Bethesda Softworks Has Lost Their Minds and Fans

In a somber and bitter goodbye letter to a once-beloved game developer, I recall Bethesda's fall from grace before and after the release of...
  1. Lulu
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    If you listen closely and stay as quiet as possible, you may very well hear the rapid clattering of keyboards and angry rants about Bethesda Softworks' latest blunder in a painfully long and maddening series of mistakes. A series of mistakes that may very well cost them the momentum and fan loyalty that they'll need for their next major release.

    If I'm not making any sense, that's because Bethesda Softworks has a complicated history with their two main franchises, The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, and their respective modding communities. Mods have always been a large part of the two franchises, mostly because games from either franchise are open-world, sandbox RPGs with dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to play - and that's without mods!

    Factor in mods and you have ideas the developers scrapped last minute fully implemented into the game. You have some of the most imaginative and exciting bits of content you've seen in a video game. You could get hundreds of small additions of everything from weapons and armor to animations and music to fine-tune your game experience.

    It didn't take very long for Fallout and The Elder Scrolls modding to pick up traction, but once they did, it was not stopping or slowing down anytime soon.

    So Bethesda, like any group of entrepreneurs and innovators, thought to link mods and their games directly together. Their first attempt was a joint effort between them and Valve's Steam, for their game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim which saw the largest number of mods of any game they've released.

    It launched the same day of Valve's announcement that it would be going live, all the way back on April 23 of 2015, but just four days later, it was shut down. Valve issued a new statement funnily claiming that they "didn't understand exactly" what they are doing. People who purchased any such mods through the Steam Workshop were refunded. They also opened up channels for feedback and criticism and, unsurprisingly, they got a lot of it.

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    It sets a negative precedent that paid mods just wouldn't work, at least not without direct oversight and even cooperation from the developers. But the focus isn't all about paid mods. In fact, most of why Bethesda gets such a bad reputation these days is because of how they handled free mods.

    Long story short, when Bethesda launched Fallout 4 just six months after the big Skyrim paid mods debacle, they did something that raised a red flag for many. To them, it was the beginning of the end, or at least a steep decline, and time tells us they were right.

    Bethesda opted to not release their Creation Kit - the tool that is used by modders to create original content - until six months after Fallout 4's release. This came with the foreboding of the Season Pass releasing with the game.

    The Season Pass ended up including a total of six DLC expansions post-release. Not surprising to anyone, however, was that three of those six expansions would be small add-ons to Fallout 4's settlement system. Before the game's release, the settlement system was guaranteed to not only be optional, but functional. It was neither of those things and even the best modders couldn't fix it entirely.

    Why this was such an issue with the Creation Kit was because, presumably, Bethesda didn't want modders beating them to the punch and making free alternatives to what they intended to be paid DLC.

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    Fast forward a few months and Bethesda expanded their official website to include a platform for modders to upload mods directly to Bethesda.net and add modding compatibility to consoles. This might have been a step in the right direction to improve relations between Bethesda and their modding community, had they not overlooked one important thing: plagiarism.

    Bethesda.net, after its launch, became a mess of inexperienced players uploading mods from NexusMods to Bethesda.net without permission and without tweaking said mods for consoles. It ended with hopeful console modders breaking their saves and game assets as well as some of the most popular and well-known modders in the community closing up shop, taking down all of their mods, and walking away from Bethesda and modding altogether.

    To make matters worse, Nvidia held a mod developing contest in 2016 for talented modders to submit their work and receive a cash reward for what was deemed as the best mod. If Bethesda.net was any indication of how this might go, you would think they would have prepared for incidents of stolen mods.

    They didn't.

    It's unknown if Nvidia declared a winner or not, but the takeaway is that it, too, was a mess of stolen content with no regard or compensation to the original creators. For modders, it was one slap in the face to the next, which is why many gave it up and sought actual careers away from the franchises they had loved working with for so long.

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    Now we're in the present, where Bethesda is working on yet another re-release of Skyrim, this coming after their first re-release of Skyrim: Special Edition. This time, their focus is all on VR, but fret not, because VR re-releases of Fallout 4 and DOOM are coming right alongside Skyrim, all at full price according to Amazon.

    And if that doesn't set you over the edge, perhaps Bethesda's biggest and latest blunder of the last decade will: the Creation Club. The Creation Club is supposed to be an opportunity for talented modders to work alongside Bethesda's team of developers to basically outsource content creation to freelancers, while Bethesda comes in for a polishing job to make sure everything's working as intended.

    That might sound great on paper, except Bethesda neglected to mention the mods from the Creation Club would need to be purchased. Their official FAQ states all mods will be free, but many learned today that apparently what they are delivering from the Creation Club aren't considered mods. Confused? So is everyone else.

    Fallout 4's base is largely broken and beaten, so few gave in to the hype surrounding the Creation Club; but wouldn't you know the Creation Club's first round of mods featured stuff you could pay for, but there are already free alternatives and in most cases, they've been out for months, if not years. Not only that, but even if both options were free, players have already determined they would prefer the free alternatives that aren't coming from Bethesda's Creation Club simply because they were made better!

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    But what does this long-winded recollection of Bethesda's mishaps in the past couple of years really mean? Well, nothing, maybe.

    It might also spell the beginning of the end for a developer that, prior to all of these problems, was seen as one of the biggest contenders for video game sales in any year they might release a new game.

    The reason why Skyrim and Fallout 4 did so well in sales is because their preceding games also did well. Oblivion and Fallout 3 reached critical acclaim and received a plethora of awards; both games even got a Game of the Year release when they had finished their planned DLCs.

    When consistency and momentum was so important for Bethesda to be as successful as they have been, ignoring what their loyal fans want and fracturing the modding community into pieces may spell their next release's doom before it even has a real chance.

    A quick look onto Fallout 4's Steam page might show exactly what I'm getting at.

    Thousands of negative reviews from fans in under 24 hours after the Creation Club's official launch probably doesn't bode well for their plans in the future. Worse still is after Bethesda's latest track record, who can say for sure if they're able to mend what they themselves lost between them and many of their fans, including myself.

    It's like saying goodbye to an old friend, but it's been a long time coming now.

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  1. Scoobydupes
    So disappointing to see they went the way of so many devs. Pay to play certain aspects of a game makes me miss the good old days of buying a actual game and it being complete.
    1. HumphreyMax
      Yep, back in the 90s and early 2000s games were released done. Yeah, you had patches to fix bugs that cropped up here and there but there was no day 1 DLC and day 1 patches for almost every game that rolls out. Those were the good ol days when things worked and people made games with a passion not to nickle and dime people to see how much they can milk out of a product. New generation of gamers though, they dictate the trends more than anything as us older gamers play more casually since we have families and a work schedule to maintain to put food on the table.
      Scoobydupes likes this.
  2. ______
    Interesting read, it's a shame that gaming developers always turn away from the modding community. Much like take two has done for GTA. Maybe one day they will figure it out
      Lulu likes this.
  3. FrazzleFrazer
    If they let obsidian make another fallout, I'd forgive them.
      Lulu likes this.
  4. Weeb
    You can not buy it as a principle if you want, but most people are still gonna buy it anyways. They'll never completely ditch the creation kit as it's what they're known for, so people will still buy the games.

    Even without the creation kit you'd be silly to say they make bad games, sure fallout 4 and skyrim weren't as good as their predecessors(new vegas wasn't even that good either), they were still quality games. Have to say the Witcher 3 converted me though, used to be a die hard Bethesda fan for open world rpg but I think the witcher 3 is just perfect, even if I couldn't stomach 1 or 2
    1. Lulu
      I never said Skyrim was worse than its predecessors. Fallout 4, however, is objectively worse by most accounts from regular players as well as professional critics. The main point here is that Bethesda's success story relies on how well they get along with their fans, a lot like how CD Projekt has been seen since The Witcher 3 was released. People are going to support whatever CDPR releases in the future because of their relationship with fans/customers. The opposite will be true for Bethesda in the future if they keep souring relationship with customers.
  5. dagolar
    I've been a Fallout fan for more than 15 years now. I will buy another Fallout title if it is good. I do agree with almost everything you said though. Fallout4 made me angry from day one. Maybe in future titles they should focus more on the core aspects of the game. Good gameplay, good storytelling. Get rid of all the voice actors if you have to. It's a waste of money. The few voices you can afford are going to be annoyingly repetitive after just a couple of hours. You cannot voice an open world game of that magnitude. Instead, fix your damn engine.
      Scoobydupes and Lulu like this.
    1. Lulu
      I'll support Bethesda if they start making the right choices, and I do agree with the things you noted. It's going to take a new engine, a wide and diverse voice cast, and they really need to listen to fans when they're trying to figure out what they need to cut or add. They tried to repurpose the Mass Effect dialogue wheel except they didn't include the thing that made the dialogue wheel so important, which was the gravity it had that made everything Shepherd say matter - changing entire conversations, the difference between getting someone to calm down or getting them to fight you, etc. Not to mention Fallout 4 had no incentive to explore. Boring locations, no rewards, and so on. It's a shame, too, because a dense city like Boston has a lot of history and a lot of places we could have seen in F4 but we didn't.

      The rumor I am really hyped for is that there's one being worked on in New Orleans, at least in planning. A swampy area like that could turn out to be something really special and terrifying if they do it right. Point Lookout and even Far Harbor to an extent showed just how awesome that setting could be.
  6. televisedfool
    "may spell their next release's doom before it even has a real chance."

    In before ES VI releases, sells millions, and gets critical acclaim.

    In before Fallout 5 releases, sells millions, and gets average-good reviews.

    Bethesda isn't going anywhere.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Lulu
      That's the thing, though. Oblivion and FO3 were great games but Skyrim and FO4 sold as well as they did because of how good their predecessors were and because of how good Bethesda's reputation was. Across the board, people gave 4 lower marks than they ever gave 3 or New Vegas and they've tarnished their reputation over the past 2 years.

      I wouldn't be surprised if a future Elder Scrolls release did as well as Skyrim, but the next Fallout IF it comes out? Unless Obsidian makes it, I don't think it will sell well. Their loyal base that hyped up Fallout 4 to blow up sales is gone now.
    3. televisedfool
      I don't think their fanbase has gone anywhere. If the internet has shown anything, It's that it's unreliable to gauge such things.

      Look at the latest COD. It became one of the most disliked trailers of all time on YouTube with its reveal and yet it still sold like hot cakes and was the best selling game of 2016 despite all the hate it and Activision received for it.

      The people that write on message boards and such saying they won't buy another COD/Activision/Bethesda etc product are kidding themselves. Sure, there will be a couple that might actually do it. But the majority, as proven time and time again, will cave and buy the latest offering. This is why the next ES and Fallout games will still ultimately sell.

      Consoles alone make up a large percentage of these game's sales and not until Fallout 4 were mods available. The feature isn't a game selling factor to console players so they will rush out and buy the latest game as the modding community means nothing to them.
      XeCrash likes this.
    4. HumphreyMax
      I guess I am one of the few in this regard. Every time a major developer does something to screw its fanbase over or gets greedy I put them on my "list" to never buy from again unless something changes within that company. CoD for example, I haven't bought one since the original Black Ops. However, what you are saying is true to an extend, people end up still buying the game but I don't necessarily think its because they changed their minds but because their friends get the game and they don't want left out in the dark. Luckily, for me, everyone that I play with has the same mentality for the most part and those that don't, well good luck on their future gaming with those companies I have banned from my wallet.
  7. LookBroZombies_XBL
    Sad but true... great article man!
      Lulu likes this.
  8. HumphreyMax
    Another example of a greedy company wanting even more money for something they didn't bother to create. Why create anything on your own when you can get paid to let someone else do it for you. Mods were and always have been about breathing new life into an older game. Offering more to do and enjoying a game in new ways.

    Glad to see this article, they are on my list of companies to never buy from again along with the others. It seems like indie developers are the ones starting to take over as AAA companies dwindle into a downward spiral due to being out of touch with the gamer base. I know shareholders also have a stake in this, they can't get their new yearly private jet, so lets come up with a new way to earn money. Good thing nothing is mandatory. What's next, 80 dollar base games without a deluxe or upgraded edition?
      celahudini and Lulu like this.
    1. Lulu
      It's very tragic, I've been a fan of their games since 2006. 11 years a loyal fan and customer and they just don't seem to care. From what I've seen, most fans have simply asked for a new game engine to accommodate future releases, but that's just not in their plans.

      It's not all bad, though. For every game developer that goes bad, another good one rises up from the ashes. CD Projekt RED is a great example. Amazing company, great PR, exceedingly talented and innovative, etc. A lot of Indie devs lately getting a lot of traction, too.

      If Bethesda is going to keep going down this road, I have no problem with cutting ties. I won't support this kind of greed and disrespect and I'm actually really glad to see others feel the same way. Thanks for your comment! :smile:
      HumphreyMax likes this.
    2. HumphreyMax
      Exactly, CD Projekt RED has been a fantastic company. None of their games so far have disappointed and they spend quality time on their DLCs that aren't packaged with the damn games they release. My wife has gotten hundreds of hours out of Witcher 3 and its expansion.
    3. Lulu
      Great to hear! When we must say goodbye to someone like Bethesda we should remember people like CD Projekt are out there still doing their thing. Another developer I want to give a shout-out to is Supergiant Games, the ones behind Bastion, Transistor, and just recently, Pyre. Credit where credit is due; those developers are amazing.
      HumphreyMax likes this.