Skyrim's PS3 problems explained by Bethesda

The PlayStation 3 version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim suffered from some debilitating bugs, to the point that some players deemed it unplayable due to lag. Bethesda chief game designer Todd Howard has opened up about why the bugs happen, and how the company thought they had stomped them out before release.

"The way our dynamic stuff and our scripting works, it's obvious it gets in situations where it taxes the PS3," Howard told Kotaku. "And we felt we had a lot of it under control. But for certain users it literally depends on how they play the game, varied over a hundred hours... It's literally the things you've done in what order and what's running."

This sounds similar, but not identical, to comments made last year by Fallout: New Vegas project coordinator Joshua E. Sawyer. He claimed that the small adjustments to objects in the world add up, particularly on the PlayStation 3, and large save files can be "crippling." Howard calls the save file size theory a "common misconception."

Still, Howard says that Bethesda knew the PS3 would hit a "bad memory situation," but took steps to adjust for those problems. A company representative clarified that the solutions worked during internal testing, but a "small percentage" of users still suffered the problems. "There were clearly people that weren't [okay after 1.2]," Howard said. "We didn't know why. So they sent us their saved games."

These comments came just as the v1.4 patch was rolling out, and he was hesitant to claim the problem was stamped out completely. "We're very confident a lot more people are going to be in a very good situation, but we're not... Now that we've been through this, we're not naive enough to say, 'We have seen everything,' because we have to assume we haven't." He said the next step will be the same as the last one: look at users' save files, and try to diagnose the problem.

It seems Howard was right, in that the 1.4 update did make a better situation for most PS3 players. Those still having issues might have it mitigated by making a post-patch new save file. But some gamers are still having issues, so Bethesda's bug-squashing isn't finished yet.