Gameplay Journal Entry #2

To me, one of the most obvious trends of what we consider a game engine is evident in Bethesda games, and as a fan of all their titles and countless hours spent with them, I notice the similarities. While their games do reuse a lot of art assets and occasionally update them for better detail, the fundamental mechanics usually remain unchanged. The game I played specifically is Fallout 76, notwithstanding its reputation, I enjoy it because it still behaves like a Fallout game and is practically identical to its predecessor Fallout 4. A trend in their games comes from the art and visuals, 4 and 76 share assets, 3 and New Vegas share assets but also share those same assets with another series and game entirely, Oblivion. Lowood states “At its heart, the game engine is also a particular way of organizing the structure of computer game software; this structure separates execution of core functionality by the game engine from the creative assets that define the play space or “content” of a specific game title.” (Lowood 204)

While art assets are the most evident example of reusability in the game engine, core mechanics in the series have remained relatively unchanged besides graphical updates and tweaks of layout, in Fallout’s case, VATS, Special skills and perks, how quests and dialogue work. I believe a large part of why Bethesda games are so popular to modify is because of how long people have been able to learn this game engine, and how some mods for previous titles can even be imported to the more recent ones. In stark contrast however, Fallout 1 and 2 were not developed by Bethesda and were 2D point and click games, making their game environment and how the player interacted with it a different experience entirely. The mechanics of Bethesda’s game engine is now what most people remember as the style for the series.

As for Fallout 76, I noticed that while mostly identical to 4 from its assets to its gameplay, the use of the engine caused problems, as it is the only game of the series to ever be multiplayer. In development there must have been issues adapting the game engine for online play, evident by the numerous bugs and bad experiences. I include a Let’s Play of Fallout 76 from someone who has intimate knowledge of the whole series and was able to identify the similarities and differences.

References: Lowood, Henry. “Game Engine” in Debugging Game History: A Critical Lexicon