In Fallout 76, If You Want Raiders, You’ll Have to Be One
When Bethesda announced that Fallout 76 wouldn’t feature NPCs, it came as a shock to many. The company is known for making rich RPGs (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fallout 4, etc.) full of AI folk, allowing players to charm them or pickpocket them or even engage them in out-of-the-blue combat after a friendly conversation. In the Fallout universe, the removal of NPCs means players won’t encounter important, series-spanning factions like the Raiders or the Brotherhood of Steel during their journeys through the game’s apocalyptic Wasteland. So why would Bethesda want to rid their next big game of one of their signature features?
The answer is that Bethesda wants Fallout 76 to be something much bigger and more ambitious than any of their previous games. While some skeptics might see the lack of NPCs as a limitation to the game’s scope, Bethesda sees it as an opportunity to engage its players in creating in a massive, collaborative, world-building project.
Bethesda’s senior vice president of global marketing and communications, Pete Hines, explained that if players wanted to see the Raiders or the Brotherhood of Steel, they’d have to embody those factions themselves. “Every player's interaction with every other player is up to those players,” he stated.
Fallout 76 will provide little guidance to players for roleplaying in this way. Players won’t be asked to choose a side at the beginning of the game, and unlike previous Fallout games, their characters won’t be bound by a “karma” or “fame/infamy” system. In Fallout 76, morality will be what players make it.
You could consider Fallout 76 a social experiment, a way to observe how players interact within the simulated conditions of an irradiated, post-apocalyptic world. Hines offered an anecdote about his own time playing the game as an example.
“I [played with someone] who jumped me and PVP'd me while I was exploring and minding my own business, and I decided, ‘Sure, I'll get into a fight with you,’” Hines said. In Fallout 76, players can initiate combat with any other players they meet, though both parties have to consent by firing upon each other for the fight to truly begin.
Hines described getting into a couple of rounds of PVP combat with this person, both of them choosing to get revenge instead of walking away from the encounter. “Then the person...sent me a group request to say, ‘Do you want to go do some of these quests together?’” Hines said. Hines anticipates that the freeform nature of the game will foster many similar interactions. “You can change on the fly how you want to interact, and who you want to be.”
In Fallout’s lore, America’s citizens were relegated into bunkers called “vaults” ahead of impending nuclear war. Unbeknownst to these “vault-dwellers,” however, many vaults were actually designed to be social experiments, each one operated by an “Overseer” who knew the vault’s true purpose. It’s hard to shake the feeling that Bethesda intends to serve as Fallout 76’s Overseer, sitting back and waiting to see what happens when it lets its players loose in a virtual, nuclear wonderland brimming with possibility.
Fallout 76 will be released for PC on November 14, 2018 and the B.E.T.A is running now.