Forlorn Hopes at Best. Despair at Worst
The video outlined that Elder Scrolls 6, and Starfield are in development. While there are games being developed by Bethesda that I want to play, I am left with a sense of forlorn hope at best, despair at worst. The reason: The Creation Engine.
What a “Game Engine” is
The short answer: It is the collection of tools that will be used to develop a game. At the heart of the engine, is what you can call the “renderer.” This is what combines all of the disparate features, systems and mechanics in to a functioning game.
The Creation Engine
Despite Todd Howard claiming that Bethesda is “building the technology, now that will fuel our future games”, Bethesda has not announced that they will be adopted a new and modern engine. In perspective, the Creation Engine was used to create Morrowind back in 2011. The core of the engine is even older: Gamebyro Engine 1.0, which is from the hallowed antiquity of 2003 – nearly 17 years old.
What’s Wrong with The Creation Engine
How can the “fuel” of your future games be something that is 17 years old? Everyone who has played Skyrim, Fallout 4, and/or Fallout76 can recognize that all three titles suffer from the same sorts of issues across different games of different franchises. I’ll dive a bit deeper in to some of these issues to illustrate my point and provide some comparisons.
- The processing speed of the game engine is tied to framerate. This is where it’s most obvious. Push the framerate past 60 and Creation Engine games begin to stutter and eventually crash. With players now expected good quality visuals, especially with HD, and 140/240hz display, the Creation Engine cannot deliver.
- The Creation Engine only allows single axis modification which is why caves and interior spaces are never in the open world. The engine uses cell-based loading which is why you have loading screens (albeit carefully hidden ones). Black Desert Online is an MMO with High Fidelity graphics and no loading screens.
- The Creation Engine has limitations that make climbing ladders, dynamic jumping and cover shooting impossible. You can fly in Fallout but no aerial maneuvers a-la Anthem. The inabilities of the Engine limits designer creativity and negatively impacts the experience.
- Characters glide or look like they are ice skating. Don’t get me started on the quality of the physics. Look at Overwatch: – Heroes of all shapes and sizes and they all move, run, jump differently. Every character has a distinct feel. That’s how a good engine should handle movement, physics and even weight.
Not so new technologies
Photogrammetry is a relatively new innovation that allows real world objects to be scanned in to a development engine to create assets that can be used. Unfortunately, this is not new technology. It has been around for almost a decade, and has been used by many Triple A developers to create Metal Gear Solid V, and Witcher 2, and even Paladins. Scanning people in (like Skyrim Grandma Shirley Curry who will be an NPC in Elder Scrolls 6) is nothing new either – it is an extension of motion capture technology.
Despite how good these captures look, models do not necessarily look that good in the finished game. There is a massive difference between a scanned objected imported in to an editor, and having it rendered and functional in a game by an engine, especially an ancient one like this.
Bethesda is not an Indie Studio
CD Projekt Red created its own Engine (REDengine) back in 2011 and has updated regularly to ensure that it stays current and can meet the expectations and demands of players. CDPR is using REDengine 4 for their upcoming Cyberpunk 2077.
Bethesda’s inability, or perhaps refusal to update their engine becomes inexcusable given the fact that there is a five-year gap between Oblivion and Skyrim. The same applies to Fallout3 and Fallout4. The games visuals, mechanics and gameplay did not advance five years. New consoles came out, new computer hardware was developed, and The Creation Engine cannot take advantage of that new processing power to push both the visuals and gameplay to the next level.
The Engine Problem is Everything’s Problem
These are just a few things that come immediately to mind. I’m quite sure I’ve been traumatized by many others and repressed those problems to the back of my mind. If we put things in to a car metaphor, You, are looking at a sports car, with an engine (the game engine) from 2003, wood paneled interior (that sort of looks ok), which is bulky and underpowered for today.
Even Proprietary engines like REDEngine and Frostbite (EA’s development engine) have gone through multiple iterations to improve and enhance them on both the front and back end for everything from graphics to gameplay and even editor improvements for ease of programming and code modification.
The Creation Engine requires a massive overhaul, which also means overhauling everything built on top of that engine. I can understand why they don’t want to do it, but they have to do it if they are going to be able to compete by telling compelling stories and have the compelling visuals to match. The Creation Engine cannot do this.