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You can play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim until the universe ends

Usually, when people bandy about the word “forever,” it is attached to a healthy dose of rhetoric. Weddings are full of love that will go on forever. People will be listening to The Beatles forever. It is rhetoric steeped in absolutes that can’t possibly be reached. Even the universe will end one day. But if Todd Howard, the director of Skyrim for Bethesda Game Studios is correct, as the last light from the final star in existence is extinguished, there may still be people hunting down bandits and finding items in the game.

Ok, so maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but rhetoric aside, the intention is genuine. In an interview with Wired, Howard claimed that the game will never run out of quests for you to do.

Thanks to what the developers are calling the “Radiant Story System,” the game will continue to generate random quests for you to embark on, long after you have completed the primary story and all of the pre-arranged side quests. So while theoretically the game can go on forever, it is probably more accurate to say that Skyrim will feature self-generating mission content with no fixed end. That isn’t quite as sexy as saying you can play it forever, but the idea is the same.

Many of the quests will involve simply completing generic objectives. You may run into a town and have a citizen complain about the bandits attacking travelers, which will then send you out after them. The game will also utilize its own world inventory, so other quests may have you searching for a natural element like a particular flower.

Skyrim will also generate new missions through the game’s various factions and guilds. If you are an assassin, you will be given missions to kill various random characters—usually minor NPCs—scattered throughout the world. If you are a thief, you may be tasked with stealing particular items. The game will determine your progress and choices, then create missions to suit you.

Howard also claimed that many of the side quests and additional missions will be integral to learning the entire history of the world of Skyrim, and in the interview he cited the developer’s previous game Fallout 3.

“With Fallout, it’s not as beautiful a world to everybody,” Howard told Wired. “We had to find ways to make exploration of [a destroyed wasteland] interesting.”

In the post-apocalyptic world of Washington D.C. depicted in Fallout 3, the story basics were all laid out as part of the plot, but to really understand the world that you inhabited you needed to go out of the way to explore. There were several locations in the main game (not counting the DLCs) that featured massive areas with enemies and story elements that you may not have even known about if you didn’t spend time randomly exploring. Partaking on some of the additional quests in Skyrim may send you to areas that you didn’t know even existed.

“The world is probably the one thing that sets [Skyrim] apart from other games,” he said. “It feels really real for what it is … It’s just fun to explore.”

The Elder Srolls V: Skyrim hits stores for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on Friday, November 11.