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With a critical eye on the performance of the Gamebryo engine that powers both The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3, as well as the newer Creation Engine that powers The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4, the editors at Power Up Gaming have penned an editorial suggesting that Bethesda Softworks may already be in need of a new engine or at least technological improvements to the existing Creation Engine in order to keep up with the rest of the industry. As those of us on PC can look to modders for further graphical enhancements, I'm not sure I'm ready to jump to any such conclusion yet, but perhaps console owners have a different perception:
Creating a game engine is an expensive investment; one that most developers don't have the time, resources and/or money to do. If a new custom made engine was built for every single that game that was released, we'd probably only get a handful of games each year. That's why companies such as Epic create their own engine and then license it out to others. The prevalence of the Unreal 3 engine last generation was the reality of this situation. So, rather than licensing someone else's tools, creating your own would be a considerable undertaking. It's reasonable to expect that a game engine will be used for more than one game.
When Skyrim launched, it was largely praised for its up to date visuals. Of course, standards change over time, but have we really seen such a dramatic leap between 2011 and 2015?
One contributing factor may be the recent change to newer consoles. With the advent of the PS4 and Xbox One, the expectations surrounding new games is now higher than ever, so something that appears similar to what was achieved on the PS3 and Xbox 360 seems underwhelming. The gap between Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 is certainly noticeable and, if not for Skyrim, would probably be easier to accept. Fallout 4 is still an undeniable improvement, but it could be the case that critics and players expected more.