The best game designers are players too. And I definitely love playing games as much as writing them. Ok, ok, I think I enjoy writing them slightly more, but I'm a little strange.

So if my blog has been a little spare this week, that's because Fallout 76 came out, and in a rare confluence of events, I actually have the time off work to play it. And more importantly, the spousal go-ahead to be virtual hubby for a day or two. I seriously turn into "that guy" who deep dives into a game and disappears from the word for a week or two.

I'll start first by saying yes, the game is a little glitchy. But only by Bethesda standards. By just about any other company's standards this thing would be rock solid. We love you Bethesda, keep up the good fight.

If you like the other Fallouts, there are thing you are going to love about this game and things you are going to absolutely (beeping) hate about this game. My first game in the serious was Fallout 4. There are habits you pick up in that game that do not carry over well into Fallout 76. First and foremost: being a pack rat.

If you stockpile material, you slam against hard limits on what your can carry and what you can store in your camp. There is a hard limit on what you can build in your camp. Most of the food you can grow or hunt goes bad. And the robot vendors in the game only dole out about 200 caps per person. And yes, the game seems to have a personal account with each vendor.

There is no "he who dies with the most toys wins" route in this game. I have found myself seriously in need of a therapy group for hoarders coming from Fallout 4.

The other mechanic going on is that your player is needier than a Tamagotchi. They have to constantly eat and drink. And most of the stuff you can eat gives you rads. And the medication for rads makes you vulnerable to catching a disease. There are also cool random elements where if you walk around long enough with a high rad level you develop a mutation, with one good attribute and one awful one.

They also brought back weapon degradation from earlier Fallout installments. If you use that awesome gun you have over and over, it eventually breaks and needs repair.

Fallout 4 was basically how to build a junk empire. Fallout 76 is more about getting you out in the world if for nothing more than basic survival. There a couple of story lines that take you out to all corners of the game world to do some silly mission. But in the process, they game opens up all of the good spots to collect/hunt/steal things from.

In the process you find that making friends is awesome. Game areas have "events" that pop up and random intervals. Events are pop-up missions that require multiple players to accomplish. And by multiple, I mean upwards of a dozen or more for some. The missions themselves are collect things, or run to locations and interact with a console/fix something, or protect an NPC. And keeping you from that task are waves and waves and waves of monsters.

The rewards from events are decent enough that it's worth replaying them over and over. (Every player who stands in an event area gets the reward.) There is no downside to failing an event. So I find myself habitually checking the map for events in my area.

The game does have fast travel, but it costs caps. And you can't fast travel if you are over your carrying limit. I generally find enough caps in the game for the travelling I need to do to help out a teammate, or avoid travelling across the map for a mission, but my preferred form of transport is still the shoe leather express.

From a rules perpective, Bethesda seems to be going out of their way to make the game about the play, not the leveling up, and certainly not the hoarding. The game is playable, and enjoyable at level 1. The opening town is pretty much designed as a pipeline to get you introduced to the major story lines, and get enough gear and experience to wander out into the rest of the world.

A very, very, very helpful mechanic is that whenever you see a MOB, its level is posted next to the name. A level 1 mob is a challenge for a level 1 player. A level 50 mob is a challenge for a level 50 player. It's easy to see when to shoot, and when to scoot. And those level markings are pretty spot on, as I can tell you from very hard won experience.

You will die in this game. A lot. There is an entire science to dying. If you are with a group, someone can stimpack you within 30 seconds to revive you. Otherwise you disappear and reappear at a nearby spawn point. Some of the loot you were carrying ends up in a paper bag where you were standing when you died. You (or someone else) can run out to pick the stuff up.

One warning, if you are not nearby a spawn point when you biff it, there is sometimes a fast travel fee. It's hard to do given how many locations are on the map, but it's happened to me. Also, for some levels, there are places you can die that just kiss the stuff goodbye. There's a tank in one of the Nuclear power plants that I fell into. I fought my way back thinking "oh, there must have been a way out." Or "oh, they'll just drop by baggie outside the trap." Nope. Also that same level has a deadly cloud of steam. If you biff it in there, again, just kiss the stuff goodbye.

There are "My Stash" boxes around Appalachia that act like the Ender Chest in Minecraft. Finite in capacity, but the stuff in it is accessible from any "My Stash" location. It's also personalized, meaning two players opening the same Stash will each see their own stuff. That My Stash is also the inventory of your C.A.M.P.'s workshop. Which one one sense is a godsend. On the other, given it's finite capacity, it's also a hinderance.

I'm going to come out and say it, this game is no game for hoarders. Yes, you can pick up a dozen shotguns from MOBs in a dungeon. But each weighs a good chunk, and unlike Fallout 4, there are not a zillion vendors who will take if off your hands for caps. You can take stuff to a workbench to convert it to scrap. But even scrap has weight. As do bullets and other ammo. There is frankly no good place to dump stuff, short of dropping it into a paper bag and leaving it as an offering to the Gods.

That's not all the bad though. I've actually found myself befriending lower level players and, because I have so much damn stuff, it's kind of cheap for me to quick set them up with a water purifier and some generators. I have crap coming out of my ears, giving things away is actually a relief.

And more on this C.A.M.P. thing. Players of Fallout 4 are familiar with settlements and workshops. CAMP is a workshop you can drop into just about any part of the world. If costs caps to move it, but you can always fast travel back to it for free. (Or at least that's been my experience, it could be a glitch.) You can plant crops, build structures, lay out defenses, and otherwise have on place in the world you can kick your shoes off and relax. If you are on a team, team members can build in each other's camps.

Throughout the game you pick up plans. Each plan unlocks a new item in the workshop. So right now my base has all of the comforts of home. Metal beds. All four crafting stations. A farm large enough to make my own adhesive. And enough turrets to mow down a pack of wandering Ghouls or wandering rad scorpions. When mobs attack your CAMP, they tend to hit you where it hurts. They break down any development you have created. They destroy crops. Destroy generators. Break down infrastructure and buildings. You definitely want at least 4 turrets up at all times, in two mutually supporting field of fire. (One on each side of my CAMP.)

I usually build on a hill, so I have my uphill turrets integrated with the roof of my cabin, and downhill turrets on a concrete pedestal covering the approach. You don't want to go overboard on the turrets because they do chew up a lot of your building allotment for camps. But you definitely do not want to try and do without. Nothing gets the blood flowing quite like working at a crafting station, suddenly taking damage, and finding yourself in the middle of a thicket of ghouls ransacking the place.

And yes, I am speaking from experience.

There are also fixed workshops scattered around Appalachia. If nobody has laid claim to them you can take them over by killing the resident MOBs and paying a modest (25 cap or so) fee. The Workshops come with a heap of resources, but they also come with a heap of problems. They get invaded about once per hour by increasingly difficult mobs. Other players can also challenge you for it via Player-Vs-Player (PVP). Basically if they can mow down your defenses, they can pay the modest fee to also take it. Or just steal the resources out of the harvesting devices you built. I find I dump a lot more gear and caps into fixed workstations than I ever get out of it. But if you really, really, really like a Fallout version of a Castle Defense game, it's (bleeping) brilliant.

And on the subject of PVP, I've had some limited exposure to it. The basic rules are that it takes two to tango. If someone hits you, it doesn't do too much damage, until you fire back. Then you are both hitting with full strength. I accidentally tripped the rules in a big event with another guy when we managed to smack each other while dealing with a horde of ghouls. A quick apology and we both moved on. The other time, there were two players that were teaming up to pretty much ruin everyone else's night. I had just wrapped up an event and was down to virtually nothing in HP, and they shot me as I tried to pick up a cargo drop. And they kept chasing me around the board and shooting me. I was overloaded, and wasn't moving very fast. And I guess I was also dropping good loot when they would biff me.

Finally I just waited until one of them had to reload their shotgun, and emptied a magazine of 10mm into their skull. It kind of ended after that. I haven't seen the like since, but if you encounter them, just remember that the advantage is always with he or she who shoots last. And you can pretty much take down any player at point blank range with a 10mm pistol to the skull.

I actually love that, Bethesda. As annoyed as I was, it felt really good to mete out some Appalachian justice.

The only other time I had a PVP encounter was a player who decided it was fun to attack and destroy my camp. If you do that (or kill a player who wasn't firing back) you trigger the Murder system. Essentially the game puts a bounty on your head, and the rest of the players can immediately see you on the map. I tracked this turkey down, and game him or her a lead infusion. And that was also, strangely, satisfying.

Still far more satisfying was helping lower level people out, and unlocking new location after new location on the map. Overall this game has been a blast. I really get the sense that they put a lot of time and thought into the game itself. How it was supposed to play. How to avoid a completely broken play style. How to ensure it pays to be nice. Hot to ensure it doesn't pay to be anti-social.

I should be getting back to the Epic of Gilgamesh soon. And if you spot an "Evil Twin Skippy", out in Appalachia, say hi.