Bethesda hears us, I know because being an “productive pest” got me some screen time with Nuclear Winter.

fallout 4 - Bethesda hears us, I know because being an “productive pest” got me some screen time with Nuclear Winter.

Disclaimer, finishing this on my phone while at BE3, So pardon the typos etc.

Ok so I've been dying to talk about this and finally can since most of the NDA expired today.
I'll ask you to Humor me, this is going to be long but I think it's worth it, doubly so considering the ‘76 portion of the E3 showcase just ended.


Several months back, after submitting bug reports into what felt like an unforgiving black hole I snapped, got frustrated and lashed out putting up a post Calling out Bethesda's lack of communication and my dissatisfaction seemed to be mirrored by the community who quickly turned the post into something Bethesda almost had to acknowledge, their response due to upvotes and awards.
This Visibility (thanks again) resulted in a Community Manager reaching out to start a dialog and the conversation ironically left me even more frustrated than before..

"Submit a Ticket", the mantra we all have heard all to many times, was the closing line, and I left me with 3 options.
-Give Up and just play the game…
-Give Up and quit the game…
-Double Down…

Being one of "those" people, the next day the choice was made to double down and started my first serious effort to involve the Community at large in tracking the bugs.
I created a template, reformatted and resubmitted every bug I had previously and the ones I knew others had submitted as well.
Choosing submit them through the customer service path instead of the Dev's for ticket numbers I spammed them the first two days.
This overwhelmed the Customer Support team and ended up with one of their Managers beseeching me to stop, just for a couple days, to allow him to take this to his higher ups to find a new, less "Spammy" Method.

The next Day Bethesda called me, Specifically Dan (Bethesda’s Customer Support head) to discuss my "Spam"….
Sparing you all the details of the hour long call, I'll just cover what I considered important.
To start, I got the impression it wasn't the conversation he expected, and after a strong exchange we got down to business.
He asked what I wanted (which was a better and more transparent way to get the issues addressed, acknowledgement of said issues and hopefully a path to the Dev’) which resulted in an important question.
Why should he (and by extension Bethesda) give me that path and how they could trust us with not abusing the access.
I had to admit it was a good question and a valid point. With thousands upon thousands of people reporting issues and having opinions how do they filter the junk and the crazies from the people who (at least in their minds) bring something to the table.
We kept talking, reached a common ground I think.
He admitted they were not as agile as they once were, (you can't walk down the hall and go to someone's cue to get something fixed), and told me they were discussing a better way to make the community feel heard.

Fast Forward a few months and I found a fairly cryptic email from someone at Bethesda in my Inbox feeling out my willingness to sign an NDA.
It was clear until it was signed no further information could be had.
Personally didn't like the idea of signing an NDA just to have a conversation, but I've been around the block often enough to know that these documents gave Corporations the security they need to talk openly about issues, so I signed.

Immediately Bethesda wanted to know my willingness to travel and to discuss '76 in person..

Roughly 2 weeks later I took a leap of faith and found myself boarding planes to visit Bethesda’s Studios Dallas Campus.
It was a bit of a leap of faith that this was going to be worth my time, time away from work and family, because even after signing the NDA the details were sparse in the days leading up to the trip. (Hell the details were vague enough my wife, in jest of course, verified my Life Insurance was in good order, "Just in Case I got disappeared". My brisk nature has a habit of pissing people off….)

At this point I'm going to pause and address something likely to be brought up in the comments.#

A vocal minority will accuse me of being a "shill", that this post is a work of fiction, or more likely assume this is a star struck fan fluff piece. Maybe Bethesda will comment and back me up, maybe they won't, but either accept this at face value or walk away.

Back to the story….#

After landing in Dallas the first day started almost immediately with a meeting of the others brought in for this “conversation”.
It turns out Bethesda had reached out to 10 people in the community at large all with very different perspectives on '76. 8 of us responded and were in a position to take the trip and discover what Bethesda wanted to talk about.
To add some gravity / context a few of us were not based In the United States, and this was all on Bethesda’s dime.

Dinner was had, and we chatted backgrounds, perspectives and guessed at what we each thought the next day would bring.
Without realizing it we closed down the restaurant.

The morning started with breakfast and a walk to the Studios were we had the obligatory tour. Once that was out of the way we got down to business.

FO76's Dev's were there to talk with us,not to us. This was the core staff driving '76, and one by one they came in, talked with us and actually listened to what we had to say.

Back to me not being a star struck fan, change that singular to “Us”.
We were not a group of star struck fans… All 8 of us had come prepared with questions, issues and personal gripes to air. Several of us have backgrounds / jobs in various fields that foster an "assertive" nature. Personally In addition to my day job I'm a MOD author for FO4 (currently on hiatus and ducking my responsibilities) so there was some Love/Hate to start things off and I pushed the envelope at times.


We asked hard questions and the Dallas Team gave us the time and opportunity to discuss many of them.
We pushed back when we felt like they weren't being completely forthright, and in turn we listened and accepted when it was clear they couldn't go into more detail.
Overall I think it was pretty solid.

We broke for lunch and ate clustered in groups passionately discussing the game.
Quickly it became clear they were not just giving lip service but really paying attention to our thoughts, suggestions and criticisms.

After eating our fill we got back to business…
The Dallas crew lowered their guard, opening up by outlining, previewing and then letting us play with some of the upcoming content, specifically Nuclear Winter.

This wasn't old school "on the rails" limited preview, or a guided walk through, but a fast and furious Playtest.
Random teams were created, the Staff mixed in with the rest of us, and after what seemed like a couple minutes but was actually an hour plus the Playtest wrapped and we met back with the Dev's for some feedback and impressions.

{MWhen we sat down for some Q&A and it was really clear at that point the Dallas Team was a little nervous, they were guarded and I think worried the feedback was going to be scathing.

Think about that…
This wasn't a focus group with clipboards and impersonal drones taking notes.
These were the creators showing us their pride and joy, and like anyone with so much time and energy invested they were worried like anyone that cared would be.

It's worth mentioning of the 8 of us, the majority were immediately put off by the proposed format, being old school Fallout fans. We didn't want another PVP mode, especially this style..
But every single one of us enjoyed the hell out of it. Again this was an Alpha Build, so what we played will be different than what the Launch brings, but I can't stress enough how much I personally loved it

The Q&A wrapped and what seemed like minutes later we were sitting at dinner with a huge chunk of the Dallas crew.
Before things ended I got a couple firm handshakes and what seemed like honest "Thank you's" for the bug reports I've been making public on Reddit.
As much as I've been a pain in the ass they seemed to recognize the investment it represented from me.

A night back at the hotel and was over.
Personally I was flying home, exhausted but glad I had invested the time and that Bethesda took a chance on us.

Took a Chance?

This is the second time I've mentioned taking a chance…
Game Companies, major Corporations and especially Software Developers rarely, if every do what Bethesda did.
They don't open their doors.
They don't give non-staff free reign to ask questions and make suggestions.
They rarely (if ever) allow face to face feedback.
Most importantly they don't preview a pre-Alpha build of new content, risking not only a lose of IP but the serious risk of negative press and losing control of their release cycle cycle and PR.
This last bit had to really make Bethesda stop and think, because deserved or not, the general feedback and reviews of '76 has been anything but kind.

There was a real risk this could have backfired and one or more of us would have violated our NDA.

Wrapping Up##

This is already longer than I expected and I can't share the details on everything. Hell I'd bore you to death by spending the time detailing everything that was outlined, debated, previewed and hinted at, but trust me, the trip was worth it.

Bethesda Isn't (completely) a faceless monster devouring our money, but people with a passion trying to share their passion with us.

The takeaway was they heard us and since then we've had the opportunity to share additional feedback and pass things up to the Dev's (still indirectly). There are some fun things on the horizon for '76, and they are trying to get all our issues addressed. I'm not going to let up on them when it comes to bringing bugs to light, but I now see them not as a faceless black hole gobbling up our time and money but a group of people working hard and limited by a number of factors. Change is slow, especially when it comes to large companies, but they are trying to find ways to "hear us better".

Several of the others involved from the community have made the decision to remain anonymous for a number of reasons and I'm going to respect their choice.

I won't talk in depth about my experience with the upcoming content (other than impressions) in large part because it was an Alpha build, and what we see at release will without a doubt be different and I don't want to color or hype something that might not be.

What I will say is Fallout ‘76 has the potential to be a groundbreaking game with quite literally something for everyone.
It could in the end cater to nearly every playstyle, satisfying the diehard fans from the original Fallout to FONV and beyond.

Bethesda flew me and seven others to Dallas, listen to us gripe about the game, took notes and previewed and finally let us play Nuclear Winter.

Historically I've not enjoyed and flat out avoided that style of PVP, but I fracking loved it.

‘76 has the potential to be a groundbreaking game, catering to every type of Fallout fan, but we have to give it time to grow.


The whole experience was awesome, but it's not going to stop me from riding Bethesda, publicly posting my Bug round ups and doing my part to help the game fixed.

My apologies to those in game I've been refusing to discuss the trip with and most especially the friends and fellow mod authors I've been ducking for a few months, I knew I'd have trouble sticking to the NDA if I didn't make myself scarce.

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