Thoughts from the Fallout76 Beta

tl;dr : Wells its co-op online Fallout, with more or less what you'd expect. PVP is not within your control despite the systems that are supposed to allow that, and its a janky random spammy mess with awful shooting mechanics that can't keep up. The jankiness in the rest of the game is more or less within the acceptable ranges and norms for Bethesda, which isn't ideal but is passable. Of serious serious note, they need desperately to clarify how persistency and servers and all that work.

UI, to start simple. As might be expected its not great. The pip-boy (inventory and quests), the map, the build mode and the crafting stations all have different UI's with different sets of controls and no particular unifying design to them. And the trading UI is just a confusing mess, that my group never did figure out (ended up just dropping things for each other). What sort of worked in singleplayer Fallout also cracks pretty bad in real time. Trying to pop open an inventory and jam a buff item or switch to a weapon is laborious, and the Favorite wheel is its own mess (its not hold to toggle, and also requires press to confirm, in contrast to the usual standard). Quests also deserve a special mention, all your quests (and your co-op team leader's quests) keep piling and piling on the top right in a giant mess. You can finagle through the pip boy cludgy interface to remove them, but any new events or whatever else will keep adding on. And the quest markers show up on the compass, but without any noticeable distinctions to them, so if you don't actually clean up that list, that navigational aid is basically unusable.

The setting is kind of "Eh...". You'd think with the no NPC thing that you'd be getting a dead wasteland to explore, which would be intriguing enough its own right. But you don't really. Everyone is dead before you find them, but its fairly recent deaths. There's even Responder (sort of the Minutemen/NCR esque group of the area) Protectrons randomly about still. With the world so populated, the concept of "All the people are players) is less of a serious design philosophy, and almost seems like some tongue-in-cheek satire. There's also air drops, and Responder Alerts (public event MMO esque things) that would thoroughly indicate some sort of living presence.

The combats more or less serviceable. Its hard to tell if the shootings off, or some sort of latency is going, but with any faster moving enemy you're much encouraged to use VATS which is auto-aiming mode in this real time variant. Long rifle range seems weirdly short, whether that's a lag, or a design choice I don't know, its very very noticeable when you're trying to target a cargopod or one of the showpiece enemies that is a flying creature. AS the enemies go, there is a fair variety, possibly more then any of the other Bethesda Fallouts. Raider's do effectively exist, but they're "Scorched", victims of some kind of plague, and largely resemble ghouls (but aren't radioactive, and do use guns), more kind of wishy-washy adherence to that "no people" bit.

Base-building!. Not actually completely terrible. Grindy as hell, but thats the bread and butter of these survivally game things. The UI is a little confusing as mentioned. But fairly versatile. One quibble is that if you're setting up around existing structures, it doesn't play nice at all. So your claimed workshop/outpost thing is a little rough. Some things you can move or remove, others you can't, sometimes you remove a desk (for instance) and the rubble effect on top of it remains floating in the air. Wall/Ceiling mounted stuff will only attach to your built walls, not pre-existing stuff. You can build using your (singular) camp claim anywhere you want outside of a claimed outpost as well, but its a much smaller radius, and obviously lacks some of that post-apocalypse authenticity of setting up in an abandoned factory or the like (also the reclaimed sites tend to have some perk like junk piles that you can put an extractor on, or existing power supplies, etc (besides junk piles, our home factory had machines that kept refilling with packages of mac and cheese)).

On a distinctly concerning note however, as people randomly disconnected on our squad of 4, ownership kept shifting erratically over claimed sites. Also only the owner can seemingly fast travel to a site, rather then the whole team. This raises (along with their non-existence of a traditional server setup), quite a lot of questions about what happens to your stuff when you log off.

PvP. According to theory, you won't be in PvP unless you shoot back at someone. They'll do 1h per hit on you until then. Right off the gate, the obvious loophole in that isn't sealed, someone can just run in front of your bullets until you hit them, then fire back themselves whenever they feel like it (a fellow rather enthusiastically beating me with a pickaxe to no effect while I pulled out a shotgun, took psycho, then fired back, for instance). In pitched firefights (like those events I mentioned), you'll potentially end up in unwanted PvP mode. The promised "passive mode" style option they backpedaled about doesn't appear to be in the game at this point.

Speaking of unintended PvP. Bases are broken as hell. Turrets have an absolute mind of their own, attacking some people, ignoring others (sometimes even while they're invading your base). We actually had two guys run into our base, be ignored by the turrets, claim it, then the turrets started attacking us. Also you can kill invaders, but they just respawn nearby with all their things and can run right back in (they're even incentivized by a revenge bounty that gives caps for killing someone who attacked/killed you.). So base battle is just an endless war between perpetually respawning people. For that matter the aggro mechanics were kind of odd, one invader was toggled for PvP, the other wasn't.

And if the shooting was kind of dodgy for NPC combat, it just absolutely loses its mind in PvP. Hits don't register constantly, and the minute a shootout between players starts it seems to drop frames and/or lag like crazy. Also, as a minor note, outfits are basically skins (they weigh 0.1), that also cover any armour the player is wearing, which is a notable flaw in terms of picking engagements.

By and large, if you want the Fallout survival mode co-op experience, its probably there. But without private sessions as an option, the annoying awkward PvP (which is subpar even to questionable combat in things like Rust and Ark). Even without that particular problem, sharing the map with randoms can be obnoxious as building sites aren't instanced, so a claimed site can't be used. (And I have no idea what happens if you join a session where someone else has claimed your site).

The survival mechanics and the return of weapon condition/degradation is just unnecessary tedium that adds nothing to the game.
The voicechat thing is incredibly startling at first, since it seems to default to 'open mic', even during character creation.
I'm not sure if it's an instancing issue or a deliberate design decision, but some enemies respawn and some areas repopulate with enemies EXTREMELY quickly, sometimes immediately after you've just cleared a place out. Also events can immediately re-trigger again after you've just completed it.
Certain trees are literally copy-pasted from Skyrim, and the new flying boss-type enemies (Scorchbeasts) are just re-skinned dragons from Skyrim.
The whole 'one person at a time' problem is back again, where only one person can use a workbench / cooking station / terminal, and everyone else has to wait in line for them to finish, only the problem is worse this time because instead of waiting for an AI NPC to finish (who you could just kick off / bump out of the way in Fallout 4) you're waiting for an actual human to hurry up and get out of the way.
People can also get rather creative with their griefing. In one event you have to collect special canisters of items scattered around a factory and deposit them all in a receptacle, but other players can run around and grab them all and then run off with them making the event uncompletable.

IceForce:
The survival mechanics and the return of weapon condition/degradation is just unnecessary tedium that adds nothing to the game.

The voicechat thing is incredibly startling at first, since it seems to default to 'open mic', even during character creation.
I'm not sure if it's an instancing issue or a deliberate design decision, but some enemies respawn and some areas repopulate with enemies EXTREMELY quickly, sometimes immediately after you've just cleared a place out. Also events can immediately re-trigger again after you've just completed it.

The whole 'one person at a time' problem is back again, where only one person can use a workbench / cooking station / terminal, and everyone else has to wait in line for them to finish, only the problem is worse this time because instead of waiting for an AI NPC to finish (who you could just kick off / bump out of the way in Fallout 4) you're waiting for an actual human to hurry up and get out of the way.

Well, as the first part goes, it is presented as an online survival game. Fine if thats not someone's bag, but not a flaw in the game (though on the topic of degradation, it seems to be far too quick (to allot for the perks that reduce it, which is a dumb way to artifically make perks. And the balance of resources seems wonky (Adhesive, sweet jesus)).

The event immediately retriggering doesn't seem to be super-common with the world spawns. But yeah, turning on the Poseidon plant for instance (which allows substations to provide power to various outposts), seemed to be reset almost immediately. Whether on some hidden timer, or because someone else with the "quest" wandered over I have no idea.

That actually reminds me of one thing I missed mentioning, the sheer inability to complete a quest as a team. Everyone has to do each step themselves for each quest. Which can even make team work impossible in some (if you kill an enemy for a quest, then your team mate has to wait for it to respawn so they can kill it). Its the kind of weird half-done approach I'm well familiar with from my Neverwinter Nights days, and even weirder because the events do work for multiple people (mostly, it is Bethesda) properly.

One-at-a-time is also fairly common (though admittedly not universal) for stations in the genre. That said I suspect it is just a leftover of the Frankensteined engine development rather then any deliberate design decision. It does kind of push you to have your own space, which is potentially a motivation point. Though if you're playing co-op, its detrimental, particularly given there's not much ability to divvy up work. There's no shared storage means, and the trade UI is terrible. So if I cook up dozens of pies and healing salves for my team mates, actually distributing them is purely laborious (whereas in Ark/7 Days/Conan whatever I'd just put them in the team medicine cabinet. Only No Mans Sky that I can recall (another very Frankensteined multiplayer experience) suffers that issue, and even that has a more streamlined send to player button (Surprisingly, given its own UI issues)

Haven't played it, but this made me groan:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2018/11/01/hackers-have-already-found-a-way-to-cheat-in-the-fallout-76-beta/

Apparently this game, just like the ones before it, caps the framerate at 60fps. You can of course unlock the framerate beyond that (using an .ini tweak), but just like the other games this causes all kinds of weird glitches and bugs with the in-game physics, (apparently a limitation of the game engine they keep using).

This was a problem in Fallout 3, New Vegas, 4, and also Skyrim. I guess Bethesda doesn't think that anyone uses monitors with more than 60Hz.

In the case of Fallout 76, this weird bug/quirk causes the players with unlocked framerates to move around the map at super speeds (probably because the 60Hz framerate is tied to the server tick rate or something, I'm guessing).

Please Bethesda (and devs in general), for the love of all that is holy, please don't tie framerate to game logic and/or game physics.
It's such an amateurish way of programming a game, and I'm amazed that the problem still exists in the AAA gaming sphere in this day and age.

Seth Carter:

PvP. According to theory, you won't be in PvP unless you shoot back at someone. They'll do 1h per hit on you until then. Right off the gate, the obvious loophole in that isn't sealed, someone can just run in front of your bullets until you hit them, then fire back themselves whenever they feel like it (a fellow rather enthusiastically beating me with a pickaxe to no effect while I pulled out a shotgun, took psycho, then fired back, for instance). In pitched firefights (like those events I mentioned), you'll potentially end up in unwanted PvP mode. The promised "passive mode" style option they backpedaled about doesn't appear to be in the game at this point.

Ah, the old classic The Division Dark Zone experience from 2016. It had the same quirks and then some, with the worst being that player deployable turrets were not considered players for PvP-calculation, but would return fire against anyone who fired on them. In effect, this meant that as soon as you deployed a turret, some asshole would plink a shot at it, get fired on and the game would decide that you were a Rogue, allowing the player who plinked your turret to kill you and get the award for killing a Rogue Agent in the process.

The Division tried to fix the problem of griefing and forcing others into Rogue status in the Dark Zone for over a year, before eventually settling on a manual toggle for going Rogue (flip it and you can attack other players, basically) instead of the original dynamic system. That Bethesda didn't see the problem of griefers running in front of people trying to mind their own business, after it was such a huge issue in The Division is mind-boggling.

For those of you who have played the beta: Does it feel like a Fallout game? Does it feel like an Action-RPG in the vein of prior Bethseda Fallouts or something else?

I wish I could tell you. Lured in by the promises of 'Pre-order for access to the Beta!" I pre-ordered my copy of 76 but never received an email with an XBL download code. Had the thing on order since early September, but nothing has come through and now the thing is released in two weeks. Feel kinda pissed about it if I'm honest.

Gethsemani:
.

For those of you who have played the beta: Does it feel like a Fallout game? Does it feel like an Action-RPG in the vein of prior Bethseda Fallouts or something else?

It feels like fallout 4 that emphasizes building, survival and exploration over plot.

Which is fine cause Bethesda plots suck hard.

I will say they updated the lighting engine significantly and its the prettiest fallout game yet.

My thoughts are locked behind a pre-order paywall.

Gethsemani:

For those of you who have played the beta: Does it feel like a Fallout game? Does it feel like an Action-RPG in the vein of prior Bethseda Fallouts or something else?

Its prettymuch inline with the Bethesda ones with a bit of a survival mode thrown on. The building adds surprisingly little for a somewhat core feature. Convenience, but also inconvenience because then you have to worry about keeping people out of your crap. Crafting stations are littered all over anyways, and there's even a neutral storage access point at an NPC camp you can fast travel to.

The plot (from what I've seen is, not terrible. But also cumbersome because its all audiologs and reading terminals. Its a very tiring slog through walls of exposition because of the whole "Lol no people" gimmick.

I didn't pre-order it fortunately, I got one of the extra 3 codes from someone who did. And even they've cancelled it.

It's pretty much what I expected; Fallout 4, but with other people running around and on a newer shinier map with a different story and a different way of telling it via holo-tapes and just general environmental story telling.

Not to say it's without its issues though; water didn't render until I put it on low settings, some quests are bugged, the teaming system was broken for too long, the constant open mic unless you turn it off is annoying (Seriously, no push to talk?), the random 'Todd Rays' are blinding, it has random frame drops from 60 to 40ish (i7-7700k, GTX1080, 16gigs of RAM), you can't properly quit the game without it crashing (Although they say they've fixed that in a patch, will see tomorrow night), of course the speed 'hack' of uncapping your framerate in the .ini file and a generally limited "Fuck you, EU" beta time slot.

However, I will say despite all of the issues, I'm having a really good time with it. It's nice to just chill out in post apocalyptic West Virginia, build a small base, get into shenanigans with friends or even by yourself, and building the character you want from the ground up is a fun addition and makes leveling a little more focused. As for the PvP, I haven't tried it but that's because my pacifist toggle is working. Every time I hit someone, it tells me I can't hurt them and as for the survival, it's kind of a non-issue so far, but I'm not too deep into it; I've heard it gets a lot harder in the later levels as good stimpaks become rare to find.

Sassafrass:
It's pretty much what I expected; Fallout 4, but with other people running around and on a newer shinier map with a different story and a different way of telling it via holo-tapes and just general environmental story telling.

Not to say it's without its issues though; water didn't render until I put it on low settings, some quests are bugged, the teaming system was broken for too long, the constant open mic unless you turn it off is annoying (Seriously, no push to talk?), the random 'Todd Rays' are blinding, it has random frame drops from 60 to 40ish (i7-7700k, GTX1080, 16gigs of RAM), you can't properly quit the game without it crashing (Although they say they've fixed that in a patch, will see tomorrow night), of course the speed 'hack' of uncapping your framerate in the .ini file and a generally limited "Fuck you, EU" beta time slot.

However, I will say despite all of the issues, I'm having a really good time with it. It's nice to just chill out in post apocalyptic West Virginia, build a small base, get into shenanigans with friends or even by yourself, and building the character you want from the ground up is a fun addition and makes leveling a little more focused. As for the PvP, I haven't tried it but that's because my pacifist toggle is working. Every time I hit someone, it tells me I can't hurt them and as for the survival, it's kind of a non-issue so far, but I'm not too deep into it; I've heard it gets a lot harder in the later levels as good stimpaks become rare to find.

I was on Ps4, so the technical hiccups were a bit more limited. Frame drops and problems with draw distance (and possibly netcode issues, as for instance, long range sniper-built rifles just seemed to flat out not work at range).

The pacfist toggle (assuming you can find it, its certainly not presented when you unlock PvP, but I'm told it was buried in a menu somewhere) works for you. But not the combat around an outpost. So if you claim an outpost, you will get dragged into PvP if someone starts it.

Survival does scale up fairly heavily (I only got to level 12). Stimpaks weren't a huge problem (though I was Int-built which gives bonus resources and makes meds more effective). Radaway was becoming the bigger issue, as there's no rad free food at all that I found, and purified water is tough to make (and water purifiers (And any resource generator seemingly) are bugged entirely or outputting at an exponentially lower then stated rate). I also got the herbal salve to heal early on (bloodleaf+Sootflower), so I might have been saving on a lot of stim use out of combat (in combat its not so practical as you have to muck about with the favorite wheel UI). As food/water goes, the best option I found was vegetable soups, which only had 2 rads but would give 10-15% on both food and water. Although crops are included in that resource generating bug, so that's somewhat of bother to scavenge reliably.

So it is just Rust but in the Fallout world?

My only thoughts were, was this even a beta? The game was coming out in two weeks during the beta window, they aren't going to fix jack shit in that time. Especially not the issues being brought up.

It was just a shady pre-order incentive, and can barely be classified as a server stress test since Xbox and PS4/PC players were playing completely separately and only during moderated time slots. This is all rather than, I don't know, opening the beta to everyone interested and actually stressing the servers. Oh, but that would have revealed how overall shallow the game actually is and potentially turn people away.

I would be absolutely floored if any of the issues being brought up during the "beta" period get fixed within the couple weeks of the game's launch, let alone before it comes out.

RaikuFA:
So it is just Rust but in the Fallout world?

Ah no.

Its aspiring to be both a lite-MMO and a lite survival game. Not entirely unlike Conan Exiles, though weighted more towards MMO side (excluding the small number of players on a server).

While it's probably playable as a raw survival game, you'd be missing out on a ton of experience for levelling, and a fair few crafting recipes if you tried to ignore the quest content, along with actual material rewards.

From what I have been hearing, apparently the thing is an insane technical mess. Like, "they don't do packet encryption" mess (among other things).

So, the launch should be brilliant, is what I am saying.

BreakfastMan:
From what I have been hearing, apparently the thing is an insane technical mess. Like, "they don't do packet encryption" mess (among other things).

So, the launch should be brilliant, is what I am saying.

Shouldn't we have seen that already since the beta is very accessible even if you didn't pre-order?

I've been enjoying it a fair bit thus far, though yeah, it has problems, like the 400lb limit to player caches. I have a set of T-51 and T-60 power armour, along with a minigun and power armour frame in there, and that alone takes up a lot of it. And then there's the massive amounts of junk that you need to store as well for base building.
And unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to play it with friends yet, so I've only been on it solo, but even then, it's still decent enough that I'll stick with my pre-order and play it a bunch when it comes out next week.
And yeah, the survival mechanics and weapon/armour degradation are a pain in the ass, though at least it's easier to repair weapons and armour than it was in 3 and New Vegas.

Katherine Kerensky:

And yeah, the survival mechanics and weapon/armour degradation are a pain in the ass, though at least it's easier to repair weapons and armour than it was in 3 and New Vegas.

Uh, in those you just smashed another weapon into it your inventory.

'76 you have to scrap the similar weapon (and I'm not sure that gives all the resources required), find a weapon bench, then repair your weapon.

Spent the two hour run today mostly setting up a farm. Which mostly served to ID that crops are buggy/have wrong tooltips/grow at random rates. And the repair function doesn't seem to work at the C.A.M.P. with no option to individually repair either (which was plan b assuming that I was missing some pieces to repair turrets and just trying to repair a wall)

Seth Carter:

Katherine Kerensky:

And yeah, the survival mechanics and weapon/armour degradation are a pain in the ass, though at least it's easier to repair weapons and armour than it was in 3 and New Vegas.

Uh, in those you just smashed another weapon into it your inventory.

'76 you have to scrap the similar weapon (and I'm not sure that gives all the resources required), find a weapon bench, then repair your weapon.

In Fallout 3/NV, you had to have the same weapon or a similar one if you had the right perk. For 76, it's not hard to find a weapon workbench, and typically the scrap for repairing stuff is pretty common. The only material I haven't found a lot of is crystal for laser weaponry repairs. Everything else, including the materials for power armour repair, I've found an excess of.
And also, when you repair something in 76, it goes straight to 100% durability, no partial repairs like 3/NV. They were good games, but... I prefer the repair system in 76.

DeliveryGodNoah:
My only thoughts were, was this even a beta?

Betas aren't betas anymore; they're demos that you have to buy the game in order to play.

TopazFusion:
Haven't played it, but this made me groan:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2018/11/01/hackers-have-already-found-a-way-to-cheat-in-the-fallout-76-beta/

Apparently this game, just like the ones before it, caps the framerate at 60fps. You can of course unlock the framerate beyond that (using an .ini tweak), but just like the other games this causes all kinds of weird glitches and bugs with the in-game physics, (apparently a limitation of the game engine they keep using).

This was a problem in Fallout 3, New Vegas, 4, and also Skyrim. I guess Bethesda doesn't think that anyone uses monitors with more than 60Hz.

In the case of Fallout 76, this weird bug/quirk causes the players with unlocked framerates to move around the map at super speeds (probably because the 60Hz framerate is tied to the server tick rate or something, I'm guessing).

Please Bethesda (and devs in general), for the love of all that is holy, please don't tie framerate to game logic and/or game physics.
It's such an amateurish way of programming a game, and I'm amazed that the problem still exists in the AAA gaming sphere in this day and age.

When I first heard this, I wasn't even surprised. These idiots stubbornly refuse to utilize a new engine. Their Creation Engine is so out of date; yet, they persist. Wouldn't be surprised if the next Elder Scrolls game had the same issue. They refuse to accept that 144hz is very normal in this day and age.

Regardless, the game looks very, very average. It's also something that no one asked for, but it's easier to have microtransactions in online games, I guess.

Mad World:

When I first heard this, I wasn't even surprised. These idiots stubbornly refuse to utilize a new engine. Their Creation Engine is so out of date; yet, they persist. Wouldn't be surprised if the next Elder Scrolls game had the same issue. They refuse to accept that 144hz is very normal in this day and age.

Regardless, the game looks very, very average. It's also something that no one asked for, but it's easier to have microtransactions in online games, I guess.

The Creation Engine in itself is (by their own dev talking in the noclip documentary) not even a clean new engine, there's still bits in there from Oblivion or even Morrowind (though that specific mention was part of quest scripting).

Plenty of folks have asked for (and developed mods supporting) both MP (to minimal success, because the engine literally can't handle it) and Survival based Elder Scrolls and/or Fallout though. The "OMG Mah Singleplayer" purist backlash is one of the more nonsensical ones, even moreso for Fallout which has had a much more fluid genre identity then Elder Scrolls.

Seth Carter:
The Creation Engine in itself is (by their own dev talking in the noclip documentary) not even a clean new engine, there's still bits in there from Oblivion or even Morrowind (though that specific mention was part of quest scripting).

Plenty of folks have asked for (and developed mods supporting) both MP (to minimal success, because the engine literally can't handle it) and Survival based Elder Scrolls and/or Fallout though. The "OMG Mah Singleplayer" purist backlash is one of the more nonsensical ones, even moreso for Fallout which has had a much more fluid genre identity then Elder Scrolls.

With respect to the engine: yes - I know. That's my point.

With respect to the online Elder Scrolls and Fallout game: I've never heard it, but okay. I'm not saying that literally no one asked for it; I'm saying that generally speaking, people really want your typical singleplayer experience with respect to both Fallout and (especially) Elder Scrolls. I am aware that a good chunk of people want to be able to play the games cooperatively with a buddy, but that's different. I haven't exactly seen a significant clamoring for online Fallout.

A bit more of a rosy view from the final beta session today. Not to say it was without its jank, from the daily quest outright malfunctioning and being incompletable, to continuing problems with electrical wiring rendering off into the sky (and an apparent downgrade from FO4 in terms of connector placement, making it *very* tricky to get electric working outside or on second floors), and full on getting stuck in a bit of environment (fortunately this is somewhat easy to reverse in a team, since one guy can fast travel away and back, and fast travelling actually plops you kind of randomly rather then right where the person is).

With a bit of help from soliciting the community on Reddit on the esoteric process of doin so, we got the junk scavenging outpost up and running (fortunately without the PvP baggage) and claimed a stretch of road for campsites. Oddly enough, we attracted a few neighbours, which led to bit of emergent fun in a 7 man defense of our crops from roaming super mutants that lived up the road a bit.

Although the closing period of the beta as each person logged off and their personal structures winked out of existence kind of highlighted the great flaw of this. Barring madly friend requesting folks and trying to get everyone into the same server, these sort of interactions are a fleeting experience that is tough to replicate as the next load drops you into a new bag of randoms. Certainly it avoids a common pitfall of the survival genre ("Where the F do I build", whether its PvP servers where you risk violent wrath from giant international conglomerates or just pure obsessive players, or PvE where often structures endlessly litter and blockade all but the harshest places to live), it also impairs the sense of progression and development of an unique interactive world.

 

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