Disclaimer: It is important to establish, first off, that while I am considered a ‘Bethesda fan girl’, I don’t belong to the sub-type of ‘Fallout fan girl’. In fact, I have barely played any of the Fallout games. On the other hand, I have played every single Elder Scrolls game. Yes, that includes Arena, Daggerfall and even Redguard. Needless to say, this is why it is so alarming that whatever went down with the Fallout 76 fiasco has left someone like me, who never planned to touch it in the first place, completely terrified about where Bethesda is going.
The Fallout 76 Fiasco in a Nutshell
Fallout 76 is, without exaggeration, a complete disaster of a game. It isn’t just a flop, or a result of too much hype – the game, even without all the promises, is completely terrible. Bethesda wanted it to be a multiplayer experience of a singleplayer RPG, yet it is lacking in both aspects. Let’s just look at a few points to begin with:
- Fallout 76, just like Fallout 4 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, runs on the Creation Engine. Let me give you a little guess on how old the engine is. It was created in 2011, which, for your information, is very very mature for a game engine. Is that inherently a problem? No, which is why we look at what it has resulted in.
- The glitches and bugs inherent in all Bethesda singleplayer games, which to some extent, is the result of the outdated game engine, is still in this multiplayer game. Do you genuinely not see the problem here, Bethesda? It is completely acceptable – at the worst, a nuisance, and at its best, utterly hilarious – when our singleplayer games screw up. It was funny when a corpse in Skyrim started following around or a bear is just stuck in a T-pose. Yes, it means, most of the time, that I will have to revert to an old save, but it is in no way completely game-breaking. But it is absolutely game-breaking in Fallout 76! There are numerous videos on Youtube and Reddit showing a huge portion of the player base running around with glitched God mode, stuck in a power armour, etc. etc. It’s not funny anymore, Bethesda, when we can’t load an old save because this is an online game!
- Oh, for the love of Kynareth and Akatosh and the Nine Divines, why did you take out quests? No, having an audio-log play in the background and then give you a mission is NOT a quest. A quest in an RPG means having a character, who exists and lives in the game, give you a task that is worth something to the world or him/her. Yes, Skyrim had some half-arsed quests too, and I do believe Oblivion had better ones, but you are comparing with the industry standard, not just with yourself. Take a look at the majesty that is Witcher 3! Even in World of Warcraft, which is the most popular MMORPG out there, there are quests with a lot more meaning and impact – and this is given that MMORPG give up the singleplayer immersion for multiplayer experience. Which is what Bethesda was aiming for, but did they do well in this?
- Absolutely not. 100% failure. My friend lent me his account to play for the first 20 minutes and I immediately decided “you know what, if I wanted to play something multiplayer, I’m playing either CSGO if I want guns, or WoW”. Why? Because even while I am in the character creation screen, I can hear a 13 year old boy’s mom yelling at him, another guy making sexual noises and chatting me up, etc. etc. For the love of Julianos and all his wisdom, why is there no “push to talk” option in a multiplayer game? That is basic! MMOs made 20 years ago had such a function because game developers understood that players don’t always want to talk to everyone in the game! In fact, they never want to talk to every single player!
- The PvP is atrocious! And this comes from someone who plays PvP in many MMOs, from something as niche as Runescape and Rift, to CSGO, L4D and WoW. Let’s just take Runescape for an example. It is a game that has very much fallen off the radar because it is remembered as that game we played back in 2005-7. Even then, it still has an amazing PvP system that is often updated and works well. What does Fallout 76 give us? You cannot engage in PvP unless the other person consents – but this system is terrible. What this boils down to is the fact that, if you try to initiate a fight, the other player takes almost no damage while you waste previous resources. However, the moment they decide to fire back, PvP mode is on, and you end up taking full damage instantly. Not only that, whichever player initiates the fight gets close to nothing if they win, and stand too lose a lot if they lose. Bethesda, are you actually stupid? How can you incentivise players to engage in PvP when the cost of engaging in PvP outweight the benefits?
- Bethesda’s response to criticisms honestly has some gamers, including me, claiming that “It seems like EA has a competitor when it comes to terrible business practices.” And you know it’s bad when EA has better business practices than you, Bethesda! And their games tend to work too. So many examples come to mind here. Players want a refund, because their games are so glitched they literally cannot play, but you refuse refunds now. You sold a collector’s edition of about $200, promising certain items, but ended up not including that specific item without warning players. Fun fact, Bethesda, in some countries, that is straightup illegal! Customer deception is against the law!
- Have you seen the micro-transactions? Sure, there is no gambling aspect, but should Bethesda be congratulated for the bare minimum? Seriously, a hairstyle for USD$5? Are you absolutely out of your mind, Bethesda?
So if I had to summarise this into a few points: (1) the game is so full of glitches it very often became unplayable, (2) the game fails as an RPG and as a multiplayer game on the most fundamental aspects that Bethesda honestly shouldn’t be failing at, and (3) Bethesda’s response is absolutely atrocious, making them one of the current worst, if not the absolute worst, in terms of business practices in the gaming industry right now.
And 2018 saw so many good games too. Thanks, Bethesda. And this comes from a fan girl who has been waiting years and years for the new Elder Scrolls. I think the bottom few videos express my points the best:
1. Angry Joe goes through each of the points I’ve raised very well. It is a very long video, but very thorough, great for gamers who are actually looking to buy the game.
2. You know how bad it is when a channel named ESO – Elder Scrolls Online – comes out to admit how bad Fallout 76 is. This is a channel, which like some others, survive off Bethesda content (yes, ESO is by Zenimax, but Bethesda was involved as well, since Elder Scrolls is their Intellectual Property). This is a fan who spend $200 willingly to support Bethesda and got completely disrespected by their bad practices.
3. Again, Fudgemuppet is a channel that survives off Bethesda content. I first found them because of my obsession over Elder Scrolls and I connected with them over the understanding and wonder at Elder Scrolls lore.
Does That Mean You Shouldn’t Buy the Game?
No. I’m not here to tell you what to do with your money. I’m here to make a point, as part of the outcry against Bethesda. And I’m doing this because I am a fan, and because Fallout 76 makes a fan like me absolutely terrified about supporting future products from the company.
Here, I must warn my fellow outraged gamers – please stop shaming fellow gamers for purchasing the game. If they enjoyed it, then it’s something they like and there’s nothing wrong with that. Everytime a video game controversy like that comes up, it seems like both camps are just getting way too heated. We have the hardcore fanboys and fangirls refusing to admit that there is anything wrong with the game. But we also have haters that refuse to allow others to enjoy the game. Let people choose what to enjoy!
Where is Fallout 76 Heading Right Now?
Like I said, some of the things that Bethesda is doing with Fallout 76 is straight-up illegal under business or commercial law in some countries. Currently, a firm in Washington DC is seeking information about filing a class-action lawsuit against Bethesda. What is the problem here? – “[…] a combination of nasty release bugs and an alleged refusal to grant refunds via Bethesda’s game client, Bethesda.net, the only place the game can be bought for PCs. (Even buying the “physical” copy only gets you a physical case, which contains a download code printed on an insert.) While Steam has a digital return policy, Bethesda.net doesn’t, and in regions where refunding buggy products isn’t legally mandated, that means you may very well not get that money back.” (Wired, 30/11/2018) There’s the other thing, Fallout 76 isn’t on Steam, further adding to the speculation that Bethesda was intending for refunds to be impossible which means they knew their game was sub-par.
What Does This Mean in the Wider Scope?
For Bethesda and Bethesda IPs
Like I said, the majority of Bethesda fans are scared. Yes, there exists the minority that will stick by them no matter what, and there exists fans who remain hopeful – but Bethesda, listen, business is about customer loyalty if you want to gain in the long-run, that’s the basics of business. Yes, Bethesda is still going to make back their money from Fallout 76. Yes, some fans will still stick around. Yes, the micro-transactions are going to give them lots of profits too. But the problem is, you end up sacrificing a long-term profit-making technique for short-term ‘dirty money’. Honestly, this does not come as an appeal towards your ‘good graces’, because business does not function on that. It is just insanely stupid to not realise that the Bethesda fanbase is incredibly loyal – even to an extent that it stands out among the rest – and it is stupid to give away this one advantage you have in the industry.
You told us that Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI will still be on the Creation Engine. Yes, the engine can be improved to better fit these games. Yes, you don’t have to throw away an engine and start from scratch. But wake up, Bethesda – Fallout 4, and even Skyrim (2011), were graphically behind for their times. Fallout 76 looks like something that is played in the earlier days of the previous generation consoles. You need top-notch graphics to attract new players, because they can’t just love it for the lore – those are the things old players come back for. At this point, I’m so pessimistic about Elder Scrolls VI that I might not even buy it until 3 months after its release…in god knows what year.
For the Gaming Industry
Well, it’s actually not a bad development – the lawsuit that is. This game was released barely over 2 weeks ago, and a lawsuit is being prepared. This means that the gaming community is done putting up with dishonest business practices. Yes, it is incredibly sad that Bethesda, one of the companies tooted by its fans (including me) as being “the one company that won’t follow EA’s example”, is actually worse than EA right now. Yet, seeing as how up-in-arms gamers are, it’s a good thing – it’s about time we start pressuring these companies to do their jobs properly.
Why Should You Care?
“It’s just video games,” I hear, “Why be so up-in-arms about it?”
Because video games now make up a huge part of the entertainment and media industry, whether you like it or not. Playing video games can now be a career, and indie developers are also on the rise. Video games also exist as a coping mechanism for many teenagers and young adults going through stress or mental illnesses, as a better alternative for those with less excess to physical exercise or outdoor activities. It is part-and-parcel of modern life, and of the people around you. The video game industry and community are not isolated from other companies or society, a surge in bad practice can spread like a virus, but good news can also have domino effect.