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“Rockets are easier to program than games”: what did Elon Musk and Todd Howard talk about at E3

On June 13, at the E3 Coliseum, perhaps the most “star” conference of the exhibition took place – Todd Howard from Bethesda and Tesla head Elon Musk met on the same stage. Their hour-long conversation was not very informative, but it was not without interesting moments. We chose the most important.

During the conference, presenter Jeff Kayle tried to ask Musk about the games, but without success. At the end of the conversation, the head of Tesla admitted that in the past two years, due to problems at work, he almost did not have time to play – he just worked, slept and saw the children. The last game he was seriously wasting time with was Fallout 4. Upon hearing this, Todd Howard joked right away: “It turned out to be so good that you decided not to continue playing, there’s simply no place to play.”

Nevertheless, Musk is sure that the gaming industry is an excellent forge of cadres: “Games are capable of instilling an interest in technology.” In particular, this concerns programmers, because the creation of realistic graphics on a hardware-limited hardware is a rather complicated engineering problem.

Musk himself in 1993 worked in a gaming startup that was prophetically called Rocket Science: “If it were not for the game, I would not have started programming.”

When Musk spoke about rocket science, Howard remembered the words of John Carmack: “Programming rockets is easier than games, there is only movement along several axes, but if the game crashes, you just restart it, and if the rocket …”

Howard and Musk also shared joint projects. Todd joked that he wanted to port Skyrim to the Tesla on-board computer, but began with a simpler task – with Fallout Shelter.

Musk noted that the control system of the car was not created with games in the mind, so Tesla has very little memory. Therefore, the company began to attract developers only with the coolest games – those that will appeal to everyone. Among these ports was Cuphead. But most of all, Jeff Kayle was surprised by the racing arcade in which the controls are tied to a real steering wheel and Tesla brake pedal.

Beach Buggy Racing 2

When it came to the work of Bethesda, Todd Howard once again remembered Fallout 76. He noted that the search for success in the industry is also a challenge to new genres. At the same time, the game designer reiterated that an extremely friendly community was formed around the game.

When Howard was asked about Starfield, he said that he didn’t have a new trailer with him: “You have to wait.” He explained that the game is still at the stage of creative search. The developers are still deciding what kind of fuel will be used (mentioned Helium-3) and how gravity will work: “We find out what point modern engines can reach, and think about where they can go further.”

Here, Musk intervened in the dialogue, who stated that the warp engine is quite possible for himself, but he would consume too much matter: “If we spend one Jupiter per second, all this will become a reality, but we do not have so many Jupiter 

In addition, Musk said that Tesla has a whole team that is creating photo-realistic models — not for games, but for autopilot training. According to him, the main problem in creating a self-driving car is the instability of the environment.


If there were markings on every road in the world, creating an autopilot would be a trivial task. Child. But there are many places in the world where there is no markup. And how can we be sure that if the markup ends right before the precipice, the car will not fly out of it?

Elon Musk Tesla head

Todd Howard said that the Musk team is solving the game design task, the machine should not look for the markup, but the space for movement, but at the same time understand the context: you can’t just drop in the neighbor’s yard.

According to Musk, his team is now obsessed with borders – they come in all shapes and sizes, so the autopilot sometimes simply refuses to drive through a small obstacle.

When Kaylie asked his guests what the games would be in five years, Musk did not have an accurate prediction. But he often thinks that games will one day become indistinguishable from reality, and that means there will be people who will not know that they are in the game. He joked that maybe he already exists in virtual reality.

Todd turned out to be more pragmatic: “People are now mostly responding to graphics, but it seems to me that in the next generation, artificial intelligence and cloud technologies will become more important – the games will respond to your actions more diversely and realistically.

At the same time, Musk confirmed that his satellite Internet could eventually form the basis of cloud games, as he plans to reduce the data transmission delay to 10 milliseconds or less.

Howard, in turn, noted that he wanted the games to become as democratic as music – so that people would not even think about where and how to run them, have access to them always and everywhere.

At the end of the conference, Jeff Kaylee allowed to ask questions from the audience, but the guests mostly asked for autographs, or selfies with Musk.

Towards the end, one of the spectators asked Howard and Musk to name their greatest failures. In response, Todd blurted out: “I usually ask such a question at interviews, but I do not have a good answer to it.”

Musk also caused loud laughter in the audience: “We blew up three rockets, it was pretty bad.”

At the same time, both top managers noted that their companies were sometimes on the verge – in the event of a single failure, they would have to be closed. Musk thanked investors for help, and Todd – players who warmly welcomed Morrowind and other studio games.

Todd Howard apologized for the problems of Fallout 76 from the scene at E3


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