Bethesda is a good developer but Microsoft is making them worse – Reader’s Feature

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Starfield – how much help does Bethesda need? (pic: Microsoft)

A reader worries that Microsoft is taking the wrong attitude with its first party studios, especially Starfield developer Bethesda.

I read the Reader’s Feature about Starfield the other day and couldn’t help but agree. The gameplay footage all looked worryingly familiar, despite it being a brand new franchise in a completely different universe, and I have very little confidence in it turning out well. Bethesda is a good developer, at least in part, but their biggest problem is that they believe their own hype and my worry is that Microsoft is making that worse.

In theory, Microsoft buying Bethesda could be a good thing. One of Bethesda’s biggest issues is their outdated tech and their terrible QA. Microsoft could help with both those things very easily and while I doubt there’s been enough time to do anything about the graphics for Starfield they should be helping out with the bug-checking. If Starfield comes out and it’s the usual glitchy mess though that is going to be a giant red flag.

Recently, Bethesda admitted that they’re already working on Fallout 5 but at the speed they go it’ll be lucky to come out this decade, given they have The Elder Scrolls 6 to finish first. Microsoft should be helping with Elder Scrolls 6 and absolutely should be involved in Fallout 5 from the very start, but why is it I get the feeling they’re not?

Microsoft owns a lot of developers now but it’s going to be a long time before any of their games see the light of day. That’s understandable, but some sources are already suggesting that there’s a problem with how Microsoft are managing them. The Initiative is the obvious one, where Crystal Dynamics had to be brough in to help with their first game and reports saying half the staff have left recently.

A bigger concern for me though is Playground Games, who have been plugging away at the Fable reboot for at least five years and yet still haven’t been able to show so much as a screenshot of it. Not even Nintendo would be that secretive and given how desperately Microsoft needs something to show off it suggests that something has gone very wrong somewhere along the long and they’re scrambling to fix it.

I’ve not seen any reports about Playground but there have been leaks for The Initiative, suggesting that Microsoft has purposefully tried not to get involved and has left everyone to their own devices, apparently stung by the collapse of Lionhead Studios and their other Xbox 360 era developers. I can see why they’d do that but already it sounds like they’re overcompensating and making things just as bad in the other direction. Which brings me back to Bethesda.

What needs to happen with Bethesda is for someone in charge to lay down the law about bugs and tell them to do something about their standards when it comes to graphics and other technology. No more bad animation and broken physics. What they seem to be doing though is leaving Bethesda to do things their way, while simultaneously telling them they’re the best developer in the world.

The relationship sounds like doting parents mollycoddling an underachieving child, whereas the relationship should be that of a firm but fair teacher. Microsoft needs to be very hands-on, saving Bethesda from their worst impulses, not some distant, hands-off boss.

If Starfield does turn out as bad as some fear I won’t entirely blame Bethesda. Everyone needs encouragement but they also need honest critique and if Microsoft is going around all their developers, telling them they’re amazing and can do whatever they like, well… I’m sure you’ve all met children whose parents treat them like that, and they’re unbearable.

By reader Tyrant

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

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