The, Er, Fallout of Fallout 76


I got Fallout when it was new and then got Fallout 2 the day it was available too and I saw the fan anger over Tactics first hand or whatever but there’s a big difference between the fanbase and like, this level of general you gotta be kidding me-ness that Fallout 76 is deservedly receiving.

Tactics was generally liked critically at the time as an example, because while it had a lot of issues on release, it was still built on a strong foundation. 76 was built on less foundation than any other Fallout game by design, even Botherhood of Steel. Like yeah that one was trash but players and critics enjoyed the Dark Alliance games so it’s easy to see why “Dark Alliance but w/ Fallout stuff” was made. But that one got to me a lot more than Tactics and Fallout 3/4 ever did because holy shit lol:

Also nice Jedi Knight caliber series naming there great job Interplay.

The subtitles so nice they used them twice!


A lot about 76 reminds me of a game’s status right before the project gets cancelled once the publishers realize it’s not really panning out.

Belaboring the point, it’s not the severe stability issues that are the main problem, it’s that they didn’t seem to have coherent design pillars during the planning phases and it shows in the final game.

It’s one thing to have a bland or poorly designed identity, but it’s a whole other thing entirely to have no clear identity at all.


I feel the exact same way, which makes looking back at Patrick’s article linked in the OP so strange. I think Patrick was right, at the time. I haven’t gone bcak and watched the reveal of the game, but I remember being impressed with how well they pitched what they thought was interesting about the game and allaying their fans’ worries and concerns. Now though, I don’t get the sense that anyone at Bethesda could even explain what they were going for. A lot of people have expressed optimism that as Bethesda keeps working on the game it will improve, but I don’t know. Where do they even start? What is there in the game that could be built upon or refined? Anything short of a massive overhaul to the quest system to make it more like the prior games feels like it would be a wasted effort.


2K/Bethesda has always had marketing that emphasizes stuff being emergent and never-before-seen when the end result has (almost) always been the opposite.


Noah Gervais posted a video essay weighing in on the game’s mechanical and narrative values.

For anyone who doesn’t want to spend an hour and change listening to him, the gist of his essay is this:

FO76 represents the mechanical emphasis on frivolity that FO3 and 4 were naturally heading towards, and is honestly better for it due to how extraneous the actual story elements of those games felt versus their clear desire to be post-apocalyptic playgrounds of endless player satisfaction.

But the ways in which 76 tries to still embrace franchise identity via groups and characters such as Super Mutants and the Brotherhood of Steel that are—lore-wise—wildly out of place in the game’s timeline, creates a huge cloud of doubt onto the series entire chronology.

And the game’s decision to extend its pervasive feeling of frivolity (which works well enough in the structural reward loops) to the concept of using actual nuclear weapons, is emblematic of the frightening ways many modern games such as Far Cry 5 revel in using American iconography while being carefree destruction playgrounds without any regard for how those two things fit into the greater context of American politics.

It’s a great piece and hundred times more useful than the dozenth “bethesda hate consumer because buggy nylon bag game” video that YouTube is lousy with right now.


Re: Noah’s video, can I chime in on how these images of idealized, pastoral rural America are extremely frustrating as someone who has spent 20 1/2 years of my 21 years on this Earth in rural America? Game devs from Montreal or Bethesda or LA I promise you you understand nothing about these places by driving through, eating at a “Rustic Diner,” and taking a bunch of pictures. Please stop reducing the vast complicated lives of people in frequently poor areas to the equivalent of a poem about how Baseball is America. People have been going to the “RemOOTE MOuntainS of APPLE-A-SHA,” for at least 100 fucking years to find America’s Pure White Rustic Cultural Heartland and I promise y’all you didn’t find that when you thought you did and please stop being such tourists everywhere. Thanks.

EDIT: All the tourist locations, framed as such, in Fallout 76 give me a weird feeling I can’t describe because trying and failing to draw in tourists bucks is one of the 3 solutions to economic woes that get pitched by town councils and they do just as little as the industrial parks or the fucking prisons. Is it exasperation? Yeah but it’s also got an active sadness. Dunno if there’s a word for it. People have literally discussed turning my hometown into a giant tourist trap repleet with Hatfield and McCoy shootouts (conducted by actual Hatfileds and McCoys, there are a lot of those motherfuckers all over SW VA/Southern WV/Est KY,) and dueling banjos on Main Street.

Anyway yeah, go Bulldogs, stop pretending there aren’t any black people for you to interview when you go to “Trump country,” stop taking pictures of people’s kids without asking and labeling it some shit like “Poverty in Appalachia,” banjos and bluegrass aren’t actually important in redneck subculture at all, etc.


I’ve no experience with the area but like 90% of all media relating to Appalachia seems like they spent an afternoon on Google maps and then watched Deliverance.

Red Dead 2 also gets into this in Chapter 6 and boy, does it seem cartoonishly ignorant there too.


That’s the negative portrayal which is frankly less frustrating than the positive ones because the positive ones are more often readily tools of fascism that are exactly as fucking ignorant.

It’s white indigenization and the simultaneous revulsion and fascination with white poverty all the way down, either way. It necessarily eliminates all people, places, and stories that don’t feed the desire for that; frequently it replaces the people it eliminates with white versions. This has been an ongoing process since at least the late 19th century.


In regards to the super mutants aren’t they east coast ones? The retcon of the brotherhood is a real shame, though that is the path they’ve taken in their fallout games.


The only thing I remember finding cool were the flying radioactive nuke monsters and that was it. The idea behind the game doesn’t seem remotely possible atm at least under Bethesda and the engine they’ve recycled since Oblivion or whenever.


Interesting, short new episode of History Respawned about Fallout 76. There’s some neat tidbits on the history of US centennial celebrations, and on the rather naively optimistic introduction of power tools to the home consumer market.

By far the most revealing part, though, is when the host compares playing FO76 to his own day job as a historian. In short, the piecing together of narrative through documents that weren’t written for you feels very authentic to being a historian - it’s confusing, frustrating, often boring, satisfying when it comes together, but maybe not to the best way to play a video game.

Worth taking 15 minutes to check out, and while you’re there, check out the episode on Red Dead 2, including a section on the absurdity of the game’s train robberies.


So, this is a bit off topic, but this indie game is coming out tomorrow:

It’s supposed to be reminiscent of the old Fallout games, except set in Soviet Russia I believe? Reviews seem really good, but that’s just on Steam. Might be worth checking out tomorrow when it leaves Early Access, seeing as how we’re all craving for a new Fallout Game.

Wasteland 2 is on Switch as well, I believe.


Oh boy… I guess I have to play it now.


Also somewhat off topic, Is there anything in 76 as impressive as the introduction of the air ship in 4? It’s not a cut scene. It’s physically there in the world flying across the map


Damn, it’s almost like Bethesda wants people to realize how much their Fallout games suck.


I think you missed the point of the rage then. Fallout 76 was a full priced game chock full of ridiculously priced in-game purchases, bugs galore, and very little to do. In short, it was a early access beta marketed as the next big thing in Bethesda’s evolution. At release, it was a huge blunder by a highly regarded developer that a lot of people rightly or wrongly pinned their hopes on for future state-of-the-art experiences. If you follow me to this point, you’ll see how soul-crushing an event this must be for people who are angry because they are facing unfinished, microtransactioned, partitioned experiences at every turn. They didn’t ask for this, and game companies surely know it.


Highlights that consumerism works, doesn’t justify that response. Why pin anything on a game of all the things?

After years of 4 and how that moved shambling in its death throes, hoping 76 would be a return to form is something that sounds folorn.


Oddly that’s too cynical a take for me. I’d be defending Bethesda even as a dumbed down AAA RPG shop as they’ve been. This seems an almost universally shocking level of bad faith which again is discouraging for people who care about games. Everyone puts time and money into this endeavor on both sides of the transaction. But I think stuff has reached a boiling point with game companies looking to grow profits with sharp elbows for consumers and developers, including multiple dubious business practices aimed at both. Think: layoffs with no notice and $18.00 horse armor.


It is already the path which is taken nothing cynical about it. People will still buy and play them regardless of Bethesda dubious quality, even at the best of times.

Whilst this is not 5 it’s a somewhat failed experiment. It shows the ability is there, though the execution lacks grace.


Something often overlooked in assessments of Bethesda is the stake owned by private equity in ZeniMax, the parent company of BGS. Private equity firms acquire huge, often controlling stakes in companies and try to wring cash out of them, often culminating in an inital public offering of stock if they can show improved earnings performance over several years. Providence Equity Partners invested hundreds of millions into ZeniMax – $300 million in 2007 and $150 million in 2010 and still owns a huge chunk of the company to this day. This is unusual for a private equity firm, usually by now they have sold out and moved on, which suggests that whatever they want in terms of an investment return, they haven’t gotten yet.

A New York Times profile of Providence from 2015 focuses on all the “bad bets” the firm made on companies, including a for-profit college and security company that went bankrupt after a scandal. ZeniMax is mentioned in the article:

But some investors expect that performance to improve on potential gains on several investments including Asurion, a cellphone insurer; ZeniMax Media, a video gaming company; and wireless tower companies in India and Latin America.

This is from the year that Fallout 4 was released. Despite these hopes it appears that Providence hasn’t made any gains on ZeniMax, because they haven’t sold it yet. Indeed if we look at the games released since 2015, only Doom appears to have done well; Wofenstein, Prey and Dishonored 2 were disappointments. We can extrapolate from this a growing pressure on ZeniMax from their investor Providence and in turn, pressure ZeniMax must have put on Bethesda to create something to make a lot of money as fast as possible, which in this case turns out to have been tapping into all the big trends in gaming, multiplayer, survival, games-as-a-service, microtransactions, etc., in order to generate wads of cash to pump up profits. We might also see Bethesda Game Studios recent acquisitions in Texas and Montreal as an attempt to grow and create impressive returns on investments, involving mobile and other low-overhead, quick turnaround money-makers.

And this is just a microcosm of what is happening throughout the “AAA” world of videoggaming, where investors and CEO’s – whose pay is supposed to be linked to investor returns – are trying any which way they can to improve profits. This is the big money trap of the video game industry, which leads to “crunch,” to abrupt layoffs, to shoddy business practices such as “loot boxes.”

It would be one thing if the all the ZeniMax owners were patient, genuine long-term investors or perhaps the original founders or family members. In such a case, simply being profitable is often enough. But when video game companies become publicly traded (EA, Activision, et. al.) or owned by private equity (ZeniMax/Bethesda), Wall Street calls the tune. And that, often ends badly for both devs and gamers.