During his brief trip to Australia, we spoke to Bethesda’s vice president of PR and marketing, Pete Hines, about where the company places Fallout 76 in its catalogue of games, and what to expect from the future of the brand.
By now, your journey into the Wasteland of Fallout 76 should have well and truly begun.
Fallout 76 is a truly open-world adventure in the Fallout universe, but with a bit of an added twist; you are not alone. Bethesda have provided you with the opportunity to take on the wilderness with others, whether it be friends or complete strangers. Team up with – or fight against – others in relatively small servers, just doing regular Fallout things like taking down Radroaches or playing games/wasting time on Terminals.
We spoke with Pete Hines, vice president of PR and marketing at Bethesda, on a recent trip to Australia for PAX. At the time, the BETA was in full swing, and he spoke to a few happy punters in between interviews on the show floor.
“The feedback has been great,” he says. “It’s been great to see folks excited about what we’re up to. I’ve had a few folks come up to me and say they’ve been able to play a bunch of the BETA. Mostly, people mention one of three things: ‘I can’t wait for the BETA, can I please have a dog companion, and can you please set the next one in Australia.’ Those are the three recurring themes.”
And how many of those are going to happen?
“One’s a definite yes, one’s a possibility, and one I don’t have the foggiest idea. You’ll have to work out which ones I’m talking about.”
While setting a Fallout game in an online world may seem a shock to some, Bethesda have, of course, dabbled in online games before. Elder Scrolls Online – obviously set in the popular Elder Scrolls universe – continues to grow its user base and improves with every expansion. But what was it that made the team decide to set the next multiplayer adventure in the Fallout universe?
“Todd [Howard] and the team had this idea of doing something different in terms of the size of the world and the number of people and all that, which just doesn’t make sense in an Elder Scrolls universe,” explains Hines. “You know what I mean? If you have these low-population servers, why is there all of a sudden nobody wandering around Tamriel? Whereas if you do something post-apocalyptic, where it’s a little easier to explain why there are no human NPCs or why there are only a handful of people in the world, you’re able to play into this idea of soft survival. Fallout was a much better fit in terms of the setting and the rules and all of that.”
It’s been said a million times by many of the heads at Bethesda that true single player fans shouldn’t fret that online multiplayer games are to become the new norm for their development teams. We wanted to check where Hines stood on the issue.
“As we said at E3, the next thing that the studio is doing is Starfield. Even if Fallout 76 were to completely exceed our expectations, it would likely just mean we end up making more content for 76, because we’ve got Starfield and then we’ve got The Elder Scrolls VI, and we already know what kinds of games those are. So from the studio’s perspective, they have a pretty well-laid roadmap for a very long period of time.
“As far as the other studios are concerned, it doesn’t really translate because all studios have their own capabilities and ideas and thoughts on what they want to make. We try and treat each opportunity as they come.”
Bethesda needed entirely new dedicated servers for a multiplayer game of Fallout 76‘s scale, and that meant an overhaul of large proportions.
“That is almost entirely down to the folks at what is now Bethesda Games Studios Austin, because those were the folks in the early days, back when the studio originally had the idea of ‘look, we really want to try a multiplayer thing,’ and so it fell to the guys at Austin. From there, you start to ask a lot of questions. How is this going to work? How many people will be in a server? How are we spinning servers up and down? How are we going to handle all these different systems that are necessary for this sort of fluid, on-the-fly game that’s not in early access and isn’t a battle royale? The guys at Austin were the ones who figured out all the answers to those questions, and there’s tons of work being done in the Rockville, Montreal, and Dallas offices to supplement that.”
With Fallout 76 being both an online survival game as well as one deeply rooted in Fallout universe lore, did the team face a quandary in determining the target demographic?
“The truth is, honestly, we don’t really think a lot about those things when we make games,” muses Hines. “Whether it’s DOOM or Wolfenstein or Fallout, we don’t think a lot in terms of ‘this is who we are making this for.’ It’s more along the lines of, this is going to appeal to a lot of people with a lot of different tastes, and a number of them are going to be current Fallout players and a number of them might be people who have never played a Fallout game in their life, but like online things and might give it a try. We as a publisher tend to lean more towards the mentality of, ‘let’s make something we think is fun,’ and we’ll figure out as we go how to message and talk to folks who we think the game might appeal to. You can’t spend too much time thinking about ‘these features are for these people.'”
Fallout 76 is a prequel to all the other games in the Fallout canon, with the events taking place 25 years after the bombs dropped. As for maintaining plot continuity, it made sense to the devs to set the game within this time frame.
“I had these conversations years ago, so I don’t recall much, other than that they liked the idea of the immediacy of the time period, in some respect, because if you set the game too much later, then it starts to become like ‘how is it that nobody has made their way here from other games – wouldn’t that happen over the course of hundreds of years?’ Probably, but maybe not over 20. A part of it was simply the longer you go, the more you have to explain why people haven’t shown up here.”
With Fallout 76 now available and Starfield on the horizon, could Hines tell us anything about the next entry in our favourite franchise – Elder Scrolls VI?
“It’s awesome!” he offers.
Something we don’t already know?
“No, that I can’t help you with.”