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Bethesda explains the concept behind Skyrim 'Hearthfire' add-on

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When Skyrim's Hearthfire add-on was announced earlier this week, I teased that it would turn your Elder Scrolls V game into The Sims. The new add-on, which will release for a modest 400 Microsoft Points ($5.00), adds the option for players to build a custom house and start a family. It's a huge feature, but not something I ever would've imagined would be released. So what was the concept behind it?

Bethesda has released a new Skyrim team diary detailing the creative process of developing Hearthfire and how the idea came to fruition. Similar to Dawnguard, Hearthfire was first showcased in Bethesda Game Studios' first-ever "Game Jam", a week-long exercise where members of the team shared in-game ideas for expanding Skyrim.

As explained in the post, lead designer Bruce Nesmith approached environmental artist Robert Wisnewski to help create something "different" form what he traditionally does as a designer. Wisnewski was "inspired to expand upon the game's housing options in large part because of his enthusiasm for Skyrim's crafting systems".

"It started as a small idea to expand on the crafting element of the game because alchemy, smithing and enchanting were things I was interested in when we were playtesting the game," Wisnewski explained. Although the feature showed off at Game Jame was relatively simple — a small cabin that included a forge for players to create objects that would then become a part of the house — the team loved the idea.

Co-lead designer Kurt Kuhlmann began working on it after the Game Jam on his own time and both he and Wisnewski continue to add to it.

"We even were able to add a wine cellar!" Wisnewski said. "Anything you can think of that you'd want to have in a Skyrim house is here."

That includes the option to have kids. That's right, in Hearthfire, you can expand upon your family and adopt children which you must help raise.

"The idea of adoption came to me after the Dark Brotherhood questline was presented," Level designer Steve Cornett recalled. "After first seeing the [Innocence Lost] questline, I asked, ‘what happens to the kids? What happens to the orphanage after the quest is completed?'"

"Steve did a great job designing the adoption [system] and making kids in the game really come to life," Nesmith added. "Simple things like having them ask for money or playing a game with them. While these things don't necessarily have implications to my character's adventure, they do make the children feel so much more alive."

"The actual scope of Hearthfire blows me away. It's one thing to say you're going to add these things, and it's another to see a small team build something that's so complex and rigorous and have all those pieces, " concluded Nesmith.

Hearthfire is set to release on Xbox 360 on September 4. No PC or PS3 dates have been announced. PS3 users are still awaiting Dawnguard, which has been available on Xbox 360 and PC for quite a while now, but it looks like it may never make it to Sony's console. Yesterday, Bethesda admitted their struggles with bringing Dawnguard to PS3 is "not a problem we're positive we can solve", but assured fans they are working hard with Sony to bring the content to PS3.

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Matt Liebl You can follow Senior News Editor Matt Liebl on Twitter @Matt_GZ. He likes games, sports, musicals, and his adorable dog, Wrigley. And his wife.
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Games: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Tags: Skyrim

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