Fallout 76 was reportedly created under the weight of intense crunch culture and suffered poor leadership according to a recent report from Kotaku. Fallout 76 was met with one of the biggest launch blunders in video game history, releasing as an absolutely broken mess that was quite devoid of content.
According to the report, interviews with former Bethesda Softwarks and ZeniMax staff highlight how the development of Fallout 76 was littered with issues, including intense crunch culture, poor leadership and held-back by problems caused by inter-studio rivalries.
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According to the report, quality assurance (QA) testers were particularly hard hit during the development process, as they supposedly worked 10-hour work days, six days a week. Their work was also called into question by angry fans when Fallout 76 was first launched, with some even receiving death threats. One example that was given in the report stated “I am going to take a gun and go to the QA department and shoot all of them”.
Developers were reportedly not surprised by the frustration expressed by the community regarding the problems with the multiplayer title, stating that many missing features were technical issues related to the Creation Engine – used to create The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4. One example given in the report was the lack of NPCs in the game at launch, which was reportedly a decision endorsed by executive producer Todd Howard. It was supposedly a necessary implementation as there were challenges in having NPCs in a multiplayer game built on an engine meant solely for single-player titles.
Barring development and technical issues, the problems also rose at the management level. Reportedly, management did not anticipate the sheer task of creating a live-service title, and when issues such as questing, stability as well as griefing were raised, they were dismissed by management. Furthermore, the report suggests that there were a fair number of senior development staff who were not interested in creating a live-service multiplayer title, and that resources were not effectively implemented for the project.
“While we had experienced multiplayer designers [in both Rockville and Austin], they were routinely sidelined and ignored. During development, our design director Emil [Pagliarulo] didn’t seem to want to be involved with the product at all. He didn’t want to have any contact with it…or read anything that we put in front of him.”
The report further suggests that employees were forced to offer “voluntold overtime”, where they were told if no one “volunteered” to work over the weekend, the entire team would be forced to come in. These types of actions lead to an intense crunch situation, as demonstrated by the working hours of the QA staff. The report does go into more detail regarding working conditions at Bethesda, which you can read here.
Fallout 76 followed its launch with a number of updates to try to improve the quality of life but players were still being met with bugs and problems at every corner. It was only eight months after its launch that Bethesda finally introduced human NPCs, but as soon as the title started to pull some good traction back, the studio would announce something to destroy all that goodwill, such as adding paid-for private servers in a game that already couldn’t function on standard servers.