and Ive saw that you've expressed interest in the DAGGERFALL UNITY PROJECT. Im one of the MODers involved there and I wanted to --->invite you<---- (if you are willing) to give it a helping (meister) hand?

Gavin (the guy who's doing main coding stuff) is almost single-handedly doing all the heavy lifting. It would be really awesome of having the main man (you) return and make it better. :)


jjdanois: Where can I find the project?

Rusty_Valk (edited): After going through your interview with indigo games, instead of asking about TES, I'd love to hopefully hear some life/career advice from someone as experienced as you.

I'm in college, learning programming. The two things I'm really passionate about are video games and music. I consider myself an average up to(at most) a good programmer, I'm not really a genius :[ . I can't really decide what kind of programming I should get into. Of course I would aim for video games because of my love for games but I don't know if it's really what I should do. I'm also interested in making music but I don't really know much about that industry. So basically I'm a college student lost in the sea of possibilities. :/ But I'll just ask about programming.

What kind of approach should I take at learning more and becoming better at programming?

Which domains of programming would you advise I try myself at, that I would benefit the most from, either from a financial or a learning perspective?

And a few question about yourself. What are you working on right now and at which company? Do you have enough free time to work on private projects too?

jjdanois: I could write a book, just answering what you wrote. It's too late for me to attempt to answer this right now, but I will get back to this in the next day or two and give you a more satisfying answer. Satisfying in terms of length, as for advice and content, YMMV. Programming is something I have very strong opinions on and I never tire of talking about them. More later. There are other good (and long) questions in this subreddit that I will also come back and answer but this had the word "programming" in it, so I wanted to give you a heads-up, at least.

Benjawood: When will Elder Scrolls 6 be released?

jjdanois: I don't know. I no longer work for Bethesda Softworks. Even if I did, knowing game development, I suspect that I wouldn't be able to answer that question. I doubt Bethesda knows for sure, either.

GingerSwanGNR: Are you aware of the Daggerfall Unity project? What's your opinion on it?

jjdanois: I was not aware of it but am curious to see what it is.

jdeel19: I was looking through all the comments.. has "Julian" even replied back to you guys? lol

jjdanois: I like the double quotes. It's like a nickname. I could be Julian "Julian" Jensen. lol

Alexandur: Did he actually answer any questions lol

jjdanois: I answered a similar question above. Same reply here. As was pointed out, I do have a day job I need to deal with first. Then I will answer as many questions as I can. Since I probably won't finish, I will return here daily and continue to answer questions. That's the best I can do. If the expectation is that I monitor this thread constantly and more or less immediately jump on to answer a question the moment it's posed, then some people will be disappointed. Not much I can do about that. All I can do is my best.

mvanvrancken: Hi Julian, quick question. Do you see proc gen being implemented again in the future of TES?

jjdanois: I don't know what Bethesda's plans are for the game. It's not my impression, however, that Todd ever really favored those kinds of approaches. He was always very much in favor of making everything by hand and scripting out stories and people. He may have changed, though, this was many years ago. I haven't gone up to Bethesda Softworks, even though it's just a few minutes from my house, although I keep thinking that I should go there and wanting to but somehow never get around to it.

TheGourmet9: What type of character do you tend to play in Elder Scrolls games?

jjdanois: I don't actually play them. Full disclosure, I did actually play one of them, can't remember which one. The one with Sheogorath. Strangely enough, most people here know a great deal more about the games than I do. I know a lot about the struggle to make them and my original vision for the games, but don't have much information about the games from the player's side of things.

Hallfiry (edited): I have a few questions:

  1. In my Arena Making of ( I established that during development of Arena inns, shops, etc. were displayed as handdrawn scenes with slightly animated characters.

Is this correct?

2) Jeff Perryman mentioned to me ( that he and Ken Mayfield made story cinematics for Arena in the basement. Similarly, Mark Jones said (when seeing this: that they did create cinematics for Daggerfall (with you as an actor!), some with creative techinques, such as pouring milk into an aquarium to get a spreading cloud effect.

Do you know why those cinematics were all scrapped and do you know if backups (on VHS, probably) exist?

3) What's the deal with the Elder Scrolls laboratory from the Daggerfall and Redguard trailers?

4) Fun question: What's "The Elder Scrolls V: Romanelli" on the bookshelf of that lab?

  1. Possibly. I don't remember. An AMA is not much good when the object of the AMA is plagued by CRA (Can't Remember Anything). However, it's certainly correct that the whole endeavor started out with Arena as a gladitorial-style fighting game with a whole party instead of single player. I even had the whole party system working in the game where you could direct the various team members and so on. At the time, we weren't really allowed to make a real RPG, so we decided to make this fighting game instead, to a large extent inspired by "Blood of Heroes." But, as time passed, it eventually became more and more like an RPG, which is what we'd wanted to do all along. It was a hard sell to management.
  2. Yes, we did make a whole (quite short) movie with live action and chroma-keyed backgrounds. And that is me in one of the roles, all 135 lbs. of me (I'm 6' 4"). Nowadays I weigh 100 lbs. more. :) We really just made that for E3 (or was it still CES back then?) It was really meant to show some cool stuff at the convention and wasn't suitable for the game itself as it didn't really portray a useful introduction nor useful intermediary scenes. It would also have been inconsistent throughout the story as we didn't have very much footage. I seem to recall that we shot that one of the last nights before the convention, quite possibly the last night before. I do remember that it went very late when we did all this. Don Nalezyty was also in it and my main guy for wrangling all the graphics. He doesn't get mentioned much and he wasn't a huge part of the project, time-expanse-wise, but he was a very important one when he was working on the project. He did a lot of work on this movie idea, as well.
The main thing I remember is that we didn't get our chroma-key backdrop (green) lit evenly and it ended up being a complete mess getting everything merged together.
I also remember the cloud effect. I had read somewhere that that was how they did the clouds in CE3K, so I wanted to do that. It was also a mess as with so many things connected with this project where we were over-ambitious given our limitations in resources and, more immediate, time.
3) Dunno, other than labs are cool. There wasn't always a reason for something being included other than, "Dude, that'd be cool."
4) Again, I don't remember. The name is not familiar to me. Ask Ted, if anyone would know, he'd be the one.

TankorSmash: This would be cooler if there was some responses.

jjdanois: There will be, rest assured, but I do have a day job that I need to wrap up first. :) I will answer every question to the best of my ability. This got answered first! Even though it technically wasn't a question. I will answer as many as I can tonight and continue on tomorrow &c.
TankorSmash: Oh, you were gathering questions beforehand, that makes a lot of sense. These usually work like live interviews where there's a sense of 'oh man, they're right here talking to us'.
jjdanois: I see. I was not aware of that and probably wouldn't have agreed to do this, if I had known that it was supposed to be a "live" session. I much prefer doing it this way, as it gives me time to come up with longer and, hopefully, more meaningful answers when I have the time to set aside a few hours to do so. A "live" session would have been very unsatisfactory for me, at least, and by extension, everyone else, I think. This is my first ever involvement with an AMA, on either side, so I just went about it the way I figured it should work. :)

Daggerfella: Are you aware of a Daggerfall-LIKE game called Frontiers? It was kickstarted and being developed by a one man team.

Would you ever kickstart a project like this or like the original vision for what Daggerfall was intended to be

jjdanois: I am not aware of that game, I'm afraid. Developing a game like this is hard for a one-man team, not only because of the scope but because of the large scope of talent required. I can't do graphics if my life depended on it; I would always need at least one more person.
The thought of undertaking that large of a task again, especially considering my rather overly-ambitious goals for the game, makes me feel overwhelmed. That being said, I would certainly consider it, if I thought that there was a real possibility that it could realized. It would require quite a bit of time and money and more than a one-man team. But it's certainly doable. I'm not a business man and would never be able to organize such an effort but I certainly could, and would, head up the actual development effort.

ADiiiihhh: HALT!

Who came up with the idea that, when you die in Daggerfall, your character says "YUCK!"?

jjdanois: Because that's what people normally say when they die, where have you been?
Seriously, I don't remember. Do they actually say that? Sounds a bit silly. I can pretty much guarantee you that it wasn't I who came up with that. I wash my hands of all responsibility.

Tyermali (edited): Hey Julian, thanks for doing this AMA and casting the die back in the day! :)

  1. At first, a rather broad question about names and inspirations. What were your paragons for the earliest DnD-style lore of the series? And what do you think today about the rather eclectic inspirations of the early names? I mean, Eternal Champion is from Moorcock, Skaven is Warhammer, Dune is obvious, Dragonlance would have inspired Falinesti & Valenwood (Qualinesti/vallenwood trees), Morrowind is from Shannara's Morrowindl, Hammerfell's name straight from Heirs of Hammerfell, Alinor would be Tolkien's without V … and so on. I imagine you guys had much fun playing on this map, so no intent to be overly critical on this for what it is, just asking out of archeological curiosity. What do you remember about how the Arena map came to be?
  2. How much were you involved in the conceptualization of a TES III right after Daggerfall ("Tribunal", 1996/1997 - as in here), before it was placed back and started again in 1999 as the Morrowind we know today? Did you have some interesting or ambitious plans for such an earlier TES III?
  3. I think Ted Peterson once said in an interview that they originally roleplayed the whole story of the Camoran Usurper. So aside from the map, how much content found its way directly from the table into Arena and Daggerfall? And how would you describe the influence of Ted Peterson on the early series?
  4. Who are your favorite figures in the world of Arena/Daggerfall? What kind of hero would you play (if you could ever play the game after developing it ..)? And which one would you grant the Totem?
  1. Yes, a lot of the names do seem to be, ahem, heavily inspired by a variety of external sources. Most of that work was done long before we had any idea of where this was going. In my defense, I would point out that Vijay came up with most of the names. In the same breath, I should also point out that he contributed an enormous amount of original material, especially for Arena, where he was the lead designer. In fairness, I noticed the thing about the names even back then but, for some reason, didn't think to do anything about it.
  2. We talked a lot about the next TES game during the latter half of Daggerfall development. Unfortunately, none of the people involved in those discussions ended up working on TES III. Ted and I, especially, talked a lot about what we would want to do for the next installment. The TES III that came to be is entirely discontinuous with Daggerfall in terms of world development and the wishes and desired of the Daggerfall team. Not saying it's bad, just discontinuous. The name, "Tribunal" is from our early discussions but at that time it was still fuzzy exactly what it was supposed to be.
  3. If Ted says it happened, then I believe it. I would have been part of those RPG sessions and I do have some fuzzy memories of doing something like that. Ted was enormously influential in the early series. He contributed a lot of ideas and his writing, which is superb, is everywhere. He's also a genuinely nice guy and a very funny individual. The early series would not have been nearly as good without his presence.
  4. Favorite figure? Julianos, of course. Duh. ;) As for playing it, I can't even imagine doing that, so I can't honestly answer your follow-up questions in a meaningful way.

Srki19a: Dragi gospodine Anticki Svitci kreatoru, mogu li vas pitati da li ste dobili doticnu strijelu u koljeno i da li boli kada se loligegujete. Molim vas ukoliko ste mentalno spremni da mi date odgovor posaljite mi jedan svitrol da ne kazem slatki kolut. Hvala puno i ziveo Sitis!

jjdanois: Croatian or Serbian, I think. I'm pretty sure you're asking if you can have something, a question maybe? Starts with Dear sir, ancient world or times? Is Anticki Svitci the translation of Elder Scrolls? I only ever learned a few phrases and words in your language, so you'll have to provide the question, if indeed it is such, in some other language. I can read several, try another one at random and let's see. Oh, and Hvala puno is thank you very much, I'm pretty sure. I remember Mogu li da dobim pivo? Always useful. :)

Furrymoan: Awesome of you to do this AMA. What made you decide to set Daggerfall in High Rock and Hammerfell?

jjdanois: When we started with Arena, there was no map and no world, hence no decision. When Daggerfall rolled around, it just kind of came to be decided. Sorry, not much of a story there. There was not really a lot of lore in those early days. There is so much now but that's the result of years of effort and aggregation. Everything has a beginning and most creative beginnings have none of the easy handholds later works enjoy from the years of accumulated knowledge, traditions, notes, and sundry fan works. Quite a lot of material in Daggerfall was supplied by fans and, very frequently, testers, especially the books that appear in the game. What an abundant source of fantastic lore, where every little thing adds depth to the game, springing from the sheer enthusiasm of the people who play it. It's great when it starts to take on a life of its own, but in the beginning, there is none of that.
Again, sorry, no well-considered decision, nor deep conversations weighing the pros and cons of where to set the next ES game. It just kinda happened...

Scherazade: Is there any equivalents to arabian nights style stuff in TES? Hammerfell looks like from how the guys we see in Skyrim dress like they’re vaguely arab. I’m guessing daedra are summoned as djinn?

jjdanois: As much as I would love to say that there was a real plan as to what the various cultures were like, I'd be lying if I did so. I'm sure they have wrangled things under a tighter control, seeing how the franchise is now a cornerstone of the company, but when we made the first ES games, there was no anticipation that they would be anything special, or even be released, at all.
The Daedra are pretty much like fantasy demons. I didn't want to call them demons because of all the baggage and religious non-sense that invariably gets dragged along when those types of words are used. So I decided to come up with a new word. First I thought of Linux daemons. The word is originally from Greek mythology and refers to a minor deity. Perfect. Except the word was still too close to the word "demon." At the time, I was reading a variety of Plato, and came to think of "Phaedrus" and "Phaedo" and from there it wasn't much of a leap to "Daedra." They were meant to be demons or minor gods, something that could be used as a powerful antagonist to the player where a god would be too much (where do you go from there?) and a normal mortal would be too little, too mundane. An old and useful tool with a new name. And, having finished my tangential ramble, to answer your query, I suppose they could be summoned however they felt was appropriate; no reason not to let cultural influences dictate the methods. Good for gameplay and, I can't help but think, that it would somehow please them.

totally_a_goon (edited): Procedural generation has gotten more interest the last few years thanks to indie games, roguelikes, and space games.

How do you think Arena and Daggerfall measure up to today's generation, and what could modern games learn from the TES games?

jjdanois: I wouldn't say that the early Elder Scrolls games measure up in any aspect to modern games, except in ambition, perhaps. Honestly, I occasionally pay attention to Star Citizen and the enormous ambition of that game and I think to myself, yep, that's basically Daggerfall. Of course, we didn't have anything near the budget that they do, but expectations were lower, as well.
Procedural generation is another thing I talk about in the interview (I think). Procedural generation is really the only way to go for truly large worlds. And that's fine, if you don't look at it as a way to get lots of free variation (which you do, of course) but as an important part of the meat of your world. Treat with that level of respect and invest effort and, more importantly, thought into it and you can achieve wonderful things. You must direct the randomness to produce what you want, what you would have created, had you an army of graphic artists.

KingOfPomerania: Was there any planned features which weren't included in Daggerfall that you wish had been?

jjdanois: In the interview I go over some of those items. Multiplayer being a big one. I would also have liked much more time with the quest system. And dwellings, which are very useful from a design balance standpoint. We never really got them fleshed out. But, mostly, I would have like much more persistence and growth of NPCs. The more NPCs feel like real people and the more continuity there is over an extended period of time, the more real the world will feel. Oh, and hardware acceleration. :)

jcardigan (edited): Hey Julian. I've been a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls series ever since I was a child (shortly after Arena was first released) and to this day still play Daggerfall from time to time. Thank you very much for your contributions to the Elder Scrolls and the gaming industry, as well as taking the time to answer questions here.

The only questions I have for the moment:

  • In earlier screenshots (presumably staged, although it would be interesting if they were playable builds), there is more variation to terrain (hills, cliffsides, etc). It seems that this was removed prior to release, or at best it was cut back to the point where the wilderness looks mostly flat. Do you remember why these terrain features were removed? I've read statements that the terrain elevation data is actually used, it's just difficult to notice due to view distance limitations. Another example, other than a screenshot I don't currently have, is this video:
  • Many years ago, there was someone on the official Elder Scrolls forum who claimed to find unfinished SVGA code in the Daggerfall executable. Was there any work done on this? I think there were also larger sprites found in the game data that aren't being used, which would lend credence to their statement.
  • There was an underwater screenshot and some fish sprites found in a pre-release demo. Do you remember how far "underwater" development got (if it was started at all)? Screenshot I'm referencing (thanks to whoever uploaded this to betaarchive; I believe it was Hallfiry):
  • Was the 3D dragon ever functional? I remember Mark Jones saying a lot of work on it was lost after a hard drive crash. I know textures still exist on the disk; I'm just curious as to how it would've looked or fit in the game.
jjdanois: A lot features in Daggerfall were like that. Planned, worked on, and partially implemented. But there was no way that I could finish them all in the time available. I vaguely remember the dragon but not why it wasn't used. As for SVGA, there was a lot of graphics work done that was never finished and had to be dumped. Again, time limitations and, in the case of graphics, resource limitations were deciding factors. Now, if I'd had a programmer for each of those features, then it could have happened but capable programmers were generally not available and, when they were, Bethesda was generally not willing to pay anywhere near the salaries it would have required.
I don't remember what the deal was with the terrain. Now, I'm curious, as well. Morten or Kaare might remember but I haven't spoken to either in decades. I remember walking around proper terrain and dealing with slope climbing code, not sure what became of it all. The engine could certainly handle it.

poBBpC: Favorite Edition of D&D and favorite Feature from Daggerfall?

jjdanois: I only played D&D up to the 2nd edition, which is better than the first edition. But I have so much nostalgia attached to the first edition that it's hard for me to not still love that system as simplistic and broken as it was.
Favorite feature? None of them because I know how they're not quite what I wanted. You see features, I see shortcomings. :)

DFInterkarma: Hey Julian! I'm the creator of [ Daggerfall Unity], an open source and modable recreation of Daggerfall in the Unity engine, and several tools to explore the game data visually. I've spent a lot of time peeling back Daggerfall's layers to see how she ticks, and I'm constantly amazed at how much you were able to fit into this game under such tight constraints. You have been an inspiring game development figure to me since early on. Thank you for your recent interview and running this AMA. your responses have been fascinating and very entertaining.


jjdanois: You're very kind, thank you for those words. I will definitely be taking a look at the project and might able to help out in some way, either be helping to decipher what you find in the game data, or maybe to help with the coding. I'm familiar with Unity and reasonably handy with C# (I wrote a JavaScript to C# compiler recently for a Unity project). I can't do graphics, though, so my contributions to Unity projects are strictly confined to the parts that don't involve the Unity interface or any mouse interface "programming."

CMAugust: Hi Julian, I only became acquainted with Daggerfall somewhat recently. Effectively, I started with Skyrim and worked backwards. That hasn't stopped me from enjoying Daggerfall any; as a matter of fact, the concept of the massive world felt like a big step forward rather than back. I owe much of my renewed interest in Daggerfall to the Daggerfall Unity project (and its creator Gavin Clayton aka Interkarma), as the game is built again piece by piece.

  • In the brief time you had with Morrowind's early development, did you have plans to take procedural landscape much further than we saw in Daggerfall? An early concept map ( suggests roads and rivers at the very least could have been on the table.
  • All Elder Scrolls games beyond Morrowind have fully voiced dialogue, with all its advantages and limitations. Would your idea of a modern, AAA-budget Elder Scrolls be fully voiced or some sort of hybrid?
  • Fast Travel is a necessity in Daggerfall, with the massive overworld acting more as a backdrop than an explorable area. You can spend hours riding from town to town if you like, but for the most part it's just nice to know it's there. Thanks to their relatively tiny scale, real-time travel in subsequent Elder Scrolls games like Skyrim is not just desirable but required; in order to Fast Travel to a destination from the map, the player must traverse the wilderness on foot to reach it at least once. In addition, there are many other incentives to explore the outdoors: ingredients to pick, animals to hunt, random encounters with friend or foe, hidden treasures, unmarked camp sites and so on. What are your thoughts on overland exploration - would you consider these things relevant and desirable in a massive world like Daggerfall?
  • Multiplayer was one of your ultimate goals in Daggerfall that didn't make it in. However, I find it hard to imagine core gameplay elements such as resting/loitering, fast travel, NPC schedules and timed quests still functional with such a feature. Would the presence of multiple players have "switched on" a different set of game rules, or did you have other plans for how this would work?

On another note, I was disappointed to learn you haven't benefitted financially from the Elder Scrolls' massive success over the years. I got the impression you'd like to do another Daggerfall-type game again if there was a real opportunity. Given that the main appeal of Elder Scrolls - the gameplay itself - is not strictly the property of any company, have you left open the option of "going indie" and doing your own thing? I understand it wouldn't satisfy your programming/creative ambition the way a return to AAA development would, but starting through modest means could pave the way to something big - and more importantly, that something would belong to you. The Minecraft phenomenon proved that a game featuring an infinite, fully procedural world can have massive popular appeal even with no budget - what was a one-man project blew right through the stratosphere into outer space. A Julian Jensen project that saw even a fraction of that success wouldn't have to worry about money anymore. I've also noticed that while the marketplace is now filled with Minecraft clones of varying success, no game has tried to do what Daggerfall does; not even the later Elder Scrolls titles. I feel such a game would do well no matter what the budget, and there's nobody more fitting to take another crack at it.

jjdanois: My involvement with Morrowind consisted mostly of going over 3D techniques, especially linear algebra, and how to calculate plane equations and so on. I didn't have any design input.
If you have adaptable stories where the text changes dynamically based on player history then voice recording becomes untenable. However, if one could employ a good speech synthesizer, then that might be an option, however they still sound a bit too mechanical for my taste.
Fast travel is definitely a must-have for games of this scale. I find that it's enough to know that all the intervening terrain is there to stimulate the sense that the world is huge.The size of the world gives rise to a sense of scale more than it's an actual game mechanic. It also allows you to have scenarios, like go kill that monster or whatnot, and still have it believable that there could be a monster living in whatever wilderness location you choose. In most RPG games I've played, the monsters tends to live ~50 meters away from civilization, just around the corner. How do people live in a place where the simple act of leaving your house has a better than average chance of you meeting a horrifying end? Also, what good is a large world, mostly wilderness, if you don't use it? The player must experience it at least once to get a feel for the scope and flavor of the world.
There were a number of unsolved issues when viewed in the context of multiplayer. Many game features would have modified mechanics in order to work properly. These are not problems I ever had a chance to solve but I'm sure that solutions exists, even if some of them might have been less than satisfying. A small price to pay for the added value you get from persistent multiplayer.
I'm fine staying out of AAA development, in general. Every once in a while I get an offer from some AAA game company but I never seriously consider them. I'd lying if I said that I wasn't interested in doing a Daggerfall "sequel," or maybe a Daggerfall reinvented, but it would have to be done in such a way that I wouldn't have business-related issues. Those are things that I've decided that I never want to deal with. With proper funding and someone trustworthy to manage the business side of things, it could definitely be a thing. I can't realistically see this coming to pass since it's not something I would initiate; it's not my thing. If someone could bring this about and then offered me an opportunity to join, that'd be a much more likely way that something along these lines could happen. It wouldn't require a budget anywhere near what the current TES games demand but it would be a significant sum nonetheless.
I find it interesting that you came to Daggerfall late, considering how dated it looks now. But I suppose that the technology was never the main attraction. :)

Tyermali (edited):

  1. A question about Battlespire since we always tend to skip this one. I think it was actually the first soft reboot of the original High Fantasy DnD setting with the introduction of daedric space and occulta and a more action-oriented gameplay, but how did Battlespire work out in your eyes? I've also read that it was first planned as a Daggerfall addon before it became a standalone offshoot - how to imagine Battlespire as an addon for TES II?

[edit on behalf of a partner in crime: >]

2) Do you know what happened to the german localization of Daggerfall? It was definitely planned in cooperation with Virgin Interactive at some point (/u/Hallfiry and /u/Deepfighter digged up everything about this, so they might add more details if required) - there was promotional stuff for a german title in magazines and even a single exemplary translation of an ingame book in game data. What were the reasons to abandon this? Technical difficulties perhaps (variables, umlaute ä ö ü, null-terminated strings) or even more hardcoded financial calculations? Were there any ideas to translate Daggerfall into French or other languages? Apparently, the german version never took off, and DF remained exclusive to the language of Shakespeare. I'm asking not in the least because we run a small, but dedicated long-term fan project to translate this whole tome into German. Afaik, the French have a similar project ongoing, so it would be quite interesting to hear about the first localization attempts if there's anything to tell.

3) A word about literature: if you had to choose, would you prefer to make acquaintance with Hamlet or with Grendel?

jjdanois: Ooh, I like these questions. I don't have much time right now as it's past midnight and I have to be up at 4am so I can catch a train to Manhattan for my day job. Battlespire questions are interesting to me, because they are rare and Battlespire was special. I will come back to this answer when time allows (shouldn't be long). I will, however, answer #3: Grendel, for sure. First of all, we're possibly the same nationality (or close enough). Secondly, he's a monster! How cool is that? Maybe he'll introduce me to his mother... Hamlet is just plain dull, the only thing about him that's interesting is the dialogue as written by Shakespeare. The story of Amleth (closer to the original name) goes back to Saxo and probably much earlier than that. Interesting, but doesn't beat a viking age monster, sorry. And one that lived not more that a few kilometers from where I was born and grew up. :D
jjdanois: I answered a related question about Battlespire elsewhere in this topic that covers your first question.
As for the localization, I know a bit more. I did the localization. I actually went to Hamburg and lived there for a month or more. I went on to live some considerable time in Paris and Madrid to do localisations there, as well, since I speak all three of those languages (at that time, at least, these days...).
The German localization was the hardest, by far. Not because of the letters but because there are grammatical inter-dependencies between words that are not relevant in English. So, in English, you can just drop in a different name (the text has placeholders for these words) or a different noun and all is well. In German, however, the article changes based on gender, relative pronouns change accordingly, and so on. I had to completely rework the entire system working out of Virgin's offices in Hamburg. You could smoke in the office there in those days and everybody smoked, including myself, except for one guy, poor fellow. :D I finished the translation work but didn't follow-up on what happened to it. I also went to Tokyo for some time to deal with a Japanese version (I spoke a decent amount of Japanese in those days, as well) but I also don't know what became of that.
The experience taught me a lot about what you can and cannot do with these kinds of systems. The one we had for Daggerfall was far too simplistic. A later and ongoing hobby of mine is NLP parsing. I wrote a NLP parser for ancient Greek and recently completed an English language parser that will correct grammar and help predict remainder of sentences. If I had to this again, I would make an entirely different system based on a real grammar and proper abstract productions that would allow for easy localization in those cases where the dialogue needs to adapt to the situation. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, so I'll stop here. Also, I have to go to work. I'm in a tiny Manhattan hotel room (standard size for Manhattan) close to where I work 3 days a week. Boring bank programming that I work hard at to make more interesting.
Translating the books was a trivial effort. It was all the quest dialogue that was challenging because of the many text placeholders that could be substituted with words of different grammatical gender that caused the real problems. The problems were solved but where the solution is and what happened to it, I have no idea.

DivingKataeGuru: I'd like to know what you think about this page about what's been discovered in the game's data. Don't forget about the subpages present and extra stuff in the namespaces, which have all sorts of additional details.

More questions are:

  1. What is your favorite part about Daggerfall?
  2. It seems like XEngine was largely coded in C, but how much was used for assembly? I can imagine that there would be issues trying to make this game as FPU-lite as possible as FPUs were still not widespread during the game's development.
  3. Why was DF released for DOS, at a time when Windows was starting to catch on? I can imagine reprogramming it being one major factor, as XEngine appears to have been made with DOS in mind.
  4. Seems Daggerfall was supposed to have more cutscenes than were implemented, how many of these survive?
jjdanois: Lots of things were cut from the final product since we were out well out of time and couldn't do the final bit of polish to get them into the code. Looking at that page, I remember how unhappy I was that furniture didn't make it. The whole idea of buying a house or a boat was a late feature and it ended up largely unfinished. Furniture was part of the plan, the ability to customize your house and, for balance purpose, spend money on something that didn't yield in-game powers.
Why was it DOS? Why no hardware acceleration? And many other similar questions. Answer is mostly the same. We started out with soon-to-be-older technology and simply didn't have the resources to start upgrading things on a game that was already pushing (and breaking) the deadline. Remember, other than my engine coder, I was the only one working full-time on the programming. There was really no way for me to get everything done on time. The XEngine is almost completely (if not actually completely) in assembly. There was really no alternative back then before hardware acceleration. Daggerfall was the first game that I wrote that was largely in C/C++. Before then I wrote every single line of my games in assembly language. I wish we still did, I love assembly. Of course, it's becoming harder to write by hand these days, but with proper care, you can still get an enormous performance boost. Also, FPU, i.e. floating point, was not something that we could use. It was just too time-consuming. Everything was done with integers or fixed-point (integers). There was also a lot of self-modifying code, basically assembly functions that would write other assembly functions to do the actual rendering. It was spectacularly complicated to squeeze every last cycle out of the CPU. We had dual-pipelines, branch-prediction, and prefetch issues to worry about back then, we still didn't have hyperthreading, out-of-order execution, translation lookaside buffers, or any of that yet. The XEngine was made the way engines were made back then. No system code usages, straight to the metal, assembly code.
Cutscenes were made. Hell, we even made a short live action movie with chroma-keyed backgrounds. I have no idea where all that stuff is or what parts made it into the game.
Favorite part about Daggerfall? It's release and, to a lesser extent, it's success. Boring answer but true. By the time you're done working on a game, you're thoroughly sick and tired of it. It's all you been dealing with and thinking about for the better part of two years.
Very cool and interesting link, by the way. I'll checking that out much more closely when I have time. May help to spur on my memory in some areas.
DivingKataeGuru (edited): The fact that XEngine was indeed largely in Assembly does explain why the game wasn't ported, as was the case with Arena. For instance, it would be a pain to reprogram a game in 68k/PPC assembly for Macs when it was a DOS game programmed extensively with x86 assembly. Judging by the processing capabilities mentioned, it sounds like the team largely used 486s, with some Pentiums or Pentium-like processors mixed in.
As for the link, the page still has more stuff to be added, though I'm also a busy man now and time ticks by so fast. I've yet to add more things to the prototype demo pages especially. However, I'm also aware there aren't any surviving prototypes known aside from those two, but they are interesting in their own ways.
For the cutscenes, here is a video containing all of the cutscenes on the CD and most, if not all, of these are used.
jjdanois: Arena was all assembly. And, yes, most of that (I think maybe all of it) was before Pentium CPUs. With 640K of memory and no graphics hardware. Good times. :)

Fantasilion: I don't have a question, I just wanted to thank you for being part of why the Elder Scrolls is in existence.

jjdanois: You're welcome. And thank you for helping making it successful.

theUSpopulation: Hello Julian, how do you feel about the change from a massive, randomly-generated world to a more dense, hand-crafted one we see in today's format of the series?

jjdanois: That's the contrast between my style of game creation and that of Todd. We have very different ideas about what The Elder Scrolls should be. I can't argue against his success, he has done extremely well with the series, but they're not the games I would have made. If I were to make another ES game, I would continue along from where Daggerfall left off, and not the path that Todd chose. I prefer the large-scale epic feel of discovery, whereas Todd prefers a more firm and scripted approach. Both have their merits but they are clearly different and his ES games are not mine. Different philosophies and, more importantly, different ultimate goals.

Rusty_Shakalford: Did you ever meet any of the Beta Testers for Daggerfall? Particularly, any of the people the other gods are named after? I’m a huge fan of the short stories Marilyn Wasserman wrote for Daggerfall (“King Edward” and “The Real Barenziah”) and was always a bit sad she didn’t create more for the series.

Also, as a programmer, I just want to say that what you guys did with Daggerfall is an inspiration to me. The sheer scope of what you attempted, even if it didn’t all come to fruition, motivates me to push my myself harder in my coding.

jjdanois: I only ever met one of the testers, the only one who lived close to our offices. We did have frequent contact with them and all of them were an enormous help, both with the game testing and the creation of books. It's possible that Marilyn is still around and would respond to messages. Not sure how to dig up her information, though. Ted might have an idea, he's much more of a people person than I.
I'm glad if I have provided inspiration for your programming. Pushing the programmers who work for me is one of my favorite and most important tasks these days. I make it a point that every programmer who works for me becomes a little bit better every day, so I mentor and critique quite a lot of code, one of my favorite pastimes. I push myself extremely hard when it comes to programming, far harder than I would ever expect anyone else to push themselves. My goal is to become the perfect samurai coder, someone completely dedicated to the perfection of their craft. It's an endless road, but a rewarding one.

Jaer-Nihiltheus: I've always been curious: So there's an unfinished dragon named Skakmat in the files, I was wondering what it's purpose in, presumably, the main quest was?

jjdanois: I don't recall anything specific about that but I do like the name, being Danish for Checkmate. I remember talking about dragons and I have a vague memory of actually having one modeled but there my memory fails, sorry to say.

c18shadow: Did you and your team ever discuss future titles while working on daggerfall? Did you know Morrowind and Oblivion where the planned next game locations before us regular plebs did? Just curious

And when making Daggerfall was the idea to make each players game experience different with they different generated world areas?

Loved the game btw

jjdanois: I knew about Morrowind before most, of course, since I was still working there at the time. When it finally got underway, quite some time later, I was no longer an employee at Bethesda but was called back in as a consultant, but the project was in its very early stages at that time.
Everybody's experience is always different. Without multiplayer, we knew that it would always remain so even beyond the obvious philosophical point. But the idea of a partly generated, partly crafted world is not just that each player gets a different experience, indeed that's entirely incidental, but that each player can continue to get a different experience because the world should adapt and grow along with the player. I won't claim that we achieved anything close to that but that was the driving idea, being, at the time, somewhat assured that we would have more games in the future in which to push that envelope.
Deepfighter: What I can tell you is that Ted mentioned once in an interview that Summerset was the location he planned to go next. He even made already the connection in Daggerfalls Mainquest. You remember maybe the Morgiah Letter quest. At the end you receive kind of an invitation to the marriage of Karodiil and Morgiah in Summerset. This was supposed to be the "cliffhanger" for the next part.
If you look closer into the game files there are some other, further descriptions of Summerset in the game which pop up here and there, as well as a lot of books in Daggerfall who play in Summerset. This all gave some hints on the direction. Sadly that it did not turned out this way (I go more with Julian and Ted's vision of Elder Scrolls than with Todd's approach).
But of course that is just what I figured out and Julianos can add maybe some further insight. ;) A pleasure and a real honor to see you around! :)
jjdanois: I definitely remember Summerset being on the table at some point. I think most places were at one point or another. However, Ted's memory is far superior to mine, so I'd go with what he says.

Berrigio (edited): When it comes to Daggerfalls procedural generation, is there any documentation of how it works or how it was put together?

I'm aware there are hundreds of guides using different methods (Perlin Noise, Simplex, Etc) available, but I'm genuinely interested in how Daggerfalls worked at the time.

Is the daggerfall world saved or rendered during runtime? Why is the terrain flat in the final release?

Edit: I ask as I've wanted to put together a world generation tool for some time, possibly expanding to something akin to daggerfall albeit in a much more "indie" way.

jjdanois: In the early days, I mostly used plasma fractals for landscapes. They are easy to understand and manipulate. Although he never contributed much to the final game, for a few months I had working for me F. Kenton Musgrave, who is quite the authority on procedural generation, and has a book out on the topic called "Texturing and Modeling: A Procedural Approach."
There is no technical documentation on anything that has to do with Daggerfall. Not really something we had time for, nor was it necessary as I did almost all the coding. My knowledge at that time of various algorithms would have been minimal. Almost everything in Daggerfall was thought up and developed from scratch based on whatever I could come up with on my own. I had no contact with academia and there were no sources of decent game code available. Back then, the techniques you used were closely guarded industry secrets. The one exception was Game Developer Magazine, which did feature some decent game code. I seem to recall that it was the source for my implementation of the A* algorithm, the only algorithm I can recall getting from somewhere else.
I don't have a good memory of landscape generation in Daggerfall. I do remember that in Arena we used simple bitmaps, hand-edited, to piece together tiles and sections of tiles that could be used as building blocks for random compositions.
These days I know of many ways to do procedural generation of things and could probably come up with many more.
Berrigio: Really informative, I'll be sure to give the book a read in the near future.
I'll be honest I hadn't heard of Plasma Fractals until now; how long did it take to generate the 487,000~ km of game area using that method?
I know of a fair few indie games that still use those methods today, so I guess Daggerfall was a pioneer with regards to procedural game content. I'm certainly not aware of any games that did similar before or even around the same time-frame as Daggerfall.
Final question if you'd indulge me, but how old were you when you worked on Arena & Daggerfall? Had the team had prior industry experience or was it very much a garage/back room development with trial and error?
jjdanois: I was 27 or 28, I think when we started Arena. I had been with Bethesda Softworks since 1988 when we were just 4 people, the owner, the CFO, and two programmers. I had already done several games in Denmark, minor titles, and, by 1993, had completed quite a few titles (mostly Wayne Gretzky Hockey and several Terminator games). The rest of the team was very green, Vijay had worked with me on some of the Terminator stuff and one graphics guy had some prior experience (Mark Jones). I think we also had Ken Mayfield at this time, who also had some prior experience. All in all, not a lot of experience. I had, by far, the most because I had started programming very early in life (had gotten side-tracked by a few years in the circus and then a successful pop music stint ), so by the time I was 28, I was already close to 10 years in as a game programmer.
However, there were so many new things, so much that had to be invented, that there was more than the usual amount of trial and error. Trial and error, innovation and invention, these are all very common in game development, far more than in any other field of programming. Bethesda Softworks never had a lot of money back then and we couldn't hire experienced talent and usually had to make do with people fresh out of college. They were paid a pittance and soon left. That meant that we never had a real persistent team that would grow in experience, we started most projects with completely inexperienced greener-than-green members which hurt us tremendously over the years. Penny-wise, pound foolish. Our CFO was not very good and caused us more harm than anything else that ever happened to Bethesda Softworks.

Daggerfella: What would be a good resource for learning assembly code?

Im a bit interested after you praised it so much. And ive had to code for work and some modding ive done, (original Daggerfall modding made me pull my hair out BTW lol) But Ive coded in HTML, DOOM engine ACS, Autocad LISP, DOS Batch files and have attempted learning expanded (enhanced) BASIC.

Any suggestions would be appreciated!!

jjdanois: There is very little need for assembly language these days and with the increased complexity of modern CPUs, it's very likely you'll do more harm than good, in other words, a compiler is likely to produce code that's more CPU friendly, not necessarily better or faster code. The Linux kernel still uses assembly in a few places either for performance reasons or because there are some things you just can't do well (or at all) in C, like process switching, interrupt handling, memory paging, and so on. (Yes, I know that you can do them in C but it would be awkward and inefficient).
Like I said, you won't ever have any use for assembly, most likely, but, should you wish to play around with it, you can reap all kinds of benefits. All other languages eventually become assembly or are executed by programs running assembly (I'm using the term assembly interchangeably with machine code because they are the same thing but there is always the pedantic who feels the need to point out that they aren't... Well, they are the same thing, the mnemonics make no difference in any meaningful way). When you know assembly, you kind of knew that secret language that all other languages are derived from. I started programming in assembly (Okay, a few meaningless dalliances with some other languages, sure, but I swear they didn't mean anything to me) and when I started learning C, I had no problems with any of it. I was later told that most programmers who begin to learn C have a very hard time understanding pointers. I came from assembly and to me, pointers were obvious. How else could they work? Nothing mysterious about them because I knew why they had to be what they were and what they translate to in assembly. Assembly will also teach you how to think about a task in very small steps and use the minimal amount of steps to accomplish a task. All very useful exercises.
I should point that while I sing the praises of assembly language, the languages that you list are about as far from assembly as you can get.
People who still use assembly language: hardware driver programmers, BIOS programmers, the cool micro-controller programmers, kernel programmers, top hackers, and the occasional fanatically crazy programmer (just me, I think). It trains the mind like nothing else for a programmer and instills discipline and a deep knowledge of what really goes on inside the silicon. Not very good, however, for landing a job or get paid.
Edited to add: I can't think of any beginner sources but I'm sure they are not hard to find. For more advanced techniques, the books of Michael Abrash are very worthwhile.
Daggerfella: Thank you, this was very insightful.
I guess for now ill stick with learning C/C++ and SQL for work purposes.
jjdanois: C/C++ and SQL are extremely useful languages to know. Also, all AAA games are written in C/C++, so you're in good standing there.
Daggerfella: Speaking of that, do you happen to know of any good books on C/C++ or SQL? Ive been looking to purchase some when amazon has the cybermonday/black friday specials.
jjdanois: For C/C++ and SQL, I just read a few books on the basics, much like I do with any other computer language I learn. Once I get the idea of roughly how the language works, then I just start writing code. It's the best way to learn. Basically, programming has nothing to do with the language you use, albeit some are nicer than others, more suitable to certain tasks or more appealing to you, personally, but, rather, programming is a skill, a way of thinking, that you then express through the language. Example, on my first C# project (a Unity game), I went to work with a small outfit in Austin for a week. When I arrived, I had had no idea how C# worked, at all. By the second day, I was completing various smaller projects and re-writing some of the code that the rest of the team had written, and by the end of the week, I had completed my medium-sized module and were instructing their programmers in better ways of doing things (they were not experienced programmers). I would use features of the language and techniques that they were not aware off even though they had spent much more time with the language than I. This is not because I'm amazing or a savant or whatever, but simply because I know programming very well, the basics of how things can be done and how they're usually done. So when I need to do something, I know how it's supposed to work and then I look for how the current language does whatever technique I need. This is superior to reading a book and being presented with a selection of limited language-specific examples. While basic knowledge of a language is certainly necessary, it can also narrow your thinking. Programming concepts are abstract and only eventually materialized into running source code. So, if you know a big selection of techniques and concepts, then you think in those terms and tend figure out how XYZ language does that particular implementation. That way, you can write code as advanced as your skill in any language. It does, however, mean that there is a lot of looking things up when you first start, but that's okay. And, of course, a deep and effortless knowledge of a language does make life a lot easier but that comes over time. You can get started and produce quality code right away, provided you think quality abstract code in your head.

Daggerfella: Is there anything in the game that you wish DIDNT make it into daggerfall?

How did you personally feel about Arena and Daggerfall at their launch? I am mostly interested on your views on the state of the games and how much had to be patched. if i recall, Arena was nearly unplayable at version 1.0, and there was plenty of bugs that led to crashes and quests/game mechanics not working in daggerfall, how as a developer did these issues make you feel after the product was released?

How do you really feel about BattleSpire? I know you wanted multiplayer in Daggerfall, how do you feel the multiplayer was in BattleSpire? We all know that it was originally planned to be an expansion to Daggerfall, and when it was an expansion were you guys going to add some of the features that didn't make it into the final build of Daggerfall? such as the multiplayer, or were those left on the cutting room floor long before battle spire was planned? and what were the planned additions to the game when Battlespire was planned as a Expansion to Daggerfall?

Lastly, I understand that the elder scrolls Adventures and Legends were planned to be a franchise, can you tell us everything you know about the canceled adventures games and planned legends titles as well as your thoughts on these spin-off titles as a whole?

jjdanois: There is nothing I wished weren't in the games (except maybe that "yuck" thing) but I do wish that more of the features that did make it in were more polished.
The problem with the launch was the usual for the game industry. "Oh, my god. We must launch this game now or we're doomed! Advertisement money has been spent and we're running out of cash!" There was not much I could do, sadly. I had way to many tasks to do any of them well. Pushing too close to the deadline to finish up the features that did make it in there and then trying to fix bugs on a work schedule that could mildly be described as "hellish," a work schedule that remained so almost constantly for a period of years. More than 3 years of crunch-time really takes it toll. Since those times, I've never really felt that I've worked hard or had any pressure from my work. Even when everyone around me is breaking under the strain, I leisurely go about my business with a smile; everything seems so easy after having gone through the gauntlet of the first two Elder Scrolls games.
I very much liked Battlespire. It came about because of timing of other projects. People wouldn't be free for the next Elder Scrolls game for months, so I took the time to make another, smaller, more focused Elder Scrolls game. This time, however, I started out with a plan and a focus on proper and realistic scheduling and kept the features within something I could actually accomplish. I wrote the design for that game and the code. I had some good graphics going and Ken Rolston to write my dialogue (which was brilliant and hilarious). The game got developed like clockwork and released on time. It was not much a success, few people ever found out about it. Personally, it was quite a success after the two main TES games. I liked it because it was an achievable one-man effort (plus graphics and writing by others), that I controlled and completed as planned. A rare thing for me back then.
We were planning on doing my of these TES-related offshoots but we never had to resources to do so and there was not much push to get them going, no champion, as it were. The main focus was the next TES game but even there the timing was muddled and confused, without a real plan. That whole debacle was really what started pushing my out and eventually led to me leaving Bethesda. There was no real respect for what I had accomplished and there was a feeling that, yeah, we'll get to the next TES game soon now, very soon, and we'll just throw some bodies at it. Not you, no, that's not important, anyone will do, really. I don't know what reality was, of course, but that was definitely the feeling I got. I was a bit miffed and, combined with a number of other issues with how the company (and, especially, the treatment of employees) were managed, I eventually had enough and moved on.
Releasing a buggy product sucks. It hurts you as a programmer and a person. I would never release it if I had a choice but I didn't, just as other programmers in other companies who release buggy products don't have any choice in the matter. Management makes those decisions for reasons that appear good to them and they probably are good most of the time. There is just an inherent conflict there, one that will always be there. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't. Yeah, a tautology but you get my drift.
Daggerfella: Thanks, I've heard in the AAA Industry its very much like that were management makes decisions that end up with a buggy or unpolished product like Mass Effect Andromeda or Assassins Creed: Unity. its honestly things like that and what Konami did to their employees after Metal Gear Solid 5 that made me not want to enter the industry.
And what of Battlespires development or conception as a Expansion before it was stand alone? were you on the project before it was an expansion or after it was decided to be a standalone title? and if you were on it before it was a standalone, could you tell us about the project as the expansion? and if not, what led it to become standalone?
jjdanois: I have had personal experience dealing with Konami a few years back and, wow, I can't fathom how they're still in business. Their ineptitude is staggering.
Battlespire was my creation, concept, and design. I wanted to do something with the TES world but something that doable by a handful of people and be completed in roughly 9 months and that was the result. It was never intended to be any more or less than what it was.

PM_ME_ODONGH_R34: hey julian,

extremely late, but thanks for the work you've done on tes; i know people have asked you a lot of questions about how the series developed over the years, and that you weren't a fan of where bethesda was going before you left, but do you have an opinion on the bethesda softworks/zenimax media of today? the people who run it, the controversy surrounding it, and how big they've managed to become since the late 90s?

in the indigo gaming interview, you talked a lot about how daggerfall was inspired by pen and paper rpgs; how well do you think daggerfall managed to pull off that feel, and have you played any modern games that remind you of what you were aiming for with daggerfall?

jjdanois: Well, I'm not privy to the inner workings of Bethesda after I left but it seems to me that with Altman taking over and Vlatko becoming a part of the operations (and after a (rather lengthy) period of adjustment and growth), Bethesda has stopped being a penny-pinching shoestring-budget outfit and has become a proper developer. They are much more likely to make successful games under those circumstances and have, indeed, proceeded to do so. I still know people who work there, of course, all of whom I like, and I'm glad to see them successful. As for any controversy, I have no idea. I never pay any attention to those kinds of things
I might have mentioned the following in the interview, not sure and I didn't watch it, but it bears repeating. I was on a panel (at GDC many years ago) on role-playing games along with Sandy Petersen (Chaosium, Microprose, id Software, Ensemble) and he said something very interesting, that "the best computer role-playing game you'll ever play is about as good as the worst pen-and-paper RPG session." The reverse of that was the definition of what Daggerfall aimed to accomplish, well, maybe not quite that extreme, but at least bring the two to an even plane. With that in mind, I think that Daggerfall moved well along in trying to achieve that goal, but still fell well short of getting there. As a stepping stone on that path, however, it showed that that goal is achievable and, frankly, I'm surprised that no one has tried moving the bar in all the years that have passed. So many things that could be done with proper knowledge of various techniques, unknown to me at that time, now so familiar: finite automata, CFG, machine learning, feature detection, and many many others. Obviously, I haven't played any games that try to accomplish what Daggerfall did. They might be out there but I don't know of any. That being said, I have played some truly excellent CRPGs, my favorite being Witcher III, which was a fantastic game.

oaa2288: 2 questions: What is your favourite game? What other than DnD inspired the elder scrolls?

jjdanois: My favorite game varies from time to time. These days I play XCOM 2 and World of Warships. A couple of years back it was the Battlefield series of games and then some Rainbow 6 Siege. I do like first-person shooters. The best game I have ever played, probably Resident Evil 4. It's just a magnificent work. But I have played many more and liked most of them.
The Elder Scrolls was inspired by all the vanilla fantasy out there, not just D&D which is more of a game system than an actual world. I read a lot of fantasy novels in those days. It's hard to point to definite sources of inspiration as it was really just a bunch of influences accumulated over years of playing fantasy RPGs and reading fantasy novels.

GrimGrimoire: A bit late to the party here, but I just want to thank you for all you've done of this amazing game, as well as thanking you for coming out and answering people's questions about Daggerfall. Daggerfall has always been an intriguing entity to me, not only as a game, but as this outrageous and massively ambitious project that dared to attempt so much. I've spend a fair deal of time playing the games, reading the companion, and looking through the files.

This is a bit of a broader question, which also in part involves Arena, so I hope that's alright.

Can you remember the inspiration and the decisions behind the look and feel of early Elder Scrolls? The games have visuals and races that are very much in the style of classic fantasy, but are there any particular books, games or artists that ended up being particularly influential? Some of the races feel very much like they were designed for particular playsyles as well (Khajiit are thieves, Dunmer are spellswords, Nords are warriors).

Also, if you have the time, could you say something about what was planned for the factions system? The Daggerfall Chronicles make reference to wars and plague breaking out between the realms, and the FACTIONS.TXT file talks about the relative power of different NPCs, but I don't think it actually does anything in the game. Was there plans for NPCs and factions being more dynamic?

jjdanois: I have answered most of these questions elsewhere in this topic but the factions part is new.
Factions were always meant to be a much bigger deal but, as with most other things in the early ES days, it ended up woefully underdeveloped. Sometimes I wonder if it would have been better to focus my ambition on just a few things and really push them, or, as I ended up doing, try for everything and get many things, none of them quite where I would have liked them to be. Factions is one of those under-realized features that I would have continued to develop much more, had I had the opportunity to do so.

Ephraim226 (edited): Julian, do you remember who were the voice/live actors for Arena and Daggerfall? And do they have roles in films yet?

EDIT: Also who the heck decided to make the player climb Direnni Tower like four times???

jjdanois: I don't remember. I was usually the one spending time in the recording studio along the way since I have some limited background with music and audio. I remember working in the studio for all the Battlespire audio (I actually do one of the voices) but can't remember anything about the Daggerfall audio. I do, however, remember that I really wanted Mako to do the voice-over. Conan the Barbarian is one of my favorite movies and he really makes the narration work. I don't remember why that didn't come to be because I remember talking about it extensively.

PaladinOfTheSouth: What is your opinion on how the Elder Scrolls Series' games have gone so far, and what do you think could be improved about them if anything?

jjdanois: I can't argue with the success of the series and the fact that it's well-made for what it is. What it is now, however, is not what I intended with the series. That doesn't make it wrong or bad, of course, just different. I would have liked to see TES become something different from every other RPG, something that strive for an experience closer to pen-and-paper RPGs rather than a CRPG, even if it is better than most out there.

Syfri: Hi Julian. This AMA seems like it is probably over. I hope it wasn't too overwhelming working your job and finding time for this, and those of us here appreciate it. Well, can't speak for everyone, but I appreciate it. Anyways Julian, an interest of mine in this series is learning what motivated and interested the creators of the games of this series. For example, Kirkbride found the writer Borges inspiring, and I heard Morrowind was even inspired in part by Dune, supposedly anyways.

Before this gets too long winded, I'd just like to know. Were there any writers or fictions that you and the creators of Daggerfall took inspiration from, and if so what were they? I would definitely like to read them.

jjdanois: As long as the thread is here and people continue to pose questions, I will find time to answer them. I'm not at all versed in how things are normally done in an AMA, having never participated in one before, but if someone has a question I tend to feel obligated to answer to the best of my ability.
I can't remember most of what I read in those days, with a few exceptions. I can definitely remember reading "The Riftwar Cycle" by Raymond Feist. I had an opportunity to spend some time with him and we ended up mostly talking about doing that series as a Daggerfall-style RPG. Just idle chatting, of course, but it was an interesting thought.
Another series that I loved, and still do, is "The Black Company" series by Glenn Cook. Those books really convey an amazing sense of epic timescale and geographic expanse. A must-read series, in my mind.

Daggerfella: incase ur interested, or anyone else here is interested theres a making of PDF that i found in a discussion on the Betas or Arena and Daggerfall here:

There's a lot of links to early promotional material for the first 3 games as well as pictures and whatnot, its very insightful.

maybe it would help jog Julian's memory a bit :D

jjdanois: That's a very interesting PDF. I'm surprised that the translation is such an issue. I spent many weeks living in Hamburg, Paris, and Madrid to make it work and I figured that everything just went according to plan. Sort of like how a Bond villain assumes exactly that with the inevitable result.

Thane5: Nice job dude....

jjdanois: Thank you kindly.

jarjar190: Michael kirkbride is the real father of the elder scrolls

jjdanois: I don't want to take anything away from Michael, he's a very creative guy and deserves credit. But do consider that he got involved with the series quite late, and was not involved with Arena, at all, or Daggerfall in any significant way. That makes it unclear how he could be the father of the series, as far as I can figure. I didn't come up with the phrase "Father of the Elder Scrolls" nor do I know who did. It's a slightly awkward title, honestly. But, as was mentioned in another answer to your post, there were lots of people involved over time, all of whom contributed to some meaningful extent. I don't see any mention of Vijay Lakshman, who was probably the biggest contributor to the early part along with Ted and myself. Ken and Bruce (Nesmith) were also very influential.