Bug-Riddled Update Shows Why Fallout 76 Needs A Public Test Server

Screenshot: Kotaku, Fallout 76

This week marks eight months since Fallout 76 released as a buggy mess. Since then, Bethesda’s online survival game has improved a lot. But while it has had a lot of good days, the arrival of patch number 11 yesterday was not one of them. Instead, it’s renewed players’ calls for Bethesda to try updates out on a public test server before dropping them into the main game.

The update is pretty sprawling, encompassing balance changes to Fallout 76’s battle royale mode, new quality-of-life improvements to make starting out as a new player less daunting, and tweaks to the game’s premium currency economy.

It also introduced a host of new problems, like legendary loot not dropping from enemies and weird new “death zones” around the map that automatically kill anyone who stumbles into them.

All of the bugs being reported by players and rounded up in a post on the game’s subreddit have made patch 11 reminiscent of the game’s other two-steps-forward, one-step-back updates.

One of the biggest issues is related to Power Armour. “We’ve made behind-the-scenes improvements to the Power Armour system to help address lots of bugs,” Bethesda wrote in the game’s patch notes. “As a result, you may notice your Power Armour pieces have moved into your inventory or Stash.”

However, some players have reported that the pieces have gone missing altogether. It’s not clear how many people were ultimately affected, but players with multiple sets of the rare and expensive armour appear to have been hit the hardest.

“I’ve lost an entire set of T-60 fully modded PA,” wrote one player on Reddit. “Furious as I spent ages getting the caps to buy plans (I’m not that market savvy so I never have too many caps as I have limited time to play). I know I’m never getting my PA back but its so demotivating to go and do it again.”

Others have had the opposite issue, with existing sets of armour inexplicably duplicating. “I logged in and spent 10 [minutes] putting all my frames back together,” wrote another player. “Then I put them back in my stash where they disassembled and I ended up with 368kg in my stash while I was still over encumbered with duplicates. Had to put everything back together a second time.”

The update has also made some controversial changes to how players earn Atoms, the game’s premium currency. Players used to be able to collect them by completing basic Challenges early in the game. In an effort to make the early game less harsh, Bethesda replaced those Atoms with useful items like Stimpaks and Disease Cures. But it didn’t add those Atoms back in elsewhere, effectively decreasing the amount players can initially earn just by playing the game.

This change comes alongside the addition of a new item called a Scrap Kit, which can only be purchased with 50 Atoms, the equivalent of around 70 cents. This item automatically scraps a player’s junk and deposits it in their Stash. While not a game changer, the Scrap Kit is certainly a more convenient time saver than doing all of those things manually.

It also means players who have one can adventure out into the Wasteland without worrying about dying and leaving all of the scrap they’ve collected behind when they respawn. What’s annoying players is that they have to pay for the privilege.

Similar to Repair Kits, which Bethesda added to the game in the spring, this effort to monetise around the edges of gameplay while the game still has plenty of bugs has left a bad taste in many players’ mouths.

The game’s new greenhouses aren’t helping either. The buildings are bonuses that players can only unlock by purchasing the Green Thumb Bundle for 1500 Atoms, or approximately $21. But some of the players who have it say it’s a pain to try and place in the environment, causing repeated error messages unless it’s placed on perfectly flat ground.

It doesn’t play nice with concrete or other foundations, and you can’t stick real plants in it either. Worst of all, some players say the greenhouse doesn’t even keep out the rain.

At a time when Fallout 76 has generally been on the upswing thanks to new content and clever new mechanics like player-owned vending machines, the latest update has proven to be a frustrating flat tire on the road to redemption.

Anthem, another online game whose trajectory has had a lot in common with Fallout 76’s, added a public test server at the end of May. Since then, BioWare has spent weeks working with PC players to get its next big update right.

It feels like Fallout 76 is long overdue for the same treatment.


Comments

    Two steps forward, one step back is a good description for how F76's updates have been to date. There's a definite positive trend, but they're always accompanied by a small set of annoying regressions.

    I'm of the view that a PTS is necessary and should have been in place at launch, it's just not a reasonable workflow to push changes like this directly onto live. I'm glad Bethesda are learning from the experience (because that learning should carry through to more significant titles like Starfield and TES6) but so far they're learning pretty slowly.

      Public test buys them time and work-hours added to the test environment (quality notwithstanding), but it's just amazing that they don't appear to have done the same kind of testing internally.

      We've seen this with Anthem and The Division 2, too. It's like the major studios are no longer doing regression tests. Or their test suites are shithouse and not kept up to date to incorporate new changes.

        Not that you've blamed QA but someone will, so I just want to say here that this isn't necessarily a QA failure. It's entirely possible that QA found this stuff, reported it, and it simply wasn't actioned before being pushed.

        Time is essential to quality. Unless you're pushing a scoped bugfix then you need time to test, especially in an environment like a video game where automated testing is difficult-to-impossible, making human testing effectively mandatory. Aside from operating costs (for F76's architecture practically costless), the only drawback to running a PTS is spoilers. Still, it's worked just fine for MMOs and other large scale multiplayer games in the past, I don't see why it wouldn't work just as fine here.

          Right, they're either not catching it, or they are and someone is saying, "Not a show-stopper, we go live with it."

          Neither says good things about any studio who does it.

            Lets be real, though, that's always the story at Bethesda. New Vegas, Skyrim, Fallout 4, Fallout76, same story across every single modern release from them: Solid games let down by shoddy QA. Except for Fallout76, where someone at Bethesda was clearly drunk during the planning phase.

    I've always defended Bethesda's open world games having bugs due to their generally massive scope meaning it's inevitable you'll have quite a few issues...

    But at this point with 76 I feel they're just taking the piss.

    A modern game engine wouldn't go a stray either

    Honestly with the way Bethesda are ignoring the way every other multiplayer game works it's like they think they are developing the very first open world muliplayer game

    They should just have Todd's head pop up like the toasty guy, saying "It's not a bug, it's a feature" every time this stuff happens.

    But you are already playing on the Public Test Server, why do you want another one?

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