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Fallout 76’s human NPC update delayed into next year

Private servers arrive next week, though

Seen from behind, two roughly costumed figures escort a woman wearing a Vault 76 jumpsuit
Apparently this is Vault 76’s overseer? We’ve only heard her voice since the game launched last November.
Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Fallout 76 has a “new release date” for its Wastelanders free update — the one that brings NPCs into the game. “New release date” is a PR euphemism for saying it’s all been delayed.

Bethesda Game Studios said this morning that Wastelanders will now arrive in the first quarter of 2020, meaning as late as March 31. “It’s going to need more time to be the best, most polished update it can be,” Bethesda said. “We’ve continued to re-evaluate and change our processes to make sure the work we’re doing hits our quality bar, and yours.”

Wastelanders was announced back at E3 2019, with a self-deprecating appearance by Bethesda Game Studios creative director Todd Howard, who acknowledged that launching a role-playing game without any human characters to interact with might not have been the best idea (that was all his call, BTW.)

So it stands to reason that “Wastelanders is turning out to be one of the largest expansions we’ve ever done,” as Bethesda put it. Obviously, human NPCs will introduce not just missions, but dialogue trees (and, one assumes, charisma-influenced or other conversational options). The latter has been completely absent from 76, where in-world NPC interaction has been a linear conversation with robots or a holotape recording.

But hey, better news, private servers are finally launching — next week! This is the Fallout 76 community’s No. 1 ask, and it will give role-players more structure to act out their elaborate concepts of post-apocalachia with friends.

Bethesda also obliquely acknowledged that the Atomic Shop’s influence over the game has rankled many players. The storefront, where real money can buy in-game items, was originally intended as a market for cosmetics and other whimsies. Last month, the Atomic Shop began offering gameplay advantages — scrap and repair kits, and a refrigerator to preserve raw and cooked foods.

While those time-savers are, apparently, very popular with Atomic Shop customers, Bethesda did say, “We want to create an Atomic Shop experience where players feel good about spending their hard-earned Atoms.” I.e. some items now give the impression that cheating is for sale.

“To make the system more fun and engaging for all players, we plan on reworking parts of the Challenge and reward system next year to be clearer, more fun, and more impactful for all types of players,” the studio says.

Although Bethesda wasn’t more specific, the developers say “our main objective is to avoid a situation where players can spend money to gain a competitive advantage or make the game worse for other players.”

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