Fallout 76 interview: Discussing crossplay, mods, Skyline Valley, Nuclear Winter, and the future with Bethesda

Fallout 76 Skyline Valley
(Image credit: Bethesda)

At the Xbox Games Showcase 2024, we got a glimpse at the future of Fallout 76. 

Fallout 76 has found a renewed surge in popularity since the Fallout TV show blew up. Players are discovering that the game has been massively reworked since its inception, which launched to a barrage of negativity owing to bugs, a lack of traditional Bethesda storytelling, among other things. Fast forward to 2024, and things are very different. 

Fallout 76 will get a big map expansion this summer in the form of Skyline Valley, and Bethesda even teased that for the first time in the series, players will be able to play as a ghoul. Super mutants next?! 

Recently, we were joined by art director Jonathan Rush at an event in London and executive producer Bill Lacoste to discuss the past, present, and future of all things Fallout 76. 

First of all, congrats on the huge influx of new players and the resurgence! I am someone who played and enjoyed the game on day one, although I dropped off during the first round of endgame content. It turns out I missed out on A LOT of stuff. After all these years, I was excited to return after falling back in love with Fallout thanks to the TV show, and was delighted to see how much the game had changed for the better. It's no secret that the game was controversial at launch. How has the road to get here been?

First off, welcome back to Appalachia! You have missed a lot, but you’re here now and that is what is important! We hope you’re just as excited about Skyline Valley as we are. 

As with most projects there are always challenges to overcome, especially post-launch, but for Fallout 76 we always planned to continue to update and grow the game. The keys for us were listening to the community to help us decide what to prioritize and the types of new content they wanted and then being consistent and reliable in those updates. For the last 34 updates, 17 major ones, since Wastelanders, we have not missed a single release date.

Fallout 76 has a huge update planned for the near future. What can new, returning, and veteran players expect to find from this new experience?

Well, the biggest feature of this update is that we’ve expanded the map into Shenandoah National Park. Something we have never done in 76, and it’s exciting! There’s something for everyone in this new region. Players are going to be introduced to a brand-new branching storyline involving Vault 63 as well as get a new event, a new boss event, new points of interest to explore, more side quests, and even a host of new C.A.M.P. spots with some very rich vistas. They’re also going to get our commitment to adding even more content to this area in the future. 

What's the update's approach to story telling this time around? Wastelanders offers some great classic Fallout choice-and-consequences gameplay, should we expect more of that with Skyline Valley?

Well, ever since we started the re-settling of Appalachia, we introduced a bunch of new factions, new leaders, new locations, and new characters which offer a wide range of interactions. With Skyline Valley, you’re going to get more of that, but our new mainline quest does bring some new elements to the traditional arc, but you’re going to have to play it to experience it!

Can you jump straight into the Skyline Valley content as a new player?

When you come out of the Vault, if you're looking out, you don't really see the Storm as a new player. You don't really see that until you get part of the way through Ash Heap, kind of. And then that's when it kind of starts to draw your attention. Because if you were fresh out of the Vault and you saw it, you've got all this other stuff, and you just go straight to it. But we've kind of set it up so that if someone comes out of the Vault, they see they see the First Responders smoke coming up, and know that that's kind of where they're going. But yeah, if somebody knew about it, wanted to bee line straight there, they could. 

Rush: I think maybe level 25 is the minimum and that's because that's when the the request is automatically added to your journal and radio channel. 25 will probably be the minimum to start the quest. You can still go out there and do stuff around there [at any level].

 Could we eventually see mod support for Fallout 76?

We've never really like, "pushed back" on players who add UI mods and things like that. But any other mods where you would expect to have like a script extender that you often need for single-player games — that won't happen with Fallout 76. Being online, we have to protect the integrity of the game to make sure the players aren't injecting code and destroying the balance of the game in some way, shape, or form. 

Taking public teams, for example, we wanted to make sure that players' mods weren't affected by some of those new features that came in. Even though we don't officially support mods, we're still aware of mods that players are using for UI things. So ultimately what we gave them with the loadouts system and the job board, they had already kind of started to appear in the modding community. They had a way for them to be able to select different load-outs and actually change the parts on the fly. But we kind of gave them that in the game, which is better supported. We did this because if we do any updates, it kind of guarantees that the features will continue to work. But yeah, we don't officially support mods for a lot of different reasons. We try not to break the UI mods, but sometimes it's necessary. 

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Why did you guys decide to go with a map expansion for the new update, rather than an instanced expedition like Atlantic City and The Pitt?

A lot of it was just based on something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. We built out The Pitt and Atlantic City for specific players and play types, and those spaces have been super successful. But we felt like it’s time to introduce something new and this space hits all the beats we’re looking for post-launch of the TV show. The space is accessible for new players, which we have a lot of these days, provides a new space to build C.A.M.P.s in, and as I noted earlier brings in new events, random encounters, and an amazing new storyline surrounding The Lost.

Could we see more expeditions in the future, perhaps to other fan-favorite locations like the Capital Wasteland?

Always a possibility, for sure ...

There were some cosmetics to honor the TV show connection, but a lot of fans are wondering if there are plans to more deeply explore how Fallout 76 could tie into the TV show. Is that something you guys discuss? 

We discuss everything, and while we don’t currently have any plans right now to explore that, I don’t think we ever say anything is off the table. However, I feel like the TV show is a great expansion of the universe, and the overall story, has amazing characters, and I kind of like the separation in the timeline between 76 and the show.

While there are many new players discovering the game for the first time, there's also a sizeable community of veterans who have stuck by throughout. What are some of their biggest points of feedback you wish to address in the future?

Oh, I could spend all day on this because we have such a dedicated and passionate community, but we’re addressing one of those big ones with this update of Skyline Valley by expanding the map. This has been a request for a long time, and we have also wanted this.

Aside from that, there are several legacy systems that need some love. We have combat rebalancing to do, which is also part of this new update, and even screens like the workshop menu have become overloaded and hard to navigate, so we’ll continue to explore changes to things like this going forward.

One thing I've noticed is some contention over weapon balance. How does the team approach balance in general?

Absolutely. Our approach involves constantly looking at weapon/armor/power armor and mods balancing, and we’ll continue efforts to bring many of the underpowered items in line as best as we can with the others. We really want to see a variety of builds, loadouts, and playstyles, and we don’t ever want to force players down a limited number of paths because they’re the only viable ones.

(Image credit: Bethesda)

One thing I get asked about A LOT when I'm trying to convince my friends to play is that of cross-play and cross-save progression. A lot of people I know would love to take their save files from Xbox to their Steam Deck or ASUS ROG Ally, for example. Is cross-play, or cross-save something that is possible for Fallout 76?

Anything is possible! However, for 76 this is a very heavy technical lift because you’re talking about having to adjust for different platform accounts, Atom purchases, platform specific social systems, and other entitlements, and we feel the time/effort is best spent on content. I won’t ever say it’s off the table, but this is one of those features that is very complex to add later.

I subscribed to Fallout 1st to check it out, but I was hoping that the Fallout 1st private realm would be dedicated and always online, similar to Minecraft Realms. Would you guys ever consider letting people rent a permanent dedicated server so friends can build up their own wasteland even when the "host" isn't online? 

Always online is not something we’ve discussed in depth, so there are no plans right now to add that kind of support.

I've seen a lot of chatter among the community about bringing back the Nuclear Winter PvP feature. Is that something that could ever happen?

It's not 100% off the table, but the engagement is much, much higher on the other game modes, and we went through an extensive sunsetting exercise to get all the rewards moved over to Adventure Mode. It’s currently not on the roadmap to bring back.

Finally, just wanted to thank you guys again for fielding my questions, and for your continued hard work on Fallout 76. Is there anything you'd like to add for the wider Fallout 76 community?

Of course! This is one of my favorite topics to talk about. We have the absolute best community. Our players, content creators, streamers, and influencers are, hands down, THE best. The passion that they bring to the game is just not something you see in many games these days. So, from our team to you all in the community...thank you for everything. The fact you choose to spend your valuable time playing 76, giving us feedback, asking for new features, and creating content for all the other players means a lot. You’re amazing, and we can’t wait to show you what we have cookin’ for you in the future.

A big thank you to the Fallout 76 team for joining us

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Fallout 76's Skyline Valley update is the first map expansion we've seen hit the game, which should offer a glimpse at how Bethesda is thinking about future content for the game moving forward. 

Playing through Wastelanders for the first time since the game launched, Fallout 76 is almost like a completely different game for me. I started a new character after playing the base game when it launched for several hundred hours before finally giving up somewhere in the endgame. The way the game works now is far more rewarding, and the vast majority of story content that offers that true Fallout feel makes the game more infectious than ever. 

Fallout 76 is available now on PlayStation, Xbox, PC, and Xbox Game Pass, and is well worth checking out whether you're completely new or a lapsed player. The big Skyline Valley update is dropping on June 12, 2024. 

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

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