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Bivouac with C.A.M.P.

Red Thomas Posted:
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Well, contrary to all the fan theories out there, we now know that Fallout 76 will not be a full-on thousand-player server MMO.  Personally, I’m really glad that it won’t be heading down that route because as Todd Howard noted during his E3 address, it’s the apocalypse, not a theme park.  Instead, we’ll get another survival genre game but with the care and attention paid towards persistent online world MMOs. I think that’s a very smart direction for the franchise.  Fallout lends itself well to the genre.  In part because they can create a hostile environment without zombies, and I think we’re all pretty tired of zombies.

Today’s not about praising or exploring good design decisions, though.  Instead, we’re going to take a hard look at what we’ve seen of the camping system in Fallout 76, and see what we can piece together about it.  I suspect it’s not going to work the way a lot of folks seem to think it will.

A larger map and persistent servers. Bethesda does not bunt. They swing for the fences.

One thing I’ve heard is that the camp goes away if you log off.  I think that’s based on Howard’s comment about not losing progress, but it’s probably misinterpreted.  During the E3 camping video, one of the first things we see with respect to the system is the player picking up a C.A.M.P. package, and then right after we see it being placed.

The important bit about the placement is the text, which is informing the player of a 40 cap charge for moving the C.A.M.P.  Then it builds, and it’s just the one deployable.  That suggests that you can move your base, but that you don’t necessarily move all the stuff you’ve built with it, and probably that it stays online whether you are or not, unless you pick it back up.

We also see the base being attacked and portions of it being destroyed, so base destruction is a part of the game.  That makes sense since there’s are PvE and PvP components to Fallout 76.  Also, the placement of structures at one site is not really going to work in the same three-dimensional orientation in another setting.

The mortar in the video clearly has a power requirement, material requirements, and you could see the Workshop Budget bar move when things were placed.

Thus, is seems pretty likely that the general base-building will work very similarly to what we’ve seen in other survival games, at least on the surface.  The differences show another very intelligent design decision.  As I mentioned in another recent article, player-placed objects cause rendering issues that kill server and client performance.  It’s especially bad in games attempting photorealistic environments.  Limiting the number of objects is the best option to get around that problem, and we can see in the E3 video that Bethesda is doing just that.

Each object created eats into the Workshop Budget, which represents how much total stuff you can build in a given area.  Additionally, we can see that the artillery piece in the video requires power, which means there’s an additional axis of limitation based on available base-generated resources.  In this case, power.

What we don’t know is whether perimeter defenses will require ammunition, and that could be an additional limitation on what players would build.  But then, we don’t really know what all you can build at a base other than the handful of structures we’ve seen in the video.  I did notice in the video that there were a few times a player appeared to be engaged at a station.  That suggests player-bases may play a role in consumables and probably building upgraded equipment.

Power generation like this probable wind turbine will be required to keep base defenses online, further limiting the number of other structures that can be built.

Unlike previous Fallout games, this one is likely to have fewer RPG elements, which means the player equipment progression will likely be handled in a method more typical for survival games.  That could also suggest an additional form of progression that both will and won’t be lost.  If players die, I expect you’ll lose your gear as in most games in this vein, but the progression you won’t lose would be unlocked technologies and gear that can be crafted.  If you lose your base, you can just start a new one with all the accumulated blueprints and knowledge you already had.

I’m pretty excited about Fallout 76, and I think it hallmarks an extension of the survival genre, though obviously a slightly less hardcore take on the idea.  Bethesda is a great studio with very intelligent designers who have a chance to expand the survival MMO footprint in a similar way that Blizzard expanded the fantasy MMORPG audience, though probably not to the same degree.  Still, their approachability and UI design will make the genre far more playable for fans who would have never played other similar games.  More importantly, their typical polish and graphics quality should make Fallout 76 a common game for streamers.

It’s all theory right now and very light on actual fact, but those are a few of the things I noticed about the C.A.M.P. system and thought you readers would find interesting.  Did I miss something?  What aspect of Fallout 76 are you most interested in exploring.  Let me know below.


Red Thomas

A veteran of the US Army, raging geek, and avid gamer, Red Thomas is that cool uncle all the kids in the family like to spend their summers with. Red lives in San Antonio with his wife where he runs his company and works with the city government to promote geek culture.