If Todd Howard left Bethesda, it would "leave a big hole," says former Skyrim designer: "Todd had an attribute that none of the rest of us did"

Todd Howard Starfield explainer
(Image credit: Bethesda)

If Todd Howard up and left Bethesda, it would "leave a big hole," says Skyrim's lead designer, insisting that the Starfield director has "an attribute that none of the rest of us did."

In an interview with MinnMax, Bruce Nesmith talked about his time at Bethesda and working on games like Skyrim and Starfield.  Asked about Todd Howard's role at the studio and what would happen if he suddenly left, Nesmith says "that would leave a big hole, that would leave a vacuum that no one person would probably be able to fill."

"We've always maintained, those of us who work there, that Todd had an attribute that none of the rest of us did," Nesmith continues. "He was always able to put himself into the seat of your everyday player, to a far better extent than the rest of the design team or the rest of the development team." 

Praising Howard's ability to keep in touch with players, Nesmith adds: "When you work on a big team like that, or probably anywhere in game development, and particularly if you have a string of successes, it's really easy to get ivory tower syndrome. It's really easy to see the world through a very elitist viewpoint, everything's got high philosophy design concerns, and you lose touch." 

According to the retired lead designer, Bethesda's success didn't seem to affect Howard in this way: "For all of that, that should have affected Todd as well. It didn't. He was always able to see it from Joe Average Player's perspective, and that's an invaluable insight. When he leveraged that, as much as it might frustrate us, in the end we had to acknowledge it." 

Elsewhere in the interview, Nesmith revealed that he's also been playing fellow RPG Baludr's Gate 3 lately: "I love Baldur's Gate. I'm a huge Dungeons and Dragons fan." This doesn't come as much of a surprise considering Nesmith's previous work on the IP at TSR prior to working on The Elder Scrolls

When asked what he enjoys about Larian Studio's masterwork, Nesmith points out that the dev "poked into all the darkest corners. They've come out and said quite bluntly, 'we don't care if only 1% of the players will ever see this, those 1% that do are going to be happy and they will tell the other 99% who will then be happy that the option existed.'" 

This granularity gives Baldur's Gate 3 a more "meaningful" quality than Bethesda's RPGs, which focus more on front-facing scope, Nesmith says. Comparing this to his own work, the designer adds: "At Bethesda, the games we were making were so big we had to take the approach of, 'well, everybody's got to be able to do this at some point, we can't lock off content that way.'"  

Want to know what the Starfield developer is cooking up now that the space RPG is out? Take a look at our upcoming Bethesda games list. 

Hope Bellingham
News Writer

After studying Film Studies and Creative Writing at university, I was lucky enough to land a job as an intern at Player Two PR where I helped to release a number of indie titles. I then got even luckier when I became a Trainee News Writer at GamesRadar+ before being promoted to a fully-fledged News Writer after a year and a half of training.  My expertise lies in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, cozy indies, and The Last of Us, but especially in the Kingdom Hearts series. I'm also known to write about the odd Korean drama for the Entertainment team every now and then.