The latest versions of Mass Effect and Deus Ex look hugely promising but the RPG I'm looking forward to most this year is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Released this November – over five, gulp, years after Oblivion wowed Xbox 360 owners – the next game in the classic RPG series will follow the template set by previous titles. So think exploration, questing, combat and gawping at wonder vistas. The latter is key to me. As good as the new Fallout games were, I never got the same sense of place or explorative wonder as I got in Oblivion. Trudging over the next bit of apocalyptic wasteland just wasn't as exciting as climbing a mountain in Cyrodiil. Away from the graphics, let's just hope the voice acting is even half-decent this time. After all, the Mass Effect generation would expect nothing less. Oh, and we can do without those godawful Oblivion gates too. Yes, the story needs to be pushed along, but let's hope it is done in a less jarring way than before. The 'world leveling with you' process needs to be fixed too. Still, I've got very high hopes for Skyrim and developer Bethesda are certainly talking a good game. Bethesda's Todd Howard has been speaking to Game Informer about the tech behind Skyrim. Tech? Yes, this is a sign of how excited I am about this game. Howard first talks about the graphics and specifically the draw distance, a key component of those previously mentioned vistas. "The big things for us were to draw a lot of stuff in the distance so we have a really sophisticated level of detail, more so than what we've had in the past for how things stream in and how detail gets added to them as they get closer to the camera." The lighting too is key for Howard: "Because our worlds are so big all of the lighting has to be dynamic, that's something we had a little bit of in the past with shadowing, but not on everything. Now we have it on everything. It just makes the whole thing a lot more believable when you're there." Howard also talks about foliage and weather, both of which help that sense of immersion that the series is famed for. Moving away from the graphical environment Howard then touches on the AI side. Players of Oblivion will remember that the NPC (non-player characters) in the game had fairly basic routines. Apparently not any more, as the article suggests. "The improved Radiant AI technology is also more aware of how a citizen should react to your actions. As you perform tasks for them or terrorize them by ransacking their home, the NPCs develop feelings about you. If you're good friends with a particular NPC and barge into his house during the middle of the night, he may offer you lodging rather than demand you leave the premises." Character animations were one thing that Oblivion will not be remembered for. Awkward is a polite way of describing other characters moved or how your character moved when in third person. Again, this is now been updated, and everything should be more fluid - it couldn't be worse, of course. There will also be a benefit on character interaction as the article explains. "The increased animation fidelity and diversity has enabled Bethesda to ditch the awkward dialogue camera perspective that paused the game and presented you with an extreme closeup of the person with whom you were speaking. Now camera stays in the same perspective used during combat and exploration, and players are free to look around while engaging in conversation. Rather than drop their activities to give you their undivided attention, the NPCs continue to go about their business while in discussion. For instance, a barkeep may continue to clean cups while talking, and even move from behind the counter to a seat. A mill worker chopping wood may engage in conversation without turning away from his duties, only occasionally glancing toward you during the exchange." And then are the the dragons... "Bethesda has worked meticulously to make sure the beasts look powerful and menacing when banking, flapping their wings, gaining altitude before making another strafing run, and breathing fire on their hapless victims. None of the dragons' actions are scripted, and Behavior helps make the movements look non-mechanical, even when the dragons are speaking/shouting." The last element is the questing. Again it looks like Bethesda have made things more fluid and natural. Todd Howard explains the impact on assassination quests. "Traditionally in an assassination quest, we would pick someone of interest and have you assassinate them. Now there is a template for an assassination mission and the game can conditionalize all the roles – where it happens, under what conditions does it take place, who wants someone assassinated, and who they want assassinated. All this can be generated based on where the character is, who he's met. They can conditionalize that someone who you've done a quest for before wants someone assassinated, and the target could be someone with whom you've spent a lot of time before." Elsewhere there are random wilderness quests and just generally more flexibility on how you receive and complete your challenges. The whole article is worth a read but what do you think so far? Excited by Skyrim? For The fans of the Elder Scrolls series.. this game is going to be fuckin epic.