Howard: Skyrim bug issue "not nearly as bad as it seems"

Game director admits to problems but says "vast majority" unaffected

Bethesda game director Todd Howard has spoken about the bugs affecting Skyrim, particularly on PS3, admitting that many gamers saw problems but that the trouble was "not nearly as bad as it seems".

Speaking to Industry Gamers, Howard said that the 1.4 patch, released at the weekend, should solve many problems experienced by gamers, but that many issues were impossible to predict.

"Statistically, it is not nearly as bad as it seems," says Howard. "Meaning, by all the internal and external data, this is our most solid release."

"It's also our most popular by a large factor, so we do have a lot of people on the PS3 who play the games a lot and their games are at a state that the game is just taxing the PS3 enough. That's a fact; so, it really wasn't until we were able to get save games from the users - because, literally, how they play the game over 100 hours - some of it, very little of it, we were able to reproduce and take care of on our own and a lot of it that you're seeing now, we weren't.

"So over the course of, like, December, the community helped us. We got their save games. We'd literally have to look in and say, 'What quests do they have running, what order? Oh, he's doing this. He's got these dragons here. This script is running. Why is it kicking out this many things?' And the 1.4 update is coming out today on the PS3 and it should - in our internal tests on those games - it fixes it, it takes care of it. But, going through this, we now know, there will still be - a smaller set, but there are probably still people we don't have their saved games and they have [other problems]."

Whilst the size and intricacy of Skyrim lead to obvious potential for conflicts and difficult to test issues, it's unlikely that Howard's comments will go down well with gamers who experienced the game breaking issues which afflicted the PS3 SKU.

Users reported stuttering, broken questlines, texture issues and other bugs, with many considering the game unplayable after a certain point. Howard, however, insists that they were in the minority.

"People will say, 'When your save game hits this size [you're affected]' but that's totally not true, because you have a much larger set of people who are fine. So it's not that. It has to do with how many things have you done in the game in what order. What's running right now? And because the game is so dynamic, it does tax the PS3 in a different way. Obviously, we wish we had all that information beforehand. Some of that is just very difficult to get."

More stories

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Blockbuster IP | Podcast

Latest episode available to download now, in which we discuss the resurgence of licensed games

By GamesIndustry Staff

Saved by Morrowind, striving for Starfield: Todd Howard and the story of Bethesda

The director of Elder Scrolls and Fallout discusses the past, present and future of both series in his Develop:Brighton keynote

By James Batchelor

Latest comments (21)

Jason Avent Studio Head / Creative Director, TT Games Publishing9 years ago
I loved Skyrim, played it on 360 and put well over 50 hours into it but I experienced a different bug on nearly every play session. Anyone who experienced a bug while playing the game, say Aye! :) I'm willing to bet 100% of people who played it for over 5-10 hours would have seen pretty significant bugs. That seems pretty bad to me.

Still loved it though.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Grant Hughes Head of Marketing,, Focus Multimedia Ltd9 years ago
I've played Skyrim a lot and I've only seen a couple of minor bugs, no showstoppers. The funniest moment was seeing a dragon taking off with a giant ambling across its back! Great game though, and thoroughly deserving of all the plaudits.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Dan Porter Game Designer, Gameloft Montreal9 years ago
You would be lucky to play Skyrim for 5-10 <strong>minutes</strong> without experiencing a bug. Fortunately, most bugs are small and do little to affect gameplay.

I played on PC and it would crash about once every hour or so for no apparent reason, but you could save ALL THE TIME so who cares? I never got to a point where the bugs actually prevented me from playing the game.
I'm honestly surprised that people play for 100+ hours and then complain. That's already about 50 hours more than other games give you for the same price, and you can always make a new save file if one of them gets unplayably buggy.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (21)
Mike Wells Writer 9 years ago
I don't know how many hours I've logged. Yes, it is substantial, but I don't see that as a valid excuse for releasing such a buggy game. My list of miscellaneous quests that won't clear is growing and I'm getting more outright crashes now than earlier on (x360, 1.4). A bigger issue for me is how the experience of playing it wears very thin as the underlying, simplistic mechanics show through in numerous ways. It is inevitable, I guess, that such a large game will have a substantial gap between promise and delivery. I just wish the gap was smaller, either by shrinking the game or improving the variety of experience and dealing with the nonsensical and repetitive reactions of NPCs that shatter the illusion. The acid test is would I buy a sequel - today, despite all the hours I've had from it, the answer is no, which is a shame.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Dominic Jakube Student 9 years ago
I clock'd 130 hours according to steam, no bugs apart from a couple minor GFX glithes but random crashes to desktop and blue sreens of death.Probery had over 10 but my pc does have the bejezus overclocked out of it.
If you look at it as one crash per every ten hours or so it's about on par with most pc games.Batman arkham city is the only pc game I've finished lately that hasnt crashed on me but that had a terrible glicthy DX11 mode that I ignored despite having two new graphics cards.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Ste Hickman Writer 9 years ago
185 hours done on Xbox 360, 1,000 gs and all that.

It was absolutely riddled with bugs.

From Quests breaking to Mammoths falling from 1,000 feet in the air for no reason to parts of the gameworld disappearing before my eyes at times it was, at best, a bit of a mess.

Still, I at least wrapped the game up after learning not to explore for fear of my upteenth questline snapping and only going to places I'd been directed to by the AI, I adapted to the forced linearity.

The PS3 version?

That was naughty and there are god knows how many thousand PS3 owners who were rightly upset at the state of the final product. To say otherwise when Review code for the format (strangely) went missing and forums the world over have highlighted the incompetence on display since launch is pretty mischievous in my opinion and a poor attempt at 'spin'.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Sam Maxted Journalist / Community / Support 9 years ago
I've come across a number of bugs in the 360 version of the game, most of them involving broken quests, and most of those coming from visiting places before I was 'meant' to. It's particularly frustrating to me as these bugs would be easily picked up by QA, but obviously weren't fixed in time for launch (and many of the bugs still aren't fixed today).

The only other bug I've encountered is a major quest that won't trigger, even though I've fulfilled the requirements for it.

To be honest, I expected Skyrim to be buggy at launch, but I'd have thought more of it would have been fixed by this point.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tom Tapper9 years ago
I'm about 110 hours into my play-through on 360 and I have 5 quests on my quest log that I cannot complete because of bugs.

At first I thought I was missing something but I've confirmed these are bugs on the Skyrim Wiki. Granted this is 5 quests out of several dozen that I have completed successfully but to be honest I think Bethesda should think about the amount of content they offer versus the amount of bugs that come along with a game of this size. A lot of the these quests, especially the side quests and the smaller quests can become really monotonous after a while. A lot of the time it amounts to "go kill this guy over there!" I just think it would serve the game better to ever so slightly trim some of the side content down and design more diverse and interesting quests. That said, the bugs haven't stopped me from ultimately enjoying the hell out of Skyrim. I don't think this is my favorite Bethesda product (Fallout 3, also buggy) nor is it my GOTY for 2011 (Portal 2) but it is right there. I do think Skyrim is the most gorgeous open world I've ever played in.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jarryd Key Analyst 9 years ago
I find it very hard to swallow all the "QA should have found this" arguments. I can't imagine the burden of testing a game like Skyrim. It's bad enough that the world is so large, but all of the dynamic elements make it almost unmanageable. The number of sequences that players can complete actions is virtually infinite. It's very easy to point out broken quests and physics glitches as obvious because that is your only experience. However, it's not quite a black and white when you take into account the far larger number of people that didn't have that experience.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Andrew Fraser Technical Artist 9 years ago
The question is really did they bother with a proper QA process. If a game company decides to make a complex open world system they should have the level of QA to match the task. Not having this is bound to produce a buggy product.

Blaming bugs on the fact that the PS3 system is being taxed is a very poor excuse, *surely* they are testing on this very system. Saying the information on 100 hours of game play is difficult to get is also an extremely poor excuse. *Surely* they tested the game with real players for at least that number of hours before release.

All in all, I'm disappointed the response is not "We apologise for the quantity of bugs facing our players, you are valuable to us (as you pay our salaries) and we are working hard to fix as many as possible as fast as we can".
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Sam Maxted Journalist / Community / Support 9 years ago
Jarryd: I'm not saying QA didn't find it. I'm sure they did, as 'does this break if I go here early' would surely be on their list of 'things most likely to go wrong'. What I'm saying is that there's a big difference to a bug being found by QA, and a bug being fixed.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Aiden Fry Studying Sound and Music for Interactive Games, Leeds Metropolitan University9 years ago
To be honest, the bugs are funny! Yes every now and again a dragon corpse falls through the floor, but it keeps you on your toes! Its a massive game that is mostly working perfectly (on 360) and I love it bugs or no!
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Gareth Ellis IT Analyst 9 years ago
I have about 150 hrs clocked up on PS3 version. Encountered a few bugs that break quests such as Unmelting snow not.being obtainable at throat of the world. Also encountered the usual issues with followers getting stuck out in the world. My main gripe would be the strange way it often hangs between areas. I say strange as it only hangs till one of my friendlist comes onlline/goes offline or messages me, then it continues as normal. Bizarre.

Its still my goty for '11 though since Bethesda seem to be taking the issues on a case by case basis and fixing them as they arise. For me its a better approach than some other companies who just leave games broken... No names mentioned ubisoft...
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 9 years ago
The most unforgivable bugs were those related to quests and the inability to complete or in some cases even start them through no fault of the player. I found the mysterious gem and couldn't get the apraiser guy to even show an option to identify it. Looked around the web and found out that this was a game bug!

A lot of good will towards the scrolls series has been lost for me and especially Bethesda's willingness to sell incomplete games without any remorse.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Robert Turner Studying Games Programming, SAE Institute9 years ago
+1 Peter

I bought the PS3 version and an hour into the game was unable to continue, because the gaurds outside white run did not appear, so I could not be given the key, so I could never enter and continue the story. Thankfully, I was able to kill an npc outside who had a key.

I entered Whiterun to find all the assets missing! No roads, no buildings, fences etc. Just the doors to the buildings and the civilians (most of which were floating out of reach) were present. Even if I was willing to bear with it, the bridge to Dragons reach was missing, so I could not continue the story.

Bethesda released a broken, unfinished game.

And then I went and bought it for PC!!! . . . . and it was fine . . . *phew*
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios9 years ago
This makes me glad I'm playing the PC version of this game.

"Oh no! a quest is broken and it wont let me finish" press ~ key... ten seconds later *POOF* continue unhindered.

I just wish Bethesda would release some sort of manual for their console instead of me having to google the command every time I need to do something. If there already is one and I'm just behind the times on finding it, then a link would be great :)

I downloaded the creation kit last night after finally getting a bit of free time to play the game itself. Gonna try fiddling with it tonight after work. I just wish I didn't have to go through Steam for all of it. ;)
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Terence Gage Freelance writer 9 years ago
Andrew Frazer: "All in all, I'm disappointed the response is not "We apologise for the quantity of bugs facing our players, you are valuable to us (as you pay our salaries) and we are working hard to fix as many as possible as fast as we can"."

I think that would have been the best response, but it seems Bethsoft feel differently, instead trying to undersell the severity of the bugs.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Richard Pygott Level Designer 9 years ago
I have not patched Skyrim on my Xbox 360, I am 150hrs+ in and havent experianced any bugs at all!

Apart from my impending divorce from my wife, as I would rather slay dragons and kill bandits than spend 'quality' time with my real world wife!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Richard Pygott on 21st February 2012 4:51pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Hannah Feehan Studying BA Music Technology and Digital Media, University of Huddersfield9 years ago
I've got it on the PC and had quite a few annoying bugs esp in Whiterun after 'The Battle for Whiterun' quest. And oh my god, when your blades get stuck somewhere because you've already killed the dragon where they've been sent.

The good thing about it being on the PC though is that the clever people living in the world put code on the t'internet that fixes every problem I've run into so yay! I agree with Joshua Rose, they should release fixes themselves and put it on a website rather than us having to search loads ourselves. Its because of the possibility of bugs that I got it on PC. I get that because of the size of the game and it seems to be the running order of certain quests and obv everyone does things in different orders so its difficult, but as consumers, that shouldn't be our problem.

I love, love LOVE this game though. I prefer it so much more to Morrowind and Oblivion.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jeff Wilson9 years ago
I think I shall stick to Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion until all these bugs are fixed in Skyrim. A classic case of releasing a title far too early. Bethesda deserve all the bad press by not allowing the QA testers time to do their job in the first place.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
David Spender Lead Programmer 9 years ago
Lots and lots of bugs and glitches but still enjoyed it. PC version there is usually multiple workarounds - except when Fast Travel broke for me - I was crying!
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.