Roundtable Interview: Mark Tucker – Fallout 76

On the 22ste of February, I had the pleasure to attend a roundtable interview session with Mark Tucker, the Creative Director of Fallout 76. Due to some technical issues, I will be recounting the interview mostly on themes instead of focussing on the actual questions.

Mark did a small introduction about himself, which described his career in the gaming industry:

I have been a professional game designer since 2001, and I still love what I do. I have experience working on games across many genres and platforms. I have also fulfilled a variety of design roles ranging across level design, systems design, lead design, and creative direction.

My career has spanned many different types of games: 3rd and 1st person shooters, fantasy RPGs, MMORPGs, sci-fi space combat, an action arcade style game for mobile devices, and online PvP and PvE games. This breadth of work has provided me with a broad skill set and invaluable design insight. I feel that I am well prepared to deal with the wide array of new problems and constraints that come with each new project.

However, I think the most important thing to take away from this is: even as I am closing in on my second decade of making games, having endured multiple cancelled projects and my fair share of crunch, I still love to make games. I love that each new project offers a different set of challenges and another opportunity to blaze the trail of discovery as we find the fun! It’s what I am supposed to do: create fun.

The most significant impact on Fallout 76 for 2022:

The most significant change for people who play Fallout 76 will probably be the Pitt launching this year’s third quarter. Players will be returning to the Pitt, which initially came from Fallout 3’s DLC ‘The Pitt.’ In the original add-on, the player journeys to the industrial raider town called The Pitt, located in the remains of Pittsburgh. In contrast to Operation: Anchorage, The Pitt involves a more traditional quest line with several morally ambiguous choices. The main quest consists of the player taking on the role of an enslaved person to investigate rumors that the raider boss of The Pitt has discovered a cure for mutations that have plagued many inhabitants of the Pitt.

 

 

The new content of The Pitt will focus on many new features Mark couldn’t reasonably discuss yet, but will shake up the player experience by a whole lot. Especially since The Pitt from Fallout 76 is the prequel of The Pitt players visited in the Fallout 3 DLC. Mark and his team want to let this area feel like a whole new part of the game; the same goes for the new Nuka-World Tour that launches at the end of 2022. Mark mentioned that you are not in Kansas anymore! He designed specific items, especially for the authentic feel, like a Pittsburgh Fire Hydrant. Talk about detail!

The Pitt will focus on both single- and multiplayer content and has been and will be playtested on both ends to make sure it’s fun for everyone (or hard as hell). The DLC of The Pitt will focus on a mission-based storyline and will tell the players more about the history of the Troggs. Trog is the common name for humans that have become infected with the Troglodyte Degeneration Contagion (TDC) and have slowly degenerated into scampering troglodytes who fear the light. Trogs reside in the Pitt (formerly Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). Due to the contagion being endemic to the town, approximately 20% of the populace have transformed into these wild, chattering monstrosities, hiding in the darkness and attacking anything on sight (Fallout 3 DLC). Study shows that children born in TDC-active areas virtually have a 100% degeneration rate and become feral within weeks of birth.

Tales from the Stars

Of course, we also talked about the Tales from the Stars update, which will bring aliens to Fallout 76, and they are not here to come in peace. They have a particular agenda about what they want with the people of Appalachia. Luckily the arrival of the aliens brings along new weapons (a very strange alien rifle) new cosmetic items for your CAMP (including aliens on formaldehyde if you’re lucky). There will also be recent multiplayer events that will trigger all over the map and can even disturb other events that are already ongoing. Sounds promising! And yes, the return of the aliens also means more aliens coming to Fallout 76 (or at least for now). Unfortunately, Mark couldn’t go into much detail about which aliens and how they looked, but fans of the old-school aliens were in for a surprise!

 

Fallout Community

We also discussed the Fallout Community since it’s one of the friendliest and heartwarming communities out there. Hell, people even nuke places for each other so players can get their hands on nuke-related items. Tell me one other community that nukes positively! Mark described it as embracing the chaos. They monitor everything very closely – and it’s currently sitting in the middle of fun/not fun for most players, so the scales are in balance. One of my colleagues asked Mark if he had an explanation for this phenomenon. Mark didn’t know the exact details, but he suggested that many people moved to Fallout 76 from single-player experiences (RPGs/Shooters, etc.) instead of the classic MMO crowd, which leads to a different sort of player base. He’s pretty happy that the apocalypse he and his team created left them with such friendly people, which gives hope for future generations to come. We did not know anything about Russia and Ukraine at the interview, but I sure hope that future generations will be more peace-oriented.

 

 

Mark also talked about that since his community is so diverse, they are trying to balance the fun for both the solo players (or more miniature worlds with many friends) and the multiplayer-oriented players. Therefore, each expedition they launch will be thoroughly playtested on single-player, duo, triples, and quartets that tackle specific aspects of the new additions. With these new additions, Mark promised to bring back more than just old-school alien stuff; he also mentioned melee-oriented weapons people might know from Fallout 3 (a lot of Fallout 3 this year!).

Roadmap 2022

So, we discussed what happened this year and after this year. Mark gave us a bit of insight into the Roadmap for 2022, and he mentioned that there would be much more happening than can be put on a roadmap (obviously). There will be a lot of quality of life updates over the year, and there will be more focus on a ‘rebirth of the apocalypse,’ with more features for your camp and the environment of Appalachia since it must feel fresh and explorable without walking outside borders all the time. Other QoL updates will focus on ranking up (you can easily rank up to ten ranks at a time if you want) and corpse-highlighting since losing a corpse in the tall grass sucks. Another addition will be more public events since they are pretty popular and often get a lot of engagement. Mark and his team will focus on bringing quality events that will reel in people that would usually only log on for the dailies. Another thing Mark mentioned is that the Nuka World on Tour will bring a new Region Boss to Fallout 76, so be on the lookout for that one!

 

Cars, Pets, and more?

Sorry, that was mean of me. There will be no cars, bikes, or other means of transportation in Fallout (ergo mounts). The game was never designed so that there was a possibility for mounts, so overhauling the whole system would not be favorable for the base game. This is more technical than something Mark and his team never discussed before; it is just a different world-building. The same goes for pets, a long-asked question from fans and players. Well, we have some good and some bad news. The good news is that they will come sometime when the game is ready for pets. The team had to put brakes on it since they weren’t happy with the results of the early builds. They are working on it, just not putting it on any roadmap since it will speculate.

 

Ultimate Fallout Dream?

And yes, I asked Mark what he would add to Fallout if he had unlimited funds and unlimited options to add stuff to the game. Sadly he could not give me a straight answer since people tend to look into these kinds of interviews and expect certain aspects to appear in the game. He, however, did mention that he hoped that the player base would keep evolving the way it is, and he can work on the game for many years to come, together with the community to bring even more lore-bridges to Fallout 76, since he loves the old Fallout gamed to heart. His favorite was Fallout 1 since it had such a tremendous wasteland setting – he would love to do something with that kind of content, just like The Pitt – but we will have to wait till the roadmaps get updated with more detailed content. And all of these updates will remain free, how we like them.

We want to thank Mark and his team for the time we had with him and the questions we could ask them. Please check out the Fallout 76 website and the Fallout/Bethesda socials for more information!