While I didn’t think that Fallout 76 was going to be the greatest game ever, I certainly didn’t anticipate that it was going to be such a messy poopfest that it’s become. Bethesda isn’t helping matters by over-promising, under-delivering, bait-and-switching, and being far too quiet. Todd Howard loves to talk up a good game before it launches, but afterward it seems like he’s nowhere to be found.
However, I don’t think that Fallout 76 is a loss here. It shouldn’t be written off and abandoned, not only because it’s supposed to be an enduring online service and will take that revenue stream away from Bethesda, but because it could be salvaged with some hard work. I truly hope that the studio is going to take a cue from, say, ESO or the original FFXIV and double-down on its efforts going forward.
Here are six changes that could help Fallout 76 succeed:
1. Be generous with compensation and talky with communication
Bethesda’s been really stingy with its apologies and compensation since launch, and both of those could go a long way to soothing a riled playerbase. It says that it’s going to be putting out dev posts on a weekly basis, but I almost think that there needs to be more — including a live Q&A session, AMAs, and a developer or two on video talking about all this. Players should be getting rewards of some kind for pre-ordering at full price and putting up with this. How about daily login rewards until the game gets fixed?
2. Get those bugs fixed and don’t hand-wave them away
Bethesda knows that it delivers buggy games. Howard was even mocking the studio during E3 earlier this year for this very thing. But you know what he wasn’t doing? Making sure that F76 was fully tested and as bug-free as possible. Killing those bugs and fixing broken parts needs to be of the highest priority right now, otherwise all other efforts to salvage this game will be rendered futile.
3. Abandon PvP and focus on co-op PvE
I don’t think PvP as its structured will ever work in Fallout 76. The map is far too large and the opt-in system will keep dedicated PvPers away. So just abandon that. Trash it. Look at Fallout 76 as an opportunity for an amazing coop multiplayer experience and do more to facilitate that. Give players better social tools, starting with text chat and guilds.
4. Give the PC an interface worthy of that platform
Does Bethesda hate PC players? At the very least it seems to barely tolerate them, giving PC players horrid ports of the console version instead of designing interfaces that work better with mouse-and-keyboard. At the very least, the inventory should be redesigned so that we don’t have to endlessly scroll through lists.
5. Rethink VATS
VATS as it is in Fallout 76 is barely better than nothing. The game doesn’t work as a straight-up shooter, but it doesn’t work as a Bethesda Fallout game either. The whole VATS system really should be re-examined and a better way found. Hey, if The Matrix Online could do bullet-time in a multiplayer environment 15 years ago, you can too.
6. Free DLC and a relaunch
Fallout 76 is going to suffer from a bad launch and reputation for a while to come, and Bethesda could only make that worse if it tries to sell DLC before the game is shored up. Instead, it could win back fans by releasing a meaty content patch (or three!) for absolutely no cost, at the end of which it could make a big to-do out of relaunching the game with all of that packaged in.