As MOP’s Justin reminded me on our podcast this week, April’s Wastelanders expansion really is a chance to set aside much-deserved grudges for Fallout 76 and give Bethesda another opportunity to wow us, especially players who thought the game had potential and just needed another year or two of polish. And maybe some people.
NPC people, that is. As GIbiz’s PAX interview with Bethesda indicates, the studio was well aware of criticism that the game was missing personality and soul, that it felt empty and motiveless. Here’s lead designer Ferret Baudoin explaining what went wrong at launch:
“If you’re a person who liked exploration, for example, from our traditional games, it was possibly one of the best worlds to explore that we’ve ever had. It was just huge, full of stories and stuff like that. But there was a large portion of our audience that wanted people. They wanted an emotional connection. And if you know everyone is dead, and you come across a holotape from someone, it loses that hope that you might meet that person and help them out. […] I think what we learned from launch was that core combat was fun, it was great to explore, there was a lot to do, but what we needed for a lot of our audience was to bring the humanity back.”
Like Pete Hines, Baudoin suggests the game was set up for PvP, but the people who showed up to play weren’t super interested in nuking each other to oblivion all day long; instead the players did weirdo fun things like playing Santa. “That was something we didn’t anticipate,” he says (apparently never having peeked into an MMO before?). But while he wishes NPCs and other Wastelanders content had been in from launch, he also says there was no way to know that people wouldn’t like what they had coming since there was “no clear analog to what [the team was] making.”
MMO gamers will know that we and publications like ours had been covering what people wanted out of an online Fallout game for years, as well as the immediate reaction after the official announcement through the lead-up to launch. But Baudoin seems to be saying the team was more reacting to launch itself, and now the devs think they’ve come to a version of the game Fallout fans will actually want to play.
“I think [Wastelanders] looks a lot more like a traditional Fallout game. The tagline in my head a lot of the time is: ‘Fallout 76 is Fallout with friends.’ I think now we’ve added more of the Fallout into it, the things you expected from Fallout 3, Fallout 4, are now in there. I think we’re more properly delivering on that expectation that some people had.”