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A Roundtable Discussion with the Devs of Fallout 76

Damien Gula Posted:
Interviews 0

Bethesda Game Studios invited MMORPG to participate in their world premier event for Fallout 76 at The Greenbrier - an iconic West Virginia result with an in-game location. As a part of this event, there was a round table conversation with Jeff Gardiner (Project Lead), Chris Myer (Development Director - Austin) and Emil Pagliarulo (Design Director). Here are some of the questions and their responses.

(Note: We were not permitted to record video for this round table event. The following questions and answers are paraphrased into summary statements.)

WARNING: Minor Spoilers ahead!

Q: Was there anything that you (the developers) were worried that we would miss?

A: The developers had, what they thought was, a predetermined path with The Overseer’s story for the play tester to experience. The play testers actually got to see way more than they had thought! Some groups ran into high level creatures, others found Power Armor. The experience has been different as they have watched each group play test.

Q: How do you guys see Fallout 76 competing in a very competitive release window? How plans do you keep players coming back?

A: Bethesda has plans for an aggressive patch schedule and ideas for content that they could not share with us. Their hope is that between the newness of the game, their fanbase, and post-launch content (which they plan on making free) that people will really engage with the game. Bethesda says that they have packed the game with things keep players busy for a little while.

They talked about making the game four times larger than they had initially planned because they didn’t know how many player they were going to land with. During internal play tests with 24 people, they thought “wow, there is a lot of dead space.” So, they ended up adding four times the content. The quote that the team heard from their developers (which may not be 100% accurate) is that there are 70,000 different weapon mods, workshop items, armor crafting, etc.

They shared how delighted and astounded they were that even though Fallout 4 came out in 2015, people still play it every day. They are confident their fans want a new Fallout game and now a game that you can actually play with your friends.

Q: Is it fair to say that Fallout 76 is just an open-ended Fallout with your friends or another multiplayer shooter?

A: It’s Fallout with your friends. It’s the experience that they have been asked for with just about every release.

Q: With being a multiplayer experience, for players that are into Fallout for the narrative, are we going to lose the classic, dark-with-bits-of-funny tone of the Fallout series with this direction or will is this going to be story rich?

A: The team thinks it will be a very story rich game - it’s what Bethesda does. There are two things that really stand out which illustrate this well. The Overseer of Vault 76 is one. The developers talked about how she went into the Vault as a young woman and now is a mother figure to all of these people who are now out exploring the world. After leaving the Vault, she is exploring the wasteland as someone who was from that area. As you find her holotapes, you will experience what they summarized as a pretty heart-wrenching story as she relived her past and visits the places that she once knew.

“There is also the fact that the game is set 25 years after the bombs went off. We have never been able to tell the story of people who survived The War. You will find holotypes of people who lived through it and how those initial days were. In a lot of ways, it is a lot sadder and a lot darker in a lot of ways, but it’s still really funny in a lot of ways, too. You will find humorous content - that itch will definitely be scratched.”

They also wanted to tell a story that is grounded without stereotyping the local culture. So, they sent some people out to locations which you will find within the game. This team brought back stories of some of the iconic local folklore - like the Mothman, for example. They did have to change some names of places for legal reasons, but we tried to keep everything as true to life as possible.

Q: What were some of the lessons you learned from the Elder Scrolls Online experience that helped in creating this game? Fallout 76 feels far more like Fallout 4, more so than ESO feels like traditional Elder Scrolls games.

A: Outside of some minor consulting, this team has not done any work on ESO. They wanted to make something different than a traditional MMO.

“I don’t mean this to be disparaging, but we couldn’t make just another MMO. We wanted to make something that felt like Fallout, just closer knit with your friends - something that felt like a Bethesda game with open world exploration, finding the details, and really digging into the world that way. Elder Scrolls Online is a fantastic game as an MMO, but ESO doesn’t feel like playing Skyrim with your friend. For us, 76 was very much ‘what does it look like to play Fallout 4 with your friends?’”

Q: Is there a goal that is threaded throughout Fallout 76 or is everything just a side quest?

A: There is definitely an in-story main quest. You are trying to find the nukes that still exist in West Virginia, you are trying to find out what caused the Scorched, and how the two impact each other. The develops want players to explore and make discoveries within the world.

They did express how difficult it was for their team to take the dialogue trees away from the development process.

“It’s how they have made games, but we wanted every human interaction in the game be with another player. These got really creative with new ways to tell stories and new ways to get the players engaged.”

Q: Regarding performance on PC, what level of control over graphics setting (Field of view control, finer tuning) can we expect to see?

A: They could not speak too definitively toward this because they are still working on optimization, specifically for PC. They did comment that there would be customization available but could not speak directly to what amount of control PC players would have over their graphics settings.

Q: When you began this project, did you know that this was going to be an online Fallout experience? How much did the direction change start to finish?

A: “The design direction from the get-go was “Fallout with your friends.” This was always intended to be a multiplayer Fallout. It was never ‘Oh, we’ll do Fallout 5’ and then it became 76. We actually talked about doing it during Fallout 4, originally discussed as a multiplayer mode. We never started and abandoned it in this stage, it has always been its own thing.

Initially, we thought this would be a smaller game, but that’s not what we do…

The one thing that always came up over and over - Fallout 3, Skyrim, Fallout 4 - people wanted to play with their friends. Some of the most popular mods would be multiplayer mods so they could play with their friends. It is the most requested thing from us.”

Q: Now that Fallout 76 brings the franchise into the multiplayer space, will there be a Fallout 5 or other single player games some day?

A: The team assured us that they are still a company that makes giant single player games and that is not going to stop. Fallout 76 is just another in a long line of Fallout games to come from Bethesda.

Q: Will mods still exist?

A: Mods are planned to be available when private worlds are. Otherwise, players could log into a world with a “Machete of One-Shot Death” and create balance issues within that world. They did not have a timeline for the release of private servers other than that they are a thing we are working on for the future.

That’s all for the round table conversation. Make sure you check out our other articles regarding Fallout 76 here a MMORPG and we will see you November 14 for Reclamation Day!


Damien Gula

Born in the heyday of mullets and the El Camino to a tech-foward family, Damien joined the MMORPG.com team back in 2017 to review hardware and games as well as provide coverage for press preview events. He has participated in a number of MMOs over the years, including World of Warcraft, RIFT, Guild Wars 2, and the Destiny series. When he isn't writing for MMORPG.com, Damien is a pastor by trade who loves talking with anyone interested about life, God, and video games (in no particular order). He also co-hosts a podcast dedicated to these conversation with fellow MMORPG writer Matt Keith called Roll The Level.