With extensive updates and DLCs for Fallout 76 coming soon and the upcoming Elder Scrolls VI currently in production, it may be several years before Bethesda releases a single player Fallout game. But while Bethesda has their attention on other projects, fans have been creating more single-player experiences in Fallout 4. In an interview with Jake Dekker, project leaders from upcoming fan projects Fallout Miami and Fallout Cascadia talked about the trials that come with making non-profit DLC-sized mods for Fallout 4.
Once a small team of individuals of programmers, 3D modelers, and writers is assembled, one of the early steps in this type of mod projects is to make and release a trailer like the ones above. K. Constantine, one of the team leaders for the Fallout Miami project explained that part of the reason the trailer is one of the first steps is to show off the project idea and convince other modders that it is worth working on. While a game trailer for a game studio might be made in order to generate hype among players, the primary function of a mod trailer is to attract talent to the team, so that the production of the mod can begin in earnest.
Once enough modding talent is assembled – which is usually an ongoing process – the project leaders have to organize them into a functioning game development team. This difficult task is imperative to success of the project, and most expansive mods like this never make it to release.
However, the way that the Fallout Miami team and the Fallout Cascadia team go about this task differs between them. The Fallout Miami team focuses on keeping the scope manageable. The game will act as an add-on to Fallout 4, following the Sole Survivor as they travel from Fallout 4’s Commonwealth down to Florida. It will be slightly larger than Bethesda’s Fallout 4 DLC Far Harbor, both in size and story length. While some fans might have been expecting a larger game, this self-control seems like good news for those who want to see Fallout Miami actually come out some day.
Fallout Cascadia, on the other hand, has a much larger scope. It is an entirely independent game in Fallout 4’s engine, and takes place several years later around the area of what used to be Seattle, on a map that is twice the size of Fallout 4’s. It also ditches Fallout 4’s limited dialog system in favor of a fuller version, and includes a revamped version of Fallout 3’s perk system. Still, despite fact that the project has been described by both the current lead Leon and former lead Flenarn as “ambitious,” it has been going strong since 2016 and still hasn’t been disappeared like many of the large-scale mod projects.
In both cases, turnover and team management are big issues. Not everyone can dedicate long hours to the project, and some people on the team were only able to finish modelling one asset before leaving the team. However, most modders agreed that turnover was not the biggest issue, although Fallout Cascadia’s Leon did admit that turnover among writers was difficult, saying that it was often difficult for new writers to mesh their vision with partly-written parts of the game, and will often scrap whole parts and start over.
In most cases, managing teams without a central location or organization is a far bigger issue. Leon says that “coordination is key” when managing large-scale teams for mods. Often, issues appear just because of the fact that the team working on a mod don’t work in the same building. There’s no one who can see the work someone doing, maybe catching mistakes like if someone is still working on an asset for a quest that had been scrapped from the finished game. It’s also a lot harder for team leaders to communicate their vision to the rest of the team when they can’t do things like call all-hands meetings. Leon says that he works both early and late hours to communicate with the members of his team in time zones across the world.
There isn’t an announced release date of either of these mods, but the project leaders are confident that it’s a matter of “when” not “if.” In the meantime, both teams are putting in the time to create what amounts to essentially new Fallout games, for nothing in return other than getting to add to a series that they love.