“A lot of my time right now is spent on planning that three and five-year roadmap,” Fallout 76
Design Director Mark Tucker says. “The three-year roadmap is a lot more understood and known, at five-years it gets a little more fuzzy, but we're dedicated to updating [Fallout 76]. The message to our players is, there should be no reason to think that we're not going to continue updating this game.”
Fallout 76 has come a long way since it first launched in 2018, from expanded content to complete re-works of design concepts and ideas. The big Wastelanders expansion paved the way for the introduction of the NPCs, factions, and more ways to play. Every step of the way the team at Bethesda
has communicated its plans and responded to feedback, alongside releasing a steady stream of updates.
With the 2022 Roadmap out in the wild
, one look and you’ll notice that the team is focusing on expanding and updating the concept of Public Events within Fallout 76. That is, instance-wide activities that players can join in on. The first of which is available now, deals with an alien invasion of the flying saucer kind. This year will also see the arrival of Expeditions, with the first location to house this new way to play being The Pitt. The fiery, dreary, and grim locale that served as the focus of one of Fallout 3
’s most memorable expansions.
Sitting down with Fallout 76 Design Director Mark Tucker we discussed all of this, and more. Including the long-term plan for the game, which as per the intro above, doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Fallout 76 has come a long way since launch. How do you see its evolution from its launch state to Wastelanders, Steel Dawn, the arrival of Fallout Worlds, and where the game is headed in 2022?
It's a very different game these days from where it was when it launched. We're constantly evolving [Fallout 76]. We're looking at what our players are doing, what they're asking for. We try to react as best we can to player feedback and address the things that they're trying to do and wanting to do. Of course we have our own longer-term plans, but this year's roadmap is also a direct response to player feedback. A consistent piece of feedback that we've been getting for a while, that players want to see some new Public Events in the game. We've definitely put a lot of effort in making sure that we can add a lot of new ones, including a new region boss at the end of the year.
"A consistent piece of feedback that we've been getting for a while, that players want to see some new Public Events in the game. We've definitely put a lot of effort in making sure that we can add a lot of new ones, including a new region boss at the end of the year."
Something that's a little more recent, we made additions to Fallout Worlds as a direct response to player feedback where you can now earn S.C.O.R.E. by playing in Fallout Worlds. A lot of the new settings we added were also in response to feedback. The game is going to continue to change and evolve based on what players are asking for and what they're doing too.
How is the team structured to support Fallout 76 going forward? We’ve got the 2022 Roadmap, is the team looking beyond that?
The funny thing is if I could share what's on this other monitor right here, you would love to see it because it's a five-year roadmap that I'm working on. We have long term plans, and things get a little fuzzier the further we go out because we adjust and adapt as things show up and we see what players want and what they're doing. But, a lot of my time right now is spent on planning that three and five-year roadmap. The three-year roadmap is a lot more understood and known, at five-years it gets a little more fuzzy, but we're dedicated to updating [Fallout 76].
The message to our players is, there should be no reason to think that we're not going to continue updating this game. We have things that we're doing to ensure that we can continue producing updates for the game for a long period of time. We've got a lot of fun, cool stuff that I can't wait to tell people about. Stuff that's beyond this year.
Switching things back to this year, the first big update has a new Public Event based on Aliens and UFOs. Things that have been a part of the weirder and more comical side of Fallout. How does that fit into Fallout 76 from a thematic point-of-view and as a new type of event?
The idea of the alien invasion has been one we've been talking about for a while. Even before launch it was an idea that was one of those things that we thought would be cool. But we wanted to do it right and we wanted to pick the right time. We also wanted to be very careful about how we handled aliens because there is this mystery and it sits a little more on the more lighthearted side of the Fallout franchise. And with that we realised that maybe it wasn’t something that would be there all the time.
"The idea of the alien invasion has been one we've been talking about for a while. Even before launch it was an idea that was one of those things that we thought would be cool."
So we opted to create a Seasonal Event where it's time-limited but bigger than what we've done before. For many in the team it was a passion project and when you get people really excited about something, you tend to do some fun and wacky things. So we also have a bunch of different random encounters that are fun that you'll just kind of run across. And they’ll shed some light on the things the aliens are up to.
We added new alien enemies too, we have the one from Fallout 4
, we also reintroduce the drone that showed up in Fallout 3’s Mothership Zeta DLC. The new alien, the Alien Invader is this little alien dude inside a mech suit and you can see his hands on the little joysticks. That was really fun to add. We wanted to have fun with it, and we wanted to make it like a full scale invasion. Other Public Events, instead of having normal enemies, will have aliens invading in them.
Fallout 3 is going to be a major influence this year, with the The Pitt Expeditions coming. Leaving Appalachia is no doubt a big change of pace, even just visually. How did the team land-on The Pitt and the idea of missions outside of the main map?
Why The Pitt? Well, one of the big goals for this new feature called Expeditions was to allow you to visit different locations in the Fallout universe. And that's something to keep in mind, because Expeditions is a feature in and of itself. The first location we're going to visit is The Pitt. And we chose The Pitt for a number of reasons, first it's one of those fan favourites within the IP. Also it has this great contrast between what you see and experience in Appalachia. It was important to us to really fulfill that fantasy of ‘I am not an Appalachia anymore’.
"One of the big goals for this new feature called Expeditions was to allow you to visit different locations in the Fallout universe. And that's something to keep in mind, because Expeditions is a feature in and of itself."
We wanted this first Expedition to be dark and gritty and have that ‘this is a dangerous place’ tone. The Pitt checked off all the boxes and it's interesting to revisit a place we’ve seen earlier in the Fallout timeline. It’s also fun to bring back some of those things that fans are familiar with, like Trogs and auto-axes.
What’s the overall goal with missions in Fallout 76?
Expeditions or missions present a different play loop than what we've had before. We're pushing this idea of challenging missions that are replayable, but replayable with a lot of variety. Something that's been a core design pillar for us is we want to make sure that at every step of the way it still feels like Fallout. That you’re going to these interesting locations so there shouldn't be any time pressure, and you should still feel like you can explore these areas and find interesting lore and discover a lot of environmental storytelling.
But it’s not going to be like previous DLC from other Fallout games where there’s a whole other map you can stay in. We're always going to have Appalachia. At the edges of the map, you're going to see indicators for all these other places you can go, where initially that'll be The Pitt. How you go about getting there and being assigned a mission, we're going to explain all of that in the future. Of course we were also concerned about fragmenting world populations and things like that but ultimately we want players to have a place to go back to. And with that we have a new Hub that we've created in conjunction with the storyline of The Pitt and all future Expeditions.
As a Fallout fan I love exploring the map and environment, and on that front Appalachia is huge in terms of real estate. With Wastelanders we’ve seen fundamental changes to the landscape, there’s been seasonal changes, and now this new Hub. Is the world, Appalachia, going to change and evolve over time - whether that be seasonal or permanent changes?
That’s something that we have been and are actively doing. It's rare for us to have an update where we don't modify or alter or change something in the world. Our Brotherhood of Steel update completely changed Atlas to become Fort Atlas. Things that we're doing in this year's roadmap are still very much in line with that. A lot of the content that's going to take place within Appalachia is based around public events, but there are changes we are making for Expeditions.
"Something that's been a core design pillar for us is we want to make sure that at every step of the way it still feels like Fallout. That you’re going to these interesting locations so there shouldn't be any time pressure, and you should still feel like you can explore these areas and find interesting lore and discover a lot of environmental storytelling."
There are some challenges when we start changing things in the world, because we have to make sure we do our best to preserve all of the previous content that has come before. It’s a big map, but almost every location has some content associated with it. Whether that's a main quest or daily or event. It's actually hard for us to find locations that are relatively safe for us to go in and make changes. The last update of the year, Nuka World on Tour, it’s got to show up somewhere in the map, right? And it’s going to look like a travelling road show when it shows up.
Nuka World was a fun expansion for Fallout 4, and the idea of a travelling roadshow brings up images of carnival rides and attractions and all of the excess you can associate with Nuka Cola.
You’re definitely in the correct line of thinking with that, it’s definitely going to be over-the-top.
With Xbox Game Pass and the game being available to so many, that leads to new players. Even those that aren’t familiar with Fallout. Obviously there’s a core community the team is listening to and addressing feedback from. For those that are new, what's the approach like?
There's definitely a difference in the types of work and the kinds of things that we're doing for different groups of players. With the new players coming in, we have made a lot of changes to improve that side of the experience. If you’ve been playing for a while, unless you’ve rolled a new character, you’re probably aren't even aware that we've made those changes. One example that players did notice was when we made changes to medical items and made them more affordable and lighter. It was a case of ‘why did you do that?’ That was for new players.
When we look at making changes for newer players coming in, we try to remove some of the pain points, the friction points that we see to kind of make it easier to get into the deeper stuff. For existing players it’s simply about finding and providing more things for them to do, because they’ve put so many hours in and have begun to exhaust the content. And we have a lot of content in the game right now.
Plus, all of the quality of life changes that we put in, that just makes everybody's lives better and improves the play experience across the board.
Quality of life changes are always welcome and something we’ve seen drop regularly. Looking at Fallout 76 as an online experience, it’s built on technology that drove Fallout 4. Does this introduce a new layer of difficulty when tackling new features or quality of life changes? Are there some things that the team, and engine, simply cannot do?
Sometimes changes can be tech constrained, sometimes we won't do something because it’s a big departure from what Fallout is. An example there would be, wouldn’t it be easier to communicate certain within the game if used multiple colours in PipBoy? If we went in that direction, well, that's a big departure from what everybody knows and thinks of when it comes to Fallout. There are certain things that are core to the franchise that we wouldn't want to deviate from.
"Sometimes changes can be tech constrained, sometimes we won't do something because it’s a big departure from what Fallout is."
As far as technical constraints go, anything's possible. It's just time and people and all that. There are things that have taken a lot longer than we actually thought they would. As part of our recent quality of life update at the end of the year, we were planning to add corpse highlighting. A simple but pretty big paradigm shift for Fallout. None of the games have had it, but players have asked for it.
It turned out to be a little bit more of a technical challenge than we had anticipated. We ran into issues trying to get it into Update 32 so we pushed it to Update 34 where we thought we were good. And then, a horrible bug raised its head days before we were planning to push it out so we had to pull it. Confidence is high that it'll be in the next update but that's an example of one thing that is a common feature you see in other games, but it's proven to be a bit more challenging because it has never been done before in this engine.
We have stuff in the pipeline right now that's a year away because there's a lot of work involved.
Any final thoughts on Fallout 76, the 2022 Roadmap, and what’s in store?
You know, it's always good to remind folks that these are free updates. We're putting out four free updates a year with new content. We've got an awesome community that loves our game and we've got a development team and company that's very committed. We're doing a lot of specific things this year but we’re putting plans in place to ensure that we have ways to continue producing updates and content for years. So yeah, if you've never played Fallout 76 it’s a great time to hop in and give it a shot!
Fallout 76 is available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. It’s also available as a part of Xbox Game Pass