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Todd Howard Discusses Fallout 4 DLC, Mods, & Survival Mode

by Andrew Reiner on Feb 22, 2016 at 10:48 AM

Just a few hours before Todd Howard and several members of Bethesda Game Studios' team walked onto the D.I.C.E. Awards stage to accept Fallout 4's Game of the Year honors, I sat down with Howard to discuss what comes next for the game – primarily the forthcoming DLC plans.

Howard also opened up a little more on the studio's plans for Survival mode, and the release time frame for mods on console and PC. He also provided a little more clarity on Bethesda Game Studios working on three projects simultaneously.

I don’t think anyone thought of Bethesda Game Studios as a multi-game studio, and then you did Fallout Shelter and Fallout 4. Now you’re saying you’re stepping up the efforts to three games. What can you tell us about this switch?
We’ve always kind of overlapped stuff, but I guess we’re doing more now than we ever have. [The projects] aren’t all the same scale, but they are longer term. We’re also doing DLC, and Fallout Shelter, creation kit, and mod stuff, updating the game – we’ve got a lot going on.

We got to the point with the studio in Montreal where we can start expanding. We thought that ‘Hey, these are things we talked about doing, so why not, let’s start.’

I was in your studio 25 days before Fallout 4 released, and it was very much the calm before the storm. Talk me through the game’s launch.
It was pretty amazing in retrospect. I think you lose a little perspective when making games, and you’re happy that it got done. You hope that when it comes out, it’s really good, and sells like crazy. That’s what’s in your head. One of the things that is amazing: Fallout 4 sold more day one digitally than at retail. That’s a big change.

All of that Fallout energy when it came out, it was so much. That blur of finishing it excites us a lot. We have a really good platform with the Fallout platform, and now we say ‘What can we do with it?’

What was your big takeaway from the player feedback you were getting?
They played the game a lot. There is some ‘I played the main quest, I finished it, I’m done,’ but there are so many people that play the game for so long. It’s not just feeding them content; it’s how do you make that better?

After finishing up The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you revealed your team did an internal game jam to generate new DLC ideas. Did you do that for Fallout 4?
We did. Survival mode came out of that. We had talked about doing robot stuff, and there was a bunch of that in there. We do that every game. We do that in the middle of development. So we did that in the middle of Fallout 4. When we finished what we call our vertical slice preproduction build – when you can actually play the game – we do one for a week then. That fuels features for the main game like jetpacks and a number of other things. And we do another at the end, which is focused on mining ideas for DLC. We kind of talk about stuff, but when we start to see it on screen, we say ‘That’s really good. Here are the things we can do. What’s going to be in an update? Hey these fit in a package.’

What are some of the most surprising and creative things you’ve seen from the community in regards to the settlements?
Giant, animated, inappropriate images. [laughs] The popularity of the workshop stuff; that fueled a lot of communication between players.

When I interviewed you prior to launch, you said there was one big thing you didn’t put into the game, but you wouldn’t tell me what it was. Is that something that is in the DLC now?
If it’s the one that’s in my head right now, it’s too big for DLC. [laughs]

With all of the new projects in the works, is Fallout 4’s DLC created by the internal team that made the core game?

Yes. We kind of split the team up. We’re also expanding so that helps us. We have the team in Montreal; that helps too. It’s the same group.

You announced three pieces of DLC recently. What can you tell us about this first wave of content?
The one thing we’ve found about DLC is that we’ve done all types at all price points and all sizes, and we’ve come to the realization that it all works. It all sells really well. We went into [Fallout 4] and decided to do all types at all price points. With this initial run, we want to have a little bit of everything.

The first one Automatron has a little quest line and this Pokémon-esque ‘kill robots, get their parts, build your own’ [gameplay]. The robot building is really deep. It’s great.

The Wasteland Workshop DLC is obviously for Workshop people. We wanted it to scratch that itch of ‘Can I build my own Thunderdome?’ You can build your own arenas, capture animals, and also build other things.

A lot of people gravitate toward the larger ‘Okay, I’m going to a new landmass, it’s somewhere new.’ That’s Far Harbor. That costs more, takes us longer, and there’re more people on it.

In our previous DLC [offerings], we kind of did them one at a time and announced them that way, but because we were working on all of these three at one time, and fit a different niche, we thought ‘Let’s announce them at the same time.’

You said you are going to beta test Survival Mode. How is that going to unfold?
That’s going to be something different than we usually do. Survival mode has a lot of changes that can be pretty dramatic. Once we get it honed where it’s working well enough, we’re going to put it on Steam beta for a while. ‘Here it is. Start playing it. Give us feedback.’ It’s far easier to update and iterate on [PC]. Once we settle on it, then we’ll release it for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. We want to get it up soon on Steam beta. It’s not going to be months and months off. If it’s not really working, and we need to iterate on it, it may stay in beta for a month, depending on what we are changing. But we want to make it have the game feel different. The bits we’ve done, and me recently playing it, it’s absolutely some of the most fun I’ve had playing Fallout. I mean that honestly. It changes it in a good way for me, but it might not for everybody.

We’re doing things like you can’t save, it only saves your game when you sleep. You can’t fast travel. There’re all of these diseases. We’re trying it all. It’s a different experience. We’re not trying to make it a ton harder. It’s harder because you’re doing more things. We want the combat to feel different, as opposed to just being a bullet sponge.

When can we expect to see mods, especially on console side?
Our goal is between the first two DLCs. It’ll go up at that time on PC. In April. All of that stuff will go up on PC. People are beta testing it. There’ll be a lag on consoles. We want to get it up on PC and have it work. It’ll probably be a good month before it hits Xbox One, and another month for PlayStation 4.