Wolfenstein II: The New Colossal Screw-Up

By Shamus
on Nov 5, 2017
Filed under:
Column

I know my column doesn’t usually run until Tuesday, but this story is kind of time-sensitive and so you’re getting it today.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is having a very bad PC launch. Oddly enough, this isn’t getting any media attention despite that fact that it’s a major screwup that impacts thousands. I don’t know how it compares to (say) the Arkham Knight PC launch, but I doubt the media does either. Our only point of reference is forum activity. (It’s not like publishers are keen to share their statistics on support tickets and refunds.) Going just by forum posts, it looks like this mess is impacting thousands.

Here’s a timeline I’ve hammered out of the events. Again, this is just the observations of one user based on forum traffic. The dates are not always exact. I’m just trying to give you a basic idea of what’s happened so far.

Tuesday Oct 26: The game releases. People report a large number of problems: Slowdowns, crashes, stuttering, visual glitches, blurry textures, and lockups. If you’re feeling generous, you might be able to excuse some of these as the sorts of edge-case technology problems that you can’t catch during QA testing. However, on top of these problems are glaringly obvious bugs that really should have been caught. The Steam overlay is broken, the mouse sensitivity isn’t saved between game sessions, and the promised 4K resolution mode isn’t working.

Bethesda spends the next few days repeating the same robotic answers, telling people to update their drivers.

Thursday Oct 28: Bethesda announces a beta patch. Users (including me) try it out. Not only does it not fix any of the serious problems, but it also makes the game run even slower. People go to the forums to tell them “No, this patch is a mess. It doesn’t fix my problem.”

At some point, NVIDIA releases yet another a new driver hotfix. People get it, and they report the game is even slower and glitchier now.

Note that I’m reporting two different slowdowns. It’s impossible to tell if we’re talking about two different problems, or if different people are experiencing the same problems but blaming it on different things.

I’m not going to say that these fixes didn’t help anyone, but I don’t remember seeing anyone reporting any sort of success in the forums. I did see a lot of people complaining that things were worse.

Steam claims I last played "today". To be clear, attempting to launch the game and having it crash somehow counts as playing.

Steam claims I last played "today". To be clear, attempting to launch the game and having it crash somehow counts as playing.

Saturday Oct 30: Bethesda ignores the warnings and pushes the update to the masses. Additionally, they added a feature to the game where it will refuse to start if the user isn’t using the latest hotfix that everyone is saying makes things slow.

Now there’s a fresh group of people complaining in the forums. Lots of people (myself included) can’t run the game at all now that the patch is out. When we try to launch the game we get a generic popup saying “Could not write crash dump file.” The new drivers don’t help. The old drivers don’t help. Running in safe mode doesn’t help. Deleting your config files doesn’t help.

The timing here couldn’t be worse. The game has stopped working for thousands of people. If it was like this at launch, we could have simply refunded the game. But this is four days after launch. Steam refunds are only available if you’ve played a game for less than two hours. Most of us are well past that point. I lucked out and beat the game just before the patch went live, but lots of people didn’t and are now stuck in the frustrating spot of having the game die mid-playthrough.

Bethesda responds to these people by saying we should update our drivers, which is probably the single most infuriating thing they could possibly say. They have another suggestion, which is to open the menu and disable (some esoteric graphics feature I turned off days ago). This is a pretty clear indicator that they aren’t even trying to pay attention. I mean, HOW CAN I OPEN THE MENU WHEN I CAN’T EVEN LAUNCH THE GAME!?!

This is followed by three days of silence. Are they looking into these problems? Are they working on a solution? Hello?

"This game is ****ing amazing". Well, I`m glad ONE guy is having a good time.

"This game is ****ing amazing". Well, I`m glad ONE guy is having a good time.

Thursday Nov 2: Bethesda puts out a beta focused on getting 4K mode working for people. They have nothing at all to say about the large number of people who still can’t launch the game. (And because of the way Steam automates updates, there’s no way to roll back. Once you’re updated, you’re screwed.)

User Christsnatcher posted a possible workaround for the crash dump problem. This involves modifying files in your Steam install to disable the Steam overlay for Vulkan-based applications. It’s unclear if this is a problem with the Steam overlay, Vulkan, or the game itself. Maybe this is a problem with the game and maybe it isn’t, but in either case it’s something that should have been caught by testing before forcing the patch on the entire userbase.

Sunday Nov 5: The game continues to crash on launch with no acknowledgement from Bethesda, much less the promise of a solution. As of this point, the game worked for four days and has been non-functional for six.

It really is frustrating that this story isn’t getting any traction in the media. I suspect that this is because the game runs pretty well on top-end machines, and most game journalists have that kind of hardwareI’ve been meaning to upgrade for ages now, but Bitcoin miners have devoured all the mid-range cards, and I can’t afford to shop for the high-end ones.. Unless they’re reading the forums, they have no way of knowing what’s wrong. Batman: Arkham Knight was somewhat random in its failings. It ran tolerably on my mid-range machine and yet was unplayable for many machines with more power, which means those shortcomings were visible to game journalists right away. So Arkham Knight became the poster child for bad PC ports and Wolfenstein II is quietly getting away with much worse.

A Lie, or Incompetence?

Even people with high-end hardware are having trouble, but I`m near the bottom.

Even people with high-end hardware are having trouble, but I`m near the bottom.

I think the big sin of New Colossus (aside from an inexcusable lack of testing) is that Bethesda set their minimum system requirements way too low. I can understand the desire to do this. The number of people with hardware that’s three years old is vastly larger than the number of people with last year’s hardware. You can look at the Steam hardware survey and see the bell curve in action. The lower the minimum specs, the larger your potential sales.

The problem is that MAchine Games made a game that requires new-ish hardware, yet Bethesda’s specs claim it should run on cards from 2012. They didn’t take the time to make sure it would actually work on those machines, and now they have a large number of people that paid $60 for a game they can’t play.

Bethesda didn’t want to lose out on those low-end sales, and maybe they didn’t want to have to answer questions about why users needed such powerful hardware to run a game that doesn’t really look like anything special. I mean, this is an indoor corridor shooter we’re talking about. That’s easy mode for polygon culling. Why does this game require vastly more power than (say) Grand Theft Auto V? New Colossus has to to render fewer polygons, less texture detail, and does so with a greatly restricted draw distance and more predictable scenery changes. How can it possibly need so much more power? I understand why Bethesda would want those low-end sales, but there’s no point in selling people a game they can’t run.

I can`t get screenshots, so here`s an image from marketing.

I can`t get screenshots, so here`s an image from marketing.

I remember when Bethesda’s parent company bought Id Software and I hoped that we’d get the relative stability and performance of Id graphics engines in Bethesda gamesFor clarity: Id Software made this engine. Machine Games made the Game, and Bethesda published it.. Of course, this was a backwards way of looking at things. There’s a saying in accounting that says Tone at the Top, meaning the workers and middle managers all inherit their values from the executives. I think this idea goes beyond accounting. I think it explains most corporate behavior. No matter how diligent and clever those Id programmers might be, their virtues won’t benefit the users if they exist within a corporate culture that believes in “Launch first, test second, PR spin third, and if none of that works then maybe patch it.”

Bethesda has let through bugs that should have been caught before release. Then they released a patch that made things worse. Now they’re focusing on a patch that doesn’t address the original problems or the secondary problems created by the first patch. They have yet to admit fault and they’re still enjoying glowing reviews while the users rage at them impotently in the forums.

The real shame of it is that even if this game was stable, I don’t think it really deserves so much praise. This game is a step down from its predecessors. I’d love to talk about how the game falls short from a design standpoint, but I can’t do that if I can’t run the damn thing. What a stupid waste.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] I’ve been meaning to upgrade for ages now, but Bitcoin miners have devoured all the mid-range cards, and I can’t afford to shop for the high-end ones.

[2] For clarity: Id Software made this engine. Machine Games made the Game, and Bethesda published it.


A Hundred!2019There are 139 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

  1. FluffySquirrel says:

    If it’s that bad and the patches have completely made it unable to play, maybe steam will start offering refunds past their normal limits like they did on a few other broken games

    It feels like the only way to get developers to pay attention these days is with your wallets

    • Echo Tango says:

      Money is the one thing that all companies need. Well-run companies will put effort into keeping up with customer service, monitoring social networks, etc, so that they can keep their customers happy. Happy customers is good for long-term money. However, doing those things is costly (I’m not surprised that Bethesda is doing a poor job at them). That’s why boycotts* are a tool that need to be applied from time to time. :)

      * Mass refunds effectively are the same thing.

    • kdansky says:

      Steam did that for No Man’s Sky too. If I owned it, I would write to Steam customer support by now.

      • Dreadjaws says:

        They didn’t actually do this for No Man’s Sky, it’s just a misinterpretation. As KarmaTheAlligator says down there, the two hour limit works for automated, guaranteed refunds. You can still request one through Support if you’re past the limit, and chances are you’ll get one if you have a good reason.

    • KarmaTheAlligator says:

      Yeah, the two hours limit is for guaranteed* refunds. Past that, you can still get one, depending on the circumstances (and I’d say the game not working with no solution in sight is good enough).

      *just don’t abuse it, it’s not meant to be used to demo games.

      • yd says:

        *just don’t abuse it, it’s not meant to be used to demo games.

        They offer “it isn’t fun” as an option when doing the <2hr return process. That feels like they do intend it to be used for demoing games.

        • Kamica says:

          I think it’s more intended as a “Buy the game, if against expectations it turned out to not be fun, we’ll refund it”, not a case of “I’m gonna play this game for two hours and then return it” intention. If you buy it with the intention of returning it, that’s abusing the system I’d say.

        • KarmaTheAlligator says:

          Well, I heard of people getting refunds refused because they’d used the system for demo (yes, even when within the 2 hour limit).

      • Soylent Dave says:

        This is a mentality we, as gamers, need to lose.

        In other walks of life, we’re used to consumer rights. We’re used to buying clothes and returning them if they don’t fit. You can buy furniture, and then decide that it just doesn’t work in situ, and send it back. You can order a years-long utilities contract, and then cancel it shortly after it begins because you’ve changed your mind.

        You can even order food, eat some of it, and then reasonably and legally refuse to pay for it (if it’s poor quality or not as advertised).

        “not liking something” is a perfectly valid reason to return something – and you’re also perfectly entitled to buy something if you aren’t sure you’ll like it in order to try it out (in the knowledge that you can return it if you don’t). We’re not talking about bespoke hand-crafted objets d’art – it’s a mass product that developers and publishers want as many customers to experience as possible, in the hope that as more of them will buy it.

        Developers and publishers aren’t doing us a favour by offering us this service. Free demos used to be the norm. Now – after threatening legal action against a distributor – we get a time-limited demo (bundled with a relatively hassle-free ability to return faulty goods, which is also standard practice literally everywhere else).

        Demos help sell games. Don’t feel bad about using the facility. You’re not ‘abusing it’. You’re just using it. It’s not even a particularly generous facility, by the standards of every other consumer industry you interact with.

        But games developers and publishers have held the whip-hand for so long that actually exercising incredibly basic consumer and statutory rights now feels rude.

        We need to get over that.

        • KarmaTheAlligator says:

          The problem is that we don’t own our games anymore. Clothes, or anything else, you actually do own if you pay for them, but games are different, and games developers and publishers know that.

          At the same time, if you’re having technical difficulties with the game (i.e. faulty product), then you’re not abusing the system by asking for a refund. And yes, not liking something is a valid reason for refund, just don’t go trying the whole Steam library (including stuff you know you won’t like) in one go: that’s what I mean by abuse.

        • SharpeRifle says:

          ” We’re used to buying clothes and returning them if they don’t fit. You can buy furniture, and then decide that it just doesn’t work in situ, and send it back.”

          In both cases only within whatever time period the retailer sets for returns can you do this. Usually also with some sort of Proof of Sale required (though many places have “shut the customer up” policies).

          “You can order a years-long utilities contract, and then cancel it shortly after it begins because you’ve changed your mind.”

          Normally still requiring payment for any physical installation costs that were necessary and costs for time used depending on the contract.

          “You can even order food, eat some of it, and then reasonably and legally refuse to pay for it (if it’s poor quality or not as advertised).”

          This one is mainly because there are very few reasons for a resturant to take you to court over this, aside from legal fees…it would also be tough to prove either way since the food wouldn’t last long enough for trial. In cases where the service could be examined after the fact you could be on the hook.(Not a lawyer)

          As to the “demo” thing…I gotta point out that the reason the Steam policy is as it is….is because most likely Valve is paying for all these refunds…NOT THE PUBLISHER OR DEVELOPER.
          When you return a physical item to the store the store can at least try to send it back to the manufacturer for their cost or a partial cost (to my knowledge opened movies, music, or software can not get their costs recovered by the store)….how many of these companies won’t or CAN”T return costs to Valve. Thats why the “don’t abuse it” thing is there if I constantly bought a hundred dollars worth of clothes every week and then returned them the following week from a store….don’t you think that store would eventually stop selling me clothes? The smaller the store the faster the boot in my rear.

          • Decius says:

            There’s no way that Valve is paying the owner of the game when a licensee cancels for a refund.

            Don’t like Valve’s refund policy? Try distributing it via brick-and-mortar stores, or make your own platform.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Its interesting that at the same time fractured but whole came out,another game receiving praise by the critics and is slammed by the populace because of plethora of bugs.Including a huge game breaking bug half way into the game.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      One of the many advantages of mostly being able to afford games only 2-3 years after launch is that all the patches are in.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        On the other hand,that means that when you stumble upon a game breaking bug,you have practically no hope that it will ever be fixed.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          I would also stumble upon this bug if I bought the game on launch day… unless it was something that was introduced into the game by one of the patches and never fixed, though that doesn’t happen often and if it happens it means the game is actively being patched there’s usually a quick hotifx… unless you’re Ubisoft with their stupid “awesome online features and totally not DRM”.

          • Anitogame says:

            lol Ubisoft are currently going above and beyond on that front, with Denuvo AND VMProtect. Naturally this is causing all manner of problems for users, because that’s apparently all DRM is capable of.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Denuvo is not above and beyond anything implemented earlier.Anything that is causing problems in games with denuvo is not caused by denuvo but by either something else in the game,or the developers not implementing denuvo as instructed.

              • ElementalAlchemist says:

                The problem is that Ubisoft layered VMProtect on top of Denuvo. DRM to protect their DRM. The claim is that this is a major hit on CPU load, and thus tanks performance.

                • Sleeping Dragon says:

                  I take such claims with a grain of salt. On the one hand I absolutely believe that companies would do something like that (heck, we know for a fact they did underhanded stuff with DRM a number of times). On the other hand I can’t help but notice that these shocking news of how some particular form of DRM destroys your SSD, overheats your CPU, spills over your RAM and overfeeds your goldfish come to the fore whenever something proves difficult or annoying to crack and die down pretty much as soon as it’s back to business as usual. Let’s be honest there are people with vested interest in both fabricating and suppressing such claims.

              • Anitogame says:

                You uh, completely failed to understand my post, huh? Above and beyond means they’re going above and beyond in adding more and more pointless DRM, not that Denuvo is above something. By which I mean they have FOUR types of DRM now (Steam, UPlay, Denuvo, VMProtect), meaning they’re going way above and beyond what others are doing, even some of the worst ones like Activision or EA.

  3. Interesting that Wolfenstein is launching with technical problems. Both Dishonored 2 and Prey, both published by Bethesda, launched buggy as hell. Dishonored 2 was so buggy upon release, that I couldn’t get past the first room without the game crashing. I returned it, and picked it up twenty bucks cheaper after it had been patched, though it still doesn’t run very well. I believe Dishonored 2’s graphics engine is a souped up version of ID tech 5, which powered the first Wolfenstein reboot. Does the sequel use that engine?

    Loved both Dishonored 2 and Prey, and I was thinking about picked up Wolfenstein, but there’s obviously a trend here. Combined with Bethesda’s policy of not releasing early review copies, you have to conclude that they really don’t give a damn about their customers.

    • KarmaTheAlligator says:

      Either that or they thought moders (modders?) would fix the problems, like they do with their open world games.

      • DavidJCobb says:

        That’s not the approach they take with their original RPGs, though (I can’t speak as to unfixed remaster bugs), and it wouldn’t generalize to Wolfenstein.

        Bethesda’s RPGs only have such a huge mod author population because Bethesda gives us every content creation tool they didn’t license from a third party. Virtually all of Skyrim’s bugs are content problems, not engine problems, which is why we’re able to fix them. If you’ve heard of the Unofficial Patches for Skyrim and Fallout, those only use content editing to get the job done.

        And see, their Creation Club system makes it clear that the folks calling the shots know all this. They’d likewise know that Wolfenstein is an altogether different beast.

        More generally, I’ve looked into some of Skyrim Classic’s bugs — both content-level and engine-level, and sometimes to the point of whipping out a disassembler — and many of them honestly are easy to miss or hard to find, rather than things that are willfully “left for us to fix.” There are issues that seem to stem all the way from the low-level NetImmerse tech that they use, even.

  4. Anitogame says:

    So, how’s everyone enjoying playing the game with the exact same experience on launch? That was Beth’s excuse for not allowing review code, right? Or maybe… call me cynical here, but maybe they just didn’t want to have to deal with poor sales because of shit like this. Because Bethesda has turned into little more than another EA or Ubisoft at this point.

    Sure, they publish some great games… but how much does that really count for if the games in question come out in a broken state like this? They’re rapidly burning what little customer goodwill they had from previous years, though the sad fact is there are still millions of Bethdrones who’ll support them and their buggy garbage who’ll happily keep them in business for years to come :/ (Meaning their own titles more than anything)

  5. rabs says:

    The worst is that they are trying to do VR games as well. Those need to be really great technically or it will make people sick…

    I still hope Doom VFR won’t be a train wreck, but it would be a miracle for Skyrim and Fallout 4 ports.

  6. Inwoods says:

    >I understand why Bethesda would want those low-end sales, but there’s no point in selling people a game they can’t run.

    Oh, Shamus…

    • Mattias42 says:

      Cynicism aside, even then I actually agree with Shamus on this one.

      This is a classic case of penny wise, pound foolish, and the way Bethesda is torpedoing their already shoddy quality assurance reputation is going to cost them dearly in the long run in lost sales.

      • Anitogame says:

        I doubt it. And even if it does, they don’t care. Why? Because consoles. The fanboys on those systems will keep Bethesda in business no matter what happens on PC, that’s the sad truth of the matter.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        You say that,but thats basically what everyone has been saying about them for over a decade now.And yet,they keep getting more and more money.

        • acronix says:

          People have to stop buying their Elder Scrolls (and Elder Scroll-like) sandboxes. But they probably won’t if no other developer becomes their competition for that market.

          The market of Elder Scroll-like sandboxes, I mean. We have sandboxes to build a moon made out of pure glass.

          • Kalil says:

            Well, there sort of is – The Witcher 3 kind of ate Skyrims lunch for the openworld RPG side of things, although it is mechanically quite different.

            • The Rocketeer says:

              I don’t what could rationalize saying that Witcher 3 “ate Skyrim’s lunch.”

              The game did very, very well in its own right, and got a ton of good press, but to say that Witcher 3 ate another game’s lunch, you’d have to demonstrate that it took some commanding portion of sales, attention, or popular recognition from a title that would otherwise have been reasonably expected to claim them. I don’t think there’s a reasonable case to be made that any game outgunned Skyrim like that, no matter how well-received in its own time. I mean, the games released four years and a console generation apart; Witcher 3 didn’t even have the opportunity to get one over on Skyrim even if you could argue it could have. Neither do I believe there’s a case to be made that a meaningful portion of Skyrim’s erstwhile consumers will abstain from the next Elder Scrolls on the grounds that they’re awaiting CD Projekt’s hypothetical competitor, after being swayed by The Witcher.

              Regardless of anyone’s personal opinion on either game, Skyrim was and still is a once-in-a-generation, decade-spanning phenomenon throughout and even beyond game culture, and Witcher 3, its splendors aside, ain’t.

  7. Joshua says:

    Accountant here. Tone at the top is usually used in reference to tolerance for fraud or unethical behavior to achieve results. Oftentimes it’s going to focus on short-term behavior that’s going to increase sales or decrease expenses in the short term, but bite the company in the ass later on. The whole Wells Fargo debacle of the last year or so was a good example.

    Interesting to see it from the customer service perspective of computer gaming.

  8. el_b says:

    after seeing that on the day of release there was a 1 hour speedrun of this game on youtube, i decided to get it pirated and see just how long it actually is instead of spending £50 on a campaign smaller than a decent dota 2 match, planning to buy it when all the dlc is out…only to find i made the right move not putting my money on it. this kind of treatment of paying customers is abysmal and im genuinely surprised considering how well all the other wolfenstein games have ran. and the worst thing is the copied version has none of these problems bar the horrible mouse sensitivity bug because there are no forced patches, and when i looked that up all they were saying was update the drivers…i figured it was probably something to screw with pirates. how the hell did THAT get through testing?

    • Arakus says:

      That 1 hour speedrun on release day isn’t really a bad sign, speedrunners tend to break games VERY fast so most major games that have good speed exploits get fast runs in the first day or two. I don’t have a problem with the rest of your post, just saying that’s not really a good reason to assume a game is actually short since you don’t know how much the runner is skipping.

      • Anitogame says:

        Fallout 4 can be completed in like 45 minutes using edge jumping (or whatever they called it) and other glitches. So yeah, completion in an hour just means someone found a bunch of glitches. There are people who buy games JUST to enjoy the act of finding said glitches and seeing how much they can break the game’s system.

      • el_b says:

        i couldnt imagine getting through new order in that time due to all the story sections so i was a little worried. 1 timeline run took me like 14 hours and its not like half life 2 where you can bounce from ravenhome to nova prospect using physics bugs cause of the interconnected levels. in the end outside of the horrible mouse bug the only issue i had was having to grind side missions for enigma cards. it also feels like something they just shoved in so they could add end game content via dlc.

        • evilmrhenry says:

          To be fair, The New Order can be beaten in 1:31 and The New Colossus can be beaten in 1:12. This isn’t that big of a difference. (Comparing them directly isn’t really apples-to-apples. Records will go down over time, and new techniques can be discovered. I think this shows that The New Colossus is a bit shorter, but not by much.)

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      this kind of treatment of paying customers is abysmal and im genuinely surprised considering how well all the other wolfenstein games have ran.

      What surprises me is that people still get surprised when something released by bethesda is buggy.Its far more surprising to me that new order and doom actually did NOT have huge problems at release.

      • el_b says:

        its only published by bethesda, machine games made it. all theyve ever made are the 3 new wolfensteins and a quake game i havent played, and the other wolfenstein games have ran really well.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Bethesda is not just publishing,its also providing quality control.Also,they decide what to focus on after release.

          • Groggy says:

            I take it you’ve seen the interview with the Obsidian guys on Rock, Paper, Shotgun as well. (If you haven’t search “Obsidian, If you treat them as the enemy, it’s not going to be a good relationship”)

            In it the lead for Obsidian Feargus Urquhart talks about the change in developer/publisher relationships during the turn of the milleniums, and how contracts shifted from being a “make us three sequel games for $150,000” to “Make us one big game for $250,000” thanks to the fact development times had to grow longer with the increasing complexity of games.

            He also states…

            But Urquhart states it has always been the case that publishers, not developers, are responsible for providing QA.

            “Even back in the day when we were doing stuff with BioWare, or Blizzard for that matter at Interplay, QA was done at Interplay,” Urquhart says. “But then there are these weird situations. With Neverwinter Nights 2, Atari was closing down their Santa Monica office, which we were originally working for. So there was no test locally, and Atari was still trying to figure out where they were going to test games. So we came to the arrangement – now I’m pretty sure we’d already signed up to do the game – we then just came to the thing of like, we would hire thirty testers and then Atari would pay for them.”

            Because of unusual situations like this, and the flak that Obsidian received for them, the studio now stipulates precisely the terms of QA in any contract they sign with a publisher. “One of the things that we’ve had to learn to do is to actually, in our contract, to say the publisher must put this number of QA people on the game as of this date. And KEEP them on the game for the extent of, you know, from when the game is ready to be tested all the way through like a month or so after the game has been released.”

            …which cretes an interesting point, do these developers put their game out to Bethesda trusting that they’ll actually test them, or are they beingforced to do the QA on top of everything else, because while Obsidian has had the experience of having to deal with shitty situations, most of those situations where wierd or unique, and a sensible business would avoid them in the endgame of any game release.

    • Grimwear says:

      To jump on the using speedruns to compare game length bandwagon:

      Speedruns should never be used to compare anything aside from the speed of other speedruns. The danger arises when people use them to judge quality/difficulty/length and it leads to changes being made to the game to its detriment. I’m not simply saying patching out glitches and exploits which I have no problem with. The best example I can think of is Dark Souls 2 when it first came out the speedrun was done using hex magic which dealt massive damage but came with the additional cost of consuming souls to cast. The devs took one look at how quickly it allowed speedrunners to beat their game and decided that everyone would do it and therefore nerfed hexes into uselessness. By the time I got around to making a hex based character there was literally no point as it was just a waste of souls using them. An interesting concept for magic ruined because the top echelon players could take advantage of it for single player.

      • BlueHorus says:

        I don’t get this. I really don’t.

        Dammit devs, let people play their single-player games the way they want to!
        As long as they’re not affecting anyone else’s game, let them find their own fun. Some people like to break them, some people like to speedrun, some people love secret hunting, some people are only in it for the story…
        Reminds me of the Witcher 3 – apparently there were some respawning cows that player could kill in order to loot leather from the bodies, which they could then sell, then kill the cows again – infinite money.
        (Personally, that sounds like an ass-numbingly boring way to play a Witcher game, but whatever)
        Anyway, CDProjektRed patched it so if you killed too many cows, a cow god-monster appeared and killed you. Just…why?

        An interesting concept for magic ruined because [the devs didn’t like that] the top echelon players could take advantage of it for single player.

        Fixed (so says me).

        • KarmaTheAlligator says:

          Well, to be fair, Dark Souls games do have some multiplayer in them.

        • Tektotherriggen says:

          Personally, that sounds like an ass-numbingly boring way to play a Witcher game, but whatever

          That might be part of the problem. If there’s a way to make the game much easier, lots of people will do it, either discovering it for themselves or learning it from a guide. They then repeatedly grind the boring activity, and fail to have fun, because it’s boring (see also Shamus’ recent post on secrets). Some of them then complain that the game is boring, even though it’s only boring because they chose the most tedious cheesy strategy. Lower player review scores lowers sales.

          And this is even before we get to the sort of gamers who complain about games having easy modes…

          To be clear: I agree with you that people should be allowed to play how they want. But I can also understand why these loopholes get plugged. The holy grail of game design is presumably to make the easiest way to play, also the most fun/interesting, so that people naturally gravitate to experiencing that game at its best. Game dev is hard.

          • Grimwear says:

            In terms of plugging holes I will say I prefer CD Projekt Red’s way. I remember hearing about another money exploit involving…oysters? Some sort of shell? And they remedied it by having a tax collector come up to the witcher and accuse him of not paying proper taxes on them. You can then agree which removes X amount of money or lie to his face in which case he thanks you for being such an upstanding citizen and you can walk away with your wealth in hand. Even with the doom cow demon at least it provides a laugh in game.

            • FluffySquirrel says:

              Triggered for me after I used a beehive to kill the dwarf trader in the first town, so I could repeatedly steal all his stuff, it might trigger on a lot of things

              Was really funny to meet the tax collector later

          • BlueHorus says:

            “I bought a BB Gun from this store, then repeatedly shot myself in the nutsack with it. It was really painful!
            0/10 – BB Gun not recommended.”
            There might be a point about how ‘useful’ criticism from the general public is in all this…

            Sigh.
            While I get why it might happen, it still annoys me – if someone’s dumb enough to deliberately play the game in a way that’s not fun and not designed for to do, that’s their fault. And the correct response of the game developer is to (maybe) point out that’s not what it was designed for and otherwise ignore them.

            And this is before you get to players who complain about games having easy modes…

            Can’t the devs just ignore them, too?

          • BlueHorus says:

            Game dev is hard.

            I’m sure it is…this seems more like a case of ‘pleasing everybody is hard’, though.
            It’s kind of sad that game devs feel the need to try, given that it’s famously impossible.

        • Alex says:

          The player should not need to be a scrub to have a good time. If you have systems in place specifically so that a player can optimise their character to win the game, it’s not the player’s fault for using those systems to optimise their character.

      • SKD says:

        Personally I think any speedrun which requires “hacking” the code should be disqualified from consideration. Exploiting glitches and using metagame knowledge (running straight to the Ashlands and killing Dagoth Ur in Morrowind) is fine since it is part of the core experience. But cheat codes, hex edit and mods are altering the core gameplay experience to achieve something which couldn’t be achieved normally.

        • galacticplumber says:

          They aren’t talk about any kind of hacking. Hexing is a form of magic in Dark Souls 2 based on both faith and int stats. They also cost souls to cast unlike other forms of magic and were much more powerful to compensate before being nerfed all over.

        • el_b says:

          this. im okay with using glitches i guess for a speed run, its not like hacking the game or anything, another problem i have is that ive seen a lot of games use unlockable or new game+ weapons like in the resident evil or dmc games to lame it out from the start with overpowered guns and that just feels cheap to me.

  9. Anitogame says:

    Interestingly, the game apparently had Denuvo initially, then Bethesda removed it before release. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe leaving bits of it in the game caused unforeseen problems? Whatever the case, it’s amusing that they managed to torpedo their own PC launch even ‘without’ Denuvo.

  10. SKD says:

    Wow, makes me glad I have had no interest in the new Wolfenstein series. I know Bethesda has always been fairly well known for a plethora of bugs, some of which never get fixed but this takes the cake. I mean, I have been an avid fan of The Elder Scrolls, Dishonored and Bethesda’s Fallout games (would have enjoyed the originals but they weren’t on my radar at release) but until this debacle I haven’t seen one that just refuses to be played. Did someone in the patching department just decide to one-up the savegame breaking patches of previous games (I remember New Vegas specifically but at least one other game had this happen as well).

    • Echo Tango says:

      If there were indeed different departments for different parts of programming, and for patching seperately, that would explain all of the bugs that Bethesda is known for…

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Plenty of people had big problems with dishonored 2,and new vegas had almost regular crashes for some people(for me,it was about one crash to desktop every hour).Also,lets not forget Rutskarns trek through battlespire.So yeah,bethesda qa was never any good.

      Its not an excuse,just not that surprising.

      • SKD says:

        Not particularly surprising except in the severity of the bug. CTDs are a common Bethesda bug usually related to autosaving and poor optimization in my personal experience. Usually disabling autosave on rest and zone transitions eliminated most of them for me. YMMV

        But I have to say that until now I haven’t seen a bug that kept a vanilla copy of one of their games from running entirely. That is a new high water mark for Bethesda.

  11. BlueHorus says:

    I like that in one of Shamus’ screenshots, the latest acheivement he’s earned in the New Colossus is ‘keep playing’.
    I get the impression he and a lot of other people would actually really like to do that…

    Hope that was a deliberately chosen screenshot.

    And I’ll jump on the bandwagon with everybody else: this is just another example of the shenanigans that people help games companies pull off. From $60 for a game you can beat in a few hours to bad QA & tech support to DRM…
    They won’t make you anything better if you keep paying for this!

    I’ll have to add this to my list of reasons to never pre-order or buy on day one.

    • SKD says:

      Value for your money is a personal judgement and you are the only one who can make determination on your own spending. But I would like to point out that story/campaign/game length is not a great metric. You can have a quality story that is well worth the purchase price while only taking a couple hours to complete just as you can have a 50 hour story that isn’t worth the time it takes to click purchase on Steam.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      I finally realized why I don’t trust you, BlueHorus: you have a different gravatar every time you post.

      WHAT ARE YOU HIDING FROM US

  12. Liessa says:

    This kind of thing is why I hardly ever buy games on release any more (in fact I barely touch AAA games at all these days, but that’s another story). I’ll just wait for the inevitable round of patches and DLC to finish, then buy the ‘Complete Edition’ or ‘GOTY Edition’ or whatever for a fraction of the original price. Though of course, it’s different if you blog about video games for a living…

  13. Galad says:

    Sheesh, are those minimum specs going to be the norm from now on? I barely cover them and can still play enough things. I hope I don’t need to upgrade anytime soon

  14. Shamus, check out Jayztwocents who did a minimum specs test of Wolfenstein II https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1B_jmk6B9U

  15. Broc27 says:

    This article reminds me why I exclusively get multiplatform games on my consoles. Of course sometimes they still need patches and such, but Shamus posted enough times about botched PC launches to keep me away from those.

    After all this time, it is puzzling to have to conclude that PC gaming is still a nightmare.

    • John says:

      Nah, PC gaming is fine. You just have to do a little due diligence. Don’t pre-order and maybe don’t buy right at release either. You’ll be fine most of the time.

      • Philadelphus says:

        Yeah, we’re hearing about one particular nightmarish scenario, not the thousands of PC games that run fine for 95%+ of users (there’ll always be a few people with issues, of course, no such thing as a completely bug-free game…).

        Also multi-platform games have a reputation (whether deserved or not) of often being especially screwy on PC. PC-only games (or at least made for PC first/primarily) are often (though not always!) less problematic.

        • Broc27 says:

          Yes! I still have a PC I use for gaming once in a while, for PC exclusive games. Still had more problems on PC than consoles though…

          The headaches associated with PC gaming are a big turn off for me, since I have very limited time for gaming and like things to work right away not just 75% of the time, but at least 99% of the time ;-)

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      On top what the others said,you are dismissing the advantages.PC gaming will always be superior to console gaming in terms of performances and the range of those performances.You want high res graphics but dont mind taking the frames per second hit?You can do that.You want high refresh rate,but dont mind playing in a small window?Check.You dont like the control scheme,but the game doesnt allow you to change it?There are programs that allow you to bind any key of any controller to any output.You can optimize the performance any way you want,often beyond what even the developers thought was possible,from ultra fast to ultra beautiful,to any combination of the two.

      And thats for games that already run smooth on consoles,which stops being the case late in the console generation.

      • acronix says:

        And don’t forget all the mods that can fix all the broken ‘artistic’ decisions!

        • BlueHorus says:

          I’ll second this – if you’re buying a Bethesda sandbox game like Skyrim and you didn’t get it on PC, you’ve missed a trick.
          More content, bugfixes, conversions, new gear, UI improvements, new quests, rebalances, overhauls, extra features, graphical improvements, stupid jokes, memes, and so on and so on…
          It’s like you can’t access half the game.

          And just try running a PS1 game on your PS4. Meanwhile, that 10-year-old PC game? Fiddly, but it’ll run on a modern PC.

      • Broc27 says:

        Yes, you are right. PC gamers tend to value these advantages, I can understand that. I just don’t value them myself. I am usually just fine with what consoles have to offer in terms of graphics and performance. I don’t have more fun at 60fps vs 30fps, or care that much about resolution. Most games control exactly like they should for me.

        But I understand that different people see value in different things. Saying that PC gaming is a nightmare was a shortcut to say it is a nightmare to ME, who values my time above all else and don’t want to bother with drivers, patches, and incompatibilities.

  16. Carrandas says:

    I’ve had my deal of crashes. The game just hangs after a few minutes. Looks like I did not have enough memory left, closing my browser fixes the crashes.

    Now that it works, it runs amazingly well. Getting 60 fps with Uber settings at 1440p with my geforce 1060 and ancient i5 3570.

  17. Ciennas says:

    Speaking of unfixed bugs, does anybody else here play ESO? I play on the xbox one, and even bought Morrowind on preorder.

    Trying to craft in Vivec City is STILL the surest and fastest way to cause the game to lock up and crash to desktop. I even submitted a ticket over it, and bupkis.

    And that’s a product still in active service. I wonder moreover, WHY Bethesda stuff is so buggy. Anyone care to field ideas on that?

    • galacticplumber says:

      Assuming you mean traditional bethesda rpgs, huge ass open world games with stupidly many complex interactions are really difficult to test even remotely fully. It’s the difference between figuring out if a big wheel will roll properly and say…. an entire bullet train.

    • I’ve just gotten into it again, but I don’t have any problems crafting in Vivec City. Actually, it’s been remarkably stable for me, considering I play on a several years old laptop. I’ve had more crashes in lotro than eso. If you’re curious, I posted a couple entries on my (mostly defunct) blog about my experience thus far. I dunno if I could play it on a console though, I love my addons WAY TOO MUCH (lorebook and skyshard locations, yes please!).

      Their account management pages, on the other hand, yeah, I’m with you there.

  18. Meriador says:

    Y’know, it’s times like these I’m glad I can’t afford new games. Buying the latest and greatest of 20 years ago at least gives you a decent chance of getting a functioning product.

  19. Redrock says:

    I think the problem here are misleading minimum requirements more than anything else, which has been a problem for quite some time. It’s quite obvious that AAA PC games are mostly designed with Geforce series 9xx and 10xx levels in mind, with everything below that as an afterthought. Now, the constant push for beefier hardware we can’t beat, unfortunately, because that’s a system created for the benefit of a number of entities, including hardware manufacturers, publishers and TV manufacturers. For me, 1080p at 60 fps is optimal and any spare power I’d put into fps and overall smoothness. But that way Nvidia goes out of business, and, more importatly, monitor and TV makers go out of business, because a lot of them are already on the precipice. And game developers and publishers need the graphics push because you can’t really hype gameplay at E3 and the like in the same way you can with graphics.

    So pretty much everyone is interested in making gamers with older PCs suffer, because for every one of them who’d just get mad and swear off AAA releases, half a dozen would bite the bullet and splurge for a shiny new GTX 1080 or whatever. That’s why New Colossus will be fine: it runs well enough for enough people to not be a big enough problem. And to those who can’t run it the industry can implicitly say “git gud hardware” and pretty much get away with it.

  20. Bubble181 says:

    Same goes for Destiny 2. They disallowed any sort of software that injected code…Including overlays like Steam, Discord or OBS.

    It’s since been turned back, mostly, but the first days thousands upon thousands were “permanently” banned for no reason whatsoever.

  21. I made a Youtube vi about this you can see it on FroggyFrog9000 channel. I wanted to say I am running a top spec gaming PC and I have driver issues – namely screen record is black and has audio only – also I too noted they wont let me go back to a previous driver that was working perfectly.

  22. Leocruta says:

    there’s no way to roll back.

    This is not entirely true. It’s just the method to roll back is time consuming and requires the use of the steam console.

  23. Luke says:

    That’s exactly what a Nazi would say!

  24. Perceptiveman says:

    I don’t want to be That Guy, but why the heck do people insist on buying games the day they come out? Give the dumb thing 48 hours to bake in, see how much rage is on the forums, and then buy it. Or don’t, in cases like this.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      If Shamus bought it 48 hours later he probably wouldnt have finished it.Seeing how it was more broken after patching.

      • BlueHorus says:

        Also his review wouldn’t be as timely/relevant. It applies more to different/mainstream critics – Shamus hosts lots of retro stuff like retrospectives – but some people’s jobs demand having that game ASAP.

        Of course, if you’re not a critic, then pre-order and/or day-one purchasing was was a dumb move…long before this particular example.
        Also related: if you wait, you might not have to pay 60 fuckin’ dollars for it!

        • Perceptiveman says:

          Yes, well, obviously if it’s your JOB to play a game, that’s one thing, but that’s the tiniest of minorities there.

          And if he had waited 48 hours to buy it, he probably would’ve known it was a mess and wouldn’t have bought it at all. Or at least, that seems like the wise choice here.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            But he wouldnt have known,because like he said,the problems werent reported by any actual critic.He wouldve had to deliberately go into forums to find out that info.This way at least he informed a larger crowd of the problems.

            • Perceptiveman says:

              I would tend to think that part of being an informed consumer involves going to a forum somewhere.

              And again, this isn’t really aimed at “game reviewer Shamus” so much as “Hypothetical game consumer Shamus”

  25. Adeon says:

    It was working ok-ish for me (with the graphics turned down), then I got bored and started playing Team Fortress 2’s new update. I’m planning to go back to it but it sounds like I should wait a bit.

  26. Son of Valhalla says:

    Sounds like quite the situation for Wolfenstein. I thought this game would be good. At least I didn’t purchase it.

  27. LCF says:

    Everybody’s raging in the forums, while I’m sitting here, watching Let’s Plays.
    spidermandesk.png

    “This game is a step down from its predecessors. I’d love to talk about how the game falls short from a design standpoint”
    How much different from Wolfenstein New Order? From what I’ve seen, I’d bundle WNO and WNC together. Or maybe the upgrade system sets it apart, a tiny bit closer to Wolfenstein 2009 (which is Good in My books).

    • Adeon says:

      It’s hard to explain in a short post (although I’m Shamus could with a series of thousand word columns) but it just doesn’t feel as good as WNO. The simple version is that the gameplay, level design and plot are all weaker than WNO.

      Gameplay: the gun play isn’t as enjoyable as in WNO. Part of this is that the cover system doesn’t seem to work as well as in WNO so you have to run and gun a lot more. You could run and gun in WNO but you weren’t required to.

      Level Design: A lot of the levels just feel awkward. WNO did a good job with pacing in it’s levels while WNC doesn’t. Add in the fact that the general aesthetic of the levels is less appealing, a lot of the levels are poorly lit which makes it hard to see where enemies are a frustrating amount of time.

      Plot: The plot is just bad. The basic overarching plot of trying to kick Nazis out of the US is good but there’s a ton of plot holes and as with the levels the pacing of the plot isn’t great. It also ends kinda abruptly (from what I’ve heard I haven’t actually finished it myself).

      • Meriador says:

        Judging from the fact that Shamus was literally like “oh, I only had ten minutes of game left, huh” in his previous post about the game, I’d say there’s evidence for the ending being abrupt.

  28. Kahobuto says:

    It really is frustrating that this story isn’t getting any traction in the media. I suspect that this is because the game runs pretty well on top-end machines, and most game journalists have that kind of hardware

    Oh that’s easy to explain. Journous did pretty good job equating anyone who dislike game for whatever reason with nazi and “alt-right trolls”. And now legit criticism won’t see a light of day, because journalists chose this as their hill to die on.

  29. Duoae says:

    I quite enjoyed the first one, shame the sequel (I didn’t play the expansion) isn’t living up to the promise of the series.

    On a different note, I actually have an unused RX480 I’ve been trying to sell, if you’re interested, Shamus. No idea what your current setup is though so it may not be much of an upgrade.

    • PPX14 says:

      He has a 780 according to the previous article. Not a huge upgrade but not insignificant either I suppose.

      • Duoae says:

        Ah, yeah. There’s not a lot of difference in raw numbers that’d be worth the price. Though IIRC the 480 supports some more modern features.

        Obviously, my offer stands open to anyone. (Though I understand the idea of getting an item from ‘some guy’ isn’t appealing to me either :) )

        I need to chuck it up on ebay but last time I looked the prices /offers there were either a joke (both expensive and cheap) or suspect (eg. Suspiciously stating “never overclocked” etc).

  30. Trix2000 says:

    I can’t help but giggle a bit when I compare this to another example: on one of Factorio’s point releases, the game would not start for basically anyone running from Steam. Likely it affected most of the playerbase given Steam’s popularity.

    The devs had the issue corrected within hours. In fact, if I recall they issued at least two if not three different bugfixing patches on launch day. They continued to patch it continuously for the next couple weeks, despite the game being already pretty bulletproof after day one.

    I know the level they’re working on may not be that comparable to Bethesda’s case (smaller team on 2D game vs. massive team AAA 3D shooter), but Factorio’s still a pretty complex game under the hood and it makes me smile how committed they are to ensuring a working product for people despite this. I just don’t see how, in Bethesda’s case, they not only addressed the issue slowly and poorly… but they actually made things worse. Aren’t they supposed to have some damn QA over there?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      My guess is that the issue is that bethesda deals with QA,answers to customers and calls the shots,while its the developers who do the actual patching.So if bethesda orders them “Now that its done,do this dlc/this horse armor/this other project”,they cant just jump in and fix a bug even if everyone is telling them about it,but have to wait for bethesda to give them the green light to deal with the bug,and then again have to wait for bethesda to test the fix*,and then once more for bethesda to release it on steam.

      *Given that this is bethesda,I doubt this takes long.

  31. RCN says:

    Shamus is right when he says that peoplê get their corporate values from the top… but he is wrong to say Bethesda is the one responsible for Id’s failings in this case.

    I mean, Bethesda has NEVER been know for stable launches and polish. But it was known for throwing everything into the mixer and owning every feature. The problem isn’t Bethesda because it isn’t Bethesda at the top. But Zenimax.

    Zenimax it the one responsible for the horrible corporate culture going all the way down. And unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done about it because executives in this industry (most industries) don’t see their employees as their moneymakers and their consumers as their bosses; but rather see their employees as expendable, overpayed cogs (regardless of how much, or little, they are paid) and consumers as walking wallets.

    • Shamus says:

      It’s true that the actual top is Zenimax, but I was using the more informal nomenclature of Bethesda = Zenimax.

      It’s not because I want to be sloppy! This confusion comes from Zeni itself. Their corporate org chart is confusingly named like so:

      [Zenimax]
      |
      V
      [Bethesda Publishing]
      |
      V
      [Many developers, including Bethesda Softworks]

      As far as I can tell, Zeni would rather use the Bethesda branding. At E3, they have the “Bethesda Press Event”, not the “Zenimax Event”. New Colossus has 30 seconds of unskippable splash screens:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k4c-48NV7g

      Bethesda gets one, and Zenimax doesn’t. (Kind of like how everyone has heard of Ben & Jerry’s, and not parent company Unilever.)

      So when I said “Bethesda” I meant “Bethesda Publishing”, not “Bethesda Softworks”. This is one of those situations where I figured that if you know how it worked, you would know what I was talking about, and if you didn’t then you wouldn’t care about that distinction.

      I suppose I should have used a footnote. That’s why I have the dang things.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Zenimax was spawned from bethesda however,so using them interchangeably is not wrong.

      • RCN says:

        Not really. It feels like treating different entities as the same when they are clearly not.

        Take John Carmack away from the original Id software and you’re left with the assholes who created Daikatana.

        Corporations are made of people. Treating them as separate entities altogether is weird to me when they are clearly the result of the efforts of lots of people. There were tons of talented writers at Bioware, but after being taken over by EA Bioware games are hardly recognizable anymore, because these talented writers are nowhere to be seem. They’ve been replaced with market-approved mass-appeal guys who clearly still know what they are doing, but are also clearly doing the exact opposite of the original writers.

        Blizzard was a name that held great value because it had great people working in it. Acti-Blizzard is a money-grabbing monstrosity that is very competent at marketing, monetizing and hype, but clearly doesn’t have the same level of polish and mastery that it once had because it is made of completely different people with completely different goals.

  32. Joshua says:

    I want to just say thank you for doing this piece. I was kind of interested in the game but stumbled across this before I actually bought it.

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