Discussion on video games has become pretty interesting over the years. There has been growing interest in the inner workings of video games, and we have been seeing more and more marketing capitalizing on this interest.
Big developers love selling games under their branding, and a games engine is just another way to do that. It’s a way of them saying “Yeah, this game was made using our technology”. And that’s not inaccurate—it really was—it’s just interesting that this is now a feature marketed directly to the average consumer, when in the past that was really only relevant to people interested in how the games were actually made.
Game engines have been a talking point from way back in 2004 with Valve’s Source engine making it’s debut in Half-Life 2. Kojima Productions highly publicized their FOX Engine they spent years developing in 2013 when they were still under Konami. You have things like Unity and Unreal Engine 4 which have become almost ubiquitous terms for consumers. Crytek has the CryEngine. EA has the Frostbite Engine. And with Bethesda, we have the Creation Engine.
Much of the discussion and criticism of Bethesda (at least, in terms of their game development) has focused on their continued use of this aging game engine dating back to 2011 (which itself is based on the engine Gamebryo dating 20 years ago). Especially as it looks like one of their upcoming anticipated games, Starfield, will use the same engine (according to an interview Todd Howard had with GameStar). But I wonder if it should be part of the discussion at all; I think discussing game's “engines” is interesting and can give some insight into video game development, but it detracts from discussing a games problems and how it’s managed.
I’m not going to pretend to know or have insight into how Bethesda is managed or what their priorities are, but if their games have consistently suffered the same problems over and over again, clearly their priorities aren’t on solving them. If these problems were a high priority, they would have devoted the resources to solve them. Or they would have just lifted the great work that modders have already done fixing every one of their games released in the last 10 years. If they have prioritized these problems and still didn’t solve them—well, that really doesn't bode well. Because even if they did just wipe the slate clean and start again with a new engine, why would that guarantee these problems be solved? If they couldn’t fix it in the last 10 years, why the hell would they be able to fix it now?!
Focusing on their use of the Creation Engine just makes the real problems we're facing ambiguous. “Oh, their problems are that they’re using the same engine, if they just finally switch their engine things will be better.” No, their problem is that they haven't been solving these problems. If these problems were a priority, they would be fixed. It doesn’t matter if that meant rewriting the “engine” completely or just the part of the code or whatever. As consumers and players, this doesn’t matter to the discussion. What matters is there are problems and they have failed to address them for years. Unless you’re a developer who is familiar with video game development and what the term “engine” actually means, you don’t need to be talking about these things. They don’t add anything to the discussion and confuscate the situation.
So when you hear that Starfield is using the same engine as Fallout 76, your argument shouldn't be “they need to change their engine!” but instead “they need to address and solve these problems!”. Maybe that argument is implied for a lot of you—but then we should be saying it directly! Be precise with your criticism, because discussing problems at the level of “engines” is just ambiguous.