Ken Rolston, a Bethesda Game Studios veteran and lead designer on The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind and Oblivion, has spoken a little about the studio culture.
Buggy though they are, Bethesda have still made some of the best RPGs on PC.
On a recent livestream, Gamasutra asked Rolston if there was anything about Bethesda Game Studios that particularly equipped them for making the epic, open-world games that have made their name.
In reply, Rolston says that the studio “has a long institutional memory, and the personalities in it have fought with one another and worked together for a long time.” He also says that the studio's universal development tools enable everyone in the team to understand one another's work:
“It might well be the only studio that has the ability to see all the ways sausage [is] made in a sympathetic way. Something like Ubisoft, with its very, very large teams who all do very specific tasks - that is a very high-polish production model.”
By contrast, and this may shock you:
“Bethsoft is about not making polish. And I don't mean that in any way negative; there's a level of jazz to what's going on, rather than classical music coming from a script. If it isn't clean but it's fun, we can understand it... anybody can just go in and see how it's done, and say 'oh, I understand that, maybe we can do this instead.'”
This suggests a level of experimentation and many-cooks collaboration across the studio, which perhaps explains why Bethesda has developed a reputation for putting out fun games that are also full of glitches.
You can check out Gamasutra's full stream with Rolston here. The question on Bethesda's culture starts at around 21 minutes.