Obsidian Mailbag

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Shamus Young:
A college freshman playing New Vegas right now would have been thirteen years old when Obsidian released KOTOR II.

Seriously this quote almost perfectly pegged me, but I was 14 when I played it, and I didn't skip the splash screens. Also I take the time to read the manual.

Still I have to agree with you. Even if I haven't seen these bugs myself I still live in fear of them.

I didn't experience a single bug while playing Fallout 3.

Not a one.

Zip.

I'm lead to believe a case of Chinese whispers is to blame.

Everyone's mileage will vary. I was expecting a freeze-filled bug fest in New Vegas (for PS3), but surprisingly I haven't noticed any huge bugs yet. The occasional body stuck in the world geometry and stretched like rubber, yes, but nothing horrible. I'm actually surprised. Perhaps if I get a little further in the game, the real bugs will emerge. With so many hardware and software configurations, the situation must be more complicated for PC. But I will adamantly claim that I've seen fewer bugs upon release in New Vegas compared to Oblivion and Fallout 3.

Some of us expect games to let us down by way of being so bug-ridden and unplayable. I think in some ways that cushions that blow when the game crashed before an auto-save and we lose about three hours of progress in the game. I've found if we like something enough, we accept its flaws for some reason and continue. If you don't like bugs, the Fallout series is not for you. It's history, even the unreleased demo for the third game that was never finished (Van Buren) chapter, is full of bugs and crashes and the wrong ending sequence being played and multiplying Ians.

Obsidian did inherit a buggy engine from Bethesda. Yes, Obsidian didn't take point and fix the existing bugs to provide a better experience. They could have. Shame on them. But the fact is that both groups, Obsidian and Bethesda, have horrible track records when it comes to bugs. We either accept that fact and play their games, or stop buying them new. To call BioWare's games "stable" is to ignore many bugs in the games they've released. Minor bugs related to NPC behavior, but still bugs nonetheless.

We should demand more. And as game consumers we do that by starving companies that release bad games. Try before you buy.

Forget Obsidian I want Troika games back...

I <3 you Shamus. You always put those n00b comments in their place.

Good read was good. I still can't believe so many took offence to your last article. I still feel Obsidian need to step up their game. It'll be a long while before I get Fallout New Vegas personally, I just got through playing Neverwinter Nights 2 and... I just don't feel like dealing with Obsidian-bugs coupled with Bethesda-AI.
Same reason I haven't picked up Fallout 3. I spent alot of time recently with Oblivion and... The thought of more Bethesda just doesn't sit well with me right now.

But that's got nothing to do with this article, so back to that.
If we stop asking game-companies to improve, where would the future of gaming lead us? Nothing improves without first taking a few hits from critics. Just look at the Batman-movies. After Batman & Robin, would you have expected The Dark Knight to ever see the light of day?

I wonder how somebody from OE would feel reading this?
Anywho,

Pirate Kitty:
I didn't experience a single bug while playing Fallout 3.

Not a one.

Zip.

I'm lead to believe a case of Chinese whispers is to blame.

That's what I was thinking for a few hours. I'd got the game for my birthday and we started playing hoping to see crazy glitches. We saw nothing and got distracted by the game aspect.

Then I hit the strip and they fell on me like a ton of bricks. I kept getting locked out of areas and had to conduct time consuming walk-arounds, often literally. People disappeared and quests randomly failed from across the map.

It's all very annoying, and forces me to keep a backup save so when things go bad I have a way to escape issues. Currently Neil isn't moving or responding to me, which doesn't screw up the "crazy, crazy, crazy" quest, but is a bit of a bother.

26 hours in game, no bugs, no crashes. Welcome to the world of PC gaming :D

I like how you write your articles, this is the first time I think I've clicked on your image from the homepage though.

This is because usually these online articles are very poorly written, but I'll keep reading yours.

-> You're picking on Obsidian! I love their games and you're just a big mean hater-face. <-

This made my day. Kinda sad you have to argue over evidently valid opinions though. Keep up the good work i enjoy reading your articles.

Therumancer:
I've said mixed things about New Vegas here and there, both defending it and speaking against it in various regards as I felt it was appropriate.

I will however say that I think that your overlooking the role the Publisher can play in all of this. I suspect that Obsidian likes the push the envelope with content quite a bit, and then when the publisher sees what they have produced goes "OMG, noes you can't do that" and forces them to roll out the censorship and rebuild portions of the game close to release.

This is however apparently not the case with "New Vegas", but I do think it was a factor with "Neverwinter Nights 2" and some of their other games. Atari in paticular seems to be a group of prudes, I keep looking at "Troika" and "Temple Of Elemental Evil" as an example of why things probably go wrong when they deal with real RPG developers who are serious about making M rated games.

I don't think you should dismiss the fire that has been thrown at their publishers before is all.

Also one reason why I won't defend them is that the "Gamebryo" engine has been around for three games now. Oblivion, Fallout 3, and New Vegas have all suffered pretty buggy releases, and truthfully by the third game I would have expected a pretty clean game. The only thing I can think of is that Bethesda just handed them the engine and didn't give them any information on how to use it or kill the bugs they found, and that compounded with the fact that Obsidian was building a deeper game which compounded the bugs.

Wait wait wait... they censored "Temple of Elemental Evil"?

As far as I can remember, that game had going for it: one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard in a game (seriously, why couldn't the likes of "Oblivion" and "Fallout 3" take a cue from that game and get proper ambient scoring, instead of relying on overblown orchestral scores that just get so damn irritating after the first twenty times you've heard them?) and a good character creation screen.

Other than that it was short, the level-up times were brutal (there was no way you'd get to a decent level by the time you actually reached the elemental planes unless you'd deliberately sought out battles you didn't need to fight in the first place), and the whole thing was buggy as hell. But censored? You remember Bertram, right? If there's one thing the American publishers would've censored, I would imagine Bertram would be It. (Not that I'm suggesting all Americans are homophobics... just the ones who publish videogames.)

What exactly was taken OUT of that game? Or did I just play a different version?

Well bethesda released 3 buggy games: Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion and then F3 but i didn't hear a media and fan outcry and F3 was buggy, making it number 4 in a row for Bethesda

Tbh it's not valid to say that Obsidian are not to blame for the buggy engine they got from fallout 3: surely part of the dev's job is to make sure the game engine is working properly?

This is even more so when the game engine and it's know problems have been passed on to them and they don't fix it.

Let me be outraged that you pulled the dumbest comments out of that outrage.

joke

Fiend13:
-> You're picking on Obsidian! I love their games and you're just a big mean hater-face. <-

This made my day. Kinda sad you have to argue over evidently valid opinions though. Keep up the good work i enjoy reading your articles.

I read the comments both on his blog and here; I'm fairly certain that my arguments are the ones being summed up as "you're just a big mean hater-face". And while I'm glad Shamus recognises good in Obsidian, and I know he savaged Bethesda for their shoddy work too, I still think joining the lynch mob is not the right solution.

Exterminas:
I said that the game ran flawlessly at my PC. I wasn't trying to accuse people who claimed the opposite of lying. I was trying to help reflect the game's reality in a more realistic way. Thousands of people bought the game. Only the ones who experience bugs, go to forums and complain, which generates a too negative image of the situation of a whole and makes them believe that they will definitely experience a buggy game.
Which they won't.
I haven't.

Yet I have seen numerous people stand and shout into the encroaching void "But it ran great for me!".

This doesn't seem to be giving only a negative view/opinions.

What it seems to be, from my limited point of view, is this: People who are experiencing bugs are getting shouted down by the seeming minority by those who have not.

It's like standing in a theater, and there's a fire. People are standing up, pointing and yelling FIRE! And other are standing and shouting back BUT MY SEAT'S NOT ON FIRE!

It's not helping with the issues at hand, it's just generating more noise and confusion while the mess gets straightened out.

Towowo2:
Regardless of platform it seems each version has a wide array of bugs. My personal favorite? The black screen of death. Not sure if it's present on the PC or PS3 versions though.

i have had that on pc.

Altorin:
There are no bugs that can compare to the Ballistic Stage Coach I encountered in Red Dead Redemption.

All the stagecoaches in the game were shaking like they were in an earthquake, and then when outside armadillo, I actually saw a stagecoach launch into the air and fly around like a deflating balloon.

X_x I love these. Funny bugs are okay with me.

I had a few hilarious ones in Fallout 3 (thankfully, only those and a few crashes) where super mutant corpses started bouncing around the landscape like they were landing on explosives.

WittyInfidel:

It's not helping with the issues at hand, it's just generating more noise and confusion while the mess gets straightened out.

That would imply that yelling "Fire!" is doing something to help the situation. It doens't. It just speards panic and keeps people from leaving the room and putting out the flames.

To resolve that Metaphor again: Almost any major game these days has some bugs on day one, some even major ones (look at Civ5).

Tigth release scedules seem to be an industry-wide problem, that comes down particularly hard on open-world-rpgs, because of their complexity (may be?) or because they are a niche product, what forces devs to keep especially tigth to their budgets and plans.

In any way complaints and flames against a developer don't seem to provide any kind of solution. Probably the only solution would be to not buy these games anymore, but that certainly can't be it, because that would kill these genres. If anything the solution would be to buy the buggy games on day one, BECAUSE they are buggy. That would pump some money into these underdog-genres and may be would enable them to stand their ground against pushy publishers.

Aaahhh... Solutions that start with "If everybody would..." I love them. There is no problem on the world that can't be solved by them.

Shamus. The voice of Reason. May the Escapistees who are blame for this attidude be silenced and see their narrow manner of thinking. Good job!

Yes, I agree. Although, I did find it an entertaining read ^_^

TheMadDoctorsCat:

Therumancer:
I've said mixed things about New Vegas here and there, both defending it and speaking against it in various regards as I felt it was appropriate.

I will however say that I think that your overlooking the role the Publisher can play in all of this. I suspect that Obsidian likes the push the envelope with content quite a bit, and then when the publisher sees what they have produced goes "OMG, noes you can't do that" and forces them to roll out the censorship and rebuild portions of the game close to release.

This is however apparently not the case with "New Vegas", but I do think it was a factor with "Neverwinter Nights 2" and some of their other games. Atari in paticular seems to be a group of prudes, I keep looking at "Troika" and "Temple Of Elemental Evil" as an example of why things probably go wrong when they deal with real RPG developers who are serious about making M rated games.

I don't think you should dismiss the fire that has been thrown at their publishers before is all.

Also one reason why I won't defend them is that the "Gamebryo" engine has been around for three games now. Oblivion, Fallout 3, and New Vegas have all suffered pretty buggy releases, and truthfully by the third game I would have expected a pretty clean game. The only thing I can think of is that Bethesda just handed them the engine and didn't give them any information on how to use it or kill the bugs they found, and that compounded with the fact that Obsidian was building a deeper game which compounded the bugs.

Wait wait wait... they censored "Temple of Elemental Evil"?

As far as I can remember, that game had going for it: one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard in a game (seriously, why couldn't the likes of "Oblivion" and "Fallout 3" take a cue from that game and get proper ambient scoring, instead of relying on overblown orchestral scores that just get so damn irritating after the first twenty times you've heard them?) and a good character creation screen.

Other than that it was short, the level-up times were brutal (there was no way you'd get to a decent level by the time you actually reached the elemental planes unless you'd deliberately sought out battles you didn't need to fight in the first place), and the whole thing was buggy as hell. But censored? You remember Bertram, right? If there's one thing the American publishers would've censored, I would imagine Bertram would be It. (Not that I'm suggesting all Americans are homophobics... just the ones who publish videogames.)

What exactly was taken OUT of that game? Or did I just play a different version?

There is a whole section of the game and a series of quests missing that is based around a whorehouse in the second town you get to (not Hommlet, the ones with the pirates). The festhall is actually located behind the Gypsy lady down on the docks.

The area still exists in the game code, and can be accessed, along with a lot of quest areas connected to it (it was a fairly major quest hub). There are patches that allow access to this material, I believe "The Cicle Of 8" a mod group that was dedicated to restoring the game and patching it's functionality was the group that put them out...

The thing is that when Atari saw the finished product they forced Troika to go with an earlier build, and to pretty much lock out that entire area. As a result the remnants of that content are buggy and unfinished, and the rest of the game was littered with bugs and errors that had been fixed in the final version but they didn't have the time to complete before release.

It was a big topic of discussion back when the game first came out. While it was apparently patched out of the game, Troika hid a bit about a gay pirate dentist in there. In that same town (Nuln I think? It's been a while since I've played the game or done anything with the modle it was based on). He's the one who was recruited for the crew "because he was a bit differant" and if you win his freedom from the captain in the nearby bar you find out that he's "differant" because he's gay and he performs oral sex on one of your male characters.

Alledgedly Troika which was collapsing after this put that in as a "last word" to Atari for being prudes and never told them.

This is relevent because one of the rumors about NWN2 when it first came out was that Obsidian (which does not have a reputation for being prudes) put a lot of adult content into the game, including lesbian romance options and a dominant/submissive relationship and some other stuff, not to mention a return of the festhall from the first NWN game which was changed to a dance hall.

At any rate the story is that a lot of the bugs are because Atari said "make an M rated game" but didn't REALLY want one and told them to go back to an earlier build, which caused all kinds of gaps in the storyline and a lot of the bugs in the game. Apparently this rumor was verified by the voice actress who did Neeshka [SP] (The Tiefling Thief) who apparently recorded a lot of dialogue for romantic options and the like that was never used in the final cut of the game. I have been unable to verify that however.

At any rate if you do a search for "Circle Of Eight" and "Temple Of Elemental Evil" and perhaps "Computer Game" you can probably find some of their old patches and maybe some of the old discussion boards. You should be able to find verification about ToEE easily. If you can't I'll see if I can dig it up (and while this might sound like an excuse I'm writing a long message and need to run out the door).

The ToEE stuff is why I lend credence to what might have happened with NWN2, even if it was with two differant developers.

Exterminas:

WittyInfidel:

-snip-

That would imply that yelling "Fire!" is doing something to help the situation. It doens't. It just speards panic and keeps people from leaving the room and putting out the flames.

If somebody said "Hey, room's on fire" I surely wouldn't sit around to watch. Yelling fire lets people know there's something wrong, notifies people who can help take care of it, and gets innocents to safety. Thus, situation can be resolved. Not "keeping people from leaving the room".

Exterminas:
Probably the only solution would be to not buy these games anymore, but that certainly can't be it, because that would kill these genres.

It would not kill the genre, it would force a sub-par developer to adapt or die. The genre, as a whole, would continue. it would just be minus one Obsidian/Bethesda/other shoddy developer.

Exterminas:
If anything the solution would be to buy the buggy games on day one, BECAUSE they are buggy. That would pump some money into these underdog-genres and may be would enable them to stand their ground against pushy publishers.

This would not fix the issue. If this were to fix the problem, Neverwinter Nights 2 would have been cleaner, KOTOR 2 would have shined, and Fallout; New Vegas would have nary a glitch. By purchasing and supporting product, you do not further progress and change. Instead, it helps support the status-quo. And the staus-quo for the current season is shoddy, broken product.

How much more money does Obsidan/Bethesda need to quit releasing broken games? By my count, they have released multiple games, which has brought in some serious money, yet their product is still sub-par.

Bugs have become expected from Bethesda and Obsidian. The problem does not lay with lack of funding or not enough other resources. It instead has to do with a shameful work ethic and a willingness to release something that they know is unacceptable.

If you, assuming you have a job, performed in such a way at you place of employment, how long do you think that you would continue to have a job.

And that's what this is for these people. A job they do in order to make money.
Question is, why are they still employed?
Because we keep buying unacceptable product from them, knowing full well it's unacceptable from the beginning.

The problem is not just them. The problem in us, as well. In our willingness to buy that which we know is broken.

We all, developer and customer alike, know that this is wrong. Why are we not making this right?

Exterminas:
Aaahhh... Solutions that start with "If everybody would..."

Well, I can't think of anybody else better suited to the task. Mr. Nobody currently is working on the project, and he's doing a pretty shoddy job.

Therumancer:
The ToEE stuff is why I lend credence to what might have happened with NWN2, even if it was with two differant developers.

I wondered about that when I played both of those games. It sounds a lot more convincing than Shamus': "Obsidian is lazy and must be encouraged to make a good game" theory, at least. Thanks for posting.

Shamus Young:
It's not Obsidian's fault! You should blame the publisher!

Then why is BioWare able to release stable games, even when dealing with those same publishers that allegedly ruined Obsidian's work? Why do other developers working with (say) Atari not have the same problems that Obsidian did?

It's unfair to compare Bioware, one of the largest game developers in the world, with Obsidian. They are a huge company and very well-established, unlike Obsidian.

Furthermore, Obsidian are one of the few smaller companies out there still making RPGs. Nowadays it's all about first-person shooters, or other similar genres, because they're easy to produce and they sell better.

I think Obs should be given a LITTLE bit of slack because of these two points. I'm not saying it's OK that they release with so many critical bugs, but I'm saying don't be quite so harsh on them.

At least you mentioned the NWN2 XP packs this time.

For me, though flawed, New Vegas is a good game.

It is the first RPG where I have the feeling that there are societies that surround you, rather than having oblique hints in notes and such.

THe combat is deeply frustrating at times..I mean the giant rad scorpions found me at level 1, in the graveyard. And killing one of those things takes like 20 rounds minimum.

But the bugs are bad, clearly Obsidian could have spent more time play testing. An extra month prior to going to gold, would have made all the difference in the world.

i don't think i've ever checked out articles by this guy before, but looking at this, i see i wasn't missing out at all. "opinion column by pundit", BUT NOT A REVIEW? no pundit would ever have written any "opinion column" like that, nor would he or she have felt the need to rebut any questions from the posters. if anything, this was a crass way of defending a point of view that had no reason to exist in the first place.

nipsen:

Therumancer:
The ToEE stuff is why I lend credence to what might have happened with NWN2, even if it was with two differant developers.

I wondered about that when I played both of those games. It sounds a lot more convincing than Shamus': "Obsidian is lazy and must be encouraged to make a good game" theory, at least. Thanks for posting.

I just got back from Dunkin' Doughnuts

Here are a couple of links:

http://www.caltrops.com/review0026p2.php

http://rpgvault.ign.com/articles/441/441983p4.html

Wikipedia also mentions it briefly in there article, and you can find tons more stuff on it if you look.

One thing you will notice though is that in the Caltrops review it talks about how Troika was forced to go with an earlier build, where in the IGN report you have a more professional comment that talks about cutting content, and being "thankful" that they got to keep the gay pirate which is kind of odd given how things actually went down when the game was new, but again it mentions those details.

The Cicle Of Eight Forums also include a patch to restore/unlock the content which was not cut but is actually sealed in the game:

http://www.sorcerers.net/Games/ToEE/index_circle2.php

That link is to a patch that mentions it specifically, though there is a newer one that includes these fixes/mods that you will actually want to use if you plan to play the game again with their patches.


I just figured I'd put up some links since I was making some serious allegations, and I really was in a hurry. In most cases I prefer people to do their own research, but this was pretty old news.

I will say however that I can't find any documentation at the moment on Neverwinter Nights 2 though it was discussed heavily when it came out. But as I said, a lot of that came from comments from one of the voice actresses allegedly and even then I couldn't verify it, though the way the original campaign is it seemed very likely as it didn't flow well and seemed like bits were missing.

In closing I will say that this does not totally excuse Obsidian's quality, I mean if they keep working for Atari they should know what to expect, and as much as I hate censorship if they keep getting forced back to earlier builds they should know better. Atari is a group of prudes, but they do apparently take their money. What's more the current game ("New Vegas") wasn't done with Atari and while Bethesda is a group of prudes nowadays themselves (I still remember them freaking out over Oblivion nude patches created by fans), they were using an established engine and seemed to have a fairly free hand with their content. If Gamebryo isn't a Bethesda engine (as someone pointed out in a response to me) that actually gives them less of an excuse.

Yay! Thanks, Shamus. I've actually held off buying it because of the horror stories... and I feared this was going to happen, given Obsidian's track record. Maybe in a few months they'll actually finish the game, and I can it. But I'll go play some other games until then.

Yosharian:

It's unfair to compare Bioware, one of the largest game developers in the world, with Obsidian. They are a huge company and very well-established, unlike Obsidian.

But what about NWN2, which was published with Bioware's assistance? Same with KOTOR2.

mbourgon:
But what about NWN2, which was published with Bioware's assistance? Same with KOTOR2.

Neither had BioWare's assistance. BioWare's name was on those games because they were sequels to BioWare work (and possibly built on some BioWare systems), but BioWare itself had nothing to do with them.

If you're a programmer, you will know how difficult it is to work with someone else's code, and how much more difficult it is when you don't have that person around to ask questions of.

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: Obsidian Mailbag

Shamus responds to the many gripes about his gripes with Obsidian and Fallout New Vegas.

Read Full Article

I think the problem is that you are maybe asking too much, WRPG with depth which is something Obsidian specialise in, is limping along on its last legs. Even Bioware has practically abandoned depth ( not that they were always that consistent anyway). My point is that Obsidian give us something we crave, i.e. depth, and they plainly do that at the expense of polish - I expect the reason for this is that we can't have both due to the timescales and budgets they are being set (which are notoriously tight for sequels), and of the two I opt for depth over polish every time.

So I say roll on the bugs, so long as its a great game with depth much can be forgiven (and patched ;) )

Vryyk:
Well lookie' hurr boys, we got us one o' them gee-nee-uses. Gol-darn them's some fancy wordin's. I shurr wish we had one'a them eddications so we could be half as in-tee-lectual.

He was criticizing the incorrect use of a word that is not in common parlance. The use of it annoyed me too; I hate when people use uncommon words and have no idea as to their actual meaning. Just write like everyone else if you don't want to take the time to educate yourself.

All I can think of right now is how Obsidian put the entire franchise in a very difficult position. Because when the next game (Fallout 4 or another expansion probably) comes out, it has to be perfect. If they had ironed out 1 or 2 major flaws from FO3 then the next iteration wouldn't suffer even if it had a couple of minor issues. Which makes me really worried about Fallout.

mbourgon:

Yosharian:

It's unfair to compare Bioware, one of the largest game developers in the world, with Obsidian. They are a huge company and very well-established, unlike Obsidian.

But what about NWN2, which was published with Bioware's assistance? Same with KOTOR2.

I don't think creativity and artistic merit was the problem with NWN2. Compared to NWN1, it was a great step forwards.

krellen:
[quote="mbourgon" post="6.241654.8758325"]But what about NWN2, which was published with Bioware's assistance? Same with KOTOR2.

Neither had BioWare's assistance. BioWare's name was on those games because they were sequels to BioWare work (and possibly built on some BioWare systems), but BioWare itself had nothing to do with them.

That's not what Wikipedia says. Not that Wiki is infallible, but it seems reasonably accurate.

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