Fallout 76 Effect (opens in new tab) wasn’t in great shape when it was released in 2018 – in fact, it earned a spot on our list of worst releases in PC gaming history (opens in new tab)– and a new one kotaku (opens in new tab) report on the game’s development may shed some light on why. Interviews with current and former employees of Bethesda Softworks and parent company ZeniMax reveal a development process that was light on leadership, heavy on crisis, and marred by rivalries between studios.
The report says that the development of Fallout 76 was particularly difficult for the testers, who worked 10 hours a day, six days a week in the months leading up to release. The situation unfortunately did not improve when the game went live, as it was ruined with insects (opens in new tab) and lacking a number of basic features. This brought the grotesque but predictable anger of gamers into the equation: One tester told the site about a bug report that read, “I’m going to get a gun and go to the QA department and shoot them all.”
This unhappiness came as no surprise to many developers on the project, according to the report. The absence of NPCs was a point of particular concern for some: one source said the decision, which was supported by executive producer Todd Howard, was necessitated by the challenges of adapting the Creation Engine, previously used in Skyrim and Fallout 4 – both singleplayer games. — for a multiplayer environment.
Fallout 76 was also Bethesda’s first live service game, and management reportedly didn’t anticipate the scale of the task. Concerns about grief, stability issues, and quests were raised by some designers but dismissed by studio leadership, while in-game event designs were hampered by things like uncertainty about how many players would be on a server. Some senior developers weren’t too excited about making a live service game in the first place, and multiplayer development features weren’t effectively deployed.
“Although we had experimented with multiplayer designers [in both Rockville and Austin]they were routinely sidelined and ignored,” says a source. “During development, our design director Emil [Pagliarulo] didn’t seem to want to get involved with the product. He didn’t want to have any dealings with it… or read anything we put in front of him.”
Ironically, it looks like Bethesda was relying on their version of “BioWare’s Magic (opens in new tab)” to make Fallout 76 a success. The studio has a well-established track record of creating massive blockbusters with relatively small teams, and is apparently expected to do the same with Fallout 76. This, of course, inevitably led to the crunch: A The source described it as “voluntary overtime” because employees were told that if no one volunteered to work over the weekend, the entire team would be called.
It does not seem that the situation has changed considerably since Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda (opens in new tab) in 2021. Sources say Microsoft is taking a largely disinterested approach to Bethesda for fear of upsetting the balance of a studio that, by all outward appearances, is firing on all cylinders.
The full report significantly delves into working conditions at Bethesda and is particularly notable in light of the growing effort to unionization (opens in new tab) in development studios. read all in kotaku (opens in new tab).