The Nukes of 'Fallout 76' Are Where Power Fantasies Hit a Breaking Point


I doubt this game is going to pick up enough steam to need its own thread, so I’ll leave this here for now.

I’ll add one caveat: watching someone stream the game is not going to give you the full experience. All the story is in notes/computer logs/holotapes, and every streamer I’ve seen so far either tabs right through that stuff or talks over it. It’s not really fair to complain that a game doesn’t have a story when you’re intentionally skipping it.

And so far, there is a lot of that stuff and it’s really good. In the opening area, you discover that someone had gone through asking survivors to record their stories, for when the Vault opens. They’re about people coming to terms with (or failing to come to terms with) survivor’s guilt. Some of them are genuinely moving.

But, in the couple hours I’ve put in, this game is the definition of mixed bag. The first time I came out of the vault, I’d been walking around, exploring, picking flowers - then suddenly a couple gun shots crackle in the distance and I’ll admit, the “holy shit” feeling of knowing that was another person was one of the best I’d had in a game in a long time (side note: despite the technical issues - more on that later - the sound design is superb).

Unfortunately, the video game part of this video game is an unmitigated disaster. I got booted before I even finished the character creation, and at least three times in the few hours I played. And that’s not counting all the times I thought I was going to get booted because the game froze for 15 seconds only to realize, no, it just dropped to .08fps for a bit there. The texture pop-in is atrocious. Every transition from first to third person felt like it was going to crash the game and involved the camera clipping through my character multiple times. And it weirdly doesn’t really look like West Virginia.

The shooting is… Fallout, which leads to more melee combat and, well, have you played Skyrim? I think real-time VATS is fine and I don’t get why people are acting like it’s some incomprehensible system - it’s just auto-aim - but it’s not enough to compensate.

So, basically, my recommendation is wait for a few patches and a discount (or rent it first, like I did). I think it has potential but right now it’s broken.


Honestly you can just find all that story stuff on a wiki somewhere. It’s not a great draw for a MMORPG/Shooter where people screw each other with nukes.

I feel it’s also not been mentioned enough that the game is running on Gamebryo, an engine that Bethesda has been using for all their RPGs for ages now, and it was NOT built for multiplayer, let alone massive multiplayer…but they did it anyways to fit in all those pre-made assets they had lying around.

The foundation is made of cardboard, and boy oh boy is the game showing it. The beta glitches have been unbelievable, and the full release is still fiilled with ridiculous problems. This game is going to be broken apart, either by modders and cheaters or by the game collapsing in upon itself in unexpected ways.

With so, so many massive multiplayer games out there, what’s the point of playing one so bare bones mechanically and so buggy?


It’s almost admirable that they’ve managed to wring games out of the same engine since Morrowind


That’s fair, but I would point out that Destiny tried putting all that stuff outside of the game with their Grimoire and got raked over the coals for it. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I guess.

Didn’t you read Kotaku? Turns out we don’t know what game engines are and therefore are not allowed to criticize Bethesda for theirs (as if every single person knowadays doesn’t know firsthand what happens when a company insists on using 20 year old, Frankensteined legacy software).


It’s a nice touch in game because it’s a form of world building (which makes Destiny so disliked because it shoves everything onto a random website and most of the information is wrong or inconsistent, which Overwatch also does), but it’s not really a selling point for this sort of game either. Destiny is also a very weird situation where it wasn’t really marketed much on the multiplayer aspect, where as Fallout 76 is constantly waving around about nuking players.

There’s also a greater problem that it seems like Bethesda doesn’t understand what Fallout is, or possibly doesn’t even care. That’s how you get stuff like 4 deciding the theme was nostalgia for the past, which is kind of the complete antithesis of the entire series. The ads have been surprisingly sincere about how awesome guns and nukes are, which yeah.


They have no plans to abandon the Creation Engine either, confirmed it’ll be used on their next two titles. Todd talks about all the great changes they made to it for Fallout 76 and all the other changes they can make going forward for Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6, but the weirdest quote here is him saying “our engine let’s us create worlds very quickly and our modders know it well” which to me reads a bit as “people buy these anyway and modders work out the kinks everytime” which is disappointing.

Huge open worlds are the norm now, and it’s not charming or forgivable for their stuff to run like absolute garbage and then use the old “well this is the sacrifice when you make a big game”. There were parts in Fallout 4 that I was getting under 15 FPS in during its first few weeks and it was the turning point for me where I went from enjoying their games a bunch to feeling completely on edge while interacting with them, just waiting for the whole thing to fall apart at the seams. If your game is gonna be a technical nightmare it better be worth it somehow. Still baffles me how Obsidian managed to make the best fallout game in 18 months with a horrible engine that was outdated even then, with little assistance and resources but BGS can’t pull it together and put out another one I want anything to do with. It’s the most frustrating and disappointing handling of a franchise I love.


Sweet jesus


I will say if Bethesda switched from the Creation Engine there would be huge consequences for modding communities. You can learn the broad strokes of it in Morrowind’s version and carry that with you to every other game after that. Newer ones are more complex but they still work basically the same way, and that’s a huge reason the mods for these games are as expansive as they are.

EDIT: The buginess sucks but modability is more important to me than that, and my lack of enthusiasm for Bethesda’s games going forward has to do with them trending in a design direction that I really don’t care for. I’m academically interested in TES VI as someone who’s played every game in the series extensively from Daggerfall on in the past decade, but I’m not expecting to like it.


I’d agree with this if the bugs didn’t include “uninstalling the entire game randomly” or the old Skyrim PS3 bug of “infinitely growing save files.”

There’s bugs and then there’s just flat out completely broken.


I wanted to side with Schreier’s article about Bethesda’s game engine, but I just can’t. He makes the comparison of this engine controversy to the one that has hung over the heads of every Unity developer for the last two or so years, in which their games are judged out-of-hand or otherwise critiqued for the ways in which the engine is used (or the fact that it was used at all), by players who literally know nothing about developing games.

Hollow Knight, Absolute Drift, and Rain World are all super different games, but they are all made in Unity. Unity is a beast of an engine: with a great deal of tweaking, the framework allows developers to do seemingly anything they want. But, as a player, I had the same issue across all three of these games: the left joystick on my Xbox One Wireless Controller was locked to the left on my Windows 7 machine. The issue is that Unity takes in the Xbox One controller input as XINPUT (this is how Windows 7 receives Xbox One wireless input), rather than native Xbox input, which is a very different input scheme (X can be A, LT can be Y, that kind of shit). Developers, apparently, have to account for this, and must implement a manual fix to correct it. And, at least in Rain World and Hollow Knight, they did! But the fact remains: the framework of Unity has a bug that crosses genres and developers that, if not rectified, causes the exact same problem every time.

The only point Schreier ends up making in his article is that “engine” is not easy to define. Effectively, an engine is a collection of code. If that code has a bug in it, then any product developed with that code will have that bug unless it is specifically corrected. Unity, for example, has the XINPUT bug in Windows 7. Yes, Bethesda has iterated on their codebase in ways that correct previous bugs, but the skeleton of their codebase remains. It’s why we see the same bugs across all of their games! To that point, many (most) Unity games I’ve played don’t have this problem: Gang Beasts, Expendabros, Gone Home, Grow Home, etc. These developers either added a fix (sort of how a developer might iterate on their engine for the next game), or didn’t accidentally cause the bug to happen.

I get Schreier’s underlying point, which is that it’s frustrating to watch true gamers shit on game engines they aren’t even remotely close to understanding (I hate this, too!), but Bethesda’s engine woes are so easy to read, and its problems are so frequently repeated, that this is probably the single worst engine to to use in order to make this point. All he ended up doing was being pedantic, and providing further evidence for why Bethesda’s process sucks ass - engine included.


At a certain point, I understand why people are reluctant to criticize the broader strokes of game development and decision making. As a consumer of games, I don’t know how to program anything more complicated than a TI-83, and even that was just to cheat on chemistry exams. Who knows how to convert moles? Not this guy, but a few lines of code and I got a 100% on that exam.

That said, I feel like the same is fundamentally true of more or less anything in life, yet very few other people get such a lenient pass. As far as I’m concerned, the process of making a functioning lightbulb might as well be aalchemy, and you could give me all the necessary tools and I would spend the rest of my life utterly failing to make a single one that works. If I buy a package at the store and the bulb is dead, I’m still going to be annoyed. The global web of logistics that involved thousands of men and women transporting goods across the entire planet so I could purchase it for $1.50 could not begin to be mapped with any degree of accuracy, but none of that matters when I flick the switch and stay in darkness.

I am sure there are many countless and probably decent reasons why Bethesda games use the same engine. All I know is I don’t really care. Morrowind and Oblivion felt like magic tricks, you could look past the seems in the experience because it felt like it shouldn’t work at all given the tech of the time. This many years later, it feels like being given a can of mixed nuts to open up with a spring snake inside of it. It feels both sad and kind of insulting, as if you can’t believe someone actually thinks you don’t know what’s inside.

The wonder of those worlds has completely vanished for me and the only things I can notice now is how paper thin that illusion always was, I simply didn’t have the experience to see through it. Sure, I can pick up every single paintbrush and make a giant pile of them for no reason, but to what end? These are not living worlds any more than they’re tiny little mechanical set pieces. They are no less stiff and lifeless, they just move around a little bit more.


I may be speaking for only myself here, but for me the deficiency with latter-day Bethesda titles are in the game design, not the game engine. Like, in Morrowind or Fallout 3, setting out in a random direction could result in many number of interactions. Maybe I’ll run into a traveller with a quest, maybe a dungeon with some environmental storytelling, or maybe even a settlement with its own little society to observe. Sure, there was a ton of combat in those games, but the possibility of non-combat interactions made the adventuring feel worthwhile. Fast forward to Fallout 4, and it feels like every interaction I have in the world is through the barrel of a gun. Gone are the people and places that make the world feel lively, and in their place are hordes of enemies to mow down. And ESO and F76 just sap any power fantasy I can have being the RPG hero, which that drives a lot of Bethesda’s appeal for me.

To me, the bugs and aging engine aren’t the issue. It’s just that Bethesda no longer makes games I find interesting. So the talk about engines just feels like it’s missing the point. But that could totally be me. Maybe the gaming community really wants a “good” MMO Fallout, and it’s a shame that it launched in such a sorry state.


I’m not going to pretend that the writing and world building haven’t gone down a massive cliff because holy shit. That said, I think to some degree the storytelling and the engine they’ve built around it go hand in hand. It’s impossible to have a meaningful interaction inside of the game that doesn’t occur inside of bubble frozen in time zoomed in on one character’s face. Sometimes you wander into a new area NPC’s will suddenly run into place so they can go into their scripted sequence and then slowly walk off after it’s done like they have no idea why they were there in the first place.


You’re right, but the game design problems and “engine” problems aren’t mutually exclusive, and I think it’s wrong to say that the bugs “aren’t the issue”. They are an issue, just as the game design is an issue, and for people who actually do like the mission design (people who are not you or me), they can, in fact, be the issue.


I’d argue both because game design alone usually doesn’t result in a game uninstalling itself.

Really, Bethesda’s developed in-house works are all kind of poor because they’re half-assing both. The engine stays because it lets them easily reuse assets, and the design suffers because they’re trying to appease an audience they nabbed with the head explosions in Fallout 3 instead of regular RPG audiences.


I was speaking to the games using the engine broadly, but yeah this specific instance is pretty ridiculous. The engine was not built with multiplayer or things like servers in mind and Bethesda Studios proper doesn’t have extensive experience with that stuff, and who knows about the Austin studio that did the bulk of the work on this game afaik. The whole thing is ill-conceived and this was bound to happen.

And I’ll say too, the bugginess isn’t the fault of the engine in the first place. It’s the fault of how releases work in the game industry and of whatever is wrong with Bethesda’s production pipeline. You can make the base versions of these games very stable with fan patches.

EDIT: Second statement again talking about Bethesda’s games broadly and not this one in particular.


From my (armchair dev) perspective, Bethesda’s bug problems seem to be less about the “engine” in the traditional sense and more with the massive amount of bespoke mission scripting layered on top. Playing with the unofficial patches is a much less buggy experience, though that’s after months (or years) of crowdsourced QA. All the unique missions/environments are a big part of Bethesda’s signature style, but they also make for a ton of code that clearly doesn’t get the QA resources it needs before these games ship.


Bethesda’s old xNgine engine that they used for Future Shock, SkyNET, and Daggerfall was janky has hell with tons of glitches but that doesn’t those games from being three of the best ever made. The engine is of course an issue but other than Oblivion which had a lot of “whelp you have to re-start” caliber glitches if you were playing on console and the Fallout 3 DLCs many of the issues are ones no one would care much about if everything else was up to snuff. But of course it was destined not to be like ainda said, the minute they decided to make this type of game on it it was going to be junk.


good take, I distinctly remember the bleak, sepia toned swirling of debris, dust and rubbish, probably the most evocative and atmospheric experience I ever had in that Michael Bay jingo-trip of a video game franchise, and also the way you’ve framed it, the only way nuclear weapons should be depicted.


A post was merged into an existing topic: The, Er, Fallout of Fallout 76