Bethesda's Pete Hines Talks Cross-Play and Cross-Progression; Thinks Full Cross-Play Might Eventually Come

 Bethesda's Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communication Pete Hines elaborates further on the theme of cross-play and cross-progression.

Bethesda has a very proactive stance towards cross-play between platforms, and at Gamescom, DualShockers had a chat with Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communication Pete Hines.

We asked Hines to elaborate further on how Bethesda is approaching the discussion with first parties, and he was keen on clarifying that he isn’t singling any of them out.

“First thing I want to make very clear — and I tried to make it very clear at QuakeCon — is, I’m not singling anybody out. I’m not singling out any platform or talking about anybody in particular, because I don’t think that’s right or fair to do.”

He explained that there have been many cases in which the publisher had to explain to a first party that change was needed in order to bring a game to their console, and those conversations are continuing.

We talk to all of the platform folks on a regular basis. Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Valve, about the games that we’re doing, what they need, what we’re trying to do. And this game [The Elder Scrolls: Legends] or any of our games are no different in that respect, which is, we talk to all of them about what our needs are, what we’re thinking, what we’re trying to do, how they work… We try to show them very early on what those games are, what they’re like, but at the end of the day those are gonna be conversations that we have with them to figure out whether or not we’re going to be able to do the things that we need on anybody’s platform. Because again, it’s not fair to bring it to just one, because there are any number of things that have come up with any number of other platform folks that we’ve said, Hey, you have to change the way that you do this, or the way that you handle this, if we’re going to be able to bring the game.

And keep in mind, we were working on Fallout Shelter for Nintendo Switch when there was no such thing as a free to play game on the Switch. So that’s a conversation that we had to have about how is this going to work? Where is this going to go? Honestly, it’s no different than that.

Hines went on to further clarify the statements he made at QuakeCon.

We continue to have those conversations. When I was asked that question at QuakeCon I was simply trying to reinforce the point that the game is already out there and works like this, and a version that looks different than this on one or more platforms is not gonna fly. Because it is already a game where cross-platform progression is a major feature. You take your card collection with you. If you were to play some hypothetical battle royale game, and you were to jump in [on another platform]… If you don’t have your skins or outfit or whatever, you can still play the game. It’s functionally exactly the same even if you don’t look the same.

In a card game, if you had to start over again, you’re very likely to not even try, because: “where are all of my cards? Where are all the decks that I built? Where are all the things that allow me to play the game that I’m supposed to be playing?” That’s a very different experience, that is different than the conversations that other folks are having.

Even in the case of Fallout 76, we said: “look, we’re not doing cross-play, for any number of reasons.” We have other things that we wanna focus on and other things we wanna make sure that we do and get right, so cross-play isn’t going to be featured. But even if it was, it’s a role-playing game, you’re going to have to have your character. It’s not just about cross-platform play. It’s about cross-platform progression. If your characters don’t have all of their stats and stuff, then they’re useless. You have to start over again, and that’s not ok either.

So, it is both of those things. It is a conversation that we’re gonna continue to have, and we’ll see where it goes. “

We also asked Hines if he personally feels that full cross-play between all platform is ever going to happen, and he thinks that it will. Possibly, the jump to the next generation might be a good chance for first parties to make it happen.

“I think so eventually. When we start talking about next-generation consoles and so forth, I think that would be one place where you would likely start to see a difference. Maybe if there are things now that are preventing anybody from doing it, maybe they’ll be able to adjust those things when they’re putting together the next platform.

All of the other platforms seem to be moving that way, and we’re now talking about an era when you see things that you didn’t before: There are games like PUBG and Fortnite, and the experience is on consoles, and on PC, and on your phone, and it’s essentially the exact same game. You’re starting to run into this thing where it’s not just about this console and that console. It’s about these two, and that one, and that PC, and oh, by the way, all of these phones and tablets… and then what happens when you throw in streaming? And then all of a sudden, how are you going to continue to throw up barriers? Particularly as we move to a more and more digital age. “

He brought up conversations with Director and Executive Producer Todd Howard, who would like to see every gaming platform being able to play the games he creates.

“In that way, one of the things I’ve heard Todd talk about over the years is that he wishes that video games were more like DVDs. He’s like “look, when somebody makes a movie… When somebody makes Pirates of the Caribbean, they make a DVD and it just works in DVD players, by any manufacturer. If that thing plays DVDs, it’ll play this. I really wish that we could get to that point where I could make a video game and everybody’s platform that was meant to play video games would just play my thing.”

The truth of the matter is that there’s an extraordinary amount of time that goes into getting this thing to work on this box, and then getting it to work on that box, and then getting it to work on the ten million different versions that run on a PC… So maybe we’ll start to get to a point where it’s a little bit more open and unified, with everybody sort of in the same pool. “

Hines explained that Bethesda is going to take an all-or-none approach to cross-play because they want all users to be able to take advantage of the features of the games they create.

“When it comes to things like cross-play our view on it for a title is going to be all or none. Either we’re going to do it because everybody can take advantage of it, or we’re not gonna do it because only some people can take advantage of it. We tend to not want to do features in our games where only some people, some percentage of our audience, is able to take advantage of it. We want to create and do things that everybody is able to use. “

He then also stressed the fact that it isn’t just a matter of cross-play, but cross-progression is just as important, This includes Bethesda’s upcoming RPG The Elder Scrolls: Blades.

“Todd has said on stage that we want to bring this to as many platforms as possible, including VR. But they need to support cross-play and cross-platform progression. If you log in on your phone, and you’re on a Bethesda account, and then you go to play on your console, and suddenly none of the progress, or inventory, or stuff that you’ve done is there, then that’s not the experience that was intended. You have to start all over again, and that’s not good. That’s why the progression is every bit as important to us as the play. “

Hines concluded by confirming that the same things he has said for The Elder Scrolls: Legends also applies to The Elder Scrolls: Blades.

If you’re interested in The Elder Scrolls: Legends, it’s currently available for iOS, Android, PC, and Mac, while console versions have been announced at E3.

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Giuseppe Nelva

Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.

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