A little game called Fallout 4 came out this week. You might have heard of it. I’ve been fairly obsessed with it all week, perhaps the first game I’ve decided to actively dedicate time to in the last few months. But as I’ve been playing it and reading reviews about it, a thought occurred to me. Bethesda titles are known for their massive open worlds and incredible range of choices for the player to make. They’re also infamous for some pretty spectacular bugs. Famous examples include horses defying gravity, characters warping horribly, flying characters/items/wooly mammoths, and some really fun item duplication bugs. Fallout 4 introduces such classics as missing faces, and graphical issues. Now despite all this we love these games, often they are considered some of the best ever made. But I can’t help but think, why do we put up with all these bugs?
Well first, a lot of us don’t. Despite their popularity there is still a segment of the gaming community that often won’t play Bethesda games when they launch due to the number of technical issues that are almost guaranteed to be there. Combine this with a company that will actively not fix any bugs that they consider “entertaining” and you get some gamers avoiding them all together. It’s true that some are entertaining, but what about the bugs that cause me to restart the game twice because it freezes in a menu. I hope you know the quicksave shortcut.
But, as most fans of the studio can no doubt understand these games are incredibly complex, even by AAA game standards. In order to create the worlds and gameplay that we expect from Elder Scrolls or Fallout, Bethesda has to work what could be considered to be programming magic. The thing about software is, the more complex it is, the more ways things can go wrong. I allude to this in a couple other posts I’ve written, one about the necessity of game delays and in an open letter to game developers. But unlike the most recent Batman title on PC, Bethesda games are never unplayable messes. Unless of course you come across a bug that corrupts your save and then you can’t play, then that’s an unplayable mess.
Despite these issues, a lot of us; myself included, are still greatly enjoying our experiences with Fallout 4 despite the glitches. Maybe Bethesda is just that special, or maybe we’ve been brainwashed. Either way we clearly give Bethesda a pass for a lot of things that we can very critical of in other studios. But as the old adage goes: it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.