Skyrim, 6 gig, and Gamebryo

It turns out that Skyrim is going to be about 6gb on disk. The headline may as well be, numbers that are small frighten people who don’t understand the numbers. I’m sorry, well, okay, I’m not really sorry, but if you’re worried than 6gb of on-disk data means the game is going to be short, your opinion is pretty dumb.

Is Minecraft too short, Elite not have enough gameplay? Is X-com over with all too quick?

Is the worry to do with art assets, or speech in the game? 6gb is … well, an awful lot of text, speech and artwork, I mean, maybe if you filled the disk with blu-ray quality movies or something. Or you didn’t have lots of repeated textures. Skyrim will have lots of repeated textures. So do most games, this isn’t a bad thing in general. Life has lots of repeated textures. Games taking advantage of having more space and not being limited by the DVD format is great, but on the other hand, some games just don’t need more space, and if Skyrim did, it would probably fill more of a DVD than the three quarters it does.

Which leads me to the bizarre criticism of Gamebryo, by people who should damn well know better PC Gamer, and how it’s good at rendering trees, but bad at rendering faces. Let us be honest, Gamebryo doesn’t care if it’s a tree or a face, Gamebryo can’t tell the difference, to it, they’re just labels and mathematics. People have this impression of Gamebryo as basically being the Elder Scrolls Construction Kit without the game’s data, and you can just import assets and settings to get Fallout or Oblivion.

It doesn’t work like that.

You know what else uses Gamebryo for it’s engine? Pretty much everything that doesn’t run Unreal.

Well, okay, okay, there’s also Source (Vampire The Masquerade, Half Life 2), CryEngine (Crysis 2), Unity et al., but Gamebryo is big, bigger than you think. Here’s a very short list of games using Gamebryo:

Axis & Allies
Black Shot
Bully: Scholarship Edition
Civilization Revolution
Civization IV: Colonization
Dark Age of Camelot series
Defense Grid: The Awakening
Divinity II – The Dragon Knight Saga
Divinity II: Ego Draconis
Drift City
Dungeon Runners
Empire Earth II
Epic Mickey
Fallout 3
Fallout: New Vegas
Freaky Creatures
Futurama: The Game
Hospital Tycoon
Knight’s Apprentice
Kohan II
LEGO Universe
Making History
Mission Runway
Nehrim: At Fate’s Edge
Playboy: The Mansion
Prison Tycoon
Ragnarok Online II: Legend of the Second
Requiem Bloodymare
Sid Meier’s Civilization IV
Sid Meier’s Pirates!
Space Chimps
Tenchu: Shadow Assassins
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
Wildlife Park 2
Wizard 101
Zoo Tycoon 2

Yes, Playboy: The Mansion and The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion use the same ‘engine’. Remember the terrible faces, but great trees from Civilisation Revolution or Bully? Exactly. Bethesda are taking advantage of the bizarre way people blame Gamebryo for buggy code that doesn’t come from Gamebryo. Even to the point of claiming they were going to use a brand-new engine, knowing that people are asking if it’s going to look, and work a similar way to Oblivion and Fallout 3. I love the marketing speak though, since technically of course, the engine used for Skyrim may well be brand new. Of course that isn’t what people meant, but if even magazines that should (and let’s be honest, do) know better, are going to say daft things about Gamebryo, might as well take advantage and continue making games the same way. And why not?

Nothing wrong with Gamebryo, Bethesdas coding woes are their own.

The last thing to mention is the latest wonderful piece of market-speak to come from Pete Hines, VP of PR and Marketing at Bethesda when asked “Will the system menus be the same in PC than in 360and PS3? I mean, they are like designed specifically for console. Thanks.”, sensing the question for the “is this a console port?” that it was, responded with “The UI was designed to make the game more accessible, not for any one console. Works well on PC.”

That would be a yes, and so what, the game sells more on the consoles, and it has to be ported at some point, after-all, porting is just the practise of making software run on lots of platforms. Of course, the real issue is one that isn’t really to do with the hardware at all, but more a fixation of developers to tie control methods, sometimes quite arbitrarily, to hardware. There are other concerns of course, like, will it look better than the console version? I’m actually sympathetic on this point up until you expect me to keep buying new graphics cards just to run games. The console has effectively ended the 6-month PC upgrade cycle.

You’re welcome.

EDIT: Some people were bizarrely taking a single quotation from this article and using it to conclude that Creation ‘is just’ Gamebryo despite the article being an explicit rejection of that. I’ve done some edits to hopefully make things even clearer. I also moved the claim about Skyrim using Gamebryo as a basis for Skyrim’s Creation engine to where I could substantiate the claim without detracting from the points in this article.

6 thoughts on “Skyrim, 6 gig, and Gamebryo

  1. You’re nitpicking people’s use of terminology; when people refer to the “Gamebryo Engine” in relation to Oblivion/Fallout 3 (and Skyrim to a certain degree), they are referring to to the game’s engine, as before Skyrim, there was no official name for the engine used by both Fallout 3 and Oblivion. Technically, Gamebryo is a set of API’s (as you said), rather than an engine. Oblivion uses Gamebryo mostly just for rendering (and even then, it’s a modified version of the engine), SpeedTree for tree generation, and Bethseda’s “Radiant AI” system for AI.

    Skyrim, despite Todd Howard’s claims during development that it used an entirely new engine, is mostly a rehash of Oblivion’s ecclectic engine/API collection. While as far as we know , the renderer is new (though not very impressive from a technical perspective), Skyrim merely uses an expanded version of Oblivion’s Radian AI system, a newer version of Havok for physics (which still has many of the problems of it’s predessor, such as ridiculous momentums being given to things that take a large amount of damage; let a giant kill you and you’ll see what I mean)

  2. (continued comment)
    As for your final comment on the issue of console porting, I don’t understand how you can think of the method in which most commercial games are ported as being justified or fair to the customers. Bethseda’s games are ALWAYS made for consoles and ported to the PC as an afterthought. The so-called “improved” graphics for the PC version usually consists of a few gimmicky enhancements, such as Anti-Aliasing (What a treat! Never heard of driver forced AA, huh) and a few shaders (DoF, a slow SSAO shader, etc). Their addition of a modding framework is nice, but the fact that Bethseda tends to leave a mountain of bugs in the hands of modders (look at the version history for Oblivion, not a lot of fixing went on). Even worse, their game’s typically feature engines with limitations that hold back the modding potential of the game, such as no 64-bit support (meaning less RAM for the game to use, and in turn, limiting mods), poor multi-threading, and Oblivion’s wonderful memory allocation hash-tables that caused it to self-destruct after a certain amount of mods, regardless of computer specs.

    Porting is intended to allow an application to work on a different system, but not to make an application usable on an entirely different architecture. The differences between consoles and PC’s are numerous, such as the entirely different interfaces used, limited hardware capabilities of consoles (and the lack of a sizable hard-drive in most consoles), to mention a few. When it comes to bringing an application to an entirely different architecture, you have to make adjustments. That includes re-writing input code to make efficient use of keyboards (or vice versa for PC to console ports), and in the case of complex 3D games, possibly making heavy engine changes to allow greater flexibility.

  3. Well, I am criticising publications for term-usage, so it makes sense to talk about what things really are. Gamebryo is being tarnished by Bethesda’s mistakes, that’s the point. The unfairness goes both ways, for example, people assume that Fallout 3 and Oblivion had the same version of the same engine because they’re both Gamebryo and look similar, but not Morrowind because that was a while ago and looked different (despite using Gamebryo and working much the same way). Here’s the thing, Fallout and Oblivion look similar and both use Gamebryo not because they are the same version of the same engine, but because they both made to run on the same hardware and work similarly. What this basic misunderstanding leads to are critcisms that “Gamebryo is crap because they haven’t updated it since Obvivion!”, or as you say, “Skyrim … is mostly a rehash of Oblivion’s ecclectic engine/API collection”, whereas these criticisms aren’t applied to games using, Unreal say.

    You don’t hear people complaining that Bioshock is a rehash of Unreal Tournament 3’s engine/API collection, or complaining that the engine hasn’t been updated since Unreal Tournament 3.

  4. Justified, yes, but not always fair. Justified because PC gamers buy less of these commercial games in comparison to console gamers. Is not porting Windows to all platforms and architechtures fair? Not really, but it is justified by the vast majority of home PCs being x86/x86_64.

    Not that they have to justify themselves, it’s their game.

    The charge that Bethesda always makes games for consoles is clearly not true, unless by “always” you mean, “very recently”. Higher resolution and anti-aliasing are hardly gimmicks and are improving the graphics, even with scare quotes. 64-bit and memory issues are a little more complex than that, but a 4gb hard limit on directly addressable memory for a single process thread doesn’t seem like much of a glass ceiling considering the game runs quite well on less than half a gig on the consoles. Oblivion modding talk isn’t what my post was about though.

    Finally, in both formal Computer Science and how it’s generally understood, porting means porting to different architechtures and platforms, the PS3 for example, is PowerPC, so all ports between PS3 and PC are to a different architechture. Other than that, I’m not sure what you’re getting at?

    Thank you very much for your comments, I appreciate them.

  5. Pingback: Is Skyrim’s Creation just Gamebryo? | Peter Reviews

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