Todd Howard is an American video game designer, director, and producer. He currently serves as director and executive producer at Bethesda Game Studios, where he has led the development of the Fallout and The Elder Scrolls series.
GamePro magazine named Howard one of the "Top 20 Most Influential People in Gaming" over the last 20 years. He was named one of IGN's "Top Game Creators of All Time".
Howard was born in 1971 in Lower Macungie Township, Pennsylvania . He developed an interest in computers, particularly video games, at a very young age. He considers Wizardry and Ultima III: Exodus to be inspirations for his future games. He is a 1989 graduate of Emmaus High School in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. In 1993, he graduated from The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he double majored in engineering and finance despite his desire to create video games, saying "it seemed like the easiest path to get through college".
After playing Wayne Gretzky Hockey, Howard requested a job from a Bethesda Softworks office he encountered each day on his commute to and from school, but he was rejected and told that he needed to finish school as a prerequisite. After completing school, he went back to Bethesda for a job but was rejected again.
Howard joined Bethesda Softworks in 1994. His first game development credit for Bethesda Softworks was as producer and designer of The Terminator: Future Shock and Skynet, followed by design on The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, which was released in 1996. He was the project leader and designer of The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard released in 1998. Howard was the project leader and designer of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and for the expansions that followed. He led the creation of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and all of its downloadable content. After this, he was the game director and executive producer of Fallout 3. He said Bethesda's philosophy for The Elder Scrolls games was to allow people to "live another life, in another world".
He returned to The Elder Scrolls series to lead development of the fifth installment The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which was released in November 2011. Howard directed Fallout 4, which was announced with the release of its first official trailer on June 3, 2015. He directed Fallout Shelter, Bethesda Game Studios' first mobile game, which was announced and released at the E3 Showcase.
Howard is a frequent speaker at industry events, and in magazine interviews. His games have been featured in Newsweek, CNN, USA Today, and The Today Show.
He spoke to developers at the 2009 D.I.C.E. Summit, sharing his three rules of game development:
- Great games are played, not made. "You can have the greatest design document ever made, and you're going to change 90 percent of it as soon as you play the game."
- Keep it simple. "Doing something really well takes time, more time than you think it will. Simple systems acting together create complexity that players can appreciate."
- Define the experience. "Don't define your game by a list of bullet points... define it by the experience you want people to have."
Howard returned as a keynote speaker at D.I.C.E. Summit in 2012. He said developers should ignore demographics and installed base, and follow their passions, saying that "if install base really mattered, we'd all make board games, because there are a lot of tables".
Awards and recognition
Howard was named "Best Game Director" by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences in 2012. In 2014, he received the Lara of Honor, Germany's lifetime achievement award for gaming. Howard is one of a few developers to have created four consecutive Game of the Year award winners, with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4.