Fallout 76’s most recent update, Expeditions: The Pitt, sees players return to an iconic location last seen in Fallout 3. Plus, it has them leave the confines of Appalachia for the very first time. An expansion of sorts, but also a new mode, Expeditions present repeatable missions designed for players to tackle solo or as part of a group. Expeditions are a feature Bethesda plans to continue to support for quite some time too, with new locations and even new missions for existing Expeditions coming.
Ahead of the big update, we had the chance to chat with Fallout 76 Design Director Mark Tucker to talk about choosing the harsh and desolate location that is The Pitt for the first Expedition. We also asked about how the team handled storytelling and exploration in what are repeatable missions (the quick answer there is that they’re being treated as epic quests from traditional Fallout games), and what’s in store for the future.
On that front fans will be glad to learn that the game continues to be very popular across all platforms, and Bethesda is committed to supporting the game long-term. Also, for C.A.M.P. builders out there, the next major 2022 update is going to add a free-camera mode to make construction a lot easier. Very cool.
Here’s the interview in full:
Expeditions to leave Appalachia and the idea of presenting new environments. How did the team land on The Pitt as the first location, which was a popular expansion for Fallout 3?
The Pitt made sense to us for many reasons. First off, geographically, Pittsburgh isn’t that far away from Appalachia. It is about 120 km north of Morgantown. So, it really is right next door! We liked the idea of the first missions taking place in a nearby city that wasn’t too far from Appalachia. It also makes sense from a story and lore perspective. The Vertibirds can only go so far without significant modifications. Plus, it is within a plausible travel distance for refugees to travel on foot and survive.
The wasteland is deadly, and unless you are Brotherhood of Steel or a ruthless Raider gang, going long distances on foot and surviving is unlikely. That all fit well with how we wanted to kick things off with the Responders reforming and helping refugees. Now, I will say, that does not mean we plan to stay this close to home for future locations. It just made sense for the first one.
We also liked The Pitt because, as you mentioned, the Fallout 3 DLC that took place there was very popular and well regarded by our fans. We thought it would be fun to go back there and show what it is like earlier in the Fallout timeline. The Pitt has such a different tone and vibe than Appalachia. Appalachia is almost happy and cheerful when compared to the oppressive toxic smog-filled Pitt and the people surviving there. It was important to us to sell the fantasy of going someplace different. The Pitt checked off all the boxes for us; the contrast to the environments, the unique creatures and NPCs, and the overall tone – all of that combined got the team excited to create it.
What elements from Fallout 3’s The Pitt are making a return, and with the new timeline of 76 how does that alter The Pitt in terms of factions and threats?
The biggest differences you will see between the 76 and the Fallout 3 timeline with regards to The Pitt, are the people. In terms of The Pitt itself, players will instantly see that it is still a toxic hellscape, if not more so since it is just a few decades after the bombs dropped. Players will be introduced to two new Factions trying to make it in The Pitt – one is friendly, the other shoots on sight. On the friendly side, we have The Union, who want to revitalise The Pitt, keep it as their home, and try to go back to its roots as a major industrial center to aid in rebuilding society.
On the other extreme, we have The Fanatics. They just want The Pitt and its resources for their gain. The Fanatics place no value on the lives of others, or even their own. While they look and sound like people – they behave more like monsters.
Speaking of monsters, we have some familiar, er, faces if you will, in this release too! The initial wave of the Trogs has begun to emerge in The Pitt, creating more chaos in an already chaotic situation. I don’t want to spoil too much in terms of familiar things from the Fallout 3 DLC, but we do have some things our fans should instantly recognize. For example, Steel Ingots are back and you have an opportunity to hunt them down to help out the Union in our first Mission, Union Dues. We also have re-introduced the Auto-axe in this update which will come in handy when you are face to face with Trogs. Over a century separates the two, so while some things will be familiar, there are still many differences in this earlier version to explore and discover.
How did the team approach the design of the location and maps when thinking about missions that could be replayed over and over?
The Pitt portrays the more catastrophic horrors of a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by nuclear bombs. Appalachia was mostly spared from this wrath. This contrast creates a sense of wonder and curiosity. The second you arrive, you cannot help but ask, “What happened here and how can anyone survive in this hellish place?”
We created multiple large, custom levels for each of our new Missions. Missions are a new content format we have introduced with the Expeditions feature. Missions support teams and solo players. We designed each mission to feel like the finale to an Epic questline. They are repeatable with a random set of different objectives – so there is a lot of variation that can occur with each play-through. Players can take their time to complete missions and explore the areas since there are no overall time limits on completing Missions. Missions also include optional, secondary objectives players can choose to do that require additional exploration to find things that certain NPCs are looking for.
So, while we had to create spaces to work with some new randomized objectives that support multiple players, at the end of the day, we wanted them to feel like a traditional Fallout location. These are some of the most memorable spaces we’ve put into 76.
Telling post-apocalyptic stories is a big part of Fallout, and we’ve seen great strides with Wastelanders and Steel Dawn when it comes to classic Fallout narratives. How does this side of the franchise factor into Expeditions and The Pitt?
A key difference between Expeditions from our previous releases is how we structure the story. While we have key characters and Factions, the star of the show is the location itself, which in this case is The Pitt. So instead of having long quest chains, we have Missions that have their own stories that tie together with common threads of the people, the Factions, and of course, The Pitt. As mentioned earlier, each mission was designed to play like a finale to an Epic questline, making it fun to play over and over again. Think of them like an anthology of stories that show glimpses into The Pitt from different angles. This structure also makes it easy for us to add more Missions in the future.
For Expeditions, we challenged ourselves to create something that we felt was a fun, repeatable Fallout experience. We knew players would be visiting these locations a lot, so we wanted to make sure the environments themselves were interesting and offered a lot of opportunities to explore. A big part of Bethesda Game Studios’ storytelling is expressed in the environments, and we wanted to make sure to continue that tradition with Expeditions. Each mission takes place in different parts of The Pitt, each with its own look and feel… and story that you witness firsthand as you explore the areas. Right off the Vertibird, it is apparent you have arrived in a place that is suffering from the extreme aftermath of the Great War.
Beyond the environmental storytelling, we have the people. The Pitt is a harsh place to survive by itself, but when you throw in different factions with competing goals and nightmarish creatures trying to kill everyone, you’ve got a strong recipe for lots of conflicts. Conflict creates good storytelling opportunities, and The Pitt is not lacking in that department. Each mission delves into the details of these kinds of conflicts, specifically from the viewpoint of The Union, a new Faction introduced with this update. As mentioned previously, they are in a deadly turf war with the Fanatics that have their future survival at stake.
For players who have been with the game or those that are new, what elements of Fallout 76 does The Pitt lean into that sell the style of online multiplayer game it is?
Missions are replayable content that supports 1 to 4 players. Anyone can play them, but we recommend characters be level 50 or higher. I think they are really fun with other players, but for the solo players, it’s still a great experience. We have made additional efforts to better support teammates in Missions over our previous Quest content. For example, any member of a team can progress Mission objectives – and if an objective requires players to locate and find things, it is tracked for the team, not individually. If a player drops out of the Mission, they don’t take the objective items with them, they stay with the team. This makes it easier for players to help each other out and complete the Mission as a team. However, like Quests, Mission Leaders can log out and come back to continue their previously saved checkpointed progress. We’ve also introduced a new Expeditions Public Team so players can more easily find and team up with other players wanting to complete Expedition Missions.
Moving forward Expeditions as a concept opens the door to visiting more locales and even new settings, how is the team positioned to develop new Expeditions?
We have a lot of plans for how we want to expand Expeditions. The most exciting part of the feature, as you mentioned, is the ability to add completely new locations. Of course, the structure of Expeditions also makes it straightforward for us to add new Missions to an existing location. So, both options are on the table for future content releases. That said, I am not quite ready to talk about what our specific plans are for future Expedition updates.
Fallout 76 has seen several meaningful updates since launch, so by that same token how is the team positioned to continue adding quality of life changes and more regular content – and are there any big things on the horizon?
If you go back and look through the patch notes to almost every major Update we have released you will see that we make considerable efforts to set aside time for the team to address community feedback and make changes to the game to improve the players’ overall experience. It’s something we are very passionate about and will remain committed to doing. We work closely with our Community Management and Live Teams to help us prioritise the biggest issues and requests. The dev team takes the requests and then determines what we can accomplish with our existing schedules. It’s a balancing act, so some Updates may have less, and others will have more, but players should expect to see more Quality-of-Life improvements with our future updates.
One exciting new Quality-of-Life change we have in store for players will go live in our next big update, Nuka-World on Tour. This particular change is one that players have been requesting for quite some time; we call it Free Cam, which is a new optional building mode! In Update 40 we will be adding the ability for players to detach the camera from their character while building in CAMPs, Shelters, and workshops. This change makes it a lot easier to build vertically! We’ve already got fantastic feedback from our internal playtests. I can’t wait to have it in the live game myself, I have some new CAMP ideas I want to build, and Free Cam is going to make it so much easier to do.
Fallout 76 is on Game Pass and other services and continues to deliver seasonal content. What has been one of the most popular recent updates to the game? And moving forward, how is the roadmap for Fallout 76 looking for the next year (or two)?
The best I can tell you is, we’ve had measurable success on all our updates and Fallout 76 continues to be a very popular and successful game that we are committed to. We have a lot of exciting plans moving into next year, but we aren’t ready to discuss them just yet. After The Pitt, we have another exciting release later this year, Nuka-World on Tour. I am very excited about this release – our internal playtests have been going really well. Stay tuned for more details and when you can get an early look at it on our Public Test Servers soon!
The latest Fallout 76 update is available now and is free to all players. Earn new rewards, meet new NPCs with quests and dialogue trees, and rediscover the Trogs, an enemy first seen in Fallout 3‘s The Pitt. Download Fallout 76 now on Xbox Game Pass and prepare to jump into Expedition: The Pitt. You can grab it here.