When you build a giant open world filled with hundreds of missions, miles of terrain, and dynamically scripted civilian populations, your chances of shipping with bugs are significant. No open-world game seems to escape this reality – even the thought leaders in the space like Rockstar and Bethesda have faced their share of problems.
With The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in particular, Bethesda Studios faced the daunting task of trying to put out technical problems like crippling framerate issues on the PlayStation 3. We broached the topic of lessons learned and how the development team has evolved its practices for Fallout 4 with game director Todd Howard. He explained that Skyrim's popularity and the sheer volume of player data in the game created challenges to troubleshooting bugs in the open world.
“It probably took us a month or two before we really had a handle on it,” he says. The team had to decide how it was going to identify problems before it could figure out how they happened or why they surfaced at particular times.
“All of the updates we did on Skyrim, and all of the DLC – once we sorted [the bugs out] we had a different process for how we checked the content out,” he says. “There will always be some problems.” Howard says that figuring out how to deal with those issues is the trick.
“I think we’ve gotten way better there,” he says. “For us, [the player’s] saved game is the number one thing. If the game crashes that’s bad, but it is nowhere near as bad as someone’s saved game being hosed. That’s our scenario that we will do anything and everything to avoid. We made a lot of progress given how Skyrim went, but we did it during Skyrim. This just builds on that."