Fallout: New Vegas dev blames PS3 lag on restrictive RAM

Fallout: New Vegas project coordinator talks about the PlayStation 3 and memory issues, which may lend insight to more recent but similar bugs in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.


Bethesda games have, simply put, not performed well on PS3. From Fallout 3 to Skyrim, PlayStation gamers have commonly experienced sluggish performance, especially as file sizes balloon up.

Fallout: New Vegas project coordinator Joshua E. Sawyer recently talked about the memory limitations on PS3, which may provide some insight to Skyrim's performance issues. The PS3 suffers when dealing with large file saves, an "engine-level issue" caused by PS3's restrictive memory.

"That can easily be a big problem, especially if you're on the PS3," Sawyer said on Formspring (via CVG). "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. I think we've seen save games that are pushing 19 megs, which can be really crippling in some areas."

He went onto explain that "individual bits of data are tiny," but the thousands of them cover various data fields. "Over time, it adds up," he said.

Sawyer also says that the PS3's internal structure makes the problems more pronounced, due to the divided memory pool. He later explained that the Xbox 360 has 512 megs of RAM usable, while the PS3 has 256 for system, 256 for graphics. "It's the same total amount of memory, but not as flexible for a developer to make use of."

It's important to note that Sawyer works at Obsidian, and wasn't involved with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which uses a newer engine developed by Bethesda. The PS3 save file size was supposedly addressed in the latest patch, but is continuing to prove problematic. More fixes for the game are promised, as Bethesda continues to polish the game one month after release.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    December 5, 2011 8:00 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Fallout: New Vegas dev blames PS3 lag on restrictive RAM.

    Fallout: New Vegas project coordinator talks about the PlayStation 3 and memory issues, which may lend insight to more recent but similar bugs in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

    • reply
      December 5, 2011 8:15 AM

      So why not learn to work with the restrictive hardware and compensating for it, instead of throwing your hands up in the air while saying "fuck it -- let's ship the game" and giving your customers a poor experience.

      • reply
        December 5, 2011 8:21 AM


      • reply
        December 5, 2011 8:25 AM

        I think throwing your hands up and saying "fuck it" would mean not shipping the game at all.

      • reply
        December 5, 2011 8:29 AM

        Given the description of the problem, their ability to "work with the restrictive hardware" is probably pretty limited without major, possibly crippling changes to the game. Things like "most currently movable objects in the world are no longer movable". Assuming that change is acceptable and feasible (a dubious proposition), do they then apply that across all platforms and give everyone a worse experience, or do they maintain two different sets of code and content?

        They're pretty much damned if they do, damned if they don't.

        • reply
          December 5, 2011 8:37 AM

          Still, I think developers are supposed to acknowledge the limitations of current platforms. I feel bad for PS3 players that paid $60 for a game that's, essentially, incomplete--and will potentially *never* be fixed.

          • reply
            December 5, 2011 9:12 AM

            they can read a review. aw shucks - that sounds like effort.

          • reply
            December 5, 2011 9:17 AM

            Yeah, it sucks, I'm just not sure what the "right" choice would've been.

            - Create (at substantial expense) a significantly different code and content fork to accommodate the PS3, giving them a sub-par experience in one way (significantly more static environments)
            - Use essentially common code and content, and give PS3 players a sub-par experience in another way (lag)
            - Gimp 2 platforms to accommodate the poor design of a third (give all platforms significantly more static environments)
            - Don't release on the PS3

            The list of options isn't exactly good.

        • reply
          December 5, 2011 8:56 AM

          Was going to say the same thing. Make a better, more flexible game at the expense of one platform? Or make a mediocre game suitable for all platforms? I think we'll all agree we've seen to much of the mediocre solutions; especially on the PC side.

        • reply
          December 5, 2011 9:16 AM

          Yeah it is pretty much a damned if you do/damned if you don't kind of situation. I'm not angry at the dev, this is more of a "oh come on" kind of situation where a dev knows the hardware has been fixed for the past five years, yet doesn't acknowledge the game's own technological faults.

      • reply
        December 5, 2011 8:40 AM

        Because the people who cut the checks don't give a shit, developers are expensive.

        • reply
          December 5, 2011 8:56 AM

          Blame upper management (well... maybe not publicly), not the hardware.

          • reply
            December 5, 2011 10:18 AM

            Upper management has to worry about little things like budget and ROI, if it costs to much to work around hardware limitations don't expect it to happen.

            • reply
              December 5, 2011 11:49 AM

              This is well-known.

              • reply
                December 5, 2011 11:59 AM

                Dude, the PS3 hardware is an absolute bitch to work with if you don't have an engine designed with it in mind from the very start.

                You've got a 256kb limit on each SPU that means you need to be able to split your data up into nice chunks.

                You've got the 256mb/256mb split which you can get around, if you keep data transfers under a minimum threshold.

                There's also a bunch of other similar restrictions which I won't get into here.

                If they wanted to throw away years of work and start from scratch they could. However most people port an existing engine, which is brutal to do on PS3, and I speak from experience.

                • reply
                  December 5, 2011 12:04 PM

                  I totally understand the limitations of the hardware. This entire subthread was written with Bethesda's track record in mind and I guess I should have made that clearer.

                  • reply
                    December 5, 2011 12:11 PM

                    Yeah, but like said above they probably would be talking 5-10 million more in order to do a re-write. It's just not cost effective unless your targeting it as a primary platform or exclusive.

                    I've been playing on PS3 and am actually pretty impressed. I've only seen 1 lockup in the 40 or so hours I've got in on int.

      • reply
        December 5, 2011 9:03 AM

        Hopefully the next generation will get rid of this problem by specing at least 2 GB of system memory and 1 or 2 GB of dedicated texture memory. The PS3's hard limit of 256 MB system memory has caused numerous multiplatform titles to run slow or buggy due to the compromises of developers who don't have the time to optimize per-platform.

        That said, "Waah, my leak-tastic engine doesn't work well with hard memory limits" is a lame excuse, even if it is somewhat justified by the pressures of current megapublisher-driven game development. Especially when other developers under similar conditions are doing a far better job.

        • reply
          December 5, 2011 9:15 AM

          I should emphasize that back before the 360 and PS3 were spec-locked, we already had games on PC that were using over 1 GB of system memory. IIRC, UT2004 had an FAQ entry of "For best results, install on a system with more than 1 GB memory" so the UT2004 process could use a full 1GB+ on its own. Epic was also the reason why the 360 has 512 MB unified memory, and not 256 MB. But RAM is far cheaper now, so Microsoft and Sony should show some respect to future developers and give them plenty of RAM.

      • reply
        December 5, 2011 10:11 AM

        Why not just admit the PS3 isn't the second coming of Christ?

        'learning to work with the restrictive hardware" in a real world development environment with engineers earning 75-100k a year and dozens of other devs waiting around for them to 'figure it out' is a recipe for disaster. Especially when nobody knows what the result will be.


      • reply
        December 5, 2011 1:56 PM

        The hardware is the hardware, you can't make a specific hardware run everything, from tetris to for example crysis at 2,560 x 1,600 resolution with all maxed up and super sample antialiasing.

        You should be happy that they even made it run on PS3 with so low RAM.

    • reply
      December 5, 2011 8:43 AM

      Hey at least obsidian is 3 for 3. All 3 versions are buggy piles of shit, and I will avoid games by them.

      • reply
        December 5, 2011 2:20 PM

        I can count on one hand the amount of times FO:NV crashed on me. The only real issue I had with it was the same VATS slowdown issue I had in FO3 that developed after the second or third patch came out.

        • reply
          December 5, 2011 2:22 PM

          Though maybe I just didn't play either for long enough on PS3.

        • reply
          December 5, 2011 3:47 PM

          it was an absolute clusterfuck at launch

      • reply
        December 5, 2011 3:14 PM

        That's too bad. New Vegas is a much better RPG than Fallout 3, as well as being a lot more true to the heart and soul of Fallout.

    • reply
      December 5, 2011 8:44 AM

      I didn't notice any bugs in NV on PS3.

      it did look like dogshit though

      • reply
        December 5, 2011 8:55 AM

        I've been playing through NV on PS3 lately. It seems that when ever I play for over 2 hours straight, I have to restart the game because the frame rate shoots down to the point that it's unplayable.

      • reply
        December 5, 2011 9:18 AM


    • reply
      December 5, 2011 8:45 AM

      I agree with Waffles but I can see the point the Dev is trying to make. ... so something is going to eventually have to give because they can't continue to pass these issues to the customers and "oh we'll patch it out" While not game breaking and overly annoying in IMO - it can be very tiresome and huge turn off to others. Eventually some one is going to have to say with in the team that they can't keep doing this

    • reply
      December 5, 2011 9:24 AM

      Do the console versions of FNV/Skyrim have quick saves/loads?

      • reply
        December 5, 2011 10:19 AM

        You can save any time, but it doesn't have a quicksave/load like PC games do.

    • reply
      December 5, 2011 10:44 AM

      Newer engine..Ha! The Creation Engine is just an updated version of everything in the past. It has many of the same distant LoD artifacts found in Oblivion ffs. It even has the cpu bottleneck in Oblivion. The problem isn't the hardware, the problem is that they're using an engine that's years older than the platform they're trying to run it on. It's BS to blame this on Sony. Every single game since Oblivion, on every single platform, has been buggy upon release. Skyrim is particularly buggy. I mean, not only is magic resistance borked right now but armor isn't working like it should either. If that's not game breaking idk what is.

      • reply
        December 5, 2011 2:13 PM

        You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. :)

        • reply
          December 5, 2011 3:32 PM

          Regardless, the results are the same. Amazing game with a bunch of shit gone bad.

    • reply
      December 5, 2011 1:06 PM

      It has nothing to do with inept programming. They've only had 5 years to learn what how the hardware works.

    • reply
      December 5, 2011 1:33 PM

      consoles are shit

    • reply
      December 5, 2011 3:40 PM

      maybe I didn't play that much, but I don't remember having issues with the ps3 version of F:NV

Hello, Meet Lola