Fallout dev explains why Skyrim doesn’t work on PS3. “Engine-level issue”
Someone over at IGN noticed a dev talking about the PS3 memory issues with Bethesda’s game engine. Josh Sawyer is project director at Obsidian Entertainment and worked on Fallout: New Vegas. He initially answers questions on that game before moving on to Skyrim. Even by Todd Howard’s own admission Skyrim is a “similar tech game”. So essentially: what didn’t work in New Vegas doesn’t work in Skyrim.
Sawyer describes the problem saying “It’s an engine-level issue with how the save game data is stored” adding “We’re talking about how the engine fundamentally saves and references data at run time”. When asked about the huge save file sizes in Fallout: New Vegas he also says “That can easily be a big problem, especially on PS3. The longer you play a character, the more bit differences on objects (characters, pencils on tables, containers, etc.) get saved off and carried around in memory.”
The ‘bit differences’ he mentions are basically memory markers for anything you interact with. ”It’s a compact way to store data” he explains in one answer. “The bit differences in this case are just flags set up to mark what data has changed. Let’s say that I, as a designer, set up a creature in an area. I set all of the character’s statistics and gear and save it in the master file that gets loaded into the game. You, the player, run through the area and shoot that dude. You loot him of his gear and put a shovel in his inventory because you are wacky. The game needs a way to mark that his a) position b) health c) inventory d) some other stuff has changed on him. It does that by marking what fields have changed (by setting individual bits) and then indexing the individual (changed) values for reference later.”
Of course the problem is that after say 50 hours there are a lot of dead naked guys with shovels lying around. “When you load the save game, it loads up all of the bit fields marking changes in your save game. When the individual objects load, it applies the indexed changes to those objects. That way, when you come back to the area you left two nights ago, the character is still sprawled out where you left him, naked, with a shovel in his inventory. Individual bits of data are tiny, but there are thousands upon thousands of objects in F:NV, each one containing numerous data fields that could potentially be changed in your save game. Over time, it adds up.”
So, as most of the guesses suggested, every time you interact with Skyrim you kill it a little bit. When we interviewed creative director Todd Howard he talked about the Skyrim tech. “Between each game we re-write a bunch of stuff, so between Oblivion and Fallout 3 we rewrote a lot of lighting and things like that. Between Fallout 3 to Skyrim we’ve re-written the majority of the engine. All of the rendering, new animation system, scripting, faces, pathfinding, dialogue, LOD. So we ended up re-writing the majority of the engine, we refer to it as the Creation Engine. Now the paradigm for how we build worlds hasn’t changed. So there are some similarities to how our game loads, how things stream in, because we’re still a similar tech game.”
You can read Josh’s most pertinent answers below, just in case they disappear.