Fallout 76, One Year Later

By Ethan Gach on at

Bethesda launched Fallout 76 one year ago today, and almost everything that could go wrong did. And yet 12 months later it’s still around, still getting updates, and full of players who remain willing to pour their best and most creative energies into trying to make it an interesting and wondrous place.

It’s been a long road up to this point, though, and the end of it feels too far away to comprehend. Here’s a look at everything that happened to get Fallout 76 to this point.

Before the Fallout 76 beta even starts, Bethesda tries to set expectations, warning of bugs and other potential issues. “Given what we’re doing with 76, we know we’re opening everyone up to all new spectacular issues none of us have encountered,” the company said in a letter to players.

• The beta starts on October 23, and there are indeed problems, ranging from the sorts of glitches that have become standard in Bethesda’s big open-world games to more frustrating issues like entire game files being deleted.

• In early November, before Fallout 76 is officially released, Bethesda announces that it is already looking to address a number of problems and complaints, including increasing the size of players stashes where they keep all of their items.

• Fallout 76 launches on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 14. People are critical of its uneven performance and the loneliness of its world, which is devoid of traditional non-player characters. To make up for this, some players start role-playing as NPCs themselves, offering newcomers extra supplies and toasting them with beers.

• People who ordered the £175 limited Power Armor edition end up getting a cheap nylon duffel bag instead of the canvas one that had been advertised. This leads to a number of complaints on social media from angry players, with Bethesda support representatives saying the change was due to last-minute material shortages.

• Within the first week, players figure out how to solve the game’s nuclear launch code system with a brute force algorithm, making triggering the endgame activity simply a matter of diligently farming silo key cards out in the wild.

• Fallout 76 gets its first post-launch patch on November 19 to address bugs and improve stability, but enough problems remain that it still occasionally feels broken.

•  As more and more reviews start pouring in, the Metacritic score plunges into the 50s alongside a steady stream of harsh user reviews. It becomes clear that the multiplayer doesn’t live up to the sort of “shared community rebuilding society together” that Bethesda hyped up at E3.

• Players also complain about the bobby pins, which weigh 60 times more than actual bobby pins.

• On November 28, Bethesda apologises to Power Armor Edition owners and promises them 500 Atoms of premium currency, which is even less than a virtual messenger bag costs inside the game. A week later, the company says it will send out replacement bags.

• Bethesda releases a new patch on December 4, but makes a number of changes that aren’t listed in the patch notes. Community managers apologise to players and pledge to release more thorough notes for subsequent patches.

• Players pour one out for the Feed the People public event, which no longer awards everyone on the server with food after that particularly beloved bug gets patched out on December 11. Meanwhile, other, more serious problems, like players becoming glitched after trying to exit their Power Armor, persist.

• Fallout 76 kicks off its 2019 with glitched nuke silos. Bethesda briefly takes it offline to fix them.

• Bethesda fixes the weight of bobby pins on January 10. Wasteland thieves rejoice.

• The next day, players discover a secret “developer’s room” into which players can glitch. It includes one of every item in the game, seemingly for testing purposes.

• Some players begin to get fed up with a growing black market of legendary items that were created using duplication glitches. They decide to form posses and start trying to hunt opposing players they suspect of trading duplicated items in-game.

• On January 17, Bethesda announces it’s going to do more to crack down on players who abuse exploits like duplicating items, including banning players who attempt to break into the recently discovered “developer’s room.”

• Explosive damage weapons, which had previously been destroying everyone and everything in the wasteland, finally get nerfed in a patch that goes out at the end of the month. Unfortunately, the patch also breaks bobby pin weights again, leaving a bunch of dedicated players to throw up their hands at the two-steps-forward, one-step-back post-launch development.

• Some stores in Europe start giving away Fallout 76 for free to anyone who buys an Xbox One or PS4 controller.

• Despite Fallout 76's continued problems, plenty of players still stick with it, spending their time finding ways to glitch into as-yet-unopened vaults and creating elaborate campsites, like a vicious maze with a giant Deathclaw at the end of it.

• In March, Bethesda adds the first new questline since launch and a new crafting bench that lets players distill their own hooch. A new Survival mode also gets introduced, where PVP is encouraged and players get rewarded with more experience and caps for killing one another. It has some problems, though, including players camping fast-travel spawn points.

• Bethesda also adds a limited-time event called the Fasnacht Parade. During it, players from all over the map join up in the town of Helvetia, don bizarre masks, and blow away baddies together. It pulls everyone together and makes them forget about the overall state of the game for a few weeks as they glimpse how rewarding a multiplayer Fallout can feel.

• Bethesda holds a fan event at PAX East on March 29 where, during a panel discussion about the future of Fallout 76, game director Todd Howard says at least one fan was so angry about the bobby pin situation that they mailed him a box of bobby pins.

• In April, Bethesda says it will start selling in-game repair kits for real money. Previously, Fallout 76’s microtransactions didn’t meaningfully affect gameplay, but the new repair kits will let players pay money to instantly fix their gear whenever they want. People begin freaking out on the game’s subreddit, but Bethesda sticks to its guns and adds the items to the Atom store as planned.

• Fallout 76 gets its first new dungeon since launch later that month, but it’s a short and somewhat underwhelming addition given the five rocky months of updates that preceded it. More interesting is an equippable camera that gets added a week later and allows players to take in-game snapshots to complete a unique and heartfelt scavenger hunt quest.

• In May, capitalism comes back to the wasteland with player-owned and operated vending machines. Players put whatever they want to sell in them, and whoever else happens to wander on by can pick it up if they’re willing to pay the price. Not one to be cut out of the action, Bethesda levies a tax on all vendor transactions to help combat potential inflation. Even so, the new economy leads to happier players and nicer interactions.

• At E3 in June, Bethesda announces that Fallout 76 will finally get proper NPCs later in the year. It also rolls out a battle royale mode called Nuclear Winter turns out to be weird but fun.

• On June 14, eight months after Fallout 76 originally shipped, Power Armor Edition players say they’ve finally started receiving the canvas bags they were promised.

• It doesn’t take long for the Nuclear Winter meta to shake out. Within a few weeks players are rampaging through matches using the frog legs perk and grenade launchers to wreak silly levels of havoc.

• The 11th big update goes live on July 16 and immediately breaks a bunch of stuff. Some players instantly die when walking past random locations. Others find that pieces of their Power Armor have disappeared. Some cosmetics purchased with real money don’t work. The mess renews calls by players for a public test server.

• That same month, Bethesda releases a bundle of cosmetics that costs £22, a price that is taken as an insult by some players who have stuck with the game through thick and thin.

• Fallout 76 gets its first raid on August 20. One group of players trying to complete it is foiled when their teammate gets trapped in her Power Armor due to a bug. Another manages to complete the raid only to get a useless power drill rather than a legendary gun.

• While the new raid content feels overly tedious at parts and doesn’t break the mold of any of the existing dungeons, players continue to work on interesting projects of their own. One of them, Jaret Burkett, spends the late summer slowly and methodically mapping the locations of every item.

• In September, Bethesda adds a limited-time suburban map to the battle royale mode. It’s fun, and more reminiscent of Fortnite. In October, players decide to start posing and taking selfies to mimic famous album covers.

• On October 17, Bethesda announces that the long-awaited NPC update has been delayed, and won’t arrive until sometime in 2020. “We’ve continued to re-evaluate and change our processes to make sure the work we’re doing hits our quality bar, and yours,” it says.

• What is ready to roll out, on October 23, is a £100 annual subscription service called Fallout 1st. Players who fork over the money get access to private servers, unlimited storage of their scrap, a new fast-travel tent they can place anywhere, bonus cosmetics, and extra in-game currency.

• The next day, early adopters of the controversial service are met with – what else? – more bugs. Some players find that their limitless scrap boxes actually disappear their items completely, while the private servers aren’t entirely private, letting anyone from your friends list join if they choose to. Bethesda announces that it’s working on fixing the issues.

• The service also leads to the beginnings of a class war between Fallout 76 players, with some complaining that the service creates a tiered system and threatening to hunt down subscribers if they’re found wandering around public servers.

• Tired of being insulted, some Fallout 1st subscribers begin taking pride in their new status and try to band together. They form the Apocalyptic Aristocracy clan, strutting around the wasteland in the fanciest and most expensive cosmetics they have and fending off any “peasants” who might try to take them down.

• On Halloween, an Australian court orders Bethesda’s parent company, Zenimax, to pay out refunds to any Fallout 76 owner in that country who requested one before June 1.

And that’s where Fallout 76 currently stands. The update that might have turned it into the more single-player-centric RPG many wanted has been delayed, and some parts of the community have been split apart, divided on Bethesda’s approach to monetisation. The company was certainly right about one thing though: rebuilding Appalachia after the bombs fell was never going to be easy.