Interview: Double Eleven on Building a Better Fallout 76 with Bethesda

double eleven fallout 76

I’ve been a relatively dedicated Fallout fan since I first played Fallout 3 way back in 2008. Like many others, I was somewhat disillusioned by the franchise when Fallout 76 was released in 2018 to a paltry reception, but eventually, it started to level out and it was turned around into a genuinely enjoyable, entertaining game.

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Iain Farrell, Programme Manager at Double Eleven, a UK-based team that Bethesda Game Studios brought into the fold to work on content for Fallout 76. Since entering the arena, Double Eleven has crafted events such as Test Your Metal and Moonshine Jamboree, created the Nuka-World on Tour update, and crafted the current season in Fallout 76 – Once in a Blue Moon.

I was eager to learn about how that relationship started, how it’s going, and what’s next for that collaborative piece.

From One Thing To Another

Double Eleven’s history is quite prolific, with the firm having been founded by ex-Rockstar programmers to work primarily on handheld and mobile games. Before long, the team had buddied up with PlayStation, working on some sizeable projects before focusing most on console ports, arguably the largest of which was the console-based port of Rust. In the last few years, Double Eleven has also worked extensively on Minecraft Dungeons.

I was very interested to find out how things had progressed from working in those areas to lending a hand to Bethesda Game Studios on the Fallout franchise, arguably the best post-apocalyptic, open-world series of all time.

IF: ‘Being founded by a bunch of programmers, our background and our origin story are very technically led because that was how we got started. It was fairly small … and then over time, you’re getting a reputation as a very technically capable studio that can do some heavy lifting.

What happened sort of naturally is that you’re working on those things, and those studios have got an interest in extending the content and creating new things. You go from kind of having just a team of mostly programmers to maybe just one designer to maybe a couple of designers and then needing artists. Gradually, you end up very organically pulling in all the different disciplines you need to be a full-service studio like we are now.’

‘We were absolutely ready to take that kind of challenge.’

(Fallout) 76 was out, it was a released game, as they announced at the end of last year, it has 13.5 million players – it’s an incredibly successful game, and it’s steeped in this lore and IP. Players are excited about what has happened, what hasn’t happened yet, and what’s in the future. That means that we go out to the people in the studio but also people externally, and we recruit people who love and live the lore and have almost accidentally – by being fans – trained for years, making ready to then lean on that project.

That’s how we’ve kind of walked this line of starting in one place but gradually growing and building over time, and it sort of felt very natural by the time we got to working with Bethesda. By the time they contacted us, we were absolutely ready to kind of take that challenge and do that again.

Read More: Fallout 76's Secret Patch Makes the Game Much Better

Keys to the Kingdom

I knew that Double Eleven had worked quite extensively on Fallout 76 in the last year or so, but I was curious to know at what level they’d been given access to the game’s engine. I was particularly interested in finding out about the creative freedom that Double Eleven had over Fallout 76.

IF: ‘The freedom has definitely grown over time. When we first started Test Your Metal and the Moonshine Jamboree, some of those things, their plan was to ramp us up really slowly. They were very good partners in that way as well, that they didn’t have a burning deadline, like “it has to be done tomorrow.”

Because it’s a custom engine, I think that’s one of the things that we as a studio are really well-placed to do as well. Because of the technical work we’ve done in the past on all those different ports, we’re not just a Unity or an Unreal house, we’re very comfortable working with other people’s engines as well, especially when you’re bringing something from one platform to another.

We did tonnes of training with them early on. In a funny way, we felt like we spent the first six months probably just learning, but then we did kind of get started and start building areas, what was really great was how collaborative they were at sitting down with us and running through stuff. 

‘… the biggest creature that Bethesda has ever put in a game!’

That was the learning that we went through with those smaller events, and then the larger things really come about because the teams showed that they’re ready to do more and take on more, and that’s what you’ve seen over time – like Nuka-World was an example of that, it was a really big update, it featured the biggest creature that Bethesda has ever put in a game, so that’s showing a bit of our ambition.

GTH: Ultracite Titan!

IF: ‘Yeah, it was awesome, right?! But that comes about once the team is starting to build its confidence and growing confidence and starting to push out ideas. And luckily, everyone in Austin has been really receptive to that when the team brought those ideas. I think it’s that lovely coming together and that interest and excitement in the world and the IP, and then also starting to grow in confidence over time.

Read More: Is Fallout 76 Good Now?

Where Does It All Go Now?

It was an obvious question for Iain Farrell of Double Eleven: ‘What happens now?’ Surely this isn’t it for the partnership between Double Eleven and Bethesda Game Studios; there must be more in the future, right? I wanted to know if the team was working on the upcoming Atlantic City update that was revealed during the recent Xbox Showcase. It turned out that Double Eleven hasn’t had a hand in that update, but there are projects in the pipeline.

IF: ‘We are continuing to work with Bethesda and we are very excited to continue to work with Bethesda. I think, watch this space on that stuff, and I think they are acutely aware always of trying to provide the right amount of content for people. They’ve got to balance this tricky thing, where there’s a huge audience of people and there’s a real fervour and excitement around Fallout, and obviously, Bethesda more broadly has a big game coming out soon that is maybe – 

GTH: I’ve heard something about that one, some space game or something?

IF: ‘Yeah, exactly! It’s Fallout in space or something. They’re acutely aware that although they’ve got this really big thing that they’ve been working on for a very long time, they don’t want to forget about the other stuff, and I think I can say confidently that they’re not going to. I’m sure there’s more coming and they’ll be excited to tell us more in the future, and we’re excited to keep working with them and our team is busy, I can say that.

GTH: Absolutely, so there are no whispers about Fallout 5 just yet?

IF: ‘I think I won’t say anything more than Todd has, right?

GTH: Oh, there’s a sheet floating around, there’s an idea somewhere, or whatever.

Read More: When Is Fallout 5 Coming Out?

But How Do You Feel About Fallout 76?

I’m plugged into the Fallout community and I hear the consensus about Fallout 76. Personally, I feel like it’s a great game now, but only for newer players. It does struggle with the endgame and it can be drastically repetitive, but I wanted to hear from a true insider about the state of Fallout 76. So, that’s what I asked about before we wrapped up our chat.

IF: ‘When you go into Bethesda’s offices in Austin, they’ve got these glass cabinets at the entranceway, and they’re filled with little trinkets and letters – handwritten stuff that people have sent in saying how much they love 76 – specifically those ones really stood out to me, like how many people are taking the time to actually send them things, and were excited about that game and that world.

I think sometimes, when we’re very online, there’s a real challenge to kind of remove ourselves from that perception, because not everyone is as online and as connected as we are. And I think that thing like – yes, the press perception and things like that can be one thing, but then how much enjoyment players are getting out of it. Like, you don’t hit 13.5 million players by accident – that just doesn’t happen.

There’s something there and people are enjoying that experience, and they continue to play it, and when we produce new content, we continue to get great feedback. I mean, you look at places like Reddit and Twitter and the things that you see – we’ve had really good feedback on the stuff that we’ve contributed to, so it’s a really vocal and passionate community of people.

‘… you don’t hit 13.5 million players by accident.’

I think it’s lovely to see. I think it’s one of the industry’s success stories. This game continues to run, this game continues to be really, really popular, and it continues to be given the love it deserves by the people that make it. Because so often, something comes out and then falls by the wayside, and I think we’re really lucky as a studio that we work with people who love and care about the things that they created and the life that they have. Dungeons is another example of a phenomenally successful game that doesn’t get talked about tonnes, but it has had over ten million players.

I’m a fan of these experiences and I’m just really pleased that they have an audience and that the people making them continue to put energy into them and continue to exist. I think 76 is a great game and a great story, so I’m just glad it’s carrying on.

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Thank you once again to Iain Farrell for taking the time to speak with me about Fallout 76, which is currently available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.

  1. Thanx for your work Double Eleven! Me and my friends really love 76 and complete every season.
    Could you guys maybe contact EA and fix Anthem? Haha

  2. “There’s something there and people are enjoying that experience, and they continue to play it, and when we produce new content, we continue to get great feedback. I mean, you look at places like Reddit and Twitter and the things that you see – we’ve had really good feedback on the stuff that we’ve contributed to, so it’s a really vocal and passionate community of people.‘”

    What content? The flair and pant suits? The recycling of events? It’s been the same old, same old, it’s not obvious that anything has actually changed.

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