Tech Focus: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has conjured up one of their "tech focus" articles for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which takes a closer look at both the technical achievements Bethesda managed to pull off when creating the game and the bugs that have plagued the open-world RPG since release. An excerpt:
As the stack of YouTube bug videos rises seemingly by the hour, the question is, how can complex systems and features be fully tested when the circumstances in which they come into play will almost certainly change between players, and when the behaviour of the gamers themselves is so difficult to anticipate? Just how thorough can conventional QA be when we have a game as vast, open and as wide-ranging as this?

Make no mistake, despite the game's miniscule size in terms of compressed game data on the shipping DVD, there's no doubting the scale of the game and the sheer scope for adventure it contains. Bethesda's remarkable compression scheme ensures that the entire Xbox 360 version of the game weighs in at just 3.8GB. Never mind that we're now in the era of the 50GB dual layer Blu-ray: the Xbox 360 version of Skyrim in its entirety would fit snugly onto a single layer DVD with space to spare.

With carefully planning on how the files are laid out on the disc, Bethesda can ensure that the all-important texture and geometry data is always available on an area of the platter that offers the most throughput on the Microsoft console's 12x DVD drive (typically the outer edge of the disc), meaning fast streaming and minimal pop-in. The Xbox game hasn't been pared down that much either when compared to the PC version, which weighed in at around 5.5GB of data when we downloaded it from Steam. We see some occasional reduction in texture quality but everything else looks remarkably like-for-like.


The creation of the landscape itself is just one of the technical marvels in the game - another concerns the amount of characters, objects and containers: thousands upon thousands of them spread across the sprawling map. This is something that certainly could not be procedurally generated without nerfing game balance, and may explain why save games incrementally grow as you progress through the game: it would make sense for the save to act as an ever-expanding "patch" that tracks how the objects and characters have moved from the default positions. The remarkable thing is that no matter how far you progress in the game you can return to the scenes right from the game's opening - and nothing has changed, even if days and weeks of in-game time have passed.

This may account for the reports we are seeing emerging of problems relating to the PlayStation 3 version of the game, where ballooning save-game sizes are being blamed for causing issues for some Skyrim players on the Sony platform.