Testing Revealed A "Bad Memory Situation"
Skyrim is a game with few flaws, but its bugs ruined the experience for many. Arguably the worst of these issues (backwards dragons and Nightcaller sodding Temple - sorry - aside) was incredibly inconistent PS3 performance that lead to chugging frame rates and laggy game experiences. Interestingly, it appears that Bethesda was aware of these problems ahead of time and anticipated a "bad memory situation" on the PS3 before release... but not in such large numbers. Full story after the break.
Speaking to Kotaku at the DICE Summit 2012, Skyrim Director Todd Howard explained that pre-release testing revealed some of the radiant questing would 'tax' the PS3, which multiplied as players visited more of the game world and accepted more quests. However, they believed that only a "small percentage" of players would be affected. Which is technically true... except a small percentage of several million players is still a big number.
We did a ton more testing this time around, so the game is definitely our most solid release regardless of platform.
The way our dynamic stuff and our scripting works, it's obvious it gets in situations where it taxes the PS3. And we felt we had a lot of it under control. But for certain users it literally depends on how they play the game, varied over a hundred hours and literally what spells they use. Did they go in this building? [And so on.]
If you're interested, it's not actually the size of the PS3 save file that matters... it's what you do with it.
No it's not [save file size]. That's the common misconception. It's literally the things you've done in what order and what's running. Some of the things are literally what spells do you have hot-keyed? Because, as you switch to them, they handle memory differently.
Knowing that the PS3 would potentially face a "bad memory situation," Bethesda did their best to tweak the code and released anyway... eventually resulting in patch 1.2 that failed to resolve the problem - and more recently, 1.4, which seems to have done the trick. However, Bethesda aren't planning on relaxing their guard any time soon.
Now that we've been through this, we're not naïve enough to say, 'We have seen everything,' because we have to assume we haven't. There are still going to be some people who have to come back to us and say, 'Ok, my situation is this.' [Our response is:] 'OK, send us your saved game.' We literally need to look at what you have running. We tried doing it through e-mail. We need to open the saved game comes up and look at it. Wr've got one guy who has seven dragons on the other side of the world, and a siege about to happen in this city and another 20 quests running. And, ok, this is what the game is trying to do and it's having a hard time running that.
Be sure to get in touch if you're still suffering from problems post v.1.4.