Fallout 76 Multiplayer Could Learn Much From its Sibling

Platforms: All

We don’t know what Fallout 76’s multiplayer will be like.

Despite the best speculation from YouTube gamers, the reassurances of the gaming press who’ve sampled the game, and the most passionate assurances from Bethesda, there’s no way yet of knowing if the game’s multiplayer will be loved or hated. In fact, we don’t know exactly what we’ll even do online in the game – will it just another Bethesda role-playing game but with other players clipping through the walls? Will it play out like one massive Battlefield match? All we know is the brief marketing snippets we’ve received.

Since Fallout games have typically been solo experiences, it remains to be seen if the introduction of multiplayer ruins Fallout 76, or merely transforms it to something new.

It’s worth remembering, however that Fallout 76 isn’t the first multiplayer Fallout game. Fallout Tactics included it in 2001 and, more recently, multiplayer found its way into the Fallout universe in another way. Fallout: The Board Game is a single-player or multiplayer board game set in the Fallout universe (if you couldn’t tell from the name), and it’s pretty fantastic. Its co-operative or competitive elements and mechanics could teach Bethesda an important lesson in how multiplayer would work well in Fallout 76.

Fallout 76 Multiplayer: Making Quests Shared

Quests in Fallout: The Board Game progress similar to in the video games – completing one will unlock one or more further quests. However, they’re communal –if you receive a quest to go to a certain location, another player nearer that location could get there quicker, claim the reward, and initiate the next quest, thereby cutting you out. The consequences for quest actions are passed on to all, but not the rewards.

There are different ways to complete F:TBG's quests.

In the large servers of Fallout 76 this wouldn’t work, as there’s no chance every player would be engaging with a quest line at the particular moment. However it would make for an engaging world event, in which each server plays host to a temporary quest line that players can engage in or ignore, which encompasses the whole map but can only be completed once. Players could compete to complete the quest first, grief each other to hinder progress, or communally complete it in an agreeable way that provides sufficient reward for all.

If GTA Online shows anything, it’s that nothing creates unique situations in an online game more than temporary events – street fights can break out just to claim a relatively worthless cargo drop, since only one player can claim it. A chain of causal events would take this concept to its logical extreme, and have players racing across the map to complete objectives.

The mechanic in F:TBG motivates you to complete quests, as later quests bring better rewards, but makes you wary that other players could capitalise on your success. As a result, you become paranoid that other players have malicious intent, and sometimes even handicap yourself to stop them succeeding – all of which seems remarkably fitting for a post-nuclear world in which resources are scarce and backstabbing may be necessary to survive. By introducing communal quests to Fallout 76, but making completing them a tactical decision, Bethesda would evoke this same feeling of uneasiness.

Fallout 76 Multiplayer: Increasing Enemy Spawns

It seems the main group activity available in Fallout 76 is shooting enemies, which is a solid gameplay mechanic for an RPG shooter, but hopefully Bethesda have altered the enemy spawn mechanics from previous Fallouts to reflect its multiplayer focus.

In Fallout: The Board Game, when enemies spawn, they chase the nearest player. This means you can avoid combat by putting another player between you and the opponents, or just running away for the whole game. In addition, more enemies spawn in randomised encounters or at the end of each turn – enemies will pop their heads up all over the map at intervals, and you can find yourself faced with enemies you weren’t expecting.

Imagine if Fallout 76's wildlife behaved like a real ecosystem, in which killing one enemy type increased the prevalence of another.

A brilliant addition to Fallout 76 multiplayer would be individual spawns for each player – if two players stumble across a location at the same time, different factions spawn at the location for both, which would lead to intense four-way battles between the two factions and two players. This would benefit the emergent experience of exploring the world, and make you think twice about following around other players.

On top of that, if certain enemies didn’t despawn (such as ghouls, or raiders), when certain players caused them to spawn but ran away without killing them, these enemies could chase down or ambush unsuspecting players. Random encounters are some of the best parts of Bethesda games, and this would be a novel way of creating new ones.

Fallout 76 Multiplayer: Shaping Factions' Progression

Fallout: The Board Game is interesting (or annoying, depending on who you ask) because all players can lose. This is down to the ‘faction’ mechanic, as factions are important forces in the game world. They can be befriended or attacked – but if they gain too much power (from players completing quests) they can win the game.  Over the game you must complete quests without letting any faction become too powerful, while hoping the other players have the same idea, too – if any of your opponents are close to winning, they may choose to help the factions to increase their advantage. The tension from the game comes from knowing your relationship with a faction, and a faction’s prevalence in the world, can be affected by your opponent’s actions.

This type of mechanic, in which a dynamic world can be shaped by the efforts of players, would be perfect for an online Fallout game. An ever-changing world is what makes players want to return to online games – classics like World of Warcraft or Guild Wars are every-changing, and that’s what makes players return to the game. In addition, factions are an integral part to Fallout games.

The Responders are a new faction introduced with Fallout 76.

Implementing a F:TBG style factions system would be incredibly easy in the game – killing particular enemies or completing certain quests would have ramifications on a faction’s geographical reach or prevalence across the map, influenced by each player’s actions. A mechanic like this would let players feel that they had an effect on the world, but other players wouldn’t necessarily have their experiences changed.

The consensus between fans of Fallout 76 is that there will be no factions, as there are no non-hostile NPCs, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Recent tweets from the Fallout twitter channel have confirmed four factions and counting: the Brotherhood of Steel, Raiders, the Responders, and the Free States. What role they’ll play in the game is uncertain, but at least it confirms there will be different factions competing for control of West Virginia.

Here's to Hoping Fallout 76 is Good

Fallout: The Board Game is a captivating board game for fans of board games or Fallout, as it combines RPG and world building elements to create an engaging experience. You feel engaged in the development of your character, the world, and the story – which is ironic, as the absence of these are some of the main complaints fans have of Fallout 76 before release.

While the marketing material clearly focuses on the multiplayer elements of the game over things that Fallout fans adore about the games, such as the characters, stories or world, we’ll have to wait for the game to be released until we know for sure. Bethesda are the creators of The Elder Scrolls VI: Skyrim and Fallout 3, and they’ve definitely earned the benefit of the doubt from these incredible games.

If Fallout 76 does go down the action-packed warfare mode, at least there will be a board game that reflects it in that form too – a war gaming range for the franchise, called Fallout: Wasteland Warfare has just been released.

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