I was doing some reading and noticed that one of the issues with Skyrim that is routinely brought up is the "saved game issue," which is basically the idea that corrupt saved games or oversized saved games cause problems. In almost any Skyrim troubleshooting forum thread, you will have someone post a suggestion to disable auto-save.
According to this post:
(Format is a bit different but as with Morrowind the .ess file is basically a "mod" loading up the changes you've done to the game and your character to try and describe it fairly simple.)This looks like a reasonably accurate documentation for the Skyrim saved game file format.
What this tells me is that the author of the post is not a native English speaker and that the game basically starts up and then applies a series of variables to the engine to continue the game where you left off. Something like:
- Start at time 0, basic game start.
- Apply the character variables (height, weight, color, attributes)
- Apply the skills variables
- Position player
- Load the variables for the area completed (along with individual stats for each)
- Load the character inventory
- Fast forward time
- Start the game
This is in line with what looks like (haven't tried yet) easy cheats, like giving yourself weapons and giving yourself extra perks through the tilde (~) console commands. This also matches up with my experience where the crashes didn't happen right away, only after a period of time (i.e. variables changing).
I wonder if something in the game engine variables is bad with my saved games, which causes periodic crashes. One way to test this is to clear out all the saved game info (have to Google how to do that) in order to "start from scratch" and then start a new character and see when the crashes start. Or another way is to examine the contents of the saved game and somehow turn on debugging and see if there are any exceptions that are generated by the game engine (there has to be a debugging mode) when the saved game is loaded.
I'm assuming this is normal behavior for any game loading, but maybe the way this was implemented by Bethesda is buggy in some yet-unknown-configurations. Maybe it's a combination of issues and I'm fumbling like a thumbless monkey trying to build a nuclear reactor. Analysis continues....