Skyrim's opening scene both sets the stage for an epic adventure, and while it's trended more toward being meme fuel in recent years, there's a story behind the moment that gives insight into game development's complexities.
Nate Purkeypile worked on Skyrim, in addition to being a world designer for Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, shared a thread on Twitter explaining how difficult getting the wagon's trajectory was — all because of a bee.
The design team physically simulated the cart instead of putting it on rails.
"Why you ask? Good question," Purkeypile said, before moving on to discuss the problems the team could address later in the thread.
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Skyrim Developer Shares Story Behind the Iconic Wagon Scene
Purkeypile said almost anything could interact with the cart and send it careening off course.
"Maybe the road was too bumpy. Maybe there was just a physics bug. Maybe somebody accidentally put a rock too close to the road. The cart had a path it wanted to follow, but that doesn't mean it was a path it COULD follow. Big difference. :)"
One such incident had no apparent cause. The cart would, seemingly at random, fly up into the air, and it was difficult to replicate.
Meanwhile, in another part of the game's code, there was a bee afflicted by a bug where the player couldn't catch it. That meant they couldn't craft certain important items, but the fix made the bee a force of nature in more ways than one.
Now, every time the bee's path brought it into contact with something else, the bee won, without fail. A bee was essentially ramming the cart into the stratosphere.
"So game development is hard," Purkeypile said. "Every time you fix one thing, you might be breaking another. This is especially true about open world games. Yet, that interplay of all the systems is what ends up making them all super interesting."