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Players report ‘speed hacking’ exploit in Fallout 76 beta (update)

According to some players, all it takes is the modification of a text file

Fallout 76 - profile of power armor helmet with autumn trees in the background Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Fallout 76 may suffer from a weakness in its graphics code, one that’s present in other games in the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series. That weakness, when exploited in the multiplayer-only online game, could allow PC players to move faster than they otherwise should.

Reports of the flaw showed up recently on Reddit. A user named watto33 said that they altered the .ini files in Fallout 76, a text document used to set parameters for launching the game. Such edits are common among PC enthusiasts, and can include tweaks that allow owners to play games in windowed mode or with additional hardware resources that might not otherwise be available in-game. More often than not, these kinds of modifications are not encouraged by developers.

Over the years, fans of previous games in the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series have come up with a number of .ini modifications that impact performance. In so doing, the community discovered that Bethesda’s engines tend to tie the speed of in-game physics objects to the frame rate. One video on YouTube that’s been watched over half a million times shows a player’s avatar, as well as objects in the game, moving faster and faster as the frame rate climbs higher.

In a single-player game, a modification such as this is simply a novelty. But, in the context of a multiplayer game, it’s considered a serious cheat. Called “speed hacking,” the practice will get you banned in just about any competitive online shooter.

Redditor watto33 claims that the same .ini exploit works in Fallout 76, but has yet to provide video proof to support their claims.

“Unlocking your FPS gives you speed hacks,” they said. “This explains the lack of refresh rate and [field of view] settings in-game. Looks like adjusting these values too much would start to explode the game engine.”

Another Reddit user did post a video. In that clip, players look at the ground to minimize the amount of computing power needed to render the scene. That raises the frame rate, seemingly allowing them to move faster than they otherwise would.

A second, unlisted YouTube video surfaced on Twitter. It shows a player using the .ini exploit and walking indoors at an extremely fast speed.

A bug report complaining about the issue appeared on Bethesda’s official forums soon after. That user said that their problems began when trying to run the game on a high refresh rate monitor. They tinkered with the .ini file in order to unlock the framerate which, in turn, smoothed out the game’s visuals. As a side effect they were also able to “zoom across the map.”

Polygon has reached out to Bethesda for comment.

Fallout 76 is currently in a closed beta period, although access is easy to come by. Betas are designed to uncover these kinds of issues and give developers time to patch them out before a game formally launches. Bethesda got out ahead of the launch of the Fallout 76 beta to warn players they should expect bugs like this, in the form of an open letter:

We all know with the scale of our games, and the systems we let you use, that unforeseen bugs and issues always come up. Given what we’re doing with 76, we know we’re opening everyone up to all new spectacular issues none of us have encountered. Some we’re aware of, such as areas where performance needs to improve with lots of players. Others, we surely don’t. We need your help finding them, and advice on what’s important to fix. We’ll address all of it, now and after launch.

Given the persistence of this particular issue across multiple single-player games, it’s unclear if it will be fixed by launch or what impact it will have on the performance of a multiplayer product.

The next time servers will be live on PC is Nov. 1, from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET. You can find the full beta schedule here. Fallout 76 launches Nov. 14 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.

Update: Bethesda has confirmed to Polygon that it’s aware of the issue, but says a fix won’t be out until the game launches.

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