Bethesda Badness

2009-10-24

Okay, it's time for a bit of rant. Before setting off on a path of total negativity, it's worth stating clearly, in advance, that both Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion are stunning games. On MeteorStorm, they are two of the highest-rated PS3 games, and elsewhere across the web, they've both received numerous awards for their greatness. However, that doesn't mean there isn't room for some strong criticism. The first has to be the poor testing of code that leads to incredibly unstable gameplay and repeated console crashes (on all versions of each game) and the second is the pricing and timing of downloadable content for the games.

Bugs and crashes

Playing Fallout 3 is a bit like walking across a glacier. While you traverse the game, you're exposed to incredible sights and things you perhaps had never seen before. The area seems huge, with endless possibilities and you want nothing more than to explore every corner. Unfortunately, when you least expect it, the snow will give way beneath your feet, dropping you down an inescapable shaft of doom and darkness, leaving you frozen and unable to continue. The gaming solution is a forced reset of the console, and many gamers will find themselves saving every few minutes out of paranoid fear, not that they'll be beaten by a tough enemy, but simply that they might find their game crashes forcing them to repeat any unsaved gameplay. When Fallout 3 was released filled with bugs and glitches, it was clear that no lessons had been learned from the first game. The (virtually) self-proclaimed Game of the Year title banded around with Oblivion had perhaps convinced the developers that nothing more need be done. Further, with the release of expansion packs for Fallout 3, even months delayed on PS3 behind the 360 releases, glitches and freezes were still incredibly commonplace. What had Bethesda done to the expansions in preparation for the PS3 release besides count money from Microsoft? Apparently nothing.

Oblivion
Downloadable Content

For such magnificent games, perhaps the occasional glitch and freeze could be forgiven, but a second mistake was made, though not necessarily down to just the developers. Publishers, and probably Sony themselves, were involved in both the timing and pricing of the Fallout 3 expansions. On the plus side, unlike the Shivering Isles expansion for Oblivion, the Fallout 3 expansions have at least been released, unlike Shivering Isles which never showed up on the EU store, but that's no excuse for the timing and cost. At £7.99 each, the five expansions total just under £40, which is already more than many paid for the game in the first place, and with far less content. In addition, the groundwork for the game's engine, characters, weapons and more is already complete, so the expansions should be a simple addition and modification process, as opposed to a fresh, ground-up construction. This pricing issue aside, the unforgiveable mistake is the release of the pretentious "Game of the Year" edition of Fallout 3 just two weeks after the expansions were all on the store. Available for little more than £30, fans of the original would be better selling their copy of Fallout 3 and buying the Game of the Year edition, at a probable net cost of around £20 - £25.

Fallout 3
Once bitten, twice shy

The hope now is that many consumers will be wise to such tactics and may be able to prevent such treatment in the future. Concerned about the heavy RRP of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2? How about renting or buying a second-hand copy to "stick it to Activision". Unimpressed with the pricing of items in Home and LittleBigPlanet? Ignore them. Concerned about downloadable content in Fallout 3 or subsequent Bethesda releases? Wait and see what happens a few months after the content is released. Huge savings can be made with a little patience in the gaming industry. LittleBigPlanet, Bioshock, Mirror's Edge, Prince of Persia, Far Cry 2 and Assassin's Creed were all major releases last year, but by January (just two months after most were released), the games were already available for as little as half the original price. LittleBigPlanet, in particular, was just £19.99 on some online stores before it was even Christmas.

Thankfully, not all developers and publishers act the same way. Though Bethesda and associated publishers may have made some poor mistakes, there are plenty of developers out there creating content that aims to earn credit and profit in the traditional way, and the varying value for money for various downloads will be discussed in an imminent feature on this site.

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