Bethesda on Skyrim VR: ‘Finding that perfect balance between player comfort and immersion was one of the biggest challenges’

One of 2017’s biggest virtual reality (VR) titles is set to launch tomorrow, 17th November 2017, and those keen to jump into the world of Skyrim will be keen to find out every last possible detail on how the adventure plays in a brand new medium. VRFocus recently put some questions to Bethesda Game Studios to discuss the unique mechanics of The Elder Scolls V: Skyrim VR, the development ethos behind it and what the future holds post-release.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR screenshotSpeaking directly to VRFocus, Andrew Scharf, lead producer at Bethesda Game Studios, was obviously very enthusiastic about the project and the work the development team had put into it, suggesting that recreating the high fantasy experience for VR was a ‘no brainer’. Furthermore, we get into the finer details of mod support for The Elder Scolls V: Skyrim VR, and what may be possible in the months following launch.

You can read the full Q&A with Bethesda Game Studios below, and be sure to check back at VRFocus for a review of The Elder Scolls V: Skyrim VR later today.


VRFocus: DOOM VFR is a brand new title built for VR within the world of DOOM (2016). Why did you choose to adapt The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim opposed to developing a new experience?

Andrew Scharf [AS]: First and foremost, we wanted to experience Skyrim in VR and see it for ourselves. We thought that the feeling of being inside that world, facing down enormous Dragons and exploring towering mountains, would be an incredible experience. Once we put the headset on and looked around Skyrim‘s landscape at scale, it was a no brainer. We had to do it.

VR is something we’ve wanted to explore for a long time. It felt like the next logical step where we have this technology that can allow players to feel completely immersed in our worlds, and Skyrim felt like the perfect fit for it. We wanted to deliver something that VR hasn’t seen yet – the first truly open world full game experience in virtual reality.

VRFocus: What changes have had to be made to the core The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim experience in order to accommodate VR?

AS: Our goal was to provide the core experience of Skyrim, the entire game, without it feeling like a limited experience, and I feel we more than accomplished that. We’ve made significant changes and additions to things like locomotion, combat, world interaction, and the UI/HUD to make the experience more immersive in VR, but this is Skyrim. In VR. With all of the official add­ons. When you put on the headset the scale feels real and the full game is there.

VRFocus: What changes have been made to the HUD and inventory system?

AS: It’s definitely a challenge figuring out the best way to display important information in VR.

In order to ensure an optimal VR experience, the PS Move Controllers need to be in view of the camera which means players need to always be facing in that direction. Early on, we found that this was a bit of a challenge ­ players would put on the headset and then turn all the way around and start going in a random direction. One solution to help keep players facing the right way was to anchor important UI elements so if you can see the compass in front of you, you’re facing in the right direction.

The inventory system was a fun opportunity to allow you to actually inspect an item and have full control of the as if it were in the palm of your hand, instead of pressing the left stick of a gamepad to rotate along an axis.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim screenshotVRFocus: How does the combat system work with motion controllers? Can the player inflict additional damage for aiming at enemy weakpoints or swinging faster?

AS: We spent a lot of time on allowing the player to do with their hands via the PS Move controllers what they would traditionally do via button presses on a gamepad with preset animations. We worked on making very natural­feeling, yet obvious, combat actions such as nocking, aiming, and firing the longbow, firing off spells with both hands, and holding up the shield to put you in a block stance. As with the main game, there are normal attacks and power attacks the latter being executed by pressing the trigger on the PlayStation Move Controller while swinging.

You also feel more powerful in combat. Part of the fun of making combat feel natural in VR is now you have some tricks up your sleeve that you didn’t have before. You can fire the bow and arrow as fast and you’re able to nock and release, you can hold up a shield with your left hand while swinging a weapon with your right, and my favorite is being able to attack two targets at the same time with weapons or spells equipped in each hand.

VRFocus: Can the player parry with weapons as well as a shield? For example, deflecting attacks with a sword?

AS: The player can block with either a weapon or a shield as they could in the original game, but we did not add a parry system.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR screenshotVRFocus: How long has The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR been in development?

AS: A little over a year, but this has been something that has been on our minds for a long time – finding a way to bring an even more immersive Skyrim experience to players.

VRFocus: How big was the team working on the conversion?

AS: Without getting into specifics, the team was a combination of developers working together from both Bethesda Game Studios and Escalation Studios.

VRFocus: What was the biggest challenge you faced in adapting The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to VR?

AS: Finding that perfect balance between player comfort and immersion was one of the biggest challenges, but we ultimately solved that by simply allowing the player to have a suite of options and settings they can adjust themselves. VR is a very personal experience, so it’s important to allow players that flexibility. If you want to relax on the couch, you can play the game using the DualShock controller. We offer the teleportation movement type for those who may be susceptible to motion sickness, and direct movement for those who prefer smooth locomotion. Optional FOV Filters are also in place to help alleviate any discomfort while turning or moving fast.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR screenshotVRFocus: Bethesda has previously stated that there will be no mod support for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR. Why have you made the decision to not include any support at all over a curated system that ensures player comfort?

AS: In developing Skyrim VR, we focused on making sure that the core game performs and plays exceptionally well on the platform and that we have provided the options and tools necessary for players to have a comfortable and fun time in virtual reality. Launching and supporting that core experience remains our priority, as far as what features we will or won’t add in the future remains to be seen.