Thursday, December 29, 2011
Skyrim Is Buggy and Awesome
I have been slow updating my blog recently. Part of this is fatigue from my recent game release. But most of the blame, of course, falls upon Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Which ate the brains of everyone in our house.
I love it when a role-playing game breaks big and actually infects regular humans. Sure, it's heavy competition for a while, but it also manufacturers hordes of new, fresh RPG fans hoping for more.
We love the game despite all of its considerable frustrations. I love this video, because it captures so much about what makes Skyrim fascinating.
(Video summary: It was possible to steal from shops by taking pots and putting them over the heads of the shopkeepers so they couldn't see you. Yes, this was actually possible. Though I can't get it to work anymore in the newest version.)
Some people mock Skyrim for things like this, which is a truly startling case of missing the point. Sure, it's a flaw. But imagine how cool and detailed this sandbox is to make such a thing possible. It means that they programmed in exact sight lines for detecting theft, which is why sneaking around a shop and robbing the owner blind is such a satisfying minigame.
I've been an Elder Scrolls fan for decades, because of what makes these games so fascinating: Their reach always exceeds their grasp.
The Elder Scrolls series is about making a game so huge and detailed that it overwhelms you. You have to be a shut-in of terrifying proportions to experience everything. You go on a journey to find a dungeon somewhere, and there are so many dungeons and towns and people and quests on the way that you get lost in a maze of perpetual distraction until the real-world sun rises over the horizon.
Of course, computers aren't strong enough to simulate a world, even a small one. They just can't do it. With that level of ambition and that number of moving parts, there will be bugs and flaws. Tons of them. You don't have to scratch the surface hard to find them, even after multiple patches.
This is inevitable. Yes, Bethesda makes buggy games, and they've probably shipped certain games sooner than they should have. However, with that size and complexity and level of ambition, it can't be avoided. There is just too much STUFF, and too many crazy things that can be done with it. Until real artificial intelligence is invented (it won't be), a sandbox of this level of detail can't be represented by a computer without weirdness around the edges. When the range of possible things that can happen is large enough, even the largest, most dedicated group of testers won't find everything that can go wrong.
It's their crazy version of something like reality, and you have to meet it halfway (because there really are a lot of glitches). Elder Scrolls fans accept this, and, in return, they get a computer game experience that's truly unique.