For years, rumors and speculation have swirled around the influential figure of Todd Howard, director at Bethesda Game Studios. Now, a former Bethesda veteran has shed some light on the inner workings of the studio and Howard’s impact on decision-making.
A Time of Change
Bruce Nesmith, who worked on notable Bethesda titles such as Daggerfall, Skyrim, and Starfield, shared his thoughts in an interview with YouTube channel MinnMax. According to Nesmith, as the success of Bethesda-produced games grew, so did the size of the team, which eventually led to some discomfort.
Nesmith explained, “There were a lot of changes going on, and the structure of the company also was such that…you didn’t get to interact with Todd as much anymore.” He recognized that running multiple studios and overseeing numerous projects made it challenging for Howard to maintain frequent communication.
Nesmith candidly revealed that despite attempts to distribute decision-making authority, Howard ultimately had the final say on most creative decisions. He stated, “All decisions run through Todd. He would hate, hate, hate me for saying that because he doesn’t believe it’s true. But unfortunately, it is true.”
To propose something that deviated from the typical Bethesda style, developers had to bring their ideas directly “in front of him.” Nesmith acknowledged that this organizational structure wasn’t Howard’s preference, as he “has tried really, really hard to not be the Last Say Guy…it’s not something he wants intellectually.”
So, why did Howard hold such influence? According to Nesmith, it came down to his deep understanding of the everyday player. Nesmith commended Howard’s ability to empathize with players and view games from their perspective. He admitted, “He was always able to see it from a Joe Average player’s perspective.”
Howard’s talent for connecting with the player base and crafting experiences that resonated with them naturally placed him in the position of the “Last Say Guy.” Nesmith highlighted that Howard’s opinions held significant value within the studio due to this unique ability.
While this insight into the decision-making process at Bethesda might come as a surprise to some, the recent success of Starfield suggests that the studio’s approach has had positive outcomes. Nesmith indirectly affirmed this, stating, “Whatever the studio was doing, it seems to have worked if Starfield’s recent success is any indication.”
As fans eagerly anticipate the release of Starfield and future Bethesda projects, it becomes clear that Todd Howard’s influence has played a pivotal role in shaping the studio’s direction. While the decision-making process might have its quirks, there is no denying the impact Howard has had on the gaming industry and the experiences players have come to love.