According to Bethesda, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s Radiant AI and storytelling systems combine to create a world players can wander through and engage with forever. Yet, by traditional definitions, what players engage with in Skyrim — particularly the Radiant-generated material — isn’t exactly story. It’s more like experience. The actual storytelling comes afterwards, when veteran players retire their hearths and relate unforgettable, unbelievable tales of adventure to one another.
What happens within Skyrim’s snowy borders is a step closer to the holodeck fantasy many game designers and players are familiar with – an immersive, dynamic environment that responds to the player’s actions in a coherent, even dramatic way. How has Bethesda achieved this, and what might it mean for the notion of videogame storytelling in the future?