The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind used a special trick from Microsoft to keep from running out of memory: quietly restarting your Xbox.
Bethesda game director Todd Howard revealed the secret technique from deep in his studio's history in an interview on the Xbox Podcast (opens in new tab). He used it as an example of the long-standing relationship between the two companies, which he cited as the main reason it made sense for Microsoft to buy Bethesda's parent company ZeniMax.
"There's a lot of conjecture of how these things come about, and at the end of the day, it's relationships," Howard said. "The relationship we've had, that's ultimately what it's about, it's not one piece of technology or one strategy. And those relationships are from the original Xbox - 'how are we gonna get [Morrowind] to even work?'
"And working with them, there have been great tricks that they've taught us. I think my favorite one on Morrowind is, if you're running low on memory you can reboot the original Xbox and the user can't tell. You can throw a screen up. When Morrowind loads, sometimes you get a very long load, that's us rebooting the Xbox."
"It's called memory management," Xbox boss Phil Spencer interjected, laughing.
Howard said that particular approach was "like a Hail Mary", but every game has a story like it. You know, like that time Bethesda threw a "double memory party" to celebrate Microsoft increasing the RAM on Xbox 360, which would mean big returns for The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion. Howard has still "never seen a programmer happier in my life."
The relationship goes two ways - Spencer said he knows what Bethesda's "unannounced" projects are and he's very excited.