Skyrim’s famous opening sequence was almost ruined by a single, unstoppable bee

(Image credit: Bethesda)

The famous Skyrim intro - once the bane of anyone planning to replay Bethesda's epic RPG - was, at one point in development, held hostage by a single super-powered bee.

Former Bethesda developer Nate Purkeypile, who worked on the World Art team for Skyrim and as an artist on Starfield, shared the development horror story in a humorous Twitter thread that handily illustrates the perils of open-world game development. In particular, the thread focused on how fixing one thing can very easily break something else.

The story goes like this: the cart you ride on in the intro to Skyrim is a physically simulated object in the world, and while the developers were working on the game, any number of things could cause it to go careening off of its intended track. It was pretty important that this part of the game run smoothly, since literally every player will see it at least once.

Usually the developers could quickly work out what game object got in the way, but then "one time, riding that cart yet again, the cart starts to shake violently and all of a sudden WHOOSH! The cart goes up into the sky like a rocket ship," Purkeypile writes. "Like WAY up there." Unfortunately, the developers couldn't even replicate the instance reliably - "it wasn't happening every time. Nobody knew what was going on."

The issue, it eventually became clear, was bees. At one point in development, bees were required for alchemy recipes, but couldn't be interacted with by the player. To fix that, an unknown developer enabled collision, but doing so meant the insects could go slamming into objects. If a bee ended up in the vicinity of the cart during the intro sequence, "that bee was an immovable force of nature [...] the cart wanted to move down the road. The bee did not want to move. So up the cart goes!"

Presumably, Bethesda eventually found a way to ensure a smooth trip for Ulfric Stormcloak and his armed guard. Purkeypile didn't reveal whether that involved tweaking the bees' power level or simply removing them from the area around Helgen altogether, but eventually, the iconic opening sequence as we know it today took shape.

Some game development bug stories are almost beyond bee-lief, and so are the stories of the players themselves - like the Skyrim fan who roleplayed a guard all the way to High Hrothgar.

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Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.