The ’76 Diaries: Part One

Fallout 76 takes Bethesda’s series online for the first time. As with other MMOs, this leads to what us professionals call ‘something that’s difficult to review, like, in a normal way and that’.

With this in mind, I heroically suggested I write a bit of a diary feature – a set of entries on Wireframe’s site, chronicling my adventures in a world where nukes won all the arguments before everyone gathered together to emote in the aftermath. It would a) be able to keep up with changes and updates to the game as they come in, and b) give me a reasonable excuse to play Fallout 76 more than I probably should.

As with all truly stellar plans, there was a hitch. A 50 gigabyte hitch. Pop that disc into your console, dear friends, and you’ll be met with a mandatory day one update of some 50 GB. It’s a massive amount to have to download if you have superfast broadband. If you live on a farm three miles from the nearest Openreach exchange, it’s a staggering amount to have to download.

And so it is that the first entry in the ’76 Diaries contains nothing of my actual play time with the game, instead just a weary anecdote about the perils of modern gaming. A place where even if you’re playing things from the actual disc – which, I don’t think it’s absurd to say, should really just work when you put them in the machine – you have to fundamentally annihilate the capacity of your four megabit downstream. For days.

One of many things I won’t be seeing just yet.

I’m actually feeling a mite softer towards Fallout 76 than I am to, say, Hitman 2 – IO’s latest in the kill-‘em-up series demanding a 17GB download after Inserting The Disc. Bethesda’s game is an MMO, so I’d totally expect there to be a bunch of changes and updates necessary that came well after the game had gone gold and been sent off for manufacturing.

It is still 50 gigabytes, though. That’s an entire Blu-ray disc. The same kind of disc I put into my Xbox One X to kick off this whole journey of discovery. It absolutely won’t matter to me once the game is installed and updated, and I can kick it in the post-apocalyptic future with some fair-weather – or nuclear winter – friends. Just like it didn’t matter with Red Dead Redemption 2’s chunky day one update.

But in the here and now, in this first trailblazing part of an ongoing project to see just how much an MMO evolves over time – and how much time I can bring myself to put into it – I’m stuck. I’m stuck with an ongoing download, and a symptom of an industry that just doesn’t seem to understand: not everyone has incredibly fast broadband.

Not everyone can get it. Not everyone can afford it. Not everyone has uncapped limits. The simple, unthinking process of demanding these gigantic updates be downloaded is in itself exclusionary, and a practice that needs to be stymied in favour of a more consumer (and bandwidth)-friendly approach.

Still, for all the irritation I’m feeling right now, I do have to take a step back and say: it’s just a patch, it’s necessary to make the game work properly even if it is a larger file size than what the disc can actually hold. Really – it’s not like it’s the end of the world.

Coming soon – Part 2: has it finished downloading yet?

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