Bethesda’s Todd Howard explains why the post-apocalypse simulator Fallout is becoming an online multiplayer, and why he is just as scared of it as the players

While billionaires buy up property in New Zealand and pay technologists huge sums of money for advice on how to keep their staff in check after “the event” – that is, whatever it is that wipes out enough of the planet to justify living in bunkers – the rest of us are left to deal with the looming threat of catastrophe by playing video games. Bethesda Game Studios’ Fallout series offers a very American take on the post-apocalypse: humans, ghouls and mutants protect their respective corners of the wasteland with big guns and power armour, in a retro future with sci-fi technology and a 1950s aesthetic. The games present a ravaged, irradiated all-American picket-fence fantasy with classic cars, suburban homes and US landmarks devastated by nuclear bombs.

Fallouts 3 and 4 are explorative role-playing games that cast the player as a survivor emerging from a vault after more than 100 years into a world they don’t recognise – though, after a few hours, they have significantly more weapons and resources than the average pitiable remnant of humanity. The games offer the player 100 or more hours exploring the wasteland and meeting its dogged inhabitants. But developer Bethesda surprised fans this year by announcing Fallout 76, an online multiplayer game set in the same universe. As one of the first survivors to emerge from the vaults, you’ll be up against other players as well as the usual mutants, monsters and hazardous environments.

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