Q: Where is Fallout Alexa?
A: Haven't done that yet.
Q: Two weeks since E3 and Fallout 76s presentation. Was the reaction OK for you, or was there anything you could have explained better?
A: We were happy with the reaction. We want people to realize what the game is and what it isn't, and that it really is a unique thing.
We generally don't like confusion because then people will try to figure out what the game is on their own. A lot our classic hardcore Fallout fans love it, but we know a lot of them that want a particular single player experience. It doesn't have that in the same ways. We understand that, we feel the same in many ways, but this is a unique game. We're allowed to play it, so we understand it better. We are happy with how E3 turned out and how much attention we got.
Q: You already said it: The fans expected something different. Are you concerned about how the game matches with Bethesda Game Studios identity?
A: Maybe a little bit, sure. The concerns that our fans have, we have the same ones. It's new for us, its new for them. AND THATS ONE OF THE REASONS WE ANNOUNCED STARFIELD AND ELDER SCROLLS 6. That's our way to say we love those GREAT SINGLE PLAYER GAMES and we're gonna do them aswell. When it came to Fallout 76, multiplayer is the number one feature we always get asked about, but we didn't just want to tack it on. We had this idea and it became a bigger and bigger game until it became its own thing.
All the people you see are real people. That makes Fallout 76 very very unique. Whereas it's not the same, it still has a lot of the characteristics you would expect from one of our Fallout games.
Q: Looking forward, is that part of a strategy to take known franchises and put them into new genres?
A: I don't know. We take one step at a time. Every time we develop a game, we want it to be it's own thing and not just be a sequel that does this little bit extra.
Starfield is a whole new thing. Elder Scrolls 6 will do it's own thing. And if you look back at our previous games, each of them has it's own identity. We have fans that prefer Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas or Fallout 4 and some of them will prefer Fallout 76.
We want each of them to stand on their own.
Q: Is Fallout 76 some sort of test run for you guys? Sort of dipping in your toe to see if people like it?
A: I dont know. I wouldn't say we're dipping our toe in, I'd say we're jumping into the pool with this game. We'll see what happens. I a good way for us to try something like this as opposed to trying it in a single player game. It's its own thing, very very exciting for us but also a little bit scary.
Q: Based on your new experience with multiplayer games, would multiplayer be something for Elder Scrolls 6 or Fallout 5?
A: For those games we want to keep them as single player games. That is what our focus is going to be. If they have some social aspect we haven't designed yet, we'll see. But we treat them each as their own thing.
Q: There are 3 studios working on Fallout 76. How do you keep them connected and working together in a way that Bethesda Games Studios keeps it's own identity?
A: It's tricky. You are right, there are 3 studios. And then there are other developers under Zenimax and id software helping us out. To answer your question: The studio in Montreal has been around a long time. Since Fallout 4.
The studio in Austin, the old Battlecry Studio, started working with us right when we finished Fallout 4. So we've been working with them for three years now. We had some issues in the beginning in how we handle communication and I'll admit it was hard at first, but now we are in a good place. Everybody has worked together for a while. The way we communicate, each studio is still slightly different, each have their own vibe but everyone is pushing in the same direction.
Q: What do you think, how smart is it for established franchises, trying to push into new directions. e.g: Fallout pushing into the survival multiplayer? Is triple A titles trying something new, a positive thing? Or should they stay conservative and keep to their core gameplay mechanics?
A: I think it's good for franchises to try new things. There's still a lot of good ones out there, where they get released year after year and it stays basically the same. Thats not who we are. If you go back in time: Fallout 76 is a new thing but not as new as Fallout 3 was.
If you look from Fallout 2 to Fallout 3, that's a significant change. When we look at our franchise, we always want to reinterpret them we always want to try new things. I admit that Fallout 76 is something very new, but if you look at someone playing it you will look at it and say: "Oh that's a classic Bethesda style Fallout game".
A lot of the time you'll be doing a lot of similar things, but the mood and the vibe are different. When you run into someone it will feel completely different than running into someone in Fallout 4, because you know that they are an NPC, designed by us to probably help you. You kind of know what you are going to get.
Q: Have you ever thought about doing a Battle Royale game? Elder Scrolls Arena was a game about life and death right?
A: Usually we kind of don't follow the trends. Keep in mind, when we started Fallout 76, even though these kind of games are more popular now, they haven't been back in the day. I think some of those things have raised in popularity.
On one hand that's good for us, but on the other hand bad, because people will be assuming what it is, when it's not like those survival games.
Q: So you have to keep the expectations of the players in check?
A: We do. We have to, yes.
Q: Bethesda Montreal is working on Elder Scrolls: Blades. Is it still important for you guys to release companion apps or mobile games? Is crossplay for those games still a thing?
A: Yes. Blades is beeing developed by the Montreal team who did a great job on Fallout Shelter. I don't see them as companion apps, if you see how many people are playing them and how much time they put in them, they are their own thing.
We released Shelter for a lot of platforms but crossplay was not possible. With Blades we ended up kinda knowing we want it eventually to be everywhere and make sure that everyone can play against each other. I think that's a great trend for gaming, so people don't have to decide what console to play on or at what time to play.
Q: So Fallout 76 will feature crossplay?
A: No. (laughs) We would love to do that, but at the moment it's not possible.
Q: Why not? Is Sony and Microsoft not co-operating?
A: Sony is not as helpful as we'd like. We'll see what the future will bring.
Q: Going back to Fallout 4, the multiplayer idea for 76 kind of came from the development time of that game. Were there other lessons you learned from developing Fallout 4? Something you guys could have done better?
A: We wanted every aspect to be better. From the graphics to how the controls work, the gunplay, enemy AI, overlapping quests. In Fallout 4 we tried so many new things and re-did so many things we had before, we took our lessons in how you strike that balance going into 76.
We improved the hit detection for 76, it feels much better but you won't notice unless you go back to 4 and compare those two games. There are a lot of thing we redid for Fallout 76, that i don't know if the people will notice.
Q: OK but there was serious criticism on major gameplay elements in Fallout 4. RPG elements for example, i too think they got the raw deal. Was this part of a major decision to streamline and focus on the gunplay to make the game feel like more of a shooter experience?
A: With Fallout 4? Not at all. Admittedly there are some major quests where the player doesn't have as much of a choice as we would have liked it to be, but I don't think that casts across the whole game. When we went into Far Harbor, one of the DLCs for the game, we wanted to make sure that there are not just interesting questions we are asking, but also that the player has a lot of interesting answers. The end for Fallout 4 gets very complicated with a web of things, so we had to simplify some of it.
But it's still a game where you can do whatever you want and be whoever you want. That's what we are very proud of. In Fallout 76 we have a similar opportunity because the game will be connected to the internet the whole time. Though the game offers a new concept, we know we can change things on a monthly basis with the help of our community.
Q: You said there are no NPCs in Fallout 76. Isn't that a big challenge for the quest designers? Are there decisions to make?
A: Yes. You musn't forget we still have robots, terminals, holo-tapes and other things that help the player decide. It is hard for the designers, yes, but the answer is: You give the player tools, where they can create scenarios on their own, that we didn't dream up. And that happens in Fallout 4. If you ask the people what their favourite stories are, they reply with situations where systems collide. "I was doing this, then raiders attacked and a super mutant behemoth came over the hill and then a vertibird came by, then i met this new companion." This is what seperates our games from other developers, Fallout 76 goes even harder into that direction.
Q: Will radiant quests return?
A: Yes. Also handcrafted ones. Fallout 76 has a story, aswell as radiant quests.
Q: Paired with PVP and nuclear missiles, a lot of people are concerned about griefers. The trailer shows some sort of bounty system. Is that part of punishing anti-social players? How do you want to encourage people to co-operate instead of shooting on sight?
A: I don't want to force people into playstyles. I want systems that reward certain behaviour. I can't tell you how it works, because we are still messing with it. We have the same goals, where we don't want other players ruining the experience. Thats the worst for us to bear. If you stop playing the game because of another player acting like an asshole, we have encouraged the wrong things.
At the same time, it's important to us to enable players to a certain kind of drama. As for the wanted level, maybe that was in one of the videos. We do have a system right now, that if a player is acting up, let's say he murders somebody who didn't want to engage in combat, - that's possible at the moment yet very very hard to do that, maybe it will change -, he gets a status as being wanted and can't do a lot of the things other players can do.
All the other players can see him and he gets a big bounty on his head. He becomes some sort of epic enemy, that every other player can go after. And as of right now when a player becomes wanted and everyone can see him, people will gang up on him, it's a lot of fun.
We're still messing with how you get a wanted level. I think there is an interesting dynamic there, we don't want to put the brakes on too hard right now. But if the system is becoming too problematic for players we will dial back and make gaining the wanted level harder.
I'm going to throw one more thing in that i think is important for people: All the quests we have designed are playable solo or in a team of four. That means there are no quests focused on PVP. We want to seperate PVP and player made challenges from the hand made quests.
Q: Can players share their ressources in chests or workshops?
A: They can trade. You also have your own stash, only you can access. But yes there is a trading system, based on bottle caps, that's the part of economy run by players. You can also drop stuff. If you want a specific item, I can simply drop it for you.
Q: Fallout 76 will include cosmetic micro-transactions but what is your stance on lootboxes with randomized content in general?
A: We take a look at all of it. Games had a lot of different content for a long time. We did horse armor for Oblivion in 2006, 12 years ago, so we've seen all types of it. No matter what game you are doing, you have to figure out what feels good to you as a player. The players understand value, thats what we have learned.
Players don't mind paying for value, so we went into 76 with 2 goals in mind. First, we want to offer extra content and on the other hand we don't want to separate the player base, for example we dont want to release a DLC that some players have and some dont. So how do we offer DLC for free? We have an ingame store with cosmetics and we're currently experimenting with other things too.
The main goal is to make all players happy, never pay2win and also being able to earn all of it ingame. So whatever currency we have, to buy stuff, you can also earn it if you are simply somebody who plays the game a lot. That's two of the things for us, when we play other games that we feel good about, lets just do that.
Our games are big enough, so we don't have to use other methods that might be too overbearing for players.
Q: You've been using more or less the same engine for years. What about Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6?
A: I think a lot of people, who are not making games dont understand what the word "engine" stands for.
They think the engine is this one thing, we view it as technology. There's a lot of different pieces and for every game, parts of that change. For example the renderer, the AI, the animations, the script language and so on.
Some people talk about Gamebryo but we haven't used that in a decade. A lot of our engine contains a lot of middleware like Havoc. For Fallout 76 we have changed a lot. The game uses a new renderer, a new lighting system and a new system for the landscape generation. For Starfield even more of it changes. And for Elder Scrolls 6, out there on the horizon even more.
We like our editor. It allows us to create worlds really fast and the modders know it really well. There are some elementary ways we create our games and that will continue because that lets us be efficiend and we think it works best.
Q: What will the future of open world games be? What will be the next big innovation for the genre?
A: You want me to repeat that question? I don't know how to answer that. (smiles) I'd say it this way, right now where open world games are popular, even though we've been doing them for a while: Videogames put you into another world. There will always be ways to improve that immersion, by adding better graphics, VR or AI. All of that is coming together in a way only gaming does and that are missing from motion pictures.
I don't want to answer your question directly because those are ideas we have, that we want to put on the screen. You're going to see more and more of those things in games now and that will probably continue. Not only open world games, videogames in general.
Q: Thank you for the interview.