Jeff Gardiner (Project Leader), Chris Mayer (Noted MMO Expert – Star Wars: Galaxies) and Todd Howard (Bethesda Game Studios Director) featured on the Fallout 76 panel at QuakeCon 2018. It was an absolute blast with a lot of questions finally being answered in detail. If you’re absolutely bursting at the seams with excitement like me, grab a sweet roll and get yourself comfy as I recap some of the major points from the panel.
Character System and Perks
The PERK system that we know and love has had a little bit of a revamp and to be honest with you, I am not too worried. We still have the wonderful S.P.E.C.I.A.L system which breaks down into Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. This was no surprise! However, each S.P.E.C.I.A.L has had their points increased. Now, you can have up to 15 points in each S.P.E.C.I.A.L rather than 10.
Perks will now come in the form of “card packs”. I know that in this modern age of gaming that ‘Micro Transactions’ may have been your first thought. It would make sense. Yet, nothing was mentioned about using ‘real money’.
This new system will enable you to form together combinations of cards, a deck if you will, which consists of a diverse number of different Perk cards. For example – ‘Dodgy’ and ‘Grease Monkey’ were two cards that were shown. You will swap in and swap out different cards which suit how you want to play. Perk cards will vary under each S.P.E.C.I.A.L section.
You will even be able to combine Perk cards to increase the strength of that particular ability. You can do this up to a level 5 strength. You do not need to equip these straight away… it seems that the game encourages you to switch what Perks you are using based on how you’re playing or the situation that arises.
Each time you level up, you will be able to place 1 point in whichever S.P.E.C.I.A.L you want. You will then be able to pick a perk underneath that umbrella. As you level you will acquire “card packs”. These are said to contain 4 random perk cards which gives even more flexibility in how you can use your cards and in what combination. You will obtain these every 2 levels from Level 1-10 and then every 5 levels from Level 10 onwards. These will also contain a joke, in true Bethesda style, and a stick of gum which can help reduce hunger.
You may pull cards that are a higher level than what you are. This is a very real possibility but luckily you can adapt what points you are putting into your S.P.E.C.I.A.L as you level, so if you do want that perk you can obtain easily.
There was no level cap spoken about. Todd did mention “level 73” at one point which could indicate there are infinite levels, the cap is much higher in the hundreds or has not been determined yet. At Level 50 you will no longer gain a S.P.E.C.I.A.L point from leveling up. You will still obtain Perk cards however and as there are way over 100 according to our panelists, the possibilities seem endless.
An interesting question was raised about how Charisma can bring anything to the game knowing there are no human NPC’s. They have expressed that Charisma perks can make a team of real people much more powerful. This can be invaluable if you have a group of people you want to go around with. However, if you do feel more comfortable riding solo there is a “Lone Wanderer” perk which will help you out.
Perks will be shared with your whole group. This was a really interesting and welcomed revelation. The panelists used an example of “finding more ammo in crates”. If you obtain this perk it can be shared out with the rest of your team therefore everyone in your group will find more ammo in crates.
The last reminder was that this game is live so when swapping out perks in the the Wasteland be sure to do it in a safe place.
In terms of Character Customisation it will be as fun and detailed as ever. I found Fallout 4 very good and Fallout 76 seems to build upon this. The biggest shock was that you can change appearance ANYWHERE and at ANYTIME in the game. This means you can even change gender! No more trawling to Diamond City just to get your hair done.
There will be a Photo Mode which is fantastic news if, like me, you are obsessed with being a virtual photographer. In Character Customisation there will be filters and poses which can be used to create an “ID Badge”. In the interesting world of West Virginia you can emote and take pictures over someone’s dead body, next to various creatures and in front of picturesque views.
Possibly the most interesting aspect of Character design itself was the ability to visually see mutations. In Fallout 76 mutations will give you unique abilities. Jeff Gardiner used an example of developing a mutation that helped him to “jump higher but lowered strength”. It was eluded to that you could visually see these mutations but I think it will take the B.E.T.A to tell this for sure. I am extremely excited to see how this will work and whether the mutation will show itself in a variety of different ways.
Unfortunately, we are not closer to getting the B.E.T.A. By that I mean – we will not be gaining access early. October will still be the earliest at which you can test your might in West Virginia. Todd Howard described the reason to be that they are “constantly updating” and a lot “needs to change or be fixed” before the game is ready for the public.
Todd fully expects that the game may break as the B.E.T.A. access is rolled out and that feedback will always be appreciated throughout. The team have made it clear that they need to make sure they are ready to fix any bugs or problems fast and efficiently.
Fallout 76 will be constantly updated and Todd made a point of saying that it may be a “very different game 1 year after its out”. Knowing that the team has a roadmap in their heads is very exciting for fans who may get hooked on playing. More content is always a bonus. Although not mentioned, it has been rumored that all DLC will be free.
PVP seemed to be the most anticipated subject in Fallout 76. Since the game is completely online, it is inevitable that you will meet other players on your journey.
Todd maintained that he wanted an “element of danger” but hopefully without ‘griefing’. As history tells us, these are two things that don’t usually come hand in hand.
When shot at by another player the damage will be minimal. This means that only a small amount of damage will occur to you thus giving you chance to get a hold of your surroundings and defend yourself.
When you have fulfilled your thirst for blood and gotten a kill you will have rewards – for example: if the player was a high level this will mean your caps reward will also be high.
You will be able to seek revenge if someone kills you and this will double the reward if you manage to eliminate them.
If you do not want to engage with a player unfortunately there isn’t much you can do. You will still be killed even if you do not fight back. However, to make sure players do not become tyrants there is a system in place. That player who has killed you, even though you were not interested, will be labelled as a “Wanted Murderer”. During Quake Con 2018 this was met with thunderous applause. A “Wanted Murderer” will not receive any XP, caps or a reward of any kind for that kill. Instead, they will appear as a red star on the map. They will have a bounty on their head and that bounty will come out of their own caps. Furthermore, they will not be able to see any players on the map so if someone goes to claim that bounty they will have the element of surprise on their side.
Locations on the map were described as being “relative” and not “pinpointing” so it will still give you a chance to hide. You will completely disappear from the map if you are sneaking.
So, if you are killed… what happens? It was made clear that when you are killed the only things you will drop is junk and caps. Fallout games define ‘junk’ as crafting materials ultimately, which the panelists made clear was invaluable in this game as it did focus a lot on survival. You will not lose weapons or power armour and depending on how valuable your resources were, you do have the choice to go back and obtain them. It wasn’t made clear whether they could still be obtained even if another player loots the body.
Although you can “ignore and block players” (ignore counts for a session and they will not see you on the map), the best advice that was given was to make sure everything valuable was kept in your stash. Luckily your stash can not be looted by another player. You can keep the stash at your base or there will be “seeds” across the map which will have a default stash for you to use. Todd made it clear that although he did not want players punished for dying, as this was to be expected, it will help you make much tougher decisions. An example the panelists used was going into a dangerous zone. Perhaps, knowing the sacrifice that will be made if you die, it would be best placing items in a stash first.
Jeff reassured everyone that when a player respawns it can be anywhere on the map that has been travelled to. Although not completely clear, at least not for me, he seemed to suggest that there would be a payment for respawning to certain locations. The fee for this would increase the further away you were to that fast travel point. Although, Jeff did make it clear there are “free locations” such as Vault 76 that will not require a cap fee to travel to. I am unsure as to whether this only counts upon respawing after death or whether it extends to fast traveling in general much like Elder Scrolls Online and the way shrine system.
In terms of balance, there wasn’t any talk of matchmaking. There was no mention of whether high level players will be placed in the same server as a beginner or vice versa. What was explained was that there are “2 power curves”. 1 for your power against creatures and 1 for power against other players. According to Todd the curve against other players will be normalised. For example, if a player is wearing Power Armour and has a Minigun and you only have a knife, you can still take them down if you go about it in a more strategic way. The incentive to try and kill people who are a higher level than you will be caps!
Nukes has been a point of interest since it was announced. Nuclear War at your fingerprints is definitely going to get a Fallout fan’s heart racing. Unfortunately, this Q&A did not shine much light on how Nukes will work and the grey areas around it.
We still are not sure on how long the area will be contaminated for, what the range will be, how it will affect the map or how it would affect the story if where you needed to go for a quest was in that area.
All that seemed to be mentioned was that you “do not lose all your stuff”. This is somewhat helpful as lower levels may be afraid they will lose all their progress if they have no hope of destroying what spawns in the gas cloud.
There will be a blueprint system where camps that you have made will be saved and thus easily relocated if the nuke happens where you are inhabiting. This is also helpful because as you explore the map you are bound to come across areas that you would prefer to be your camp.
Camps can be damaged but not to make PVP more interesting, it was actually a strategic decision so that if a player builds you in, you will be able to damage the camp and escape.
How players will interact with each other is hugely important in a multiplayer game. We already saw at E3 back in June that there will be emote wheels and Vault Boy Cartoons. Well, that’s if you come across people who are friendly!
In order to communicate with strangers there will be voice chat. You will be able to turn on the mic and talk with people in that world perhaps turning foe to friend. It was reiterated that you will be able to “mute” people if you aren’t the talking type.
When you think of Fallout, one of the first things you think of is VATS. There have been changes to our beloved targeting system but they no longer seem scary or unwelcome.
VATS will now be in real time. No more slow mo or complete stand still. For this reason VATS will target the entire body and will not pin point in on specific body parts. This is because the real time will be far too fast to hone in on particular points. However, there is a perk that can allow you to do this.
VATS will focus in on the whole body and show a percentage as we have seen in past Fallout games. Your accuracy is dependent on how high your Perception is on your S.P.E.C.I.A.L tree. Perception starts at 1 so Todd expressed that your VATS skill may not be strong to begin with. As you put more dedication into Perception, the skill will increase which makes sense. VATS will still be a vital tool to help players in combat.
The Fallout Soundtrack has arguably the best music of any video game and Fallout 76 is not going to let that die. There will be licensed music and radio stations which will hopefully bring about more DJ gems such as Three Dog. Todd confirmed Fallout 76 will have “more tracks than ever” and will be filled with “bizarre, old 40s music”.
We should expect a mixture of classic songs from the franchise and new ones that not only suit the mood of Fallout but also have lyrics that suit the post-apocalyptic environment.
Todd confirmed that there will be private servers which is something a lot of people have been wanting. Fallout is filled to the brim, as well as Elder Scrolls, with unique and awesome mods.
Mr Howard explained that although the process will be “complicated”, he is totally “committed to it” and it is a “problem that will be solved”.
This will be very exciting news for hardcore fans, especially PC Gamers, who can take full advantage of turning the West Virginia world into their playground.
That gets you up to scratch. The adventure and exploration aspect of Fallout will be stronger than ever and Todd described the game as having “to be real”. I am fully prepared to get sucked into Fallout 76 and love every minute of it whether solo or in a group. Although I still have a mountain of questions, my mind has been put to ease and I hope yours has as well.
The main thing I took from the panel is that Fallout 76 will be “80% the Fallout we know and love” and “20%” something new. I’m absolutely down for that. Following total atomic annihilation, I hope to see you all out there.