With the release of the terrible Fallout 76 come the cyclical complaints about how terrible and ancient is the game engine Bethesda uses.
Some guy who thinks he has a better insight ended up writing this:
This is what I wrote on a forum:
This is funny because, very obviously, Jason Schreier doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he’s way too dumb to realize it.
A “game engine”, as used in discussions in forums and articles, IS NOT A PIECE OF TECH. Nor it is a “collection”, as he says.
A game engine is a heuristic. It’s a term in language that works like an umbrella and that encompasses the overall “look and feel” of playing a game. *Playing* it, not building it.
Of course the look of Morrowind or Oblivion doesn’t PRECISELY correspond to the look of Skyrim or Fallout, but the analogies and the general feel are absolutely there. You could make an experiment and let someone play a Bethesda game without knowing it’s Bethesda and he’ll know, if he’s competent, within minutes. And certainly not because that game would be very complex.
If an engine is an engine, then it provides a structure. No matter how much you WRESTLE it, the structure is a structure and by being structure it imposes itself and will create limits.
No matter how many times Bethesda explains how they rewrote everything in their engine, PLAYING those games will always reveal the truth. And the truth is that they are too scared to abandon the pipeline they used until this point because they cannot afford to wipe everything clean and restart from zero. Because IT IS indeed an engine, and they don’t want to discard it.
For Fallout 76 we have changed a lot. The game uses a new renderer, a new lighting system and a new system for the landscape generation.
And yet it’s the same shit, as glaringly obvious to anyone who played even for 5 minutes. All Jason Schreier says falls apart right there because it is PROVEN by playing the game and realizing how the “””engine””” is still the same.
What Jason Schreier says is only vaguely correct in the sense that “engine” is not a word used precisely in this context. But it’s only a discussion on the specific use and meaning of that word, and it doesn’t even remotely touch the actual discussion that takes place when players criticize this “engine”.
Ship of Theseus. It’s basically a new engine. I hate that word.
Ship of Theseus is how to nail the philosophical problem yet without understanding it.
The Ship of Theseus means you are different, not that you can become anything. Of course Bethesda’s games have greatly changed, since Morrowind. Yet they still cannot shake from those roots.
Even when you replaced all the parts, the way you have replaced them influences the outcome. It’s not freeform.
In the same way, the moment all your hair cells get entirely replaced doesn’t correspond to the moment you get blue or purple hair. The “engine” is still the same.
EDIT: This slightly blew up on twitter. But who am I to NOT go down the rabbit hole?
– when people refer to Bethesda’s game engine in the discussions they refer to the feel that links all their games, and that has its root in the underlying tech. That’s why it’s a heuristic. I perfectly underlined it’s a semantic problem.
My car’s engine is a heuristic for the smell of petrol, the screeching of tires, the warm leather seats, the gamers in the back seat screaming ‘are we there yet’.
– more or less, yes. More accurately your words are heuristics, as is all human language and representations. Jason wanted to use technical language, I used neuroscience. It’s a semantic problem.
– in fact, your car’s engine isn’t a heuristic. But your “car’s engine” is. Metalinguistics are the sixth function of language according to Jakobson and reason why we can talk about language with language.
I appreciate this from an academic standpoint, but if you tell your mechanic that they didn’t fix your engine and you actually mean the seat warmers are still too hot, they’re going to say you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.
– yes, context. That’s why all this was spawned from an article that decontextualized the way the term “game engine” was used. Players don’t see code, they see output. So they blame a “game engine” because it’s their heuristic to link experience to tech.
– when someone “feels” Fallout 76 uses the same engine of Oblivion they are observing a heuristic of a link they cannot analyze in detail. Because they lack the precision of vision and information. Hence a heuristic is used.
– so when a player speaks or writes it can only be about the experience and not about the tech. Even if the center of the message is the existence of that link between experience and tech. Because they aren’t independent.
– Funnily, it’s not “academic”. It’s a dualistic problem like mind/body separation. Here it’s tech/feel, engine and experience. We see two things where there’s only one thing. They are one and the same. The tech is what generates experience. There’s no experience without tech the same as there’s no consciousness without a brain.
– It’s as if I say “my hand hurts”, and you, doctor, tell me, “Nope, your brain hurts. Pain can only be a mental construct.” That’s obviously true, but it’s also missing the point.
– RDR2, God of War and Skyrim are all sorta open worlds. Do you think their tools and engines are generic enough that you could perfectly recreate one in the other?
– That’s why people complain. Because the “scaffolding” that on one side allows Bethesda to produce relatively fast some huge games, on the other side ultimately feels archaic and clunky. With its advantages it also inherits its disadvantages, and players are demanding a more radical detachment from those old (but well known and convenient) roots.
– Btw, many times Bethesda has declared they completely renovated their engine.
Seeing lots of speculation about #tesv game engine. It's brand new… and it's spectacular!
— Bethesda (@bethesda) December 12, 2010
– Yet players know it “feels” the same. The heuristic proves the underlying tech hasn’t changed in meaningful ways. As someone wrote in the forum: the proof is in the pudding.