Opinion – Fallout 76: Bethesda Still Doesn’t Get It

Fallout 76 Testing

“It’s a beta. You shouldn’t be too critical.”

I agree with you. 99 times out of 100, I agree with you. Betas exist to assist the developer make the final game tighter, more balanced, and more stable. They also allow us, the players, to get our first experience in the game. And let there be no mistake, first impressions are incredibly powerful.

I caution that this editorial may sound overly negative, as if I have some desire to see Fallout 76 fail. I assure you, that couldn’t be further from the truth (though here still some folks may not believe this, and that’s fine.) Had this been any other game from any other developer, I would not be raising these same concerns. However, this is Bethesda. And Bethesda have a traceable history of simply not keeping with the contemporary state of things, from technical competence all the way to their anachronistic mentality to PC gaming.

The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim

Let’s remember the horrible Skyrim PS3 issue which crippled performance after extended play, with Bethesda knowing that the PS3 could run into such problems. I experienced this first-hand. This issue is still not entirely resolved.

We must also remember that the Unofficial Patches for Skyrim and Fallout 4 are absolutely critical to experience a smoother, more-bug-free game. Why are these patches “unofficial?” Well, it’s because Bethesda didn’t bother fixing many lingering issues, instead relying on modders to fix their game for them — for free.

Recall, also, that neither PC version of Skyrim nor, more egregiously, Fallout 4 have any FOV slider, Vsync toggle, or input hot-swapping. Changing any graphics setting requires the player quitting the game, making an adjustment, and then launching the game — an expectation in 2011 perhaps, but a downright inconvenience in 2015.

Finally, understand that Bethesda have been using the same engine with new additions bolted onto it since Morrowind. In fact, when developing Fallout 76 netcode, Bethesda Austin (formerly Battlecry Studios) found legacy Morrowind code in the engine.

When you stop to consider these facts, a clearer picture emerges with Bethesda. They simply don’t fall under the same norms as most other big-budget studios. Standards that have come to be expected on the PC over the years are simply ignored and remain unaddressed. It’s an unfortunate reality which should give anyone cause for concern as we discuss Fallout 76.

To state this up front, even though this is just a beta, I fully expect most if not all of these issues to remain in the PC launch version of Fallout 76.

Fallout 76

Before I dive into the beta itself, let’s set up some context. This will help guide discussion while laying the underpinnings for the more egregious aspects of Bethesda’s actions.

To perhaps no one’s surprise, it was recently revealed that Fallout 76 will have microtransactions. In an interview with GameSpot, Bethesda’s Pete Hines had an opportunity to elaborate on their inclusion and their post-launch plans.

Quoting the article, Hines said that, “giving Fallout 76’s extra content away for free will hopefully make players feel like they are not being taken advantage of.”

One can easily suggest that Hines’ comment here is specifically to Fallout 76. But this is the games industry. Such ideologies do not exist in a vacuum and must be looked at holistically. Thus, Pete Hines’ comment here can be easily disproved. One need simply look back at Bethesda’s Creation Club and the paid Horse Armor mod to expose the hypocrisy.

Additionally, by definition, microtransactions are monetary exchanges after the purchase of the game (barring F2P titles). So it’s interesting how Pete Hines can claim that giving away content for free will not make players feel like they’re being taken advantage when Bethesda is asking for even more money in microtransaction after they ask you to spend $60 on their game. If that sounds egregious, well, that’s because it is. Let me make this clear: microtransactions have no place in a $60 game. Period.

More so, Pete Hines trots out an all too familiar industry line — “giving away content for free.” This right here simply isn’t true either. It’s not free content. You only have access to this content after spending $60 on the game.

Furthermore, regarding ensuring players don’t “feel like they’re taken advantage of,” keep in mind that you have to effectively buy the game to access the beta. This isn’t new, but that’s not the point at all. Bethesda wants your money even before the game is released just so you can help them improve their game. That’s exploiting the player. It’s taking advantage of the player.

The article continues with,

“Everyone who pre-orders Fallout 76 on Xbox One gets 500 Atoms right away, but how much value this really offers won’t be clear until Bethesda reveals the cost of in-game items.”  

This further contradicts Pete Hines’ comment regarding players being taken advantage of. “Value” being deliberately vague like this unquestionably brings forth the notion that you the player are being taken advantage of. Note the psychological manipulation here. This isn’t a new tactic with the AAA games industry, but that’s not the point. Bethesda sets a clear foundation that reverberates and extends to the actual Fallout 76 beta itself.

Continue to Page 2 for PC beta discussion.

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