Todd Howard and Bethesda have gotten coal in their stocking, with hackers wreaking havoc on Fallout 76 over the Christmas period.
For those unfamiliar, Fallout 76 has been plagued with issues both in-game and in real life. While Bethesda Director and Executive Producer Todd Howard stated he “knew we were gonna have a lot of bumps,” the issues have been numerous and serious.
When the game was launched it was discovered to be heavily buggy, as documented by YouTubers Internet Historian and Joseph Anderson (Editor’s Note: Niche Gamer is not affiliated with either of these individuals, nor support any allegations made in these videos).
This resulted in extremely low reviewer and user scores. Some of these issues also included exploits that would allow players to obtain nigh-infinite money, nuke codes, items, and access the developer room (an in-game area containing every item in the game).
Once details of how to get a refund even after playing the game for 24-hours became wide-spread, Bethesda allegedly stopped issuing refunds. This resulted in a lawsuit investigation from Migliaccio & Rathod LLP, over Bethesda “releasing a heavily-glitched game, Fallout 76, and refusing to issue refunds for PC purchasers of the game who found it to be unplayable because of its technical problems.”
While the case in the US is still underway, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) concluded their own case. They found Bethesda parent company ZeniMax at fault, and demanded they issue refunds in Australia.
As if to answer “how could this get any worse?”, hackers began to find yet more ways to abuse the game. On December 12th, players saw that hackers had managed to spawn assets from Fallout 4 into Fallout 76, such as The Prydwen airship. While this other exploits to ensure users could have a floating campsite, it was fairly benign.
On December 14th, a user on UnknownCheats (“ErectBAN”) uploaded scripts to act as cheats- spawning objects, items, weapons, and armor. In some cases, players created legendary gear with effects beyond what the game limits them to. Instead of up to three stars (three special effects), they could gain five-star legendary weapons and accessories.
Editor’s Note: Niche Gamer does not condone or support utilizing hacks or cheats in online games. Any modifications a reader makes to any program running on their own PC is at their own risk. Doing so may result in the program ceasing to function correctly, and/or violating the Terms of Service for said programs.
The cheat scripts came just as Bethesda launched a free trial weekend with double XP on December 14th and 15th. ErectBAN even encouraged others in their post to use the cheats over the free weekend. As those players could give themselves powerful equipment, other players quickly grew frustrated with Bethesda. They cited Bethesda’s lack of cheat protection and ineffectual bans as the main fault.
This was in addition to other cheats allowing players to nigh-instantly kill all other players in a battle royale-style match, and players entering the pre-match spawn room (where players would not have weapons or armor to defend themselves). The mode came with the Nuclear Winter update, released on June 10th.
Around December 16th, yet more cheats arose. Kotaku reports that they were contacted by “Reddit user TheGeminaii with the Fallout 76 group Dupers R Us,” with a video showing they had added functional NPCs to the game. This was also the same group who had managed to spawn The Prydwen.
While the NPC could effectively fight and protect players, they could only roam within a player’s camp (until they are pursuing an enemy), and sometimes spawned with no weapons or clothes. It should be noted that NPCs will officially be coming to Fallout 76 with the Wastelanders update, launching Q1 2020.
Bethesda then announced the game would be taken offline on December 18th. This maintenance time was to both make the Christmas event spawn more Holiday Gifts, and to “[remove] items that could only be obtained by cheating through abuse of an exploit. We also implemented additional measures to address that exploit.”
ErectBAN later confirmed their cheats no longer worked, and that they could only spawn low-level weapons. YouTuber JuiceHead reports that this has also prevented hacked NPCs from spawning. However, while the 5-star hacked legendary items have been removed, he claims the hacked items that were within the game’s limitations (the 3-star legendary gear) were not removed.
This may be due to criticism Bethesda received for banning a player who had played for over 900 hours, as they assumed they had hacked the game due to how much ammunition they had stockpiled [1, 2, 3]. JuiceHead also reports that some NPCs and Fallout 4 assets are still in the game.
While this should have been the end of the matter, Fallout 76 then had to contend with their own Grinch. On December 21st, a user of the Fallout 76 subreddit “TKsMantis” posted they had been contacted about ErectBAN’s next hack- being able to steal from other players.
“I had covered the hacks in a video a few days prior. Speaking about how ridiculous it was that these things were spawned in. Human NPCs and Prydwen. I was then contacted by the guy who hosts the video of the hacks. He gave me some info, and that was that. This morning I woke up to messages about this ERECTban guy and his new hack. A player inventory hack, allowing people who use it to pretty much treat other players like a container and loot them. One of the guys even warned my Discord to stay off adventure mode.”
The hack could be done to any player within 200m, and that even the Pipboy (the player’s in-game menu) could be stolen as “it is technically an item.” The user produced a video on YouTube discussing the hack further, noting the timing of the hack was most likely planned for when most Bethesda staff would be away for the Holidays.
A subsequent video showed the hack in action (1:36). Trading is not needed to execute the theft, and was only done to show the items had indeed been stolen. JuiceHead later confirmed in their own video this would work even on untradable items, such as those bought in the Atomic Shop with premium currency.
The Reddit thread was later updated with a screencap of a post by ErectBAN confirming the hack had gone line. The screencap was most likely to prevent others from finding the post on Unknown Cheats as easily. ErectBAN even audaciously asked “Please don’t misuse” as they link to their “Transfer Raid Armor” hack code.
Editor’s Note: We will not be linking to that thread, though we have seen the post for ourselves in our research.
ErectBAN had seemingly been teasing the hack since December 21st.“I found something very fun to release on the 24th/25th, this could make FO76 history. I don’t think I can make it externally, so it’ll be a .dll source”
As the user explained how the cheat worked, other users quickly realized it could be used for stealing, and discouraged ErectBAN from releasing it. ErectBAN later claimed the hack’s original intention was to trade raid armor, hence the URL’s name. “I can’t stop players from abusing it to steal items.”
At one point ErectBAN seemingly edited their original post, striking through their original text and stating that it was too dangerous to release, and would probably not be allowed on the Unknown Cheat forums. When another user inquired why, ErectBAN replied “Stealing somebody’s entire inventory in < 2 seconds? That’ll get a lot of bad attention.”
They continue, stating that others had “been doing it for a while from what I’ve been told, by swapping pointers with Cheat Engine. I’d recommend staying out of public worlds for a while.” Their temptation seemed to waiver, flip-flopping between if they would post the code or not [1, 2].
ErectBAN seemingly warned Bethesda prior to releasing the hack from at least December 21st, if we believe what they posted. Even if they did not, the aforementioned Reddit post’s updates showed that Bethesda were made aware prior to it going live by TKsMantis.
Once the hack went live and began to spread, ErectBAN simply posted “Not mine“. While this is likely meant in jest, YouTuber YongYea reported claims that the hack was later modified by others to be easier to install and use (and that may be what ErectBAN is referring to).
Opinions on the forum were mixed, some praising the havoc it caused to Bethesda. Others claimed drawing attention to a hack that others were already using was good, as it could then be patched (as Bethesda would allegedly not act without mass outcry). Others felt the hack was in poor spirit, and would ruin the game for those who genuinely enjoyed the game.
As the hack spread, numerous users were affected [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], and furious anger grew towards Bethesda due to their lack of action [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. Users suggested taking the game offline until the issue was fixed, or offering players private worlds so they would not be affected.
Others were also critical how vulnerable the game was to hacking in general, centering around how the game servers allegedly do not check if a client has modified their files or code. Back on November 6th, Bethesda Representative contacted IGN, stating users fears of Fallout 76 being easy to hack were overblown.
“Many of the claims in the thread are either inaccurate or based on incorrect assumptions. The community has however called to attention several issues that our teams are already actively tracking and planning to roll out fixes for. Our goal is always to deliver a great experience for all our players. Cheating or hacking will not be tolerated. We know our fan base is passionate about modding and customizing their experience in our worlds and it’s something we intend to support down the road.”
On December 23rd, the following was also posted to the Fallout 76 subreddit:
“We are investigating reports of a PC-only exploit that could be abused by cheaters, which may have resulted in a few players losing items that their characters had equipped. We have been actively working toward a solution for this and have a fix that we are currently evaluating for release today.
While we’ve determined that only a small number of characters have been negatively affected, we are taking this very seriously and resolving this is currently our top priority.
We would like to apologize to those of you who were impacted by this exploit. We want to make this right, and we are currently looking into ways we may be able to compensate you. If you believe you have been affected, please let us know by submitting a ticket to our Customer Support team.”
The game was taken down for maintenance, and we have not seen any wide-spread outcry that the hack is still active (from the Fallout 76 community) or that the hack has been stopped (from the Unknown Cheats community).
However, we have seen one report that the theft is still going on, and one claim that the hack now only works half of the time. We are investigating this story and will keep you informed as we learn more.
In case you missed it, our story on the Fallout 76 power helmets that had to be recalled has been updated with new information.