Getting Past the "Ship With Shame" Stage at Bethesda

Getting Past the "Ship With Shame" Stage at Bethesda

Bethesda Senior Designer Joel Burgess offered some insights into his company's iterative design processes.

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He said the games industry in general tends to schedule games for "done" when they should be scheduling for "good." It's not enough to have a complete game. You should strive to have a good game.

Heck, if you're EA you don't even have to settle for 'done'. Just set a random impossible deadline and ship whatever's ready at that point, the rest can be sold later as DLC!

That was the theory used to ship C&C Tiberium Sun back in 1999, and going from Battlefield 4's inexcusably broken launch (with 7 of the 22 major bugs identified by DICE back in December as 'top issues' still remaining unfixed) EA are still following their award winning 'ship broken, fix later' attitude

Yeah, I really wish more developers would focus on 'shipping good', not 'shipping done', but that's probably just going to get worse.

This seems like a case of someone being able to see logic, draw it out on a piece of paper, communicate it to others incredibly clearly, but somehow not make the actual jump themselves. This Bethesda, world-reknowned leaders in shipping bug-laced games that are more often fixed later by community mods then by themselves. Granted, they sometimes have ridiculous amounts of polish in the most bizarre areas, you'll have game breaking bugs chilling out next to 9,000 pages of inworld books.

This philosophy is nice and all, but either they take a dramatic divergence in opinion after the 'done' stage as to what facilitates 'good', or they just can't follow their own advice.

Hero in a half shell:

He said the games industry in general tends to schedule games for "done" when they should be scheduling for "good." It's not enough to have a complete game. You should strive to have a good game.

Heck, if you're EA you don't even have to settle for 'done'. Just set a random impossible deadline and ship whatever's ready at that point, the rest can be sold later as DLC!

That was the theory used to ship C&C Tiberium Sun back in 1999, and going from Battlefield 4's inexcusably broken launch (with 7 of the 22 major bugs identified by DICE back in December as 'top issues' still remaining unfixed) EA are still following their award winning 'ship broken, fix later' attitude

That sounds about right.
I remember Hellgate London and its issues. Wow what a wonky, buggy rush job that was. It played like an Alpha.

Yeah, I really wish more developers would focus on 'shipping good', not 'shipping done', but that's probably just going to get worse.

Indeed it is. It costs more and more money to delay a game consecutively, and there's always the risk of a game entering "Development Hell" where the original team is burnt-out, angry, and/or just plain baffled with a project for years.
AAA especially, fears Development Hell more than anyone, since they have investors to please at all times.

So they tend to crunch harder than most and stick rigidly to known formulas to save time where possible.
(there's lots of middleware and support development brought in most current AAA productions; which is why the end credits takes 10+ minutes to scroll through)

This man knows nothing about producing a good game.

"Acceptable" is a charitable word for Skyrim:

-Frequent system crashes while walking, loading areas, or even browsing the interface; they are frequent enough that it is a surprise to be able to play for two hours without experiencing one.
-Scripted scenes breaking down and making progress in the game impossible in both the main quest and the main Dawnguard storyline
-An inventory interface that will have you poisoning yourself, accidentally spending all your money on stuff you thought you were selling, or grabbing 1000 lbs of items from a storage chest when you meant to get one thing because the "Take everything" button is the same as the "put one thing in the container" button.
-Permadeath for shopkeepers by vampires who decide to launch suicide missions into towns for... reasons?
-A leveling system balanced badly enough that your arrows suddenly stop being lethal, or even dangerous, at around level 10
-Arrows disappear enough at long distance to not do any damage, but persist enough to alert people to the fact that they just got shot by nothing (this one is caused by a single numerical value that can be easily changed, but persists on all platforms even after they said they were done patching the game)
-The main feature of the Hearthfire DLC, building and furnishing your house, breaks once you've made a certain number of furnishings; the game starts forgetting what you built and will list items you've already made, letting you spend the materials without actually making anything. The only way to get past this is to make your own list and check the items off. It's a very long list.

For everyone but Bethesda, "acceptable" means the game will crash less than once every four hours, and that it is possible to complete the game without being stopped by breakage of scripted sequences. It also means the main features of your DLC will work in standard use. But Bethesda is incapable of doing what for everyone else is the bare minimum.

McMullen:
This man knows nothing about producing a good game.

"Acceptable" is a charitable word for Skyrim:

-Frequent system crashes while walking, loading areas, or even browsing the interface; they are frequent enough that it is a surprise to be able to play for two hours without experiencing one.
-Scripted scenes breaking down and making progress in the game impossible in both the main quest and the main Dawnguard storyline
-An inventory interface that will have you poisoning yourself, accidentally spending all your money on stuff you thought you were selling, or grabbing 1000 lbs of items from a storage chest when you meant to get one thing because the "Take everything" button is the same as the "put one thing in the container" button.
-Permadeath for shopkeepers by vampires who decide to launch suicide missions into towns for... reasons?
-A leveling system balanced badly enough that your arrows suddenly stop being lethal, or even dangerous, at around level 10
-Arrows disappear enough at long distance to not do any damage, but persist enough to alert people to the fact that they just got shot by nothing (this one is caused by a single numerical value that can be easily changed, but persists on all platforms even after they said they were done patching the game)
-The main feature of the Hearthfire DLC, building and furnishing your house, breaks once you've made a certain number of furnishings; the game starts forgetting what you built and will list items you've already made, letting you spend the materials without actually making anything. The only way to get past this is to make your own list and check the items off. It's a very long list.

For everyone but Bethesda, "acceptable" means the game will crash less than once every four hours, and that it is possible to complete the game without being stopped by breakage of scripted sequences. It also means the main features of your DLC will work in standard use. But Bethesda is incapable of doing what for everyone else is the bare minimum.

Have Skyrim for the 360, none of those ever happened for me.

get a better computer maybe? you would be amazed at what $500 will get you these days.

Kalezian:

Have Skyrim for the 360, none of those ever happened for me.

get a better computer maybe? you would be amazed at what $500 will get you these days.

I somehow doubt that the arrow problem doesn't exist on consoles. It might be due to limited render distance.
The man is right, these are all valid issues and some of them are due to the multiplatform release, such as the UI issues.
My biggest beef is when you hover over dialogue options or items with the mouse and it doesn't register.

If anything, some issues are there because the PC is vastly more powerful and not limited like the consoles.

I have one thing to add though, Skyrim is a good game despite the bugs and some of the crappy designs, otherwise I wouldn't have put hundreds of hours in it. It's just that the issues are that more infuriating.

Kalezian:

McMullen:
This man knows nothing about producing a good game.

"Acceptable" is a charitable word for Skyrim:

-Frequent system crashes while walking, loading areas, or even browsing the interface; they are frequent enough that it is a surprise to be able to play for two hours without experiencing one.
-Scripted scenes breaking down and making progress in the game impossible in both the main quest and the main Dawnguard storyline
-An inventory interface that will have you poisoning yourself, accidentally spending all your money on stuff you thought you were selling, or grabbing 1000 lbs of items from a storage chest when you meant to get one thing because the "Take everything" button is the same as the "put one thing in the container" button.
-Permadeath for shopkeepers by vampires who decide to launch suicide missions into towns for... reasons?
-A leveling system balanced badly enough that your arrows suddenly stop being lethal, or even dangerous, at around level 10
-Arrows disappear enough at long distance to not do any damage, but persist enough to alert people to the fact that they just got shot by nothing (this one is caused by a single numerical value that can be easily changed, but persists on all platforms even after they said they were done patching the game)
-The main feature of the Hearthfire DLC, building and furnishing your house, breaks once you've made a certain number of furnishings; the game starts forgetting what you built and will list items you've already made, letting you spend the materials without actually making anything. The only way to get past this is to make your own list and check the items off. It's a very long list.

For everyone but Bethesda, "acceptable" means the game will crash less than once every four hours, and that it is possible to complete the game without being stopped by breakage of scripted sequences. It also means the main features of your DLC will work in standard use. But Bethesda is incapable of doing what for everyone else is the bare minimum.

Have Skyrim for the 360, none of those ever happened for me.

get a better computer maybe? you would be amazed at what $500 will get you these days.

I also have Skyrim for the 360. If I had got it on the PC I would have modded it and downloaded the unofficial patch. By the way, if the game is so bugged after all the patches are done that there is a fan-made patch, and more of the bugs listed on the game's wiki are fixed by the unofficial patch than by the official ones, then that should indicate how bad Skyrim's problems are, and what Bethesda's real approach to incremental design is: They release it on the deadline, make a token effort at patching a handful of issues, and then sit back and let the customers do the job that they paid Bethesda to do.

You shouldn't make assumptions about other people's machines. I'm a 3D animator and build my own machines. Some of the individual components for them cost more than $500.

Another discredited trope that you use is "I haven't seen it, so it's not a problem". If you search for some of these issues, you'll see you're in the minority. Every one of these bugs is easy to find in the talk pages of uesp.net or on forums. That's how I know about the source of the arrow bug without having the PC version.

 

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