Fallout 76‘s next major update will introduce a new type of content for the online action RPG called Expeditions. These Expeditions will be repeatable story-driven missions that take players away from the core setting of Fallout 76. The first of these Expeditions, The Pitt, sends Fallout 76 to Pittsburgh, a setting that hasn’t been seen in Fallout since Fallout 3. The Pitt is scheduled to go live in September.
Taking place in a brand-new area, The Pitt will feature never-before-seen characters, questlines, and dialogue-driven choices. When your character reaches the bombed remains of Pittsburgh via helicopter, they discover the area has been ravaged by an ongoing conflict between the survivors. The remains of Pittsburgh’s industrial workers are now known as the Union, and they’ve been struggling to outlast repeated attacks from the Fanatics, a group of raiders.
Ahead of the release of The Pitt, GameSpot emailed Bethesda Game Studio design director Mark Tucker to ask about what players can expect from the upcoming expansion, as well as how the team aims to expand upon Fallout 76’s story and then ultimately conclude it one day. Our correspondence is detailed below.
GameSpot: How will The Pitt Expedition change the experience of playing Fallout 76?
Matt Tucker: The new Expedition Missions are the most obvious change–players will have access to an ever-growing library of exciting, repeatable, and randomized story missions to play long after they’ve completed the main questlines, beginning with The Pitt. They’ll allow players to explore outside of Appalachia in this unique time period in Fallout lore and meet all sorts of new and interesting characters. Whitespring Resort has also been converted into a true player hub, filled with Daily Quests, unique Random Encounters, a new vendor, and additional Legendary Exchange and Gold Press machines. The Pitt is just the beginning! We have plans for more locations in future updates–some of which have never been seen before in a Fallout game!
As previous Fallout games were single-player, they had established endpoints for their respective stories–is the same true for Fallout 76?
Bingo! You are touching on one of the coolest parts of working on a live-service game. Do we create all of our questlines and stories to have fulfilling endings from the player’s perspective when we put them into the game? Yes, that is always the goal. That said, we often have thoughts and ideas for how we could expand or continue our stories in future updates when we add them to the game.
For example, (and I am being intentionally ambiguous here so as not to spoil it) we have a story in the game that we have always intended to tell over a longer time span. Matter of fact, we have subtly expanded on it already–the players just aren’t aware of it yet. When we finally get around to wrapping it up, I think it will be a fun surprise.
In addition to that, we have a lot of mystery and unanswered questions in our game that, so far, may not have had as much story associated with them. These minor plot points or lore bits are also fun for us to explore and expand on. For example, The Mothman Equinox Seasonal Event that debuted in our Night of the Moth update was a fun way for us to explore a bit deeper into The Cult of the Mothman and share how a group splintered off to create The Enlightened. Of course, in doing that, we created more questions that we might choose to explore further one day.
A lot of the richness of our world comes from the intersections and overlaps of the different characters and their stories. So even if we don’t continue a story directly, we also consider how a different story, from a different perspective, might also shed light and expand on one we have already told. That doesn’t even have to be limited to 76. Since we are a prequel, some things we do, at times, tie into the stories from the previous Fallout titles. For example, our two updates, Steel Dawn and Steel Reign, provided more insight into the early days of the original, west coast Brotherhood of Steel, as did some of our original quest content that shipped with the launch of the game. The game is never finished, it’s a living, breathing world with old stories to continue and new ones to add.
How do you come up with the themes for each season? Are y’all simply exploring parts of Fallout 76’s world you haven’t touched on before, or is there more to it than that?
The creation process for every season’s theme has been different, but we always start with the same key objective–every theme should be someone’s favorite. Fallout is a very diverse IP, with humor, sadness, action, and a whole world of alternate history to explore. We like to keep things fresh and continue to explore new aspects of the franchise while also paying homage to its long history. For new in-game fiction, we have a phrase we like to use to test if the idea is solid: “Does this evoke nostalgia for something you’ve never seen before?” It’s a good test of whether or not something is pulling the right levers. When we leverage some of the amazing existing in-game fiction, we always make sure we are doing it justice. We’re Fallout fans as much as anyone and getting a chance to explore more of the pre-war society is a real joy.
How has the Fallout 76 team learned from other developers beneath the ZeniMax Media umbrella when it comes to designing a live-service game?
The great thing about Zenimax and BGS is that we can share tech and ideas across teams pretty easily–it’s just a call or a message away. While it isn’t something we do on a super regular basis, it does happen. For example, part of our multiplayer networking libraries for 76 was built from the iD Tech networking code. Another example is that we have had a few conversations with ZOS Production leadership over the years to learn how they structure and manage their team to handle their update cadence, which has some similarities to ours. Those conversations really helped to guide us in how we have approached things for 76. Of course, it’s not just us learning and getting help from them–we’ve helped other teams as well. For example, our monetization design team has helped multiple teams across Zenimax with their monetization strategies and features, including The Elder Scrolls Online.
It is also worth noting that the senior leadership team we have working on Fallout 76, along with most of the senior developers on the project, all have experience working on live-service and multiplayer products previously in their careers. So, for a lot of us, this is not our first rodeo.
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