The introductory scene of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was almost ruined due to an unforeseen bug, one of the developers has revealed.
“Hey, you. You’re finally awake.” The famous opening line of the smash-hit role-playing game Skyrim may have changed in perception over the years, going from a chilling scene-setting moment to the most popular gaming meme since I took an arrow to the knee, but it’s undoubtedly won iconic status in the hearts of fans. And yet, that moment nearly never happened at all according to one of the developers working on the project. The reason? A bee.
So, I have a story about the Skyrim Intro and how hard game development is.— Nate Purkeypile (@NPurkeypile) August 17, 2021
That intro is famous now, but back then, it was just that one thing that we had to keep working and working on forever. I lost track of how many times I've seen that cart ride. Easily hundreds. (thread) pic.twitter.com/D0E0oZ5uX8
On Twitter, Nate PurkeyPile revealed that he had worked on this specific segment of the game to determine why it kept going wrong every time it was played. Each attempt to get it right would see the cart trundle along, until it suddenly flew off the track as if struck by some magical force.
The bizarre reaction puzzled the whole team until the secret was finally discovered; it wasn’t just any old bug, but a literal insect within the game that was causing the problem.
Meaning, that bee was an immovable force of nature if it ever happened to cross the path of the cart. The cart wanted to move down the road. The bee did not want to move. So up the cart goes!— Nate Purkeypile (@NPurkeypile) August 17, 2021
Purkeypile (who is now the solo indie dev at Just Purkey Games) reveals that the in-game bee had been patched so players were able to pick it up to make potions, but unwittingly this change had introduced completely different collision physics to the little creature, meaning that it always got the better of any other object it collided with – even a horse-drawn cart. In the inimitable words of Nicolas Cage: “Oh no, not the bees! Arghhh!“
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The reason Purkeypile is drawing attention to this amusing anecdote is to make a wider point about games development; whenever you fix one thing, you always risk breaking another. It’s that “interplay of systems” which makes the career by turns frustrating and fascinating, and also – if this example is anything to go by – pretty funny as well.