McGinnis: ‘Skyrim’ screw-upWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As you complete your gift shopping and exchanges this week, let me ask a few questions. Do you have a gamer on your list? If yes, did they ask for a game with the odd word “Skyrim” in the title? If yes, is the only system they own a PlayStation 3? If yes…you may wanna ask if they’d like a gift certificate or something, instead.
When “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” was released last month, the massive open-world RPG was heralded as a masterpiece. The latest in a long line of titles that has redefined the way many think of fantasy gaming, “Skyrim” offered one of the largest and most impressive worlds ever created in a title. The series has a world of fervent fans, all of whom tore into the game once it was first released and echoed critics who called it one of the greatest ever made.
But then, a few days passed. And word first started to trickle out about problems that some PS3 fans were experiencing. It seemed that as a large percentage of players on the system got deeper into the “Skyrim”‘s considerable length, the game began to exhibit a great deal of graphical lag and animation slow-down, rendering it virtually unplayable.
To understand what’s happening, a little explanation is in order — as with traditional animation, movement in a video game is accomplished by displaying a series of images in rapid order. The more images, or frames, shown per second, the smoother the animation appears to a viewer.
“Skyrim” typically runs at about 30 frames per second (FPS). As PS3 gamers reach later stages of the game, gaming website IGN.com reports that many players find “Skyrim” occasionally running at less than 1 FPS. Imagine watching “Toy Story” and having an image of Woody and Buzz suddenly freeze on the screen for a couple of seconds, then move, stop again and so on, and you basically have the idea. It wouldn’t be fun, right? Now imagine this happening with a game you just paid sixty bucks for.
It was determined by players and journalists that the lag was effecting PS3 gamers who had been working on the game for upwards of 60 hours. If you’re chortling about how anyone could put that much time into a game anyway, it should be noted that “Skyrim” is designed to be a massive, epic experience — hundreds of hours of play are necessary to find everything.
The going theory is that the glitches are tied to the save file the game creates on the system’s hard drive in order to keep track of a player’s progress. The longer one plays, the larger the file. Somehow, this leads to a slow down in graphics, often leaving the game useless. Some estimates are that upwards of 75% of PS3 players have reported problems (many not as game-breaking as others).
Bathesda, the company who published “Skyrim,” has offered little in the way of explanation or hope to fans in the month or so since the release. Two different “patches” — downloadable files meant to augment the released software, in an effort to improve performance — have been released, neither of which seemed to offer relief to PS3 gamers.
The publisher announced that they are still working on a fix for the PS3 version of the game, but that there will be no further “patches” for the rest of the year — meaning fans who get the game for Christmas will have to wait until well into 2012 for any solutions.
Gaming continues to grow into a high-profile media in today’s society. As public visibility grows, so too does the money involved. After the massive success of the previous “Elder Scrolls” game, “Oblivion,” the anticipation for its sequel was through the roof. I can only imagine the pressure Bathesda was under as the announced release date loomed.
But when you’re making a game that is as deep and engaging as “Skyrim,” there is little excuse for releasing it in such a state. If Bathesda honestly didn’t know the game would have such issues before its came out, their command of quality control is non-existent. If they did and released it anyway, it stops being a question of competence and starts being a question of ethics. I’m not sure which reflects worse on what was (until last month) one of the most respected publishers on the planet.