Transforming into a werewolf in Skyrim is awesome. You turn into a huge, incredibly powerful beast. You run at incredible speed on all fours. You are strong enough to stagger the giants with a single swipe of your claw. Your outcry is so terrible that even the demons will turn and run away. The ability to become a werewolf is one of Skyrim’s most memorable features.
But it almost wasn’t. The werewolf of Skyrim was originally going to be a normal human body with the head of a dog. That’s all.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Skyrim, Jonah Lobb, one of Skyrim’s character artists, spoke to nine other former Bethesda developers who worked on Skyrim. In a one hour video called “You’Re finally wake up, ” they discuss a range of topics regarding the development of the famous RPG, including a section devoted to the less-than-impressive original concept for Werewolf, which was meant to use not just a regular character model, but Had to pop a dog’s head on it.
“It was always totally hilarious, that it was going to be people with dog heads and completely normal bodies,” says world artist Nate Purkipile in the video. “And everyone was going to be afraid of him. Meanwhile you have some narcissistic cat boy in town and everyone’s okay with him.”
“It was terrifying,” says Skyrim character artist Dennis Mejillone, who wanted to make werewolf a “big time power fantasy” for players. His ideas faced considerable resistance from other developers on the Skyrim team. “The fear was, it would break a lot of dirt,” he says. “And it broke some stuff.”
The way the werewolf runs, take it all the way at high speed. It progressed so quickly that it left behind the ability to load in game worlds and scenes, which was a major problem. Mejilons says that one animator, Jeremy Bryant, came up with a neat trick of using variations in the player camera’s zoom to create this. Look Like the werewolf is running really fast to avoid breaking the game.
While not everyone on the team was happy with finding ways to make the werewolf work in Skyrim, Mejillone says he had an important champion in his corner: Todd Howard.
“I remember the first time we showed it to Todd as a proof of concept, and he was like, ‘That’s great,'” Mejilones says. “And people were like, ‘But-‘ and he was like, ‘No, it’s going in.'” So long, dog head. Hello werewolf.
You can watch the werewolf chapter of “You’re Finally Awake” right here on Youtube.