Glitches and bugs, bugs and glitches. An NPC glitches into the side of a building. Treasure disappears before our eyes. Quest lines end in dismal failure on account of important storyline characters badly gored in the anus by a random mammoth.
Now, we’re not going to talk here about how great a game Skyrim is. This is not that place and there’s no need; if you’ve played it for more than a couple of hours, you already know. And neither are we here to defend the existence of these kinds of bug, nor here to argue whether or not the final experience of the game could or should not be perfect. No, we’re here to throw some numbers at you.
But first of all, let’s talk about consensus. Out there in the big, wide world, there’s a consensus that Skyrim has too many bugs. But in a game as complex and unpredictable as Skyrim, we’re all experiencing different bugs, rather than the same bugs. That in itself should tell you everything you need to know about the issue at hand.
If we were to ask the average gamer how many bugs there are in Skyrim, the answer would most likely be anywhere between ‘lots’ and ‘millions’. However, ask that same individual how many bugs they have personally experienced and that answer somehow manages to drop to somewhere around ‘a few’. This then becomes less about bugs and more about the overwhelming power shared experience has to colour our opinions. Through YouTube and through various internet forums, we’ve adopted this notion that the ‘millions’ of bugs in Skyrim are all-prevalent.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to here it _ so the saying goes – will it make a sound? In the case of Skyrim, if we don’t experience a bug personally, what right do we have to stomp about the internet whining about it?
This point is perhaps a little churlish, and perhaps we are going out on somewhat of a limb, so let’s draw it back in. Let’s do some sums. Let’s say, for example, that the bug you experienced in Skyrim was indeed a mammoth killing a quest-imperative NPC. Let’s say that when that NPC left his house that morning to come to work, there was another NPC blocking the doorway to his shop, and that second NPC was there because of a bizarre sequence of random factors conspiring together to get that single unusual result. Let’s say that the chances of the second NPC blocking that door on that day are 500:1.
Now, the quest NPC has to make a decision. He can’t work that day, so what shall he do? Let’s say there is a 10:1 chance he’ll cross the bridge out of town and go up the road a way to pass the time before bed. The matter of him being on the road then becomes 5000:1 (500×10) – a figure we’ve pulled out of thin air by our own admission, but we reckon it’s a fairly conservative estimate.
Now let’s talk about the mammoth. That day, the mammoth, along with its giant herder, was attacked by a dragon. The giant died, the mammoth survived. Let’s say the chances of this occurring at that exact time of day at that exact location with that exact outcome are – conservatively – 10,000:1. Then let’s say the matter of the mammoth stampeding across the road at the exact place our NPC happens to be is about 500:1. This means that the chances of attacking our NPC are, for the sake of argument, around 5,000,000:1. Multiply that by the chances of the NPC being there and you have a bug that crops up exactly once in every 25,000,000,000 (25 billion) games.
Of course, looking at that figure, it would be easy to suggest that if that were the case, then it would never happen. The fact that bugs like this happen all the time is that Skyrim is not a game with just one mammoth and one quest guy. It’s a game with hundreds of thousands of different factors all playing out against one another.
Still think it’s fair to criticise it for being buggy? Yes? Okay, how about we take a look at the cost to a developer to find this specific bug and fixing it. There’s no need to chuck out any specific figures here. It’s a simple curve. The less bugs, the more the cost of QA spirals out of control. A conservative estimate suggests that to have Skyrim bug-free at release would have cost Bethesda literally billions of dollars; perhaps even hundreds of billions.
There is no way around it; the final leg of QA must be done by us; the gaming public. It’s not like Bethesda is refusing to fix these things is it? And so we come full circle to the article title. Calm down, be glad that games exist of such depth, intelligence and complexity, and most of all… please… quit whining.
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