“There are bugs you’ll just leave” - programmer Brett Douville on debugging Skyrim | PCGamesN

“There are bugs you’ll just leave” - programmer Brett Douville on debugging Skyrim

Skyrim Dragon

When you’re making a huge game like Skyrim, some bugs are going to slip through the cracks. Talking to Jason Schreier on Kotaku’s Splitscreen podcast, Skyrim’s lead programmer Brett Douville talks about how making a massive game like Skyrim means leaving a few bugs in the shipped game.

Mess around to your heart’s content in these PC sandbox games.

According to Douville, Bethesda used a system similar to LucasArts when debugging their games, where they would specifically ask their QA department “to tell us what’s important” to fix, as “there’s this much time between now and ship.” This ‘triage’ process then involved the QA team marking out the bugs which had to be fixed ASAP, giving programmers key targets that had to be resolved before launch. In some cases during triage, Douville stated that “there are bugs you’ll just leave”, as there either isn’t enough time to fix something minor, or that the game is actually more fun with the bug left in.

Douville specifically uses something like the Warthog jump in Halo as an example of a bug that would make the game less fun if it was taken out. For a bug like that, “it’s ridiculous, it looks silly, and yet it’s hilarious and fun” so it actually pays to leave it in. Obviously, Douville says that this didn’t mean the team would be callous, as programmers would “fix things that were obvious and egregious, and in particular could impinge on a player’s ability to continue enjoying the game.” However, if something was “a little wonky” and ended up causing no real harm, it may have been left in.

When you are creating such a large game like Skyrim, it is impossible to be truly ruthless when debugging as your game would never come out. “It would take forever to make a Bethesda-style game” where every single glitch or bug was ironed out, so programmers and QA have to be realistic when managing their time. By allowing that breathing room for things to be “a little wonky” at times, Douville says that this gave designers the room to “go hog wild and put whatever in the game.” Sometimes, having your horses occasionally glitch into a mountainside may actually make your game that bit better.

The Kotaku interview is not just limited to discussing the debug process, as Douville talks about certain elements which didn’t make it into Skyrim, his history working with LucasArts, mixing up the Fallout formula with Fallout 3 and more. For those looking for a peek behind the game dev curtain, give the full podcast a listen.

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Jac Atax avatarJezcentral avatarpanbient avatarkcaz25 avatarhfm avatar
Jac Atax Avatar
226
1 Year ago

I wonder if they didn't have such a dedicated modding base to clean up after them whether they would have that attitude

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panbient Avatar
271
1 Year ago

Having actually worked as QA on minor / budget games. I can only imagine the exponential growth of potential bugs and issues in a AAA open world game.

So... YES. YES they would ABSOLUTELY still have that same attitude otherwise they'd only be getting ready to maybe release Oblivion. Soon.

It's incredibly naive and misguided to assume that a developer can address and squish all the bugs AND maintain a reasonable release date. There's always going to be a lot of stuff that is clearly a bug, or not quite right.

Ultimately, it's a matter of priorities. Game breaking bugs that prohibit the Player from completing a quest will always be top priority. And when you reach crunch time you can bet everything you own there are absolutely no developers who give any craps about any sort of minor visual bug that isn't breaking the game while they're trying to get it out the door. And getting their bills paid. And maybe finally getting an actual day off.

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hfm Avatar
313
1 Year ago

Yep. Anyone who thinks otherwise clearly has never been involved in a software project of any sort. Definitely not one of the size and complexity of a bethesda open world game.

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Jezcentral Avatar
548
1 Year ago

Considering they are the ones who did the work to put the modding tools in the game, I don't that has anything to do with it.

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Jac Atax Avatar
226
1 Year ago

Modding tools or QA tools?

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kcaz25 Avatar
1
1 Year ago

I love Skyrim. I think Bethesda understands alot of things about gamers(not modders or playing a modded game) but this Douville is so smug sounding. "We may have left a few bugs in" no you did.

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