Fallout: New Vegas Dev weighs in on Skyrim's PS3 Lag Issues

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Fallout: New Vegas Dev weighs in on Skyrim's PS3 Lag Issues

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Skyrim is having some performance issues on the PS3 and Joshua E. Sawyer, lead developer on Fallout: New Vegas, knows why.

Like Skyrim, both Fallout 3 and its not-quite-sequel Fallout: New Vegas have some pronounced lag and micro-stutter issues, most notably on the PS3. Answering user questions on Formspring, Sawyer gave a rather technical breakdown of the engine's issues. Beware, humble reader, here be jargon.

Essentially, each action you take in Skyrim, be it punching a mammoth in the face or murdering women and decorating your house with their body parts, results in changes to the world which are stored in a bit field. As you play, more and more changes are stored in the bit-field file system until, eventually, the file becomes too huge for the system to comfortably handle.

"It's an engine-level issue with how the save game data is stored off as bit flag differences compared to the placed instances in the main .esm + DLC .esms," Sawyer explained. "As the game modifies any placed instance of an object, those changes are stored off into what is essentially another .esm. When you load the save game, you're loading all of those differences into resident memory."

"Some areas will reset contents after three (game) days, but a lot of stuff lingers. Additionally, we also have to deal with 'persistent references,' he continued. "These are objects that are immediately loaded with the game because we need to be able to reference them anywhere/everywhere in the world -- even if the player is nowhere near the object. Characters are the most common example. All of the companions need to be able to move around the world even when they are not in your current area, so they are all persistent references."

Apparently the problem occurs on every system, but is most apparent on the PS3 because it divides its 512 megs of Ram between graphics and memory, while the Xbox 360 can allocate its full 512 megs to either purpose and the average gaming PC has dedicated memory for both functions.

The problem is endemic to the Gamebryo engine and seems to have been passed down to the Creation engine that powers Skyrim. It's not going away any time soon. " It's not like someone wrote a function and put a decimal point in the wrong place or declared something as a float when it should have been an int," Sawyer responded to one question. "We're talking about how the engine fundamentally saves off and references data at run time. Restructuring how that works would require a large time commitment."

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Hang on, doesn't Skyrim use the Creation engine, not Gamebryo? I'm sure they share a similar base, but still.

JC175:
Hang on, doesn't Skyrim use the Creation engine, not Gamebryo? I'm sure they share a similar base, but still.

I heard the Creation engine Bethesda made for Skyrim was heavily based off Gamebryo but I'm unsure how true that is.

Oh, sadness. I was hoping that maybe the other threads I've read about this were wrong. Guess not. I'll just have to deal with it. The next patch release better fix the resistances though. The lag seems to go away if I just turn off my system for a while, but having a single dragon breath attack rip my 59 level character apart because my boots don't work anymore is getting a bit annoying.

So the new engine is really the old engine with a new paint job. Colour me not surprised.

I like how I get frozen in place because, you know, I was talking with someone when a dragon came and they got killed/ran away.

THANKS FOR THE BROKEN GAME YO!

Wait- The PS3 and Xbox both only have 500mbs of ram?

In short: the PS3 doesn't have enough RAM.

(And, honestly, neither does the 360. The console hardware designers really have to stop skimping on the RAM. A lot of smartphones have more than these so-called HD consoles.)

80Maxwell08:

JC175:
Hang on, doesn't Skyrim use the Creation engine, not Gamebryo? I'm sure they share a similar base, but still.

I heard the Creation engine Bethesda made for Skyrim was heavily based off Gamebryo but I'm unsure how true that is.

It's the same as the Gamebryo engine being based off the NetImmerse engine, the engine Morrowind uses.

So basically, it's as much of a difference from the Gamebryo engine as the Gamebryo engine is a difference from the NetImmerse engine. Personally, I see it all as iterations of a core engine. A core engine that seems to be broken, by the looks of it. And yet they're still selling it.

If anyone else sold a broken product like this, the backlash would be insane. Not sure why or how Bethesda gets away with it so easily.

Hat Man:
Wait- The PS3 and Xbox both only have 500mbs of ram?

Well, the PS3 really has 256 MB. The other 256 are GDDR.

The Xbox 360 uses 512 MB of memory that is shared freely between CPU and GPU.

Shamanic Rhythm:
So the new engine is really the old engine with a new paint job. Colour me not surprised.

Yeah. Bethsoft made a big hoopla about how the Creation engine was a supposedly complete overhaul of Gamebryo, but I really doubt they'd have had the time to code their own engine from the ground up. There aren't a lot of devs who really bother with coding new engines every so often, at least not in the Western market.

Here, the main player is still the Unreal Engine. id Software is hoping that Tech 5 is going to be attractive to some developers, and we're starting to hear about voxel-based engines as well - but this is still largely at the stage of cobbling buzzwords together on top of a YouTube presentation.

Recently, Japan's also jumped on the Unreal bandwagon, but they still tend to develop their own engines in-house as often as possible. As for Gamebryo, it's been used for several other projects in the past: Bully's Scholarship Edition, Defense Grid, Epic Mickey, RIFT, three consecutive Sid Meier titles, etc.

It isn't exactly what I'd call a powerhouse engine. Like I said, though, I doubt Bethsoft would have the time, money or patience to switch to something like Unreal. Source is also starting to be semi-common, but it's also become fairly venerable. I wouldn't be surprised if part of the reasons behind Episode 3's constant delays involve the engine being worked on.

I await the horde of 'PCs are better you're idiots for buying it on a ps3' to come in
3...
2...
1...

JC175:
Hang on, doesn't Skyrim use the Creation engine, not Gamebryo? I'm sure they share a similar base, but still.

The creation Engine is heavily based on the Gamebryo engine, typo on my part. Thanks for pointing it out.

Christ on a bike, thats supposed to be the point of buying a game on a console that the developers know exactly what architecture there dealing with so while it might be a bit naff graphicaly you can be sure the bloody thing works.

I'm PS3 and about thirty hours in, I havent really experience anything yet but that save file size is creeping up.

I'm getting a new PC in the new year so I might get that version instead but I dont want to give these bloody cretins any more money or its like I'm rewarding them for releasing an unfinished game.

I have mixed opinions on this. I don't want to see Bethesda put out of business because they are one of the few companies making this kind of game, but this entire problem is not cool. PS-3 gamers deserve a refund at the very least.

I'm sorry but I can't envision something like this just "slipping by" given how big a part of the system it is, and it ultimatly makes the game virtually unplayable. Even if Bethesda puts in a substnatial amount of time and effort to fix things, that doens't mean much to the people who spent $60 right now and wind up with a glorified coaster after they play for a while.

Nothing a good garbage handler cant fix. This guy overly exagerates. files are files. files can be edited. files can be deleted. dont care what the engine does with it. this is fixable.

80Maxwell08:

JC175:
Hang on, doesn't Skyrim use the Creation engine, not Gamebryo? I'm sure they share a similar base, but still.

I heard the Creation engine Bethesda made for Skyrim was heavily based off Gamebryo but I'm unsure how true that is.

Consider that the company that made Gamebryo went out of business a few years ago, thus support for the engine stopped nearly entirely, I would say that Creation is Gamebryo but with Bethesda code added in.

Thinking about this a bit more now, wouldn't it be possible for the game to create a list of locations an object would need to be, such as companions for example, and only pull that reference once the player enters the same area? I'm not entirely sure, but isn't that how Oblivion worked?

Sure, one of the downsides is that NPC's wouldn't be able to fluidly move between areas, but it should cut down on some of the memory.

or.... hell, hit it like Morrowind. Make all NPC's static to either the World or to an inside cell.

You know this explains alot. When I strated my fallout 3 game it ran just fine but when it got close to the final encounter it was particaly unplayble. I started to notice it in new vegas as well but no where near as bad as fallout 3. Well here's hopeing that the'll come up with a vibal soultion to this problem

Proof that the Creation engine is just gamebryo with a new coat of pant and glitter sprinkled on.

And yet Bethesda, of course, get away with it.

And... this is pretty much why I don't play any Bethesda title on anything other than my PC. It's not a superiority thing, but it's the only place where the fans are able to fix all the shit they got wrong.

I love my PS3, but Bethesda apparently sucks at making games for consoles. I'll stick to playing their games a year later once fans, who apparently care more than the devs, patch the game and add mods people actually want.

Meh, tradeoff.

An engine that can support an astounding number of possibilities and circumstances, allowing for a wide girth of role playing experiences, but actually managing this feat on a technical level is astoundingly difficult.

"having a graphics card with three times as much VRAM as a PS3 has RAM"

"Having two of them"

=D

And here I thought they were complaining about PC's a few weeks ago.
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/114150-Bethesda-VP-Developing-For-PC-is-a-Headache

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-vs-ps3-skyrim-lag
"Game of the Year" nominee, and it is unplayable to millions after a certain amount of playtime.

How can Bethesda get away with it? Yes, the foundation of the game is good... but that's only HALF the point of making a good game. The other half? Making sure the game WORKS. In fact, making a game that doesn't fall to pieces should probably take priority over talking dogs and detailed leather loincloths.

"But it's a Bethesda game. We should expect it."

Just Cause 2 is VASTLY bigger than Skyrim... I don't recall there being anywhere NEAR the same number of bugs and glitches, let along game-destroying lag.

http://unrealitymag.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/large-video-game-worlds2.jpg

Seriously, how come NO JOURNALIST brought this up? (EDIT: Journalists are starting to bring it up) Why aren't we beating down the doors and demanding a product that, you know, WORKS as intended?

If you got the PS3 version, demand a full refund. You're owed it. And, no, you should not have to expect patches after launch to fix a faulty product from breaking and crashing and freezing because the devs were too scared to delay the game and fix it when it obviously NEEDED to be done. But, whatever, they got their $60, right?

Not to beat a dead horse but... I fucking knew it.
Consoles desperately need more freakin' memory, NOT more video or processing power, just more memory and call it a day!.

Other than that, just avoid the PS3 version.

Trishbot:
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-vs-ps3-skyrim-lag
"Game of the Year" nominee, and it is unplayable to millions after a certain amount of playtime.

How can Bethesda get away with it? Yes, the foundation of the game is good... but that's only HALF the point of making a good game. The other half? Making sure the game WORKS. In fact, making a game that doesn't fall to pieces should probably take priority over talking dogs and detailed leather loincloths.

"But it's a Bethesda game. We should expect it."

Just Cause 2 is VASTLY bigger than Skyrim... I don't recall there being anywhere NEAR the same number of bugs and glitches, let along game-destroying lag.

http://unrealitymag.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/large-video-game-worlds2.jpg

Seriously, how come NO JOURNALIST brought this up? (EDIT: Journalists are starting to bring it up) Why aren't we beating down the doors and demanding a product that, you know, WORKS as intended?

If you got the PS3 version, demand a full refund. You're owed it. And, no, you should not have to expect patches after launch to fix a faulty product from breaking and crashing and freezing because the devs were too scared to delay the game and fix it when it obviously NEEDED to be done. But, whatever, they got their $60, right?

The comparison to Just Cause 2 is a tad disproportionate. JC2 may be larger overall, but it has a much more simple structure: little to no civilian AI, no interior cells, no persistent NPCs, etc. You'd be surprised how much that sort of thing can affect the performance of a game. When people say that it should get a pass because it's big, they usually aren't just referring to the size of the landmass, they're referring to the number of variables. The sheer number of scripts needed to run the number of things Skyrim does makes almost everything in the game interconnected. A glitch that caused inadvertantly killing an NPC result to result in failing an entirely unrelated quest might not show up in 75% of cases during testing, and that's only counting the people who came across the circumstances in the first place. And even if you fixed that glitch, the game might just shift the blame onto a different NPC without telling you. We might eventually be able to have a glitch-free Bethesda game, but it would probably take at least two years of nonstop testing.

I'm not saying that the glitches should be ignored. I'm just saying that they're a necessary evil for what the games are.

Kalezian:

Thinking about this a bit more now, wouldn't it be possible for the game to create a list of locations an object would need to be, such as companions for example, and only pull that reference once the player enters the same area? I'm not entirely sure, but isn't that how Oblivion worked?

When the problem is not enough RAM so the game lags, the reason it lags is because the game actually has to load from a hard drive or a disc something that should be on the RAM (like the save file for this engine). RAM is hundreads or thousands times faster than a hard drive. If you have to access it every time the player makes an action, there's got to be a lot of wait time. You also have to keep the file organised so that you don't have to parse all the data every time you have to save or load something.

So, what you said would slow the game down for everyone, not just PS3 owners.

Irridium:

80Maxwell08:

JC175:
Hang on, doesn't Skyrim use the Creation engine, not Gamebryo? I'm sure they share a similar base, but still.

I heard the Creation engine Bethesda made for Skyrim was heavily based off Gamebryo but I'm unsure how true that is.

It's the same as the Gamebryo engine being based off the NetImmerse engine, the engine Morrowind uses.

So basically, it's as much of a difference from the Gamebryo engine as the Gamebryo engine is a difference from the NetImmerse engine. Personally, I see it all as iterations of a core engine. A core engine that seems to be broken, by the looks of it. And yet they're still selling it.

If anyone else sold a broken product like this, the backlash would be insane. Not sure why or how Bethesda gets away with it so easily.

Because herp derp Skyrim dragons GotY.

Hal10k:
We might eventually be able to have a glitch-free Bethesda game, but it would probably take at least two years of nonstop testing.

I'm not saying that the glitches should be ignored. I'm just saying that they're a necessary evil for what the games are.

Funny you should say that. Did you know for all of Nintendo's big releases, they try and dedicate around one year JUST to bug-hunting and glitch-finding? One whole year for every Zelda game is dedicated to finding these problems and ironing them out, one whole year with Mario games testing it for problems, one whole year making sure their top games meet their high standards of quality.

... So maybe Bethesda SHOULD do what you said, or at the very least consider a whole year, maybe not two, but at least 1 year of bug hunting.

80Maxwell08:

JC175:
Hang on, doesn't Skyrim use the Creation engine, not Gamebryo? I'm sure they share a similar base, but still.

I heard the Creation engine Bethesda made for Skyrim was heavily based off Gamebryo but I'm unsure how true that is.

Same in functionality, but rendering is WAAY different.

draythefingerless:
Nothing a good garbage handler cant fix. This guy overly exagerates. files are files. files can be edited. files can be deleted. dont care what the engine does with it. this is fixable.

Of course it is fixable. If I had the source code I could just rip a couple chunks out and be done in about 10 minutes. But what is causing this problem is the fact that the world goes on without you, and changes you make to the world stay. Without that, it would be a very different game.

Grey Carter:
The problem is endemic to the Gamebryo engine and seems to have been passed down to the Creation engine that powers Skyrim. It's not going away any time soon. " It's not like someone wrote a function and put a decimal point in the wrong place or declared something as a float when it should have been an int," Sawyer responded to one question. "We're talking about how the engine fundamentally saves off and references data at run time. Restructuring how that works would require a large time commitment."

So, take the time and make the commitment. Do Bethesda not know how much good will they would garner if they took the time to build a new engine from scratch? How much hate they wont get once they figure out how to make a game run smoothly?

Trishbot:

Hal10k:
We might eventually be able to have a glitch-free Bethesda game, but it would probably take at least two years of nonstop testing.

I'm not saying that the glitches should be ignored. I'm just saying that they're a necessary evil for what the games are.

Funny you should say that. Did you know for all of Nintendo's big releases, they try and dedicate around one year JUST to bug-hunting and glitch-finding? One whole year for every Zelda game is dedicated to finding these problems and ironing them out, one whole year with Mario games testing it for problems, one whole year making sure their top games meet their high standards of quality.

... So maybe Bethesda SHOULD do what you said, or at the very least consider a whole year, maybe not two, but at least 1 year of bug hunting.

Say a zelda game is 10 hours long, and it takes them a year to debug it. If my math is correct, which I am almost positive it isn't, skyrim is 300 hours long, and would take 30 years to debug by nintendo standards.

I think the solution is just to set the refresh rate of any given zone to just two days, because I get around a lot, and it's probably complicating things.

Either way, guess which users have their own 4gb ram mod that lets you dodge these issues? That's right! Not you.

008Zulu:

Grey Carter:
The problem is endemic to the Gamebryo engine and seems to have been passed down to the Creation engine that powers Skyrim. It's not going away any time soon. " It's not like someone wrote a function and put a decimal point in the wrong place or declared something as a float when it should have been an int," Sawyer responded to one question. "We're talking about how the engine fundamentally saves off and references data at run time. Restructuring how that works would require a large time commitment."

So, take the time and make the commitment. Do Bethesda not know how much good will they would garner if they took the time to build a new engine from scratch? How much hate they wont get once they figure out how to make a game run smoothly?

Do you know how long it would take? It would put some sort of perspective on such a "simple" request.

There's a reason why there's profit in licensing engines out to other companies...and it's not "new engines are easy to make from scratch."

weirdguy:
Do you know how long it would take? It would put some sort of perspective on such a "simple" request.

There's a reason why there's profit in licensing engines out to other companies...and it's not "new engines are easy to make from scratch."

Never said it would be easy or quick. But imagine just how much better Oblivion, Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas and Skyrim would have been had they taken the time to build an engine rather than using one they knew was faulty.

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