Fallout 4 is now less than three months away, and anticipation is running at an all-time high for fans for the Fallout series. As good a track record Bethesda have with open-world games in particular, their titles are unfortunately not the pristine, bug-ridden experiences they could be every single time…
We know that Fallout 4 is still using a modified form of the older Creative engine, which is the same engine that powered The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, four years ago. As Valve continues to incrementally update their Source engine with subsequent game releases, it would seem Bethesda is taking this same approach with its Creative engine. And whilst it certainly is a little older, some of the Fallout 4 screenshots released by Bethesda have been perfectly serviceable for a 2015 game.
The bigger issue here is twofold: performance and bugs. Skyrim was a very attractive game in terms of graphics, but its performance at launch was not exactly stellar. Even on high-end machines (for the time) it didn’t really blow anyone away with how it ran. Many of these problems were corrected post-launch, partly by Bethesda themselves with patches, and partly with third-party developers that modded the hell out of the game, fixing some of Bethesda’s bugs before even the developers were able to do so. Some of these bugs were trivial in nature: an NPC glitching out or looking visually unusual, but you could still interact with them, for example. Unfortunately there were often larger issues, with NPCs vanishing completely, game crashes, or even being unable to launch the game at all.
Bethesda may make good games, but they don’t seem to make bug-free games. For further proof you need only look at the launch of Rage in 2011, a game less well-received than id/Bethesda’s are usually, partly down to some of its showstopping bugs at launch, again including crashes, disappearing items and NPCs, blurry “pop-in” textures, and poor overall performance. The phrase “bug-free” might be a bit of a misnomer here, as it’s almost impossible for any developer to release a completely bug-free game. With anything more complex than Pong, you’re going to have a handful slip in; this is just the nature of modern-day gaming. What you can try to do is ensure that those bugs which do make it into the final version of the game are not big enough to prevent overall enjoyment of your game. Gamers are going to forgive (or even laugh at) your head being twice the size that it should be, far easier than they are if it crashes every fifteen minutes or randomly deletes your save file.
No doubt Fallout 4 is going to have every bit as much mod support as Bethesda’s previous titles, and that’s going to mean Bethesda are effectively going to have a lot of unpaid employees able to fix certain issues in the game for them before they can push out an official patch – and that’s nice, but not exactly the point. It shouldn’t take a 15 year old student in Oslo to fix a crash bug in your game, especially if the game has been in development for literally years and years. Bethesda have had plenty of time to get the game as polished as it can be. No one wants to see another Arkham Knight debacle, where WB actually withdrew the PC version of the game from sale due to its performance issues (and it’s still not back yet, either), or the duping exploit that hit The Elder Scrolls Online last year, creating massive imbalances in the game’s economy which were ultimately never completely resolved.
Given that it’s been a while since we’ve had a major Bethesda release (excluding The Elder Scrolls Online – MMOs tend to be their own thing) then it’s entirely possible they’ve tightened things up, and Fallout 4 is going to be more polished than a supermodel’s backside. The pressure is clearly on Bethesda to deliver a quality Fallout game and a quality experience within that game. We can only hope that a bit more attention has been paid to QA this time around, since gamers tend to have loud voices and long memories when it comes to these sorts of things. Given that we’re paying $60 for triple-A titles at launch, wanting a polished, playable game on day one is hardly an unreasonable request.