Griefing—the act of intentionally annoying or upsetting other players in a multiplayer setting—is a problem anyone who has played games online is familiar with. After all, some people just want to see the world burn. But it also inarguably creates a hostile environment that would see most players give up rather than serve as petty amusement to troublemakers.
At the Fallout 76 panel during QuakeCon 2018, the question of how griefing will be handled naturally came up, as players no doubt want to know exactly how the greater community will play into their base building. Todd Howard’s response was as surprising as it was exciting, detailing a new system that will turn antagonistic PvP behavior into an interesting part of the narrative experience.
Howard says they wanted the game to have an element of danger without griefing, which is a tall order in an open world online game. To achieve this, they implemented features that will greatly reduce any incentive to grief other players, and turn those that do into the villains. For example, when you shoot another player, your character only does a small amount of damage, with more damage awarded if you continue and engage and enter into PvP. Players who die may seek revenge for their deaths, gaining double reward of caps and XP. Players that kill those who didn’t want to be engaged are labeled a “wanted murderer” and have a bounty placed on their head. If you are labeled a wanted murderer, you will receive no reward for those kills. Wanted murderers will also appear on your map as a red star denoting the bounty on their head, and the bounty comes out of their personal stash of caps. They also cannot see the other characters on the map.
This news was met during the panel with wild cheers, the loudest of the event. It seems most players are just fed up with jerks ruining their games. From the sound of it, the extensive play testing within the company served a major role in helping them anticipate how the system could be abused, and how to circumvent that.
As someone with major misgivings about a multiplayer Fallot game, a lot of my reluctance to play an MMO is reduced by knowing Fallout 76 will have options for addressing griefing. And not just the ignore feature that allows you to avoid other players, but also a system that turns a common community problem into part of the game. I think this will be a more effective way to deal with the problem. This innovation is exciting and I hope other developers are inspired—motivated, even—by this approach.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer living in Seattle, WA. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.