The Skyrim Team Has A Better Plan For Squashing Bugs This Time

The Skyrim Team Has A Better Plan For Squashing Bugs This Time
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As much as people love the expansive video games of Bethesda Softworks, they loathe the bugs — and the surprising preponderance of them that appear with the launch of new Elder Scrolls or Fallout games.

This time, as Bethesda prepares to put out the massive Skyrim, they’ve got a plan to do better.

With Skyrim, Bethesda will adopt a special direct connection to their game — on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 — that will let them update the game on the fly, similarly to how EA is able to tweak the rosters of their sports games without going through the standard multi-day or multi-week waits to update most games on consoles. They are also running new and better processes to catch bugs before the game launches.

“We want to be in the position of being able to improve the game, no matter what way that is,” Skyrim creative director Todd Howard told me today as he I played the game and peppered him with questions about bugs and other stuff.

Howard is well aware of the unrest among gamers who associate the release of Bethesda’s massive, dynamic role-playing games not only with fun, but also with bugs that lock up quests, crash the game, or mangle characters into unrecognisable forms. “It’s a known issue and a very valid complaint,” he said.

Before launch, Howard said, Bethesda is testing Skyrim rigorously and more heavily using a system that runs automated versions of the game overnight, searching for bugs and helping the team squash them. “We’re getting better at it,” Howard said.

They are also adopting this new EA Sports-style “live update” system that will let Bethesda tweak the data in their game almost immediately. If a quest isn’t triggering because players are doing some unforeseen combination of actions, that might be addressable by tweaking the data tables that dictate the flow of events in the game. If the game is proving to be unbalanced in an unexpected way, that can be fixed on the fly too. And these fixes — Howard prefers to call them “improvements” — will take effect fast. “We can change stats on a sword and it will be available to everyone in a few hours,” he said.

Howard didn’t want to get too specific about which kinds of bugs he thinks are data-oriented and which are not. It’s only those former that the live update server can address, which means that crash bugs will probably still have to be patched in traditional, slower ways. The old ways involved about a two-week minimum turnaround time, Howard said. He’s happy that that is no longer the only option.

But diligent as Bethesda may be, burned by its own ambition and relative lack of testing, they make massive games full of unpredictable events. Random stuff happens. People can go anywhere, killing, chatting, looting and defying any direction the game’s creators put in the game. That’s the point of a Bethesda game and why people like them. But that’s also why they are prone to bugs, blemishes and other fun-ruining vermin. Howard is proud to say that Skyrim is a whole lot bigger than his last game, Fallout 3, but he knows what comes with that.

“Are there going to be bugs we didn’t catch in a game of this size?” he asked rhetorically. “Our assumption is there are going to be.” Skyrim fans will surely hope that Bethesda’s new systems will more briskly stamp them out.


  • Well that’s pretty good news. Any word on if we can slaughter people in a town without guards automatically knowing who did it and where? That ruined Oblivion for me, I like senseless violence.

    • Yeah I was thinking that too, this sounds like some kind of excuse for DRM?

      Also, couldn’t Bestheda just bite the bullet and actually do a beta test for once?

    • Not at all, this isn’t DRM, it’s essentially a patch that constantly updates as you play, I’d imagine if you were not online, you wouldn’t get the patches till you did connect.

      • What this guy said ^
        This is hardly DRM.
        It does mean however that they will be able to make instant fixes to things such as item dupes or perhaps a drasticly over powered sword with bugged stats.

      • Nah, it’s only DRM in as much as Steamworks is DRM – the kind that doesn’t get in the way, and actually updates your game.

    • Actually, none of you guys know that it isn’t DRM, we’re not saying it is, we’re just saying we’re skeptical that this isn’t some kind of excuse for DRM. Don’t try to white knight for them you have no idea.

      A clear answer from Bestheda on whether this will have DRM/require a constant internet connection would be much appreciated.

      • ^^ This. I’d like to know if these ‘improvements’ demand that we always be linked to Bethesda, or take a more casual approach.

        • Just what I was thinking. I’m going to hold off on my pre order until I find out.

          I really hope it isn’t always on DRM because I was really looking forward to buying this game. Then again, if there is always on DRM at least I can get the horse armour when I get the superior pirated version.

  • As fun as it can be to sit here on our couches, Cheeto-stained faces scowling, demanding perfection, let’s not forget how lucky we are to have people like Bethesda making these awesome games for us! Years of development go into these things and we’re so quick to sit here and say “wah wah, I want perfection and will not accept that unforeseen events in a game this size can occur”. Try to be happy that we’ll get to play something so awesome and when one of us can do better ourselves, then we should whine… I’m just saying, people… The world isn’t perfect, get a helmet!!!

    • I paid $80 expecting to have an enjoyable journey through a Nevada wasteland, and what I got was a buggy piece of shit that absolutely ruined the experience.

      You may be satisfied paying a large sum of money ‘sitting on your couch, eating Cheetos’, but expecting a game to be playable isn’t ‘expecting perfection’.

      • All I’m saying is, no matter what kind of awesomeness we get, there’s always someone calling it a “buggy piece of shit” or “un-playable”. Bollocks! Oblivion, Fallout 3 and New Vegas were all fantastic games. They had their faults but, on the whole, they were staggeringly good. It just makes me sad that we’re all so willing to jeer from the sidelines and criticize what is, essentially brilliant. Life isn’t perfect. If you want perfection, it costs more than 80 bucks, dude…

    • Clearly did not play oblivion, fallout or new vegas at release. The amount of game destroying bugs means they shouldn’t be given AAA status.

      MMO’s ship with less bugs.

    • “wah wah, I want perfection and will not accept that unforeseen events in a game this size can occur”

      You pay for a product, you expect it to work. It’s as simple as that. Bethesda have spent more than twenty years half-assing it in the gaming industry.

    • Man has a point. Yes, New Vegas was pretty bad, but it was by far the worst and still playable (Mostly) so really, if it’s better than NV at release, i’ll be happy. Fingers crossed they learnt from it.

      • Actually, although NV did have the save file corrupting bug, F3 had one where it randomly crashed every 30min-1 hour on my Xbox. Sure they’re fine later on after patches, just not on release.

  • So how is this going to work? I can understand on PC and PS3.. but as far as im aware MS is pretty strict about content patches going out for games on there console?

    As for fixing bugs… LOL. I think Bioware and Bethesda are a bit to lax about fixing bugs. Ill happily eat my words if they prove me wrong, would be a positive thing!

  • Except that live update isn’t any use if there are no updates.

    Fallout and even oblivion still have bugs.

    Eventually they will get to the point like usual where they stop caring.

    in the meantime it’s just gonna make having an internet connection while playing a pain on PC. Because it will screw with mods like hell

    • Agreed. It’s going to be insane if they don’t maintain a changelog and release the patches in waves.

  • Not buying unless they fixed the abysmal jump animation they’ve been copy-pasting since Morrowing (Fallout 3 had it tweaked but still laughable) 😛 Anyway, this is called a rolling release and some OS’s do it, it will be interesting to see how it works withing a game.

  • The bugs are never THAT bad i mean i’ve completed Oblivion,Morrowind,Fallout 3 and New Vegas without too many problems… how can someone comlpain or talk smack about the elder scrolls games when their previous 2 games where rated above a 9. Skyrim is going to be awesome even with a few bugs.

  • So what will they do when they see me running my “Aerin’s KickAss Sword Mod” and going rampant throughout Skyrim with an Obsidian Katana that does 9999 damage? 😛

  • i just remember buying DragonAge2, and knowing it would be great! but it was the worst game.. they didnt even try.. was just trash they released for quick money.. ill never buy another bioware game again. From what ive heard & seen Skyrim seems the only good game coming out.. so i hope they do it right… it would be a shame if they dumb it down like Bioware & EA did to DA2 i felt like i got robbed. Skyrim will probly be trash & they’ll want to farm you with dlc… im not buying skyrim

  • i just remember buying DragonAge2, and knowing it would be great! EA & bioware shlt on everyone with that game.. it was ugly & wasent fun at all.. ill never buy another EA or bioware game after that.. Skyrim will probly be the same so ill just watch reviews from real people on youtube after release.. i have a feeling buying skyrim will be like buying an empty box.. and then you’ll have to spend $80 in DLC that they strategicly left out on purpose just to rub there cocks in your face.. Money Money” thay’d probly slut off your sister if they could get away with.

  • Boy, this article turned out to be a load of garbage. And the reported clearly has no clue what really goes on in an Elder Scrolls game. “Chatting”? Are you kidding me?

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