What’s going on with Fallout 4’s DLC?

Wednesday, 6 January 2016 12:14 GMT By Matt Martin

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Regular free updates, story DLC and mods have all been promised for “early” 2016. But what does that mean, what can we expect, and when?

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“I wouldn’t expect to see mods on console in the first half of 2016, but if modders really get behind it, this could be an almost unlimited source of content for players over the next couple of years at least.”

Fallout 4’s November 10 release date seems a long way off whether you’ve completed the main quest line or are still putting the hours in exploring the Boston commonwealth. It’s a game that demands your commitment by tens of hours at a time, but time in Fallout 4 is also kind of irrelevant. Unlike Fallout 3 there’s no level cap or end once the main quest is completed. It’s a true open world, where pottering around adding bookshelves to your settlement can be as all-consuming as hunting down rampaging Death Claws or mapping out the Glowing Sea.

But as much as Fallout 4 offers, we want more. We’re expecting a whole chunk of content from Bethesda Game Studios this year, so let’s take a look in detail about what we know and what we can expect to keep Fallout 4 alive throughout 2016.

The official line from director Todd Howard and the Bethesda Game Studios gang is that DLC for the game is split into three types. The team has promised “regular updates”, single-player DLC and the release of the Creation Kit for modding.

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The regular updates are what we should be expecting first although there’s only been one so far. “We’ll be doing regular free updates to the game, and like Skyrim, these will come with not just fixes, but new features,” promised Howard.

Apart from a few button remaps for PC, December’s release was purely about improved performance – a welcome move considering the state the game was in when it first dropped. It hasn’t fixed a lot of issues, but it was acknowledgement that the game needed a bandage or two.

“This process has worked well for us in the past and allows us to get more fixes out faster. Expect to see more updates, that are smaller and more frequent, than a few big ones,” said Howard in November.

That’s encouraging talk, but so far we’ve seen nothing of extra features, no matter how small. Bethesda has also promised to create content based on player feedback, although whether that’s from directly speaking to us or via combing player stats is yet to be seen. Some evidence of interaction with the players from Bethesda right now would be very encouraging.

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“Bethesda has also promised to create content based on player feedback. Some evidence of that would be very encouraging.”

Elsewhere, the Creation Kit for PC has been promised “early” this year. “Early” is a wide definition and non-committal, so could mean this month or as late as April or May. In the meantime, modders have already gone to town off their own back, creating enhancements, new features, tech improvements and more. Will the enthusiasm still be there among the PC gaming community when the official modding kit arrives?

The Creation Kit is supposedly the same tool that Bethesda uses in house, and although it will be only available to PC owners, the best mods will then be ported over to the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game. Presumably these console mods will be filtered via Bethesda’s own guardians, so expect sanitised additions to the game, with any borderline content (copyrighted characters, legally dubious, violent or raunchy) not making the cut.

Mods for consoles initially sound like welcome additions, although with Bethesda’s filtering and Sony and Microsoft’s approval processes, I wouldn’t expect to see mods on console in the first half of this year. Regardless, if the modders really get behind it, this could be an almost unlimited source of content for players over the next couple of years at least.

And then there’s single-player DLC in the more traditional sense. The Season Pass is available now to buy for $30/£25 although you’ll be taking a bit of a gamble as nothing about it has been announced.

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“Since we’re still hard at work on the game, we don’t know what the actual DLC will be yet, but it will start coming early next year,” said Bethesda last September. “Based on what we did for Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Skyrim, we know that it will be worth at least $40, and if we do more, you’ll get it all with the Season Pass.”

Call me cynical, but I don’t believe for one second that Bethesda didn’t know what they were going to release at that point in time. Games development is a long process. If that statement is true, I wouldn’t expect the DLC to drop “early” this year at all. It would be too soon to create DLC towards the end of last year and have it ready for the early part of 2016. Of course it’s Bethesda’s prerogative to say and do what it likes with DLC and I respect that right to not reveal any details. Developers often take flack for talking about DLC content before the game itself is released. But don’t pretend you don’t know what you’re working on and you’re going to build content based on feedback after the game is released and have it ready in the first part of this year. That’s just not realistic at all.

I actually like the fact we have no real idea about what’s in the DLC. As one of millions of fans of Fallout 4, I much prefer my content to be a surprise as close to release as possible. There’s speculation that there may be underwater content after the discovery of the harpoon gun, and concepts for creatures such as the Centaur that appeared in the official artbook are conspicuous by their absence in the game. But speculating on content is something we’ll leave for another day.

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Looking back on Fallout 3’s DLC plan as a clue for what to expect this year is encouraging. There were five add-ons to the main game – Operation: Anchorage, The Pitt, Broken Steel, Point Lookout, and Mothership Zeta – and all were released on PC and Xbox 360 with roughly two month (or less) intervals. If the DLC for Fallout 4 follows a similar pattern, that’s not only good value for your $30, but it will keep the game alive until the end of the summer for those that want content rather than mods to toy with. And while the Fallout 3 DLC took longer to appear on PS3 last gen, this time around there’s no exclusive content for either format.

“Bethesda is notorious for releasing buggy games. If it starts adding modded content to Fallout 4, can it assure us it won’t introduce further bugs, glitches and technical problems down the line?”

The concept of DLC has changed since Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas came out on last gen consoles. Now we expect more regular updates or else solid chunks of extra game. Take a look at the consistently free drops from The Witcher 3 or Dying Light, and the meaty add-ons of Bloodborne: The Old Hunters and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s Jack the Ripper gameplay.

Will Fallout 4’s DLC meet the new high standards being set by games such as those? It’s fair to say we shouldn’t expect the same amount of technical polish in Bethesda’s game. Fallout 4’s open world achievements are fantastic, but it’s visual and technical prowess is a throwback to the last generation of consoles. That’s not to say the content of each DLC won’t be up to the narrative and gameplay standards of the original game.

The free updates sound much more achievable. Bethesda’s in-house Game Jam (above) for Skyrim following its release in 2011 hints at what comes from letting your developers toy around with something they’ve worked on for years without the guidance of a rigid design document.

Mods on consoles are a different thing altogether. Unprecedented, in fact. The closest we’ve seen are user created levels within a sandbox which can be shared, but that’s a way from the traditional idea of a mod. Bethesda isn’t exactly known for its technical innovation, and if it is to happen it’s something console manufacturers would likely have to supervise very closely and scrutinise. It’s far more realistic to see Fallout 4’s “console mods” as user created on the PC, then ported over to consoles as additional DLC releases.

Bethesda is also notorious for releasing buggy games. If it starts adding modded content to the game, can it assure us it won’t introduce further bugs, glitches and technical problems down the line? “Mods on console” makes for a great soundbite, but the reality sounds like it might be too much to realise successfully.

So there’s a lot of ifs and buts and maybes at this point with Fallout 4’s DLC. Bethesda remains quiet on the game after the holiday break, but judging by the continuously high interest in the game after last year’s critical and sales dominance players are still ravenously hungry for a whole lot more. Now we just have to wait to see what Bethesda does next.

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