Category Archives: Fallout

Another Bad Good Idea

It sometimes astonishes me how certain game design decisions make it off an office whiteboard and into real, live games played by people. Like, do the designers realize how bad the idea is at the time, but think it’s the least bad idea of their available options? Or do they simply not think it through?

Exhibit A:

In a video posted to the official Fallout Twitter account, Jeff Gardiner, project lead for Fallout 76, was asked: “How do sneak perks and detection work in Fallout 76?”

Gardiner responded:

“As soon as you crouch, which engages our stealth mode, the dot [AKA your character marker] will very quickly fade away, so other players won’t be able to find you.”

There is still some confusion about this mechanism on Reddit, considering that there are two “dots” to which this can refer: the pip on the compass ribbon, or your character’s dot on the map (which is currently set to display everyone’s position all the time). Regardless, I have seen some celebration going on from people who believe the above is “the answer” to what they were worried about occurring in Fallout 76, e.g. being hunted down by griefers.

Let me explain what will happen in practice: you will be hunted down by griefers while hindering your own gameplay the entire time.

If Fallout 76 launches with the ability to see everyone on the paper map (as it is currently), the people doing the player-hunting will have perfect information regarding your location and direction of travel. “But you’ll be able to see them too, and then know to hide.” Nope. The only time you’ll know they’re coming is if you are running around with the map out, obscuring your view of the game world and otherwise not engaging with it. Not to mention that knowing your target is in a certain area is more than enough to go on for hunting purposes, so the griefer can check that you’re exploring some ruins, and then sneak that direction to intercept.

Suppose you do happen to notice their dot moving towards you… what then? You crouch, they crouch, and the both of you perform a crabwalking game of cat and mouse. Sounds fun. Maybe you just hide in a bathroom, map out, and wait to either surprise them or hope that they go away. Meanwhile, mobs are going to be respawning and attacking you because, you know, you were in the middle of PvE before xXxDethClawz69xXx came to pay you a visit.

Suppose Bethesda removes the map markers for players upon release, and thus this dot is really the compass ribbon. For one thing, that’s a lot better, as it would prevent people from starting to hunt you from across the map. However, we are once again in a situation where you are encouraged – under the threat of player killing – to be Sneaking around 24/7. Except it won’t work as much for you because, again, you are trying to engage in normal PvE and your hypothetical opponent is not. Remember, VATS is real-time, so taking out a sprinting Feral Ghoul while crouched is not going to be easy without an alpha-strike; there are going to be moments when you are map visible.

That there are mechanisms in place to prevent one particular player from killing you over and over is nice, but irrelevant. I prefer to not be killed, even if it “only” costs me a bit of time. Thus, the optimal method of gameplay will be to Sneak all the time, crawling around the floor at 50% speed. That is kinda how I play most Fallout games anyway, but only when I’m actively trying to get Sneak Attack Criticals. I’m not looking forward to doing that as a matter of course, every minute of every play session, while checking the map every 5 seconds.

Like I mentioned before, I get it. There are some emergent stories lost when you become immune to the pointless aggression of other people. There will be the thrill of scavenging in a warehouse while crouched, and see an oblivious stranger appear down the hallway. Or perhaps the triumph of a griefer getting killed, as was shown in the Fallout 76 video. Hell, if there are Bottlecap Mines and other traps, maybe you look forward to seeing people try and fail to take you out.

But there are definitely gameplay costs involved, and I’m not sure how much consideration was given beyond “wouldn’t it be cool if Sneak worked on players?” Presumably people appear on the map because otherwise it would be difficult to find others in such a large game space, right? Well, the game space might be large, but the density likely isn’t, so key resources are likely to draw players to specific locations out of convenience. Then you have the fact that a dangerous (PvE) world is going to involve the firing of a lot of bullets, which other players could hear.

Ultimately, we’ll see how it shakes out in the Beta. And perhaps that is what Bethesda is looking forward to as well. But I remain surprised how often incredibly flawed ideas persist almost all the way until release. Then again, working at my IRL job, I can sometimes see how it happens too.

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Stage 76: Acceptance

Well, I certainly feel better now.

Essentially, almost all of my concerns surrounding Fallout 76 have been addressed in several follow-up interviews with Todd Howard and others. There is something to be said about the failure of BGS’s marketing department that there needed to be three days’ worth of interviews and a 40-minute documentary to explain what kind of game the studio is even putting out, but whatever. It’s a Bethesda game, so if we can successfully log into it and the game not immediately explode, things are going well.

Here are the videos I have watched lately:

The summation? The griefing potential in Fallout 76 is limited.

You do not lose any items when you die, and you can choose were to respawn afterwards. When you log off, your base disappears with you. Anything you build can be repaired if destroyed. You can pack up and move your base pretty much at any time, and potentially save the layout as a blueprint for easy re-setup. Nukes do destroy everything in the area (for a time), and they also drop a endgame zone with high-level monsters in the blast radius, but there is apparently enough time for you to pack up and scoot out of the area. Plus, with the nukes, there are actual high-value areas (monster-spawning zones) for which the nukes are intended to destroy. Ergo, for every pack of sadists collecting launch codes for trolling potential, there will also be a group of PvE players interested in grinding loot and otherwise competing to Do The Right Thing.

Oh, and there will be areas (including the beginning area) in which no player bases can be built, specifically to avoid scenarios where you cannot find/complete a quest.

There are still some areas of mild concern – presently all players are visible on the map all the time – but honestly? I’m good now. People may indeed track you down and murder you from afar. There are systems in place already, apparently, to prevent them from being able to continue harassing you thereafter. And… I kinda get it. If other people were impossible to attack, griefers would just find another way to grief. But this way, there is a little bit of drama. Would you implicitly trust every person you ran into after the apocalypse? Maybe if you needed to supplies, or felt contact was inevitable. So now, there will be stories.

I will still, of course, be rolling on a PvE server if those are available.

Fallout76_Order

Speaking of, I already pre-ordered. That’s not something I do but Amazon offers 20% off preorders, and more crucially, preordering grants access to the beta. Member of Press©, and all that, right?

So we’ll see how things go soon.