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Pure Opinion: Todd Howard and Bethesda Aren’t Learning From the Past

I meant to have this out a few days before Bethesda’s E3 presentation, but, as usual, I’m behind. Since the ideas are from a Gamespot article covering an IGN interview with Todd Howard’s history and philosophy, I’m hoping the thoughts should still be relevant. Probably.

Todd Howard doesn’t understand his mistakes, and Bethesda hasn’t and won’t learn any lessons from Fallout 76. I’m a little annoyed, a little surprised, but mostly just sad and disappointed to see a developer I liked and respected continue on a path to more mistakes in the future.

Todd Howard recently had an interview on IGN, and he said some revealing and very wrong things. The most egregious thing was an attitude and philosophy that showed he and the company take customers for granted. Todd Howard decided to go against every bit of logic and gave us this poop sandwich to chew on when he said:

“It’s not how you launch, it’s what it becomes.”

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is why I and many others have become so disillusioned with Bethesda, their stupid bugs that keep recurring, and the many mistakes the company makes. They have to put out a few patches, before a game is where it should have been at launch. They don’t care about what they ship out to you, because they can always try to fix it on the back-end, from software to bags in a collector’s edition. You just have to believe they will and complain enough online to get them to do it, and, if they don’t, they already have your money. Trust is gone, and it’s your job to re-earn it.

I keep going back to that Miyamoto quote. He said, “A delayed game is eventually good. A rushed game is bad forever.” Nintendo recently restarted development on Metroid Prime 4, because it wasn’t meeting quality standards. It’s not just talk. It’s a completely different philosophy about how to release games, but it’s one that pushes quality and experience over a faulty product that still stings people months or years later.

If you read anything about that same interview, you might think that a lesson was learned. The Gamespot article says that they should have kept it in testing longer or in beta for a few months. Todd Howard again specifies what he wished would have happened as:

“If there is one thing I would have done differently, [it would have been to] find a way to, at scale, let people be playing the game 24/7 before you say, ‘Everybody in. Here you go. Pay us.'”

Once again, this shows a complete lack of understanding. First, they could have done all of this differently, and people have been asking for them to test their games more for years. How is this not getting through to them?

Second, there is a way to scale the game to allow people to play 24/7. You can hold a beta in increasing waves on PSN and Xbox Live. The infrastructure for this is already there, and this kind of thing has already been done in the past. It may not be the easiest or most affordable thing in the world, but it’s far from impossible.

The third thing is the biggest kick in the balls. In order to join the beta, you had to pre-order the game. You already paid something to test it. It wasn’t some charity event where they let you give it a go in exchange for your valuable data and time to make the game more stable. You had to pay to play.

Finally, Todd made sure the stink and taint of Fallout 76’s failure doesn’t stick to him and his team or at least not exclusively. He said that Bethesda Maryland didn’t run the show on development. It was Bethesda in Austin, Dallas, Montreal, and a lot of people from Maryland. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

As the hype man on stage at E3 2018, Todd Howard does bear a lot of the blame for the bad PR and subsequent poor decisions impacting the final product. He was the game’s director, and he’s still in spin mode by saying it was a difficult development, the team knew it would receive criticism, and it wouldn’t have a high Metacritic score. This seems like an admission that he knew the game would be bad. His comments also seem like a very generous interpretation or damage control as they want you to excitedly watch all of their upcoming E3 presentation while they try to slide last year under the rug.

It’s pretty frustrating, but, even with those issues, I haven’t completely written the publisher off. I’m still really excited about Doom: Eternal, but I’m going to be really skeptical and cynical on pretty much everything else. Why wouldn’t I be? The company hasn’t learned anything and expects me to trust them to fix the issues eventually.

I think you can turn this around, Bethesda, and I want you to be as great as I know you can be. Unfortunately, until you really understand and fix the problems of your development past, you’re just going to keep making the same mistakes, and I’m not paying for that. You will.

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