Very interesting and detailed interview with Todd Howard and Emil Pagliarulo at GamesRadar/PCGamer, it’s filled with spoilers though:
PCG: Do you have a rule for a bare-minimum number of ways to solve a quest?
Todd: No, we just do whatever comes naturally. We made a list initially showing the paths, so that we weren’t doing an overabundance of stealth paths versus other skills so that there was a good matrix, but if something fit in one we did it, and if it didn’t fit…
Emil: But as the game grew, just like we ended up making the game bigger, putting more stuff in, I think the quests themselves started to expand. We realized during playthroughs, you know what, there’s no talking path through this quest, or there’s no stealth path, so we went back and added that in. There are fewer quests and fewer NPCs, but probably just as much dialogue as Oblivion, just in all the variations.
Todd: It’s like when you were doing the bomb quest, and you were asking “Can I do this this way?” And so through testing we asked the same things, like “What if I kill Lucas Sims?” And ok, you have to go to the son. That kind of stuff.
Emil: We wanted to cover as many of those bases as we could.
PCG: So you tried to make it so that even if you take a few people out of the equation, the quest is still solvable?
Todd: As much as possible. It’s not always the case. You might kill someone and it will tell you “You can’t finish this quest anymore, this person has died.” Pretty much 99.9 percent of people in the game can be killed.
Emil: Yeah, even the quest-givers. They give you a quest, you blow their head off, that’s your decision. It’s simply more fun for the player where you might close off branches of the quest, but other branches are still open.
Todd: And the other answer to that question is that we don’t want players to have the expectation that they’ll be able to do every quest any style. Pretty much, Super-Duper Mart, there’s no way to talk your way through that. We get the question a lot, “Is there a non-violent path through the whole game?” No. I mean, you might be able to, I guess, but it’s not a goal.
Emil: I guess technically, because there’s a Stealth Boy, and because there’s a Protectron [security robot] in the back room of that Super-Duper Mart, if you could sneak in there and hack that computer, you could activate that Protectron, he’ll go and he’ll kick the s*** out of all of those raiders.
Todd: There are probably too many for him to kill every single one of them.
Emil: But enough to whittle them down so that science-boy could definitely get through there.
Another must read piece by Dan Stapleton.