The chatter around Fallout 4’s release has reached the same point of controversy as the last couple of Bethesda’s games (as well as Obsidian’s New Vegas which ran on Bethesda’s tech) — their generally buggy and unstable nature. Understandably, some people are baffled as to how Skyrim and Fallout 4 can be so popular while being so buggy, especially while other high-profile games get chewed out for their stability problems.
Wired went ahead and ran a story adamantly defending Bethesda and all its bugs. I think it makes some good points but I stop short of agreeing with it 100 percent. The main point that counts and the main reason I continue to enjoy Fallout 4 despite its stability issues is due to how unique Bethesda’s games are.
I spent a whole previous blog post on how uniquely interactive Bethesda’s games are, and this is generally why I put up with all the bugs. You can’t get around the fact that basically no other open-world game right now let’s you manipulate every individual object while remembering where you put them, or stumble upon a location that let’s you skip half the main storyline. That factor makes games like Fallout 4 and Skyrim feel dynamic in a way no other recent big-budget game does. Even The Witcher, Assassin’s Creed, and Grand Theft Auto don’t provide the same level of freedom.
I won’t defend the bugs to the extent the Wired article does. I’m not saying the bugs are part of the experience or make the game better. I actually ran into a serious glitch in Fallout 4 that would have completely broken the game had I not been playing the PC version which let me fix it myself with the command console. Maybe the relatively small team size of Bethesda Wired defends allows for a creative organism other big companies don’t have. Maybe it’s part of what lets Bethesda make this game that basically nobody else makes. Maybe it even gives its games a sort of raw feeling some consumers find appealing. You at least have to appreciate Bethesda for trying to avoid the “hire and fire” cycle most other AAA studios follow these days. My point is, we have to put up with all these bugs because no one has provided us with the same kind of immersive sandbox game in a more polished state.
A game in a somewhat similar position is S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Its fans hail the franchise as one of the best and most unique blends of first person shooter and immersive sandbox elements ever made. People still go back and play it despite the fact that you have to install heavy mods to make it really playable. In some ways it’s probably at least as buggy and as messy as a Bethesda game. However, the organic feel of its world and artificial intelligence haven’t been reproduced in the eight years since the first game came out, and that’s why some people continue to put up with S.T.A.L.K.E.R.’s inelegance.
ArmA has the exact same problem, but arguably to an even greater scale than Fallout, and I still happily pumped hundreds of hours into it. Over and over again on this blog I’ve stated how I’d love for some other developer with more money and manpower to try to make a shooter with ArmA’s level of scale and something resembling its incredibly dynamic combined-arms combat in a more stable form, but thus far no one has. No one is even trying.
For some reason, even though immersive simulators like Skyrim and Deus Ex (and Bioshock, sort of) are among the most popular games around today, their approach to game and world design hasn’t been fully copied. Some games have borrowed superficial aspects of them without really understanding why they worked or without evoking the complete feeling. I’m not saying it’s impossible to make a game like Fallout 4 without all the bugs, I’m just saying that no one is doing it.
- Didn’t know you could do this in Fallout: http://youtu.be/ofuW7d3fyOc
- On the importance of sentence length: http://tmblr.co/Zcklui1yLRdVH
- A pretty nice description of Fallout for people who don’t play video games: https://www.inverse.com/article/8307-why-is-fallout-4-such-a-big-deal