"This is not gonna be a high Metacritic game. This is not what this is."
--Todd Howard, being correct.

“For players who want ‘Fallout 5,’ and this isn’t ‘Fallout 5,’ are they going to enjoy playing this game?” he said. “I wonder about that. I worry about that.”
-- Project lead Jeff Gardiner, being prescient

Note: The internet Historian did a video covering most of the bullshit here. His video, 26 minutes long, is hilarious, accurate and out of date; since he put it up, Fallout 76 has continued to be a parade of incompetence. But you may as well watch it first for the lulz.

The Background of Bethesda’s Fallout

The Fallout Series is a series of RPG Adventure games created initially by Interplay Entertainment, developed by Black Isle Studios, then left on the kitchen counter for a decade before being picked back up by Bethesda Studios (and briefly, Obsidian Entertainment). They all follow their different player characters as they travel through the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the 22nd-23rd century in a world inspired by the 1950's atomic age, zeerust-like, Googie-architecture, atompunk sort of thing.

The first two games, Fallout and Fallout 2, are widely considered to be the best, along with Fallout: New Vegas, which was a more direct spiritual successor to the first two than Fallout 3 and 4 are. Fallout 3 and 4, developed by Bethesda ten years after Fallout 2 was released, tend to have a fair share of detractors (four moreso than three), but they are also considered to be decent games and have a broad fanbase. All of these main Fallout games emphasize character driven role-playing and choice, story and exploration-- some more than others, yes, but they're all trying to focus on those things. All are single player games, with Bethesda's 3 and 4 boasting their status as open-world, sandbox explorers.

What is Fallout 76

Fallout 76 is the scrapped multiplayer DLC for Fallout 4 repackaged and sold as its own game.

Sorry, scratch that.

Fallout 76 is an always-online, open-world, multiplayer RPG set in the Fallout universe. It was released November 14, 2018, and since then it has been an endless maelstrom of bullshit.

The "plot" is that you (and all the other players) are Vault Dwellers 25 years after the bombs drop in the Fallout timeline. Your Vault, Vault 76, opens up and you and the others all go out to conquer the wasteland. Shortly after, you’re contacted by the overseer and told that Vault 76’s true purpose is to secure nuclear weapons hidden in Appalachia, and that you need to go visit a group of people called First Responders. Except when you get there, you find that everyone is already dead, killed by the “Scorched” --mindless ghouls infected by the local drag-- I mean, Scorchbeast. Your goal? Use the nukes to kill the Scorchbeast and make Appalachia safe for all of the other, still-sealed Vaults.

Well damn, when you put it like that, it sounds interesting. What could have gone wrong?

What Went Wrong - The Game Itself

Bethesda's Bugs

So despite however interesting the premise might’ve been, the execution was a disaster. The plot was thin as water despite the cool ideas, side quest were shallow (if they worked at all) and the game had none of the hallmarks of a Fallout game-- or really any kind of RPG. They took the role-playing out of role-playing games. Notoriously, the game was released with no human NPCs or settlements; just a vast open wasteland with most quests and hints of story told through audio logs, giving many players the impression that they had just missed the actual story of the game.

The game itself is and was a mess of bugs and poorly executed features. Youtuber Joseph Anderson has a two hour YouTube video documenting the 1001 bugs he himself personally experienced while playing.

Some minor ones include:

  • Random teleportation
  • Base parts duplicating
  • Enemies never spawning
  • Enemies never despawning
  • Enemies following players around like ducklings
  • Enemies not taking or doing damage
  • Enemies that are supposed to shoot projectiles not shooting, but still hurting.
  • Broken walking and attacking animations
  • Enemies attacking through walls and other surfaces
  • Enemies stuck in geometry-- trapped inside furniture and other decoration
  • Quests stalling, never starting, or being completed without doing anything
  • Speed tied to framerate, meaning some players are going faster than intended while others aren’t moving at all
  • Invisible bears
  • Players missing heads, armor, limbs, and torsos
  • Vampiric weapons that give health when hitting an enemy grant health when hitting nothing
  • Falling out of the map
  • Falling out of the map, then building an entire base down there
  • Bobby pins weighing 100x more than they do in real life, artificially limiting carrying capacity.
  • Random soup

Some of the more notable and more gamebreaking ones include:

Other issues came from Bethesda’s behavior, as opposed to their programming.

Bethesda's Bans

Because players cheating their way into the Dev room is apparently a widespread issue, Bethesda started banning any players with endgame rare-items under the assumption they were gotten through glitches, cheats, or the digital black market. . . and they wound up banning a player who played their game for 900 hours because they thought he had too much rare ammo on him.

Insert “banning-your-one-fan” here joke.

Funnily enough, the player, Glorf12, swears up and down that, while he may have a lot of ammo, he doesn’t have nearly as much as Bethesda claims. However, he did transfer ammo between his main and secondary accounts, leading to the theory that Fallout 76 is so bugged, it registered the acquisition of ammo, but not the fact that it had been given away, leading to the inflated numbers cited by Bethesda staff.

Speaking of Dev Room abuse, the problem apparently got so bad that Bethesda itself was unaware of just how it was being done. After banning ccounts that had been tagged for entering the dev room, they sent out emails asking the players for information on how they did it so Bethesda could stop it.

And speaking of Bethesda reaching out to players, there was also another incident involving essays.

So a cornerstone for most Bethesda games is the modding community. In fact, if you want to play games like Skyrim, Fallout 3 and 4, you actually need modded patches because Bethesda’s own patches have a habit of introducing even more bugs than they fix. For Fallout 76, there is 3rd party modding software. While some of it is clearly used for cheating -- making you invulnerable, editing how much money you have, etc.-- some of it is innocent, mostly things involving fixing Fallout 76’s glitchy graphics.

However, Bethesda didn’t bother distinguishing between the two and banned everyone they caught using any kind of 3rd party mods. If players wanted their accounts back? Bethesda had a solution:

Write an essay explaining “Why the use of third party cheat software is detrimental to an online game community.”

This was not received well, namely because paying customers are paying customers, not 6th graders. Bethesda staff walked it back, first saying that people with the harmless fix-it mods didn’t need to do the essay, just contact support, but then the essay idea was scrapped entirely.

The Merch Madness

Merch the First: Those Damn Bags

This was probably the most well known out of the merch-related fuckery involved with Fallout 76. It's not unusual for certain special editions of the game to come with packs of merch-- little figurines and booklets and whatnot. For the Fallout 76 Power Armor edition, customers were promised, among other things, a canvas bag. Here's the promotional material. Note how it specifically promises canvas.

When the bags came, you probably won't be surprised to learn that they were not canvas. Instead, for 200+ dollars, players got a crumpled nylon bag. When someone contacted the help desk to find out what the deal was, they received this response:

"Hello,

We are sorry that you aren't happy with the bag. The bag shown in the media was a prototype and was too expensive to make.

We aren't planning on doing anything about it."

This went over about as well as you can imagine.

Bethesda came out to try and stop the angry mob with a new excuse: that there was a shortage of materials-- which was bullshit for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that they did make canvas bags, only instead of giving them to the preorder crowd, they gave them to certain game-reviewer youtubers and "influencers". It should be noted that those bags look nothing like the duffel-style bag advertised, but they're still canvas.

Then, big brains that they are, Bethesda decided to offer 500 Atoms of their in-game currency to dissatisfied customers. This was bullshit for a number of reasons, not the least of which that 500 Atoms is five dollars worth of that currency, and with the prices in the game store, it couldn’t buy anything of value. Funnily enough, 500 Atoms wasn’t enough to buy the Postman’s Outfit in the game-- an outfit that comes with a canvas bag.

On top of that, the 500 Atoms was also clearly Bethesda trying to get people to sign away their rights to the bag at all as they had to agree to a waiver, and more astute people also noted that this was a common trick free-to-play and pay-to-play games used to get players invested in their microtransactions; give them a bit of free premium currency to get them interested, then later they’ll be more open to paying for premium currency.

Eventually Bethesda saw the error of their ways (or at least their lawyers did) and agreed to give everyone who paid for them actual canvas bags. Unfortunately, this is Bethesda, so of course this couldn't be a smooth transaction.

People who preordered were instructed to go to Bethesda's site and file a claim, giving their personal information so as to finally receive their bag. However, the site had piss poor programming and security, and people could see other people's help tickets, names, numbers, and last four digits on their credit cards.

Players did eventually get their bags --in June, over half a year after the launch of the game.

Merch the Second: Why is the Rum Gone?

Another bit of merch advertised with the game was Nuka Cola Dark, inspired by a drink introduced in Fallout 4's Nuke World DLC. For 80$, fans could get a rum drink in a bottle made to look like something out of the game. Bethesda's done this before with previous Nuka merch, and this time around they hired Silver Screen Bottling to make it.

After several delays, each one more agitating than the last, Silver Screen finally tried to quell the irate customers with a teaser trailer of the drink. . . That showed that the rum didn't really come inside a thematic bottle, but a plastic shell that clicked over the regular industry standard bottle.

Irritation at the lateness of the product quickly turned to outrage at the misleading marketing; Silver Screen pointed out that they never explicitly stated the bottle was glass, after all, despite other glass times being suggestively in the shots, past merchandise being glass, and the advertising showing what certainly looks like frosted glass.

They also fucked around with their own product reviews, so that was nice of them.

Apparently, the rum tasted about as good as you would think.

Merch the Third: Moldy Mask Fiasco

The third and (so far) final piece of merch bullshit are the Power Armor Nuka Helmets. As part of the merchandising, Gamestop was selling an exclusive collectable-- and wearable-- Power Armor helmet. The helmet was a distinct red, black, and white variant of the normal Power Armor helmet and called the “Fallout 1:1 Power Armor Nuka Cola Helmet.” The price: 150$.

20,000 were made, and apparently, they all had a toxic mold in the inner fabric lining. All twenty thousand of them were recalled, but don’t worry: Gamestop only sold 32 of them.

E3 Announcements: NPCs as DLC - State of Gaming 2019

So between merch fiascos, the E3 video game expo happened. Bethesda got their own slot to show off their stuff, and everyone was wondering how the heck they would address the 76 ton elephant in the room.

The answer was; with mild self deprecation and then completely glossing over it. Instead, after announcing some Blades BS, they announced their new content roadmap for Fallout 76, starting with a major update called Nuclear Winter, a battle royale mode where players are pit against each other in a free-for-all. Players have to defeat each other using weapons and base. . . building mechanics. . . and… huh.

That sounds familiar.

Also announced was the upcoming DLC called Wastelanders that would bring to the game. . . wait for it. . .

NPCs!

Yes, scheduled to happen a year after the game launched, Fallout 76 was finally going to get some Fallout content: NPCs, choices, story-- you know. Getting some role playing inserted into this role-playing game. All in the form of a free DLC update for existing players, to be released Fall of 2019.

Oh wait, never mind. The DLC was delayed for another year.

But that's not important because we have. . .

A 100$ Yearly Subscription Service

Who cares about, you know, making the game into a game when you can charge a 100$ annual subscription service?

Yes, the big brained boys at Bethesda thought that, having inspired so much good will already, they could get away with launching a 100$ yearly subscription service. If you shelled out the 99.99$, you’d get:

  • A private server/world
  • A storage “scrapbox” with unlimited storage for crafting materials
  • 1,650 Atoms (remember what we talked about earlier about premium currency?)
  • An outfit (specifically the Ranger outfit seen in a lot of Fallout art)
  • Some emotes
  • And a tent/fast travel waypoint

This was received about as well as you’d think, given every other thing Bethesda’s done regarding this game. In fact, some fans were so incensed, somebody took the Fallout First domain before Bethesda could and turned it into a parody site advertising “Fallout Fuck you 1st”. This webpage alone is more entertaining than all of the content within Fallout 76.

People were still reeling from the stupidity of trying to charge 100$ a year for a game that was, at this point, still broken when another bombshell dropped almost immediately after. As of October 24, 2019, the service itself was broken, with the promised private playing options not private at all, and the endless scrap storage container deleting the scrap put inside of it.

The scrap deleting itself is pretty self explanatory, but the private worlds turned out to be recycled from other player’s play sessions; Fallout 1st subscribers show up, and they find that everything’s been looted, and the monsters are all dead.

The Financial Bits and Lawbreaking

So, some of the things I haven't touched on is the bullshittery going on with refunds, the in-game store, pay-to-win nonsense, and some lawsuits.

The Store

First: some terminology.
A free-to-play game is a game that is free to play, but often has in-app purchases and microtransactions. This is most common with cellphone games where you can download the app for free, and even play around on it, but if you want particular items, or to bypass some kind of time-lock or obstacle or whatnot, you can opt to pay real life money. While there are issues with this method (it is really popular for little kids to spend oodles of money without their parents realizing it), a lot of time people don't mind because, well, the game was free, and presumably this is how you fund the developer.

Fee-to-play or pay-to-play is the derogatory term used when fully priced games try to get away with in-game purchases, whether it be gambling with lootboxes or buying cool items. Though unfortunately common, this method of monetization is frowned upon by players because-- dude. You already got my 60$, go away and let me play the game.

Pay-to-win is the culmination of pay-to-play wherein not only are there things available for purchase within the game, but the things available have an outstanding and unfair advantage-- literally the player is paying money to win the game.

Some of the patches Bethesda updated the game with resulted in the game becoming more grind-y and less rewarding. This was clearly so players would be tempted to go to the in-game Atomic shop and spend real money on game items to ease up the process. When Bethesda initially launched the store, they assuaged the fears of concerned fans by promising the shop would only have cosmetic items-- a common claim from both free-to-play and pay-to-play game developers.

However, over the months, Bethesda has been introducing pay-to-win kinds of items, including repair "scrap" kits that let you repair items without wasting resources. This is an example of a game creating its own problem, then selling the player a solution; there's no reason weapon degradation works the way it does, but rather than tweak that, they're offering to fix it if you pay for it.

That debate aside, Bethesda got into some trouble for having fake sales on items in the shop. They would claim that an item was on sale, but never actually have the item as the "real" price. items were released "on-sale" to create a false sense of urgency, which German law specifically didn't allow (as well as other places in the EU and Australia). Bethesda had to change the shop so items that weren't actually discounted no longer had the fake discount tag.

No Refund for You! Well okay, maybe.

So way back in the beginning, when people noticed what a pile of steaming shit this game was, a lot of customers wanted their money back. Despite the official page saying there was a no-refund policy, players were getting refunds after sending in support tickets. However, once word spread about it, Bethesda shut the whole thing down, denying everyone who'd downloaded the game refunds. Except it didn't; some people would randomly still get refunds.

Well, all these months later, and it turns out the Australian government has agreed with the players. As of November 1st, 2019, ZeniMax Media(Bethesda's parent company) will have to shell out refunds for Australian customers who bought the came within a certain time frame, which not only is good for those folks, but also lends legitimacy to the idea that yes, Fallout 76 was so broken upon release that government officials took a look at it and said, "oh yeah, that's bad. Give them their money back."

The specific reason? The Australian government claims that Bethesda/ZeniMax sold the game under false advertising.

They weren't wrong.

In Conclusion

So, I'd thought this bombardment of awful would have been done ages ago. There was a several month lull, but every time it looked done, it sprang back up, like some kind of glitchy Fallout zombie. That most recent bit about the Australians was only three days ago, for Christsake.

But for now, at least, this is the general saga of Fallout 76's journey so far.

Let's see what happens when Wastelanders finally comes out. Who knows, the way this shitstorm has been rolling, maybe Bethesda will accidentally release a swarm of bees onto the populace.