Editorial: Skyrim PS3 – Shoddy product and broken dreams

An epic tale of all-round incompetence by various parties.

Posted By | On 31st, Aug. 2012 Under Editorials | Follow This Author @KartikMdgl

I feel sorry for the PS3 owners, I really do. This entire generation they were on the receiving end of some terrible multiplatform games and 6 years into the console’s life cycle, it’s horrific that we still get to see something like this. I am talking about the PS3 version of Skyrim of course; a game that was notoriously known for hitting zero fps on the system, and was eventually turned into a playable state after numerous patches.

So now the question is, who’s to blame here? Is it Sony–for creating a console with an inefficient architecture where developers have to struggle to port games; Bethesda–for taking a path that ensures maximum profitablity; or the consumers– for buying Skyrim PS3 in droves and rewarding inept development practices.

This is such a failure on all levels when you think about it. Skyrim PS3 is sitting at a 92 Metacritic and when you consider the fact that Bethesda sent 360 copies to most reviewers, people simply assumed that the PS3 version was fine and dandy after 40-50 hours of gameplay. Sure some outlets reviewed the PS3 version as well, but this problem only came to the fore after spending significant time with the game.

The problem was clear–it’s because of the PS3’s memory or lack of it. Here’s what Fallout New Vegas developer Josh Sawyer had to say:

“It’s an engine-level issue with how the save game data is stored off as bit flag differences compared to the placed instances in the main .esm + DLC .esms. As the game modifies any placed instance of an object, those changes are stored off into what is essentially another .esm. When you load the save game, you’re loading all of those differences into resident memory.”

“Some areas will reset contents after three (game) days, but a lot of stuff lingers. Additionally, we also have to deal with ‘persistent references,’ he continued. “These are objects that are immediately loaded with the game because we need to be able to reference them anywhere/everywhere in the world — even if the player is nowhere near the object. Characters are the most common example. All of the companions need to be able to move around the world even when they are not in your current area, so they are all persistent references.”

In layman terms, as the save file keeps growing, it stresses the PS3’s 512 MB memory which is split evenly for graphics and memory. Bethesda later refuted this as the reason for PS3’s woes but they were clearly wrong, as they have finally revealed that they are having troubles with the PS3, and it’s one of the main reasons why Skyrim Dawnguard DLC is yet to be released for the system. They have mentioned that they are working with Sony to fix these issues. But will it actually work? The way the game is designed, it will be akin to climbing the Mount Everest on one leg.

“It’s been a few weeks, and we wanted to make sure everyone knows where we’re at with Dawnguard. Skyrim is a massive and dynamic game that requires a lot of resources, and things get much more complex when you’re talking about sizable content like Dawnguard.

“We have tried a number of things, but none of them solve the issue enough to make Dawnguard good for everyone. The PS3 is a powerful system, and we’re working hard to deliver the content you guys want. Dawnguard is obviously not the only DLC we’ve been working on either, so the issues of adding content get even more complicated. This is not a problem we’re positive we can solve, but we are working together with Sony to try to bring you this content.”

So there were go. Bethesda has indirectly mentioned that Josh Sawyer was right, and they aren’t sure whether they can solve this problem. What could they have done differently? They could have released a slightly inferior version on the PS3–backlash be damned. Or they could have delayed the PS3 version, which they did in this case with the DLC, but still whichever angle you look, the consumers are the ones who suffer. It’s kinda ludicrous that even though Bethesda knew PS3 had all these memory constraints they didn’t design it with the console in mind. I mean, that’s sort of expected in a way because, they also have to cater to the Xbox 360 and PC audiences as well.

Bethesda has lost a lot of respect from a sizeable audience and it’s not something they can prevent too, considering they have to be money-minded and create a genre defining product. The best course of the action I feel would be to delay the Dawnguard DLC and release it when it’s working perfectly–which they are doing too, so props to them. PS3 owners have to be very disappointed with this entire fiasco, and somewhere Ken Kutaragi must be shaking his head, and probably regretting the fact that he had a major hand in creating something that caused a lot of inconveniences to plenty of people out there.

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