Fallout: New Vegas Shows The Danger Of Leaning Too Heavily On The Cloud

Bethesda released Fallout: New Vegas for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC yesterday. The reviews fill me with great hope, particularly Canard PC’s take. (Canard PC was one of the few publications to note that Fallout 3 was, in fact, a hot mess, at least from the perspective of presenting a well-written game.) But there’s one problem with the game, specifically as it relates to the Steam version: it’s broken. Yes, it’s broken, and it’s all The Cloud’s fault. All hail The Cloud, right?

Here’s what’s going on.

The Steam version of the game makes use of Steam’s new ability to sync game saves with The Cloud. The idea itself is sound: your local game saves are mirrored on Steam’s remote servers, so if anything should happen to your hard drive, your game saves will always be safe and sound on Valve’s big fluffy Cloud.

That’s when it works, of course.

What’s happening now is that, as the game launches, it syncs with Steam’s servers, which then appear to overwrite any quicksaves that are present. (Normal saves don’t appear to be affected, only quicksaves, and then not all of the time; message board posts are filled with conflicting information, that sometimes the quicksaves are overwritten and sometimes they’re not.) Obviously this is merely a glitch in the way Steam’s servers interact with the game—workarounds already exist in lieu of a proper solution—but it serves as a cautionary tale of sorts: beware the Cloud.

Incidentally, the glitch will come as no surprise to people who are familiar with Obsidian-developed games such as Fallout: New Vegas: expect bugs, and lots of them. It’s just that this time the bugs materialize because of interactions with The Cloud.

In situations where you’re relying on the Cloud, you really are relying on the Cloud. You’re trusting that Big Company’s servers will always perform as advertised, and that everything will be all right forever. When you log into Spotify, you trust that you’re able to listen to Some Album without any problems. But what happens if something goes wrong? What happens if you try to log in and there’s no server there at the other end of the connection? You’re doomed, that’s what.

Now, if instead of relying on Spotify to listen to Some Album you had a local collection of MP3s. That local collection will always be where you can find it, and it’s up to you to back up the collection as you see fit. If your hard drive melts down and you didn’t back up the files that’s your own fault.

But at least you’re in complete control of the situation.

What happens if you hold a Halloween Move Night and fire up Netflix only to find that their servers are down? Hope you still have a DVD or Blu-ray player handy.

(Not to pick on Spotify and Netflix, mind you, it’s just that those are two of the bigger Cloud-based platforms right now.)

While I fully expect Valve to fix the glitch post-haste, it does remind us that the Cloud is by no means perfect, even if it is undeniably useful in many situations.

There’s still a certain, well, pride I guess you’d call it in maintaining your system, in keeping it in tip-top shape, but that’s a skill that goes away when you turn your life over to some nebulous Cloud.

It’s a lack of control, is all, and I that’s not something I’m 100 percent comfortable with quite yet.