I just don’t believe this at this point. There are plenty of games which would have benefited from systems like this, but none have chosen to even approach it, and if it was remotely as easy as you’re suggesting, it would have been done, because it would have put the game on another level. It’s not like Skyrim didn’t inspire a lot of imitators. Devs have literally said that what Creation is doing is too hard to copy.
It’s not just the moving around, it’s stuff like keeping track of relationships/attitudes between NPCs, between the player and NPCs, what they’re carrying, what state they’re in, what capabilities they have and so on - and this isn’t fixed like other games, it can change - like an NPC can pick up a better weapon if one is given to them or dropped or the like.
I think part of the issue here is you’re looking at this incredibly complex machine, and you keep picking up a single gear or a small assemblage of parts and going “Oh well this is simple!”, and sure like, that one bit is, but the way it fits together is clearly a lot more complex than that.
That you think the X games show this is “easy” is mind-boggling. The X games are some buggiest, least balanced, and frankly unplayable games ever produced. But particularly they’re incredibly buggy, even next to stuff like Skyrim, which is pretty damn buggy, so that’s impressive. They also deal with a vastly more simple environment, which obeys extremely simple rules, and I’m skeptical that they actually deal with more objects than something like Skyrim. It’s probably in the same ballpark.
If you’ve ever even looked at modding Skyrim or FO4, say, looked at the amount of information any given entity has, the number of flags and so on, it’s kind of staggering. I daresay it’s a lot more than in the X games.
There’s stuff like intentional delays and so on factored in there too, and conditions where it can check whether it needs to generate a new person and so on. Further most of the characters are actual individuals with habits, places they go and don’t, who are married or not, and so on, and know these things. This ends up being an awful lot of information that some generic space-factory doesn’t have.
In the end the issue here is:
“I think this thing is clearly easy and have no explanation for why it isn’t being done” (your argument) vs. the reality of “this thing isn’t being done”.
So what is your explanation for why literally no-one has actually managed to do this in the current era of gaming (say the last decade or even two decades) except Bethesda? I don’t think “all other games don’t need it” really holds up at all as an explanation for the total lack of success, given the clear and stated desire by other devs to emulate these games. No-one has even managed to do it in some sort of 2D indie way, AFAIK (and people have tried - they all crashed and burned, often leaving angry Kickstarter people behind them).
I think the real answer is essentially two-fold:
You need a specialized engine, that takes a lot of effort to develop and has pretty particular requirements.
To make a world that is remotely interesting, you need a ton of people to create content for it, which takes a lot of effort.
But I haven’t even seen anyone succeed in creating a suitable engine, and then just fail to populate it, yet. I’m sure some of it is just ineptitude on Bethesda Game Studios part. They’ve never demonstrated any great aptitude for programming, and they have literally always gone for off-the-shelf solutions over building there own, where possible (for everything from faces to physics), so that’s in the mix. But that potentially much more competent companies have found it sufficiently challenging as to not even attempt it is a pretty clear signal to me that there’s more going on.
It’s also worth noting that a lot of last-gen engines simply couldn’t handle very large environments. Frostbite, for example, allowed for large environments, but not ones anywhere near the size of any TES game. Unreal 3 (AFAIK) had to use tricks in order to try and simulate an environment that size. Stuff like RDR2 runs on its own engine, which took a lot more people than Bethesda has ever had to develop.
And that’s another issue - Skyrim was developed by 100 people. Fallout 4 by 170. RDR2 was developed by over 1600. Even if you cap it at max simultaneous people working on it you’re probably still looking at 600-800. Cyberpunk 2077 is similar, but is still going for a much more simplistic approach than Skyrim (as I understand it). Even TW3 was 400 at a dead minimum (and again, more like 1600 people worked on it at one point or another), which is quadruple what Skyrim had, and more than double what Fallout 4 did.
I do think it’s a bit weird that BGS made so much money (sold a lot more copies of Skyrim than TW3, and TW3 put a lot more effort into bug-fixing and so on) but didn’t seem to reinvest it, but that’s down to Zenimax extracting maximum profits. Maybe with MS they’ll finally put in the investment they need to actually consider re-doing things, but certainly Starfield is on a version of the same engine.