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Skyrim Devs Reveal The Explosive Origin Of The Headless Horseman

As the old saying goes, you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs. In the case of "Skyrim," you can't make a ghost without blowing up some heads.

"The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim" is commonly thought of as one of the best video games of all time, and for good reason. Its expansive map is filled to the brim with quests that are rich with lore and tied to some of the most interesting NPCs in gaming. But "Skyrim" wasn't a perfect game right out of the gate. As is the case with pretty much every classic game, a lot of things had to go hilariously wrong for the final product to take its current shape. For instance, the devs had to remove a tiny bee from the opening sequence because it kept sending the cart carrying the protagonist careening off the road. In a similar problem-solving vein, the game's mysterious Headless Horseman required some bizarre coding moves to make it appear in the form the developers intended.


The Headless Horseman is an NPC that is still raising questions for players till this day. Why does he only appear during certain hours of the night? Why does he sometimes float away when followed? What is his true purpose? Well, many of those questions are still unanswered, but we finally know a bit more about the creation of this fascinating NPC. During a recent interview on game designer Steve Lee's YouTube channel, a few of the level designers who worked on "Skyrim" revealed an unexpected truth about the Headless Horseman. 

Would you believe this guy's head is just exploding, like, all the time?

Blowing up the Headless Horseman

Essentially, the developers figured out they could dismember NPCs as they spawned and it wouldn't kill the character. But, as level designer Joel Burgess explained, "If you were there at the time, you would see their heads explode, so we actually had to spawn them, like, around corners and stuff." That way, the player would not be able to see the spontaneous combustion of said NPC when they appeared in the game world.


Inspired by this, fellow designer Justin Schram said, "So I spawned this ... headless horseman, knowing that, and I gave him this little backstory, I gave him a place in the world to go. He could spawn anywhere in the world. We put a ghost shader on him. His head explodes, like, sort of in the background. And then he travels just to this one point ... his grave in the world; it's called Hamvir's Rest."

In other words, the Headless Horseman is in a repeated cycle of spawning, having his head magically blown off, and returning to the place where he was buried. It's so bleak that it comes back around to being very funny. Schram added that he loved to see people recording their meetings with the mysterious NPC, which he originally created just for fun. He added, "It's this simple, little dumb thing, but I'm so proud of it."