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High Horse: Broken PS3 Skyrim was inevitable, is inexcusable, and is probably your fault

High Horse is a rotating opinion column in which GamesRadar editors and guest writers are invited to express their personal thoughts on games, the people who play them and the industry at large.

I made a delicious chocolate cake the other day. Except that it wasn't delicious at all in the end. You see it turned out that somewhere along the line I’d started mixing dog poo into it instead of chocolate, and I absolutely didn’t even notice that I had until a  few hours later when people started eating it and being sick.

Sound implausible? That’s because it’s not true. I’m creating a clever (and marginally disgusting) allegory for Bethesda’s broken-as-all-hell PS3 version of Skyrim. It is you see, fundamentally messed up on a level that I view as patently unfit for release. And apparently Bethesda had no idea that the game it had spent years building and testing was so broken. I mean it can’t have known. Otherwise it’s quietly, knowingly released a busted product and cynically dicked over a large part of its fan-base. And the worst part? I saw this coming weeks ago. And it’s partly that very fan-base’s fault.

The symptoms of Skyrim’s PS3 decrepitude? An unplayably shaky framerate, that only seems to manifest itself after extended play. It happens like this:

And this:

I knew this was going to happen. I bloody knew it. I was predicting exactly this occurrence around the office weeks before release. Why? Because I played Fallout 3. More specifically I reviewed all of its PS3 DLC. That was a week of black, endless night and seething, fevered Lovecraftian horror. Make no mistake, that shit was broken, and it was broken in exactly the same way that PS3 Skyrim is. Couple that previous experience with the fact that PS3 Skyrim code was conspicuously thin on the ground in the run up to the game’s release and you’ll understand why my stinker-sense was tingling.

I really didn’t want to be right. And when my PS3 playing friends and colleagues started ploughing happily through Skyrim for hours on end, I breathed a sigh of relief, satisfied that, this time at least, my cynicism had been over-sensitively placed.

And then yesterday the reports of disaster, disappointment and personal loss started to come through. One by one, all of my friends hit the 25 – 30 hour mark. One by one their games collapsed in on themselves. Frame rates fell apart. Key quest characters stopped interacting, or disappeared entirely. I have never seen so many people so quickly go from being so happy to so sad and broken.

The technical cause isn’t currently known for definite, but it’s suspected to be a memory management problem related to the size of save files, which seem to exponentially grow on the PS3 until everything falls apart. How did this happen? The options as I see it are two. Either Bethesda’s quality control on the PS3 version just was not up to standard and this vast and fundamental flaw slipped through the net (see my cake analogy), or else the failing was known and the game was slipped out in the hope that they could get a patch ready before anyone noticed. Both options are unforgivable, and certainly not actions to be expected or excused of a top-flight publisher of high-profile AAA games.

But the thing is, with Bethesda it is expected. They’ve been getting away with it for years, and that’s why as much as I’m loving Skyrim (on my 360), I can never truly support Beth as a company. Name one Bethesda-developed game in recent memory that has been released in an acceptable technical state. You can’t, because there aren’t any. Yes, I know that launch glitches are something we accept these days (and I've already written about why we shouldn’t), but Bethesda are a special case. Their bugs aren’t just graphical issues or matchmaking problems. They’re cases of products fundamentally not being fit for sale. Check out thus bug list for Fallout 3. And this one for New Vegas.They're as hilarious as they are terrifying.

But Bethesda keep getting away with it because consumers keep letting them. “Bugs? Oh that’s just the way Bethesda games are” Well f*ck that. No-one else is so consistently shoddy. No-one else of their profile can be actively relied upon to put out a knackered product. I get that these games are big and complicated. I get that some bugs are funny and add character. But let’s get real here. That culture of acceptable shoddiness is what has lead us here. Let a company get away with less serious problems and they’ll (consciously or not) see that as a license to get away with bigger ones. And then we get situations like this. I’m sick of seeing fans blindly defend the company in comments sections and on forums, and then complain – again -  when something like this inevitably happens. It’s your fault.


Above: Pause trailer every two seconds for authentic PS3 gameplay experience

Yes, it might get patched. But consider this. Even if the cause of the problem gets cleaned up, it’s highly doubtful the devastated save files which have resulted will be repairable. Those 30 hour games are very probably gone. Far worse than that, a very large percentage of PS3 players do not have their consoles online-enabled. Those guys are screwed. Even if only a relatively small percentage of players are affected, with 7 million copies shipped that’s still a lot of people ripped off, by either incompetence or cynical deceit.

And this is the same problem we’ve seen in previous Bethesda games. And they got away with it then, so it’s happened again now. Think about that, people.

I have contacted Bethesda with a set of questions relating to all aspects of this matter. So far we have not received a response, but should a direct reply come through, I will of course publish it for you.

David Houghton has been a Content Editor on GamesRadar for four years. He lives in Bath, England, where he is currently in training to represent his country in the Arty Rambling and Angry Ranting events in the 2012 Olympics. He you can follow him on Twitter at @David_H_Esq. All opinions are his own, and he has a lot of them.

215 comments

  • Terrorrizor - July 10, 2013 10:44 a.m.

    >I made a delicious chocolate cake the other day. Except that it wasn't delicious at all in the end. You see it turned out that somewhere along the line I’d started mixing dog poo into it instead of chocolate, and I absolutely didn’t even notice that I had until a few hours later when people started eating it and being sick. Sound implausible? That’s because it’s not true. I’m creating a clever (and marginally disgusting) allegory Dude was this written by peggy hill or what? Get over yourself and your terrible allegory.
  • Preludium - February 23, 2012 9:10 p.m.

    It's still not fixed after 1.4 patch and probably never will. Video proof I made: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8sQIDCdDhs
  • Spartancarver - December 16, 2011 5:02 p.m.

    I love how the opener of this paper refers to the PS3 version (correctly) as being broken as all hell, but in Gamesradar's VERY OWN REVIEW, you downplay the problem, barely mention it, AND STILL GIVE THE GAME A VERY HIGH SCORE. Do you really want to blame the consumer for buying Bethesda products when you yourself are guilty of misleading the consumer into thinking they are buying a well-made and worthy product? This is very two faced of you. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that you are at least acknowledging that there is an issue with the PS3 version of Skyrim. But when you say things like "Broken PS3 Skyrim was inevitable, is inexcusable, and is *probably your fault*" while simultaneously giving Skyrim a high score on THIS SAME website...I'm a little confused.
  • DeviantTroy - November 27, 2011 1:56 a.m.

    I love how Computers gamers and Xbox 360 gamers always Spam Ps3 Topics. Get it though your head your posting on the wrong page! Its the same way on Skyrim Fourm! Pc Gamers and Xbox gamers post more on ps3 fourms talking shit then anything. David is wrong about it being the ps3 fan base that sticks up for Beth. Most of them say most of there games are crap. And yes sense Fallout 3. It the Pc And Xbox owners on our part of the fourm sticking up for them Not the ps3 users. I recently Bought a Ps3 Because my shit box died for like the 7th time. Had no clue I was going to get the middle finger from beth. I figured they wouldnt be able to sell something broken? Guess I was wrong. They had Twitter posts and all saying Ps3 Got alot of attention. And Xbox 360 to Ps3 was 1:1. And Ps3 version reached a parity. And all that bullshit lies. Shit the scam artist once said that the one dude was watching a beth guy playing skyrim and didnt know it was a ps3 version into he seen the controller. I hope someone with money sues! Or starts a class action lawsuit if they do not follow though with the fix. By the way they will not fix look at the forums from there previously released titles. Everyone Spam Skyrim Fourms. Maybe spam Sony support Maybe Sony will take action if enough people spams them about problems with beth games. Perhaps contact Consumer Rights Groups. If they refused to refund us fully. Bethesda If you are reading this ,,/,, You are not getting any more of my money ever again!
  • APluckedOwl - November 24, 2011 8:22 p.m.

    Sorry that was formatted but when I posted it it became a wall 'O' text xD
  • APluckedOwl - November 24, 2011 8:21 p.m.

    We'll all hear about the people who's games are "broken" but seldom will someone who hasn't got a problem with the game come online to tell their story. Heres mine. Never have I had a Bethesda title break on me. Ever. Oblivion, I spent literal months on that game. Easily 1000hrs+, and that was 360 and PC version, with mods. Not one fault. Fallout 3, Probably about 250+hours. 360 and PC. Never crashed, glitched or experienced anything hilarious (unfortunately) or gamebreaking. FNV, only around 100+ hours on 360, I will admit, fair few crashes and clipping issues, about it. Never smashed up the game. Skyrim, 92.18.14 is what it says on my savegame. Not one problem (so far). Now thats my personal experience with the company, consider this: All Bethesda titles, whether you want to admit it or not fanboys, are designed with microsoft in mind. Obviously porting it over and writing code for the ps3 will herald some problems. To be fair, Ill admit that I would be pissed off if I had a ps3 and this happened to me. But in all fairness, with the salient nugget of information in mind, I offer you a solution; Take note of the game developer and if you have the choice, purchase the game for the appropriate console. Also, like some people have mentioned, the sheer scale of what they are trying to do means that yes there are bugs and we must accept them, whether you like it or not. It is impossible for any game to be 100% polished. If you can give me an example of a game that has never crashed or has any bugs ever, let me know and Ill hold my hands up and withdraw my point. Granted, some developers have more bugs than others but again I will say the scale of their projects means yes, Bethesda will have a reputation of buggy games. But until anyone here has proof of the authors accusations or has made a game themselves or knows of one with no bugs, glitches or crashes, shut up and wait for the patch, and be thankful youre getting it, and didnt have to pay for content already on the disc (coughEPICcough) or endure DeadIsland-ish fiascos. With some peoples attitudes if it were up to me I wouldnt even release a patch for you.
  • Techttz - November 24, 2011 10:09 p.m.

    Your biased opinion makes me sad.
  • aberkromby - November 25, 2011 1:59 p.m.

    Noting your last paragraph, you seem have the same opinion as many others I've found: Game developers are doing us a service and we have no right to complain. We should simply be thankful that we get the game at all, not to mention patches and dlc. You seem to forget that there is a large amount of money involved. When you spend $60 on a game that advertises certain funtions, then produces nothing but game-breaking glitches, a patch isn't just a gesture of kindness from the developer; it's a method of customer service that ensured the people on the purchasing end will be willing to spend their money again. In rare cases, it's a way to prevent a class-action lawsuit. Because after all, there's money involved. And when money changes hands, and one person doesn't uphold their end of the deal (i.e. a game is released broken), somebody could potentially go to jail. For this reason, I'm surprised that DICE hasn't been sued for releasing Battlefield 3 on consoles for the same price as on PC, despite the fact that the console versions are functionally inferior. So no, we should not "just be thankful." The term "thank you" doesn't really come into play. The developers make games so that they can eat, pay rent, and otherwise live. If they release a broken game, and decide not to patch it, they're not going to make any money in the future. TL;DR: Devs and publishers don't give a rat's ass about you. They just want your money. They have to earn a living, no matter how ungrateful you are.
  • ChristopherDalley - December 5, 2011 2:16 p.m.

    What this dude said. Word for word.
  • Techttz - November 24, 2011 8:18 p.m.

    Normally I do not register on shotty sites because most of the time it's just a pain, but your article is superb. Bethesda QA is terrible. They need shot. I mean really guys you are probably supporting the pirating of games at this point. Who wants to buy a pos that doesn't perform like its supposed to when you can just download that same pos for free.
  • aberkromby - November 25, 2011 2:03 p.m.

    Most of my friends have actually resorted to pirating any Bethesda-made game because they aren't willing to gamble sixty dollars on a game that may or may not work.
  • IChooseUAntistaMON - November 26, 2011 1:14 p.m.

    GR isn't a "shotty site" F off
  • rxb - November 24, 2011 11:59 a.m.

    Dave your 100% right and good you for being so direct. I think it could actually be criminal, if you let poo get into a cake your probably going to prison.
  • leejohnson222 - November 24, 2011 1:15 a.m.

    i was gonna go into detail about this but then i saw who wrote the article and it was all clear. I cant tell you how many mw3 360 copies we have had back due to it freezing, not working online, and the p3 and 360 customers have told us about skyrim being very buggy both systems, its just luck or bad luck how the game reacts.Dont play ps3 games again if you have issues stick with your fav box
  • frankenfurter - November 23, 2011 11:42 a.m.

    I dunno what you are all moaning about. I used to play EVE online and during big battle's my screen would freeze for hours, even if I logged out and back in again. After I did manage to log back in the very expensive ship I had been piloting had been blown to crap some time ago.
  • frankenfurter - November 23, 2011 10:27 a.m.

    Haven't even bought it yet, soooooooooo i think il wait until the patch come's out or get it on 360 (but i prefer the ps3 controller).
  • JonnyFiveAlive - November 22, 2011 2:42 p.m.

    So is anyone else having issues with there houses? stuff falling on the floors and vanishing?
  • avantguardian - November 23, 2011 4:06 a.m.

    i would just like to think bethesda's playing a meta game with me where they sneak into my home while i'm questing and mess with my shit to make me feel bad for doing the exact same thing in countless rpgs over the years... that said, yes, it seems impossible to decorate your home when they just "drop" all of your shit in it when it loads. not really affecting my enjoyment, however(should be noted as 360, with two crashes in 70hrs, more than acceptable by bethesda standards, if not amazing). and to everyone hating on bethesda for this: i'm sorry, but if anybody else is attempting to do things on the scale of these guys, i'd like to know. there's a reason games this epic are so scarce: shit is HARD.
  • Eviliv3 - November 22, 2011 7:53 a.m.

    well wat can we do about it?? im only about 10 hrs. in and i lag every time i start a battle... so i guess i should go wrap up dark souls hu??
  • downwindgore86 - November 22, 2011 6:29 a.m.

    I have skyrim on ps3, my save is nearly at 8mb an I've been playing 42 hours and all I have experienced are ocassional choppy framerates when I go into a new area. But Bethesda are planning on releasing a patch aimed at fixing issues on both consoles, including the long term issues on ps3, by the end of November. They claim that it will not corrupt or destroy any saves or characters, but we can only see.

Showing 1-20 of 215 comments

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