There has been a massive backlash since the release of Fallout 76. Players are complaining of endless bugs and a huge lack of content. Although there are a lot of players that are having a good time with the game, the overriding view is that Bethesda has released a half finished game that completely misses the point of what people loved about the previous Fallout games. When it was first announced, people were hyped about the idea of a multiplayer online version of the Fallout universe and all of that anticipation makes the disappointment even worse. The developers have come under fire on social media in a big way, but is it time we cut them some slack? Yes, there are a lot of problems with the game but they’re working to fix them and at the minute, Fallout 76 is still a work in progress. It’s easy for players to complain about the game but it was an incredibly ambitious thing to do and most people don’t have a sense of just how hard it is to create a great online multiplayer game. Before you start having a go at Bethesda, have a look at what goes into a game like this.
Security is a big deal in online gaming because you’ve probably got your credit card details attached to your Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus or Steam account. If developers don’t put a level of security in their online games, it would be easy for people to get at your details and clear out your bank account. That means developers need to implement a real-world identity verification service and a robust firewall to protect you while you play. That’s tough when you’re running such a large application with plenty of different ways in.
Once you’re past the security, you’re ready to join a lobby and start playing. On your end, you wait a while for it to load and you’re dropped into a game with a bunch of other players, but behind the scenes, there’s a massive amount of computing power required to run that. Running a large single player open world is difficult enough, now imagine that you’re running that same world with loads of players simultaneously and they all need to be able to interact with one another in real time. There has been a lot of complaints about the lack of NPCs in Fallout 76 but when the servers are already handling all of the players, the enemies and the world around you, it’s a big ask.
The database server holds all of the base information about the game and governs things like combat outcomes, loot that you find, notes that you need to read for quests and the environment around you. That’s a whole lot of data and on top of all of that, it saves your progress in the game as well. If there are any microtransactions like the atom store in Fallout 76 or loot boxes, this is all run on the database server as well. Running all of that while the login server is handling all of the players on top requires a lot of computing power and so, naturally, you’re going to get bugs from time to time.
I’m not saying that players should just accept the game as it is. When you’ve paid for a product you expect it to deliver and there are plenty of other massive online multiplayer games that manage it properly. But Fallout 76 is an ambitious project that has a lot of potential, so cut Bethesda a bit of slack and give them some time to work out the kinks before you judge the game.