Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Devil You Know...

You okay there, doggy?
It sounds like Bethesda Softworks is reluctant to move on to a new toolset when it comes to making games.  To some degree, I can understand where they're coming from.  If it ain't broke don't fix it...except, in this case, the engine Bethesda uses (and has used for ages) is kind of broken.

When it comes to Bethesda products, there tends to be so many glitches and bugs that a non-trivial number of them never get fixed.  Considering that it's perfectly possible to iron out these issues via downloadable updates, this sort of approach to post-launch support feels inexcusable.  Instead, the task has been handed over to unpaid mod makers.  I've heard claim that problems like these are unavoidable given the scale and scope of Bethesda's games, but I don't think that argument really holds water.  There are plenty of open-world games that do not suffer from endemic jank; Horizon: Zero Dawn and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild being the two most recent examples that come to mind.  For the sake of argument though, let's say that it's a precondition of the Elder Scrolls and Fallout games that they are never going to be bug-free.  Why does Bethesda continue to use such a flawed system of game development?

Switching to a new, or seriously overhauled, engine is pretty much guaranteed to have some snags, but it hardly seems to be sacrificial when the current method is so unsound.  I guess the lead developers over at Bethesda would rather deal with the devil they know than something they don't...speaking of devils and demons...

No bugs?  When mammoths fly!
Bethesda's parent company is ZeniMax, who also shepards ID Software, makers of the DOOM series and a company famous for game engines.  One can't help wondering why some of the disciples of John Carmack don't help Bethesda forge a new framework for their future projects.  Combining the tech-savvy of ID with the world-building of Bethesda sounds like a perfect match, but then again the devil is in the details.

Engineers and storytellers rarely think along the same lines.  What sounds great for one group might very well be a huge pain in the neck for the other.  Look no further than the Destiny franchise to see an example of an engine that produces incredible visuals while simultaneously manages to be utterly tedious when it comes to scenario creation.

I can't say for certain where Bethesda truly resides in all this.  However, I am absolutely sure about one thing.  The next game that studio releases will have a laundry list of bugs.  Eventually, they will get fixed.  To what degree and by whom though is anyone's guess.

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