PC players have had their hands on the Fallout 76 beta for a mere nine hours, yet several modders have already figured out how to alter the game.
Over on Nexusmods, a handful of Fallout 76 mods have appeared. The mods range from simple menu alterations to some pretty funky texture changes. One mod by Motherofdeathclaws, for instance, lets players colour their hair any shade they like (even bright purple), while another by Neeher transforms your character's vault suit from blue to black. Day one of the PC beta and we already have wasteland goths.
If you're feeling a little confused as to how modders managed to do this so quickly, you're not alone. At this year's E3, Bethesda's Todd Howard said modding support would only arrive after the game's launch, as the developer wants to focus on creating a "well-running, robust service" first. Hmm. Howard also explained Fallout 76 will let players create mods "in their own private world," and modding would therefore not be available in the beta.
So how on earth have these modders already manage to change Fallout 76?
To find out, I got in touch with both Motherofdeathclaws and Neeher to ask how they created the mods. Both informed me they used tools from Fallout 4 modding to alter the game files, as according to Neeher "the core of Fallout 76 is basically identical to Fallout 4", while "the game assets are packaged exactly the same way too".
"Bethesda doesn't allow the traditional way of modding by editing some configuration files that tell the game to not require those packaged assets," Neeher said. Instead, you apparently have to modify the packages (called Archives) using a program within the Fallout 4 creation kit called Archive2. "You can modify the files inside an archive with this program, such as replacing textures," Neeher explained.
To make the wacky hairsprays, Motherofdeathclaws similarly used Fallout 4 modding tools to extract the files, then edited them to their liking in Photoshop. "From there I simply edited the game's files again to replace the old versions with my textures and loaded up the game," Motherofdeathclaws told me.
Although both the modders I spoke to have so far stuck with texture mods, there appear to be limited possibilities for further experimentation. Neeher believes, for instance, sound replacers and model editing could also be added, but don't expect the kind of mods already available for Fallout 4.
It seems these mods are possible as Fallout 76's design is so similar to Fallout 4's, which was at the root of the recent discovery Fallout 76's game speed and framerate are linked - as they were in Fallout 4. The new mods are also player side only, which means other players on the server with the standard Fallout 76 files won't see your bright purple hairdo. And, finally, the mods do not change the game physics, which on the surface should mean they're fairly harmless.
But in Neeher's opinion, there could be trouble on the horizon, as the modders are not yet certain whether Bethesda will be happy with their explots. Due to Bethesda's new microtransactions and an in-game store for cosmetic items, Neeher believes "this type of modding may prove a threat to them".
"If someone really wanted to have an atom market purchase but didn't want to pay, they could do this method of modding to steal the content from the store," Neeher said. "I imagine we may hear something about this before release in a couple weeks." Motherofdeathclaws similarly believes the official release could change whether these mods work at all. To me, however, the main appeal of cosmetics is other people see them - something the mods cannot replicate. Perhaps Bethesda will simply let this one go (Eurogamer contacted Bethesda for comment on Fallout 76 modding).
If you want to see one of the mods in action, it might be worth keeping an eye on JamesAutumn's Twitch channel, which is due to demo the hairspray mod during the next round of the beta (that's tomorrow, by the way). And, of course, this could only be the start of more Fallout 76 beta mods - have the floodgates well and truly been opened?