Fallout 76’s new Worlds put the game in the hands of the fans

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Fallout 76 - key art for Fallout Worlds, which shows a Vault Boy grinning and walking around a customizable world full of hijinx

Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

Fallout Worlds is a much more customizable take on Fallout 76, one that allows players to twist various dials under the hood of the game. Change the weather on a whim, jump off cliff sides, or set up a little township with your pals. These private servers are meant to be the foundation for future updates, and Bethesda is watching to see how players use these tools and what worlds they begin to build.

At its foundation, Worlds provides options that run along a gradient. On one end of the extreme, you have sandbox silliness. Jump super high, walk through the Wasteland while random enemies constantly chase you around, or fire infinite Fat Man nukes at your friends. On the other end of the spectrum are tools to help role-players and hardcore players create a consistent sense of canon for their own community.

Build bigger and better

Including prototyping and experiments, Worlds has been in production for a year and a half while the team managed other projects and updates. It hits a different angle than story updates like Wastelanders, or challenges like the Daily Ops — it’s far more open to player expression and control.

“We leaned pretty heavy into the CAMP building, because we figured this is one of the places where this can shine the most and where our player base is interested in wanting more,” said Bo Buchanan, lead on Fallout Worlds at Bethesda, in an interview with Polygon. “There are technical reasons why there’s certain stuff we can’t do in the main game.”

Fallout 76 teaser - computer desk

Image: Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

An example he gives is pathing — you can’t clutter your CAMP up with so much stuff so that other people can’t get around. But on a Private World, you can create a murderous maze, or a small settlement, like a mid-sized town. Or you can build up an existing town like Charleston in game to create the illusion of a sprawling, modernized Appalachian city.

“We didn’t do some of the things I know the community is asking for, like being able to build closer to each other or have CAMP overlap,” Buchanan said. “There’s some things we’re not fully prepared to jump into at the moment, that we can look at in the future.”

From Adventure to Worlds and back again

Adventure characters are the standard Fallout 76 experience, with access to the whole world. Players can take that character and clone them for Private Worlds, bringing all of their perks and progress along for the ride. “You can have five World links right now across your entire account,” said Buchanan. “You can have your Adventure character linked to five different Worlds, or link five different characters to the same World. We might move that [limit] up in the future, but that’s where we started.”

You can’t bring your loot back from Private Worlds, so all of your sweet legendaries or great armor sets have to stay out of your Adventure mode. However, players will still earn access to things like Legendary Perks, which will backfill onto Adventure servers after they’re done playing on a World. In short, you can still progress and your time isn’t wasted, but you can’t smuggle illicit loot back to unleash on other, unsuspecting players.

Fallout 76 - a player surveys the in game territory of Appalachia

Bethesda Game Studios / Bethesda Softworks via Polygon

Setting the scene

“One of the best things we can do is get tools in front of players] to show us how they can be used,” said Buchanan. “Then we can enhance that and help build on it in the future. We didn’t go too crazy with the settings because we want to see what people lean into.”

“Obviously Worlds is a very high priority effort,” said Mark Tucker, design director at Bethesda, in the same interview. “It’s a delicate balancing act. A lot of this is going to be influenced by how well it’s received. We’ll be looking at what the players are doing. What do they like, what don’t they like? That helps inform us as to what we should prioritize.”

“When we were building a lot of the settings, we tried to pay special attention to all the different types of players we have. Some people like to build, some people like to explore, or tell their own stories, or do their own videos or those kind of things. We tried to find a good gamut of settings across the board that would appeal to everyone,” said Buchanan. “One of my favorites was like, ‘I just want to be able to play with my dad, my grandfather, or my kid who can’t play the game when it’s as difficult as it is now.’”

I’ve enjoyed Bethesda’s quests just fine, but some of my favorite moments in the game have been about building a persistent world with my friends. I have spent evenings writing lore for my Fallout character and guarding my buddy’s shop from bandits. Bethesda put up guardrails to ensure that we can have our fun and also meet other people in the world, but I’m looking forward to tearing them down and creating a playground for our personal group.

So, where does Fallout 76 go next? More than ever, that question is in the hands of fans. Private Worlds releases on Wednesday. Players with the Fallout First subscription service will be able to start their own World with custom settings, and invite their friends (even the ones without Fallout First.) Everyone can also join Public Worlds, which offer more of a sandbox-y, experimental twist on the usual Fallout formula.

 

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