'Fallout 76' PVP Explained: Pip Boy Assassins Game One Of Many Modes, Say Devs

How to play (not so) nice with others

Fallout 76 is offering players the chance to do something they've never been able to do in a Fallout game before: grief their fellow man. I learned this firsthand at a demo event, when I maliciously and relentlessly tormented someone from US Gamer (sorry!) and even helped tag team kill Xbox's Major Nelson. Despite the obvious cathartic benefits of literally killing my real-world competition, what I really enjoyed about PVP in Fallout 76 was how fair it felt.

"What we found is that the griefer actually becomes content for other people in this game," Chris Mayer, development director for Fallout 76 , told Newsweek. "In other games I've played it's been the opposite where the griefers consume other people as content."

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Bethesda Game Studios

PVP starts with a duel challenge. Basically, you shoot players for next to no damage and they can decide to engage with you or not. If they do, their return shot is also nerfed, a smart design move that prevents people from accepting a duel and immediately returning fire with a headshot of Fat Man nuke. If you lose a duel, you can choose to get revenge and keep the fight going as long as you want. If you don't want to duel a player can still kill you, but it's pretty hard and carries the risk of being marked a murderer. You'll be a wanted man on the map and anyone can kill you at any time. Although this thrill might be exactly what some players are looking for.

"Trying to predict human being behavior in a video game is an incredibly difficult exercise," Pete Hines, Senior Vice President of Global Communications and Marketing at Bethesda, told Newsweek. "Someone said the other day to our designers 'what's the reward for going around being a murderer and acting like a jerk' and we said 'have you been around other people in video games before?' You don't need to reward them to be jerks. They'll be jerks all on their own."

The murder mechanic in Fallout 76 is one of the most important PVP features. The team admits it took a long time to get to something that felt right. Experiments ranged from no PVP to all-out PVP with no limits, but it took the intervention of Bethesda Games Studio guru Todd Howard to nail down a system that fit the balance of the game.

"That is a perfect example of where Todd Howard comes in and has his spark, like 'No we should do it this way,'" said Design Director Emil Pagliarulo. "We've learned to trust him."

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Bethesda Game Studios

Jeff Gardiner, the project leader for Fallout 76 , explained that even with Howard's direction there was still a tremendous amount of iteration. The team constantly play tested and tweaked the system to find a balance "between too griefy and not fun if you want to be a griefer." PVP isn't limited to duels either, and it appears that Fallout 76 plans to introduce a variety of game modes to give PVPers things to do besides camp and grief.

"There's also a game in the Pip Boy called Hunter/Hunted. It's a cool game of assassination where you get a target, and if you opt into it you become a target yourself. So it's a round robin game of assassination that adds a lot of tension to your game," said Gardiner.

This mode sounds like a great sweet spot for players who want to enjoy the wasteland with some sense of risk, but not necessarily spend their time looking for a fight. Currently, Hunter/Hunted includes six players. Once you have a target you're given an area of the map to target. It's not as easy as tracking down an individual waypoint. Conversely, the feeling of being hunted adds to an already tense game that, unlike previous entries in the franchise, has no pause. So when you're building or reading a particularly captivating terminal entry, you're exposed. If you're really trying to kill someone without being part of a duel or a Pip Boy-driven assassination game, you should know it will take some serious effort. Or some serious luck.

"You have to really want to murder someone. You really have to try," said Gardiner "The only exception to that is when you find someone who's hurt."

He told a short story about finding someone who had barely survived a nuclear strike, clinging to a tiny sliver of health and incapacitated on the ground. Gardiner shot him in the head. He suddenly became wanted, and had to run and hide from his victim's teammates as they hunted him in a nearby forest.

"Those moments are great when they're experienced in isolation and its not a constant thing. It's super fun," he said.

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Bethesda Game Studios

One other bit of balancing Fallout 76 has to contend with for PVP is player health and damage. If you're a level 5 player you stand no chance of taking down a creature that's, say, level 30. But a fellow player might not be as hard as you think. The devs explained they "flattened" out the damage curve for players to make it a bit more even than it is with creatures. Also, unlike previous games, players don't receive automatic health increases when they level up. You have to spend points in Endurance to see a health increase. So health bars between players of different levels are likely to be a lot closer than you'd expect. But experienced players do have some natural advantages.

"As in the other Fallout games a lot of it is inventory management, and you can horde the good stuff. So that level 50 player has been around the game world a lot longer, he might have a Fat Man in his inventory with a couple of shells and more powerful weapons. So he will have more resources available to withstand the battle," said Pagliarulo.

Although players can only lose junk and crafting materials when killed in PVP, Gardiner emphasized to the press that the three hours of demo time doesnt create any real sense of attahcment to your precious inventory. He said the same thing occurred during playtesting. Weekly character wipes meant players would take more risks with their high-level ammo and meds, because that stuff was going to be gone anyway. He anticipates players in the game taking a different approach to PVPing high-level players and creatures.

"When you're playing it for real you're not going to expend all your resources to kill a level 60 individual or take down a Scorchbeast because then you're left with very little ammo, no stimpacks and a long time to recover that kind of stuff," he said.

Fallout 76 is still in beta, and beyond that will receive constant updates after launch too. Gardiner said one of the biggest challenges now is finding a way to balance creature and PVP difficulty in a way that works no matter the situation.

"We want to make the game fun for solo players and not too easy for a group," he said. "We'll find it."