Four years into the wasteland, and Fallout 76 isn’t slowing down one bit. With Bethesda committing to several updates over the course of 2022, there is certainly a lot to look forward to in the coming months.
This is why we were glad to have the opportunity to talk with Fallout 76 Design Director Mark Tucker. Tucker’s been with Bethesda for nine years, having worked as the design director for Fallout 76 for five of those. Read on as we discussed the course of the game, alien invasions, social features, Fallout Worlds, and more.
One of the first things that Tucker stressed was that Bethesda was all-in on Fallout 76. He said that he often is working from a three-to-five-year roadmap for the game, indicating that the studio isn’t flying by the seat of its pants. While he demurred to share how many people Bethesda assigned to the online RPG, he did remark, “We have a very large team working on it. We’re dedicated to this game.”
Before we started in on the future plans for the game, I asked Tucker what he felt were the highlights of Fallout 76 from 2021. He pointed to the Steel Reign release, which he “felt really good about” and saw a lot of positive response from the playerbase. But above content releases, Tucker said that it was really the quality-of-life improvements — such as loot sharing, contextual ammo drops, and AOE looting — that benefited the game overall.
“The Mothman Equinox event was popular,” Tucker said, “but the quality-of-life stuff outshone it.”
We moved on to the game’s 2022 roadmap, which notably includes an expedition to The Pitt and a repeatable alien invasion event.
The Pitt, which was inspired by the popular Fallout 3 DLC, will take players beyond the borders of Appalachia to a “toxic hellscape” where Troggs (think “steel belt zombies”) waits any brave adventurer. The team paid close attention to both the Fallout 3 version and details in the real city of Pittsburgh to make The Pitt feel different.
“One of our goals is selling the fantasy that you’re not in Appalachia any more. It will look and feel different,” Tucker noted. “There are a lot of things there that can kill you.”
Bethesda is hoping that The Pitt will be a hit so that further expeditions will be funded.
But if you’re in the mood for a little more out-of-this-world zaniness, there’s always the alien invasion seasonal event. The Fallout franchise has long since had references and even DLC involving extraterrestrial visitors, so it’s not like this will be completely out of place. Tucker said that the team has been batting around the idea of alien invaders ever since the launch of the game, but only now has it had the time to make it happen.
“The event itself is a two-week seasonal event that’s much greater in scope than anything we’ve done before,” Tucker said, going on to note that aliens will interact with other world events. There will even be a brand-new alien invader that Fallout fans have never seen — and this one comes with its own mech suit.
This includes aliens invading other events. Random encounters with aliens all over the world. But will aliens in the wasteland be immersion-breaking? Tucker said that he didn’t think so, pointing out that by keeping the aliens to a rotating event rather than a permanent inclusion would help that balance remain.
“It’s kind of a fun and light-hearted moment. We didn’t feel that this was appropriate to have a constant mainstay thing,” he replied.
We spent some time discussing Fallout Worlds, the customizable servers that now run in addition to Fallout’s adventure mode. Tucker said that the initial release received “critical feedback” which was initially disheartening, but Fallout Worlds has come into its own since then. He mentioned that these realms are exceptional for roleplaying exercises and bizarre base-building that you can’t do in the regular game.
Fallout Worlds has been improved since its debut, too, allowing players to earn account-wide SCORE and enjoy relaxed building rules.
So what’s the deal with Bethesda sunsetting the launcher and shoving everyone over to Steam? Tucker really didn’t want to talk about the studio’s reasoning there, only commenting that “it made sense from a strategic business sense.” There will be plenty of time — and a grace period — for players to migrate over to Steam, so the studio isn’t worried about losing people.
I pressed Tucker about one of what I see as the glaring omissions of Fallout 76, which is its near-total lack of socialization features, including text chat and guilds. He said that text chat represents “unique challenges” to implement and isn’t on the team’s current to do list. As for guilds, if and when they show up, they’ll probably be a bit different than what you see in MMOs.
So how can players actually talk and coordinate with each other beyond proximity chat? Tucker pointed to Discord, Fallout 76’s team-up service, and social features on consoles to pick up the slack.
Another common complaint about Fallout 76 is that it’s clearly designed for consoles first and foremost, which you can see in the title’s UI. So will there ever be any UI improvements in the future? Tucker wasn’t making any concessions for PC users, instead highlighting how the team expanded Pipboy tab options last year and are working on quality-of-life improvements such as unlocking multiple ranks on the SCOREboard at once.
Tucker was a lot more emphatic about Fallout 76’s strengths when it came to its current server performance and bug squashing. He said that client and server performance has improved “hundreds of percents” since launch: “Other online services would die to have our stability.”
He said that for those turned off by the bad performance and glitches of the release, they would be pleasantly surprised if they came back to give the game another shot.
So where does Tucker like to set up his CAMP when he’s playing the game? He thought that it would be cool to build a Southern-style home south of the Red Rocket megamart in the Mire. His hope is that players questing in the area might think his house is actually part of the designed game.
Finally, I asked where he likes to visit in this world. Tucker gushed about the Brotherhood of Steel enclave research facility, which he likened to a “haunted house” full of science experiments and a Scorched version of Mothman.
Thanks so much to Bethesda and Mark Tucker for sitting down to this interview!