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Terrier Rowers Head to West Coast for IRA National Championship Regatta Men’s, women’s lightweight teams compete on California’s Lake Natoma this weekend

The BU men’s rowing team begins competition at the 2023 IRA National Championship Regatta on Friday, May 31.

The Boston University men’s rowing and women’s lightweight rowing teams close out their season this weekend with an all-out effort to medal in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship Regatta. This year’s regatta is being held on Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif. At last year’s regatta, on Mercer Lake in New Jersey, the men finished eighth as a team competing against the top rowing programs in the country. The women’s lightweights are hoping to build on last year’s silver in the varsity eight grand final, when they finished just behind Stanford University before bad weather forced cancellation of most of the last day’s races. It was the third consecutive season the women were runner-up to Stanford, and they’re out to change that this weekend.

Men’s rowing

The men’s rowing team kicks things off on Friday morning when the eighth-ranked varsity eight boat competes in a heat against top-seeded Yale, Syracuse, Penn, Wisconsin, and Santa Clara. A total of four BU boats will compete against 24 schools at the three-day regatta. BU rowers know they’ll face some stiff competition from perennial powerhouses such as No. 1 Yale, No. 2 Washington, and No. 3 Santa Clara.

“Obviously we will try to put all our boats into the finals and finish in as high a place as we can,” says men’s head coach Thomas Bohrer.

While they did not medal at Eastern Sprints, Bohrer remains confident about their prospects this weekend. “If we execute our race plan and race like we can, then we feel confident,” says the two-time Olympic silver medalist.

With his rise to prominence—from a walk-on to a member of the varsity eight boat—Grant Eberst (Sargent’19) has provided an inspirational backstory for a team looking to beat a series of national powerhouses this weekend.

“Grant went up to the varsity last year. He had high school experience, but wasn’t the kind of guy we tried out for the team. But he’s a good athlete and when he became a student here he worked hard over the summer and rowed well, so he moved around from boat to boat,” Bohrer says. “I think he has good technical ability and can jump into any boat. He’s a great guy and helps people relax in the boat.”

A live stream of Friday’s heat races is available here.

Women’s lightweight rowing

The third-ranked women’s lightweight rowing team finished last season as national runner-up at the IRA National Championship Regatta for the third consecutive year, just behind perennial powerhouse Stanford. After three years of finishing just behind their archrival, the Terriers are hoping to win the program’s first national championship. BU, which is sending three boats to compete for a national title in a field of seven schools, is fresh off first-place finishes at the Eastern Sprints on May 5 and three gold medal wins at the Dad Vail Regatta on May 11.

BU sits behind Princeton and Stanford in the USRowing polls heading into the tournament and will race against both teams on Saturday and Sunday.

“We feel good. It’s been a pretty long, challenging year, but we’ve been able to progress, as any good team can and should,” says women’s lightweight head coach Malcolm Doldron. “We’ve hit our markers for our training, and have been able to improve each week, so we feel good about how we’ve been approaching the season and how we’ve finished the last few championship races. So we’re in a good spot, and we’re getting rested.”

Doldron says his goal is to prepare his rowers for their best possible race and not focus too much on other teams. “We don’t worry about the other competition, we recognize these are good crews and Stanford is a dynasty, but everyone still has to line up and put out their best possible 2K, so we are going to train and prepare for that.”

The team will be relying on Janice Hagerman (CAS’19), who is up for her fourth All-American designation. She would be the first Terrier in program history to achieve that distinction. Doldron says her leadership has been invaluable. “She’s just an incredibly strong and talented rower and a fantastic leader and an awesome young woman. I think everyone is comforted knowing that she’s in our boat and not someone else’s. She brings a level of intensity to the team that’s indicative of the work she’s put in. The only thing she wants is for her teammates to challenge themselves and each other. She knows, and they know, it’s not about her, it’s about the team, and she puts the team first in everything she does. That’s a quality of a great leader.”

Hagerman is undaunted by tough challengers like Stanford. “I think that Stanford provides us with the motivation to do our best every day because we’re going up against the best team in the country,” she says, “but it doesn’t deter us from our preparation. It’s more a source of motivation than a source of anxiety…everyone’s really excited to race.”

A live stream of the women’s lightweight races Saturday and Sunday is available here.

The 2023 IRA National Championship Regatta begins today, Friday, May 31, and concludes with the grand finals on Sunday, June 2. All races are being held on Lake Natoma in Gold River, California. Find more information about the regatta here.

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Terriers Aim For Splash In America East Championship

Terriers Aim for Splash in America East Championship Men’s, women’s swimming and diving contest begins today

Terrier captain Daniel Kempf (CAS’12) will compete in the freestyle, butterfly, and relay competitions. Photo by Steve McLaughlin

Boston University is hosting this year’s America East swimming and diving championships, and what could be sweeter than taking first place at home?

The conference championship starts today at the FitRec competition pool and runs through Sunday.

Both the men’s and women’s teams are coming off seasons that poise them to perform well against their AE rivals. The men’s team finished its regular season with a 6-2-1 record, 3-0 AE; the women have a 6-4 record, 4-0 AE.

Bill Smyth, head coach of both programs, says his two teams are very different, but he has confidence in both. “With the women’s team,” says Smyth, “we definitely haven’t seen everybody’s best yet so far, and I think we’re really going to show some good swims at the conference meet. And with the men, I think that because of our youth, we have a lot to find out about. With 75 percent of our team freshmen or sophomores, there are a few unknowns, but at the same time, we’ve had such a great amount of training at a high level this year, I’m positive they’re going to do very well.”

For the men to take their first AE championship since 1996, they’ll have to get past their biggest rival—the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The UMBC Retrievers are the defending AE champs, and have won three of the past five titles.

Terrier men’s squad captain Daniel Kempf (CAS’12) says he’s out for revenge against the Retrievers in his final year.

“It’s exciting and a little bittersweet to have it be my last AE championship, and I’d love to win,” he says. “For the last two years we’ve been second to UMBC, and as team captain, I’d love to see everyone come out and perform like I know we can. If we do that, we have a great shot at winning.”

Kempf, who’s racing in the 50-meter, 100-meter, 100 butterfly, and relay races this weekend, says that while individual performance is important, there’s a significant team component to this year’s Terriers squad that could give them an edge.

“We’re a tight-knit group of guys now, and we race and swim for each other and it’s fun,” he says. “We’re going to build off each other’s successes, and if we do that, hopefully we’ll win the championship.”

Women’s team captain Kristen Connors (CFA’12) seconds Kempf’s team-first attitude.

“Our main goal is the team points. You want to score points for your team, so no matter what, you’re trying to be conscious of where you’re placing and who’s around you,” she notes. “We’re a really close team this year, from the men to the women and the seniors to the freshmen, so that’s a really nice thing to see.”

Connors has another goal for the competition, she says: to break her personal best times in all her races, an ambition shared by Kendra Cheng (SAR’14), who twice this season was AE Swimmer of the Week.

“I’m looking to see if I can get a school record, and just give my all in the pool,” Cheng says. “We’ve been pushed and have been working a lot harder as a team this year, and we’re ready to show what we can do.”

If Cheng does set a personal or school record, she may be the first Terrier to qualify for the NCAA tournament this season.

While a team championship is the first objective, Smyth acknowledges that getting his athletes to qualify for the NCAAs is certainly a secondary goal.

“When I first started here, my primary goal was to have a team championship, and that remains true,” he says. “But I would say having an NCAA qualifier is like having the icing on the cake. You definitely want to eat the frosting all by itself sometimes, but it goes together with the cake.”

This weekend’s AE championship marks BU’s last opportunity to send an athlete to the 2012 NCAA tournament, and Smyth is looking for a personal best from each performer.

“I want to see people do lifetime bests,” he says. “I want to see our relays do extremely well and be the highlight of our meet, and I want people to achieve their individual goals, and have that build into team spirit. I think it starts with people just swimming well, and then everything builds off of that.”

The BU men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams compete in the America East Championship today, Thursday, February 23, through Sunday, February 26, at the BU Fitness and Recreation Center competition pool. Events start at 5 p.m. on Thursday and 10 a.m. all subsequent days. Attendance is free.

Ben Carsley can be reached at [email protected].

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The Best National Days For Advertising

However, while many of these days have their perks ― who doesn’t love a day centered on doughnuts? ― only some will relate to your business. However, with careful thought and planning, national days can help you grab the attention of both loyal and new customers. 

This guide offers tips for small businesses that want to identify the best national days for their marketing strategy and how to harness them. Read ahead for a sample of national days and how you can integrate them into your marketing calendar. 

Editor’s Note: Looking for information on social media management services? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need:

Did You Know?

National days are a great way to use social media for business to connect with customers on an emotional level.

5. National Opposite Day ― January 25

Turn your world upside down and say the opposite of what you actually mean all day. National Opposite Day offers the chance to get silly and create a print, digital or email marketing campaign with fun, eye-catching content. 

6. National Thank a Mail Carrier Day ― February 4 

We all rely on the hard work of mail carriers and businesses are no exception. Even if you don’t ship your products or use direct mail marketing, there’s a good chance you rely on the postal service to receive supplies and important mail. Use this day to publicly thank mail carriers for keeping business moving ― customers might appreciate the gesture and become more likely to buy from you.

7. National Pizza Day ― February 9

Americans love pizza so much that we eat 3 billion a year ― 4 billion if you count frozen pizzas. On this scrumptious national day, pizzerias can offer print and digital coupons to incentivize customers to celebrate this momentous occasion. 

8. Global Movie Day ― second Saturday in February 

This international holiday celebrates the wonders of cinema. Appeal to the film buffs in your customer base and drive engagement with a social campaign via Instagram that asks your audience to share their favorite movies. 

9. Galentine’s Day ― February 13

The most important relationships aren’t always romantic. Give your customers tips on celebrating the strong female friendships in their life the day before Valentine’s Day.

10. National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day ― March 1

Peanut butter makes a great companion for various ingredients. If you’re in foodservice and peanut butter isn’t on the menu, spotlight your products that go great with the nutty spread. 

11. National Employee Appreciation Day ― first Friday in March 

This national day acknowledges that no matter your industry, your business can’t run without your employees. This is an excellent day to publicly thank your team for their hard work and show customers you care about your people. 


Celebrate National Employee Appreciation Day with a video livestream introducing your behind-the-scenes employees.

12. National Dress Day ― March 6

From little black dresses to colorful summer numbers, National Dress Day salutes this fashion staple. This day is an ideal opportunity for clothing retailers to showcase their best dresses in-store or online. 

13. International Women’s Day ― March 8

International Women’s Day lifts up women’s accomplishments and raises awareness about gender inequality around the globe. Demonstrate your organization’s commitment to closing the gender gap by recognizing this important day. 

14. National Napping Day ― the day after the return of daylight saving time

Adjusting daylight saving time usually leaves most of us a bit tired, so what better day to celebrate the art of the nap? If self-care is central to your brand, this is a great opportunity to remind your customer base that rest is essential. 

Did You Know?

Some studies show that sleeping at work boosts productivity. National Napping Day might be a great day to test out the theory with your employees.

15. National Handmade Day ― first Saturday in April 

This national day elevates craftsmanship of all kinds. If you run a small business or Etsy shop with handmade products, highlight the love and care you put into every item with a video or photo series.

16. National Siblings Day ― April 10

The bond between siblings is one of a kind. Use this day to highlight your story if you run a family-owned business or work with family. 

17. National Pet Day ― April 11

Who doesn’t love an excuse to celebrate our favorite furry friends? Pet-related social posts are already incredibly effective at driving customer engagement. Ask your followers to tag your products in pictures with their pets. If you’re a pet owner, spotlight your team’s furry friends on your socials or business blog. 


National Pet Day is a great excuse to showcase your office pets if you allow them as a workplace perk.

Key Takeaway

Make a Snapchat geofilter and encourage patrons and nearby customers to share selfies that promote your brand.


April Fools’ Day is another great day to share your brand’s sense of humor with your target audience.

41. National Sandwich Day ― November 3

Early November is the time to uplift this versatile lunchtime classic. Since there’s almost no limit to the ingredients you can use for a sandwich, this day can be relevant for a range of food vendors. 

42. World Kindness Day ― November 13

World Kindness Day reminds us that we can make the world a better place, even with our smallest actions. Emphasize the caring nature of your mission and urge your customers to commit random acts of kindness on this national day. Businesses can also commit to charitable contributions to demonstrate kindness.

43. Black Friday ―  the Friday after Thanksgiving

A huge sales day for retailers, Black Friday signals the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. With people on the lookout for bargains, this is a great opportunity to boost sales by offering exclusive deals and Black Friday discounts. 

44. Small Business Saturday ― the Saturday after Thanksgiving

First recognized in 2010, thanks to efforts from American Express, Small Business Saturday encourages customers to support small (and often local) retailers. Give your small business a boost and research campaigns early in the year to stand out when November rolls around. 


Beef up your local marketing strategy as Small Business Saturday approaches to ensure you’re maximizing your chances of success.

45. Giving Tuesday ― Tuesday after Thanksgiving

After a handful of shopping-focused national days, Giving Tuesday asks us to spend on a good cause. If your business partners with a charity or nonprofit organization, spotlight its important work. You can also demonstrate your commitment to corporate social responsibility and donate a percentage of proceeds from sales on Giving Tuesday. 

Did You Know?

About 56 percent of Americans donate money to charities every year.

46. National Bartender Day ― first Friday in December 

Today is the day to thank your favorite mixologist. Bars and liquor vendors should note this day in their marketing plans ― and ensure they encourage customers to tip generously. 

47. National Cookie Day ― December 4

Cookies are already a big part of the holiday season, so it makes sense to give these classic treats a dedicated December holiday. This is a great day for bakeries to offer exclusive discounts. If you sell baking ingredients or appliances, consider a social campaign and ask your customers to tag you in photos of them enjoying homemade cookies. 

48. National Underdog Day ― third Friday in December

Everyone loves to cheer for an underdog, and it can certainly be argued that small businesses are underdogs in a large-business world. Target your customers with a video and tell a story about the history of your business. If your audience sees how much hard work you’ve put in, they may want to support and be part of your success. 

49. National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day ― December 16

Chocolate can improve many desserts or snacks so, naturally, there’s a day to praise all things chocolate-covered. Promote your chocolate-covered products or give customers some ideas on your ingredients that would pair well with cocoa. 

Key Takeaway

Chocolates make excellent employee gifts and Secret Santa gifts during holiday festivities.


Set and measure the key performance indicators that best suit your national day campaign and use the results to inform future campaigns.

5. Reassess the most important national days to target.

Like any marketing plan, your strategy for preparing for holidays will always be a work in progress. Prioritize reviewing the data you measured with each campaign and evaluate which campaigns are worth repeating ― and scrap what’s not worth the return on investment. 

Use national days to market when it makes sense

With so many national days to choose from, there’s likely to be at least one that fits your business and its message. Be mindful about which national days you mark on your calendar, then craft content that stands out. No matter where along your sales funnel you’re targeting, national days are a great chance to get creative and grow your business. 

Bennett Conlin and Max Freedman contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Take A Beach Trip: Head To Ice (Innovation, Culture, Extreme)

Summer is arguably the best time of the year, and as we near the end of the season, it’s important that you book a trip to the beach (if you haven’t already done so or gone). Why’s that? Well, if you’re an entrepreneur, hitting the beach may actually help you to become more successful in the long-run. Living an entrepreneur life can often become a stressful life, and taking a beach trip can help reduce some of that stress and refuel your energy and creativity. This conference update is sponsored by the Peninsula Technology Incubator.

Consider going down to Virginia Beach, VA for ICE (Innovation, Culture, Extreme), a week-long celebration of innovation, culture, and extreme sports. Basically a kind of SXSW by the sea, ICE will feature several events and resources for entrepreneurs, as well performances from more than 30 national, regional, and local artists, including Breathe Carolina, Unwritten Law, FFU (featuring Bam Margera), Shwayze, and Arum Rae (featuring Steve West of Pavement). Additionally, ICE has partnered with Coastal Edge to feature skate demos with national and local celebrities.

At this year’s ICE, entrepreneurs will get an opportunity to pitch their ideas to local investors and hopefully come home with some funding for their startups. We’re also proud to hold our Southeastern Virginia edition of Tech.Co’s Startup of the Year Competition & Mixer at ICE (Innovation, Culture, Extreme).

Need more reasons to go? Here are the top 5 reasons why entrepreneurs need take a beach trip:

1. A Time to Unplug

As a startup founder, you’ll often find yourself hooked to a device for a majority of your days. Whether it’s on your laptop doing work or checking email on your phone, your desire to make your company succeed is tied to this notion of having to be plugged in 24/7 – but maybe this is a misguided belief. According to a study from the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), constant technology use has been linked to numerous mental health issues (like depression), higher levels of stress, and sleeping problems.

And if you want to escape the daily drudgery of emails, then the beach is where you need to go. According to a study, the brain becomes less stressed when looking at nature scenes; if you’re a startup founder in a big metro area, maybe consider making a trip to Virginia Beach and relaxing for a bit. In another study conducted by the University of Exeter (UK), those living near a beach were found to be in better health and well-being than others. So, maybe even considering just picking everything up and moving to the beach?

2. Get Some Sun Time

For many entrepreneurs, the days and nights are spent indoors. Going to the beach gives you an opportunity to leave your gave and get some actual time in the sun. But it’s not simply about getting a tan when you lay out at the beach, it’s also about getting your dose of much-needed vitamin D.

According to findings from Harvard Medical School, the largest source of vitamin D is not through daily supplements, but through sun exposure to our very own skin. This vitamin D is not only a necessity for bone and skin health, but may also have the potential to improve our mental health. In the startup world, where success is glamorously lauded, anything that can help boost the state of your mental health is surely welcoming.

3. Benefits of Being Near Water

Did you know that we’re actually happier when near bodies of water? According to a 2011 study that tracked the well-being of approximately 22,000 participants, people were found to be 5.2 percent happier just by merely being near bodies of water. And if you’re into swimming, the activity has actually been found to contribute to decreased stress, anxiety, and levels of depression – all things that many entrepreneurs experience in their day-to-day.

4. Sensory Stimulation

Various studies have found that a stimulation of all our senses can contribute to the creative process. The sound of the waves, the smells from various boardwalk vendors, the taste of the salty air, the feel of the sand beneath your feet, and the view of the setting sun – the beach is replete with things that could help kickstart your creativity. Oftentimes, whether a company thrives depends on whether it was able to successfully find a creative way to solve a problem.

5. Social Interaction

Humans are innately social creatures – going too long without interacting with another human can have a significant impact on our personal health. For some entrepreneurs who are just starting out, there’s a chance that you’re working simply by yourself. The beach is probably one of the best places to meet new people and socialize. You never now – maybe you’ll talk to someone who’ll want to support your company in some way.

Play a pick-up frisbee game with the beachmates to your left, hit up the ICE block party, or mingle with other investors and entrepreneurs at ICE and Dice (over games of Texas Hold ‘em, Blackjack, Craps, or Roulette, of course).

Want to learn more about ICE (Innovation, Culture, Extreme) Innovation Week? Check out their website.

Head Out To The Terrace With Samsung’s New Outdoor Display

Bar and restaurant operators have been putting TVs outdoors for years, but they haven’t been equipped with the technology to do much more than change the channel. They’ve also had to make do with screens not quite bright enough, not engineered to use all day and without the rich visuals most of their customers were getting on their home TVs.

That’s all changing with a new product developed by Samsung: Pro TV, Terrace Edition, a professional-grade TV bright enough to be viewed in daylight, engineered for all-day use and equipped with a built-in app that allows owners and operators to use the display both as a TV and as an on-site marketing tool.

The plug-and-play commercial TV can both entertain and inform customers in venues as diverse as beer gardens, amusement parks, farmers markets or even government-run facilities.

Taking TV outdoors

Putting screens outdoors — and making them last — presents a technical challenge for display manufacturers. The sunshine that makes people want to sit, shop and play outside is merciless for digital displays, causing glare that can make it hard to see what’s on screen and loading harsh levels of heat on the TV enclosure and its electronics. Wind, dust, rain and snow can also damage displays unless they’re protected against the elements.

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TVs marketed to the outdoor hospitality and attractions market typically have brightness levels much higher than TVs designed for in-home use, but still well below the brightness needed to counteract glare. So outside displays usually have to be under cover behind the bar or beneath a canopy. They’re also engineered for just eight hours of daily operation — which for most hospitality and attractions businesses is much shorter than their actual operating hours.

Going ‘Pro’

Samsung is launching its Terrace Edition of Pro TV on the heels of a Pro TV all-in-one bundle that launched earlier this year.

Pro TV’s 4K display features a built-in TV tuner, an embedded media player and operating system and content management software that can be run from a smartphone.

Unlike existing options for outdoor TVs, the Terrace Edition has a brightness rating of 1,500 nits — more than double that of competing displays. It’s also engineered to be used 16 hours a day, covering the full opening hours of most businesses. The displays are IP55-rated, meaning they can fully handle whatever nature throws at them. Terrace Edition’s bundle also has a three-year warranty — a year beyond most other displays.

Its super-bright display uses QLED technology: a Quantum Dot filter that functions as one of the layers of an LCD display. The Quantum Dot filter amplifies light and provides a range and depth of color not seen on average flat-panel TVs.

TV on the job

Pro TV gets more use out of those screens, functioning as bright, rich TVs when the game is on — and as dedicated promotional messengers, on a schedule or on demand.

With Samsung’s Business TV smartphone app — supported on both Android and iOS — users can select from 100-plus professional templates, update them and instantly push them to one or several Pro TV and Terrace displays.

Everything’s managed from the mobile app, so busy managers can make changes easily and immediately. Initial setup securely pairs the mobile device with the display’s onboard computing module.

Wide terrace of options

The Terrace Edition of Pro TV has a variety of other applications:

Restaurants and cafes that are expanding outside to offset physical distancing restrictions on their indoor dining areas

Outdoor attractions and sports venues, from theme parks to luxury driving ranges and sports stadiums

Farmers’ markets and other event-driven public areas

Thematic pools, notably resorts that offer daytime club experiences

Common areas for corporate and government uses

Pro TV, Terrace Edition’s high brightness and its content bundle are suited to sun-drenched building atriums. Regular displays might not need weather protection, but they’ll lose the battle with glare during daylight hours.

Outside is different

Because of how they’re designed and how they operate, outdoor TVs are very different from “normal” TVs, and that’s reflected in cost. So it’s important to maximize that technology investment. How good it looks, how long it will happily run and its range of uses should all matter — and will factor into its total cost of ownership (TCO) for any business.

If you’re putting TVs outside, it makes sense to go Pro.

Learn how you can redefine the guest experience with digital signage opportunities around every corner, and discover how Samsung’s Pro TV can drive ROI for your business.

Fallout 76 Review: Almost Hell, West Virginia

Here at PCWorld I try to stick to a simple standard when reviewing games. I either finish the game or the game finishes me—a.k.a. after long hours spent frustrated I deem it unplayable. Fallout 76 is not strictly unplayable, but after 30-odd hours wasted in this West Virginia wasteland I’m calling it. Time of death, around 2 a.m. on November 19 when I logged in to find half my quest log mysteriously wiped away, as if I’d never started any of a half-dozen different missions.

I do want to set this world on fire

And it’s not even the only busted quest! Another early one, “Personal Matters,” concludes with you having to kill a specific enemy inside a specific basement. I entered the basement—and the enemy was already dead. Yes, we’ve traveled back to the days of EverQuest and early World of Warcraft, queueing up to complete quest steps.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

I logged out, then logged back in to a new server. Dead. I came back the next day. Dead. I came back the next day. Dead. Finally, after logging out to eat dinner and then returning, I was lucky enough to find a server where this damn ghoul was alive, pop a .308 round into his head through a window, and finish the quest. It took me three real-world days to finish a quest that should’ve taken three minutes.

Playing the beta a few weeks ago, I already complained about Bethesda’s slavish adherence to real-world logic over video game logic. If someone is using a crafting station, you can’t use it until they’re done. Why? I guess because you need to watch your character sit down and stir a pot, or smack a hammer into a bench over and over while you peruse menus. Same goes for merchants. Someone else is trading with the only robot merchant in town? You’d better hope they don’t take too long, because you’re stuck waiting in line.

The lack of instancing in quests is beyond the pale though. Hell, even The Division—a game that somehow launched in a state where players could stand in doorways and block others from getting out—understood that the campaign should be unaffected by other people’s shenanigans. Safely sandboxed in your own unique instance, you could take in the story (or what passed for a story in The Division) in peace. Not here!

IDG / Hayden Dingman

Not that there’s much reason to explore anyway. Quests? Almost all boring. There are no human NPCs in Fallout 76. Bethesda made that clear repeatedly before release. I still thought that left the door open for ghoul NPCs though, but nope! Not from what I’ve seen. And even robots aren’t really NPCs as much as quest dispensers. They don’t talk with you, they talk at you. There’s no dialogue system in the game whatsoever, and so no real opportunity for roleplaying. You either finish a mission or you don’t.

IDG / Hayden Dingman IDG / Hayden Dingman

Previous Fallouts had these sorts of areas as well, but they provided a counterpoint to the present-day. You were delving into the past to help build a better future. Fallout 76 is all past. There is no future, and there is nothing to work towards except your own survival.

To that end, most of your time in Fallout 76 is spent collecting garbage. Ostensibly the goal is to craft a base, similar to Fallout 4’s settlements. This time you can build pretty much anywhere, courtesy of your C.A.M.P. or Construction and Assembly Mobile Platform. You can even move your base to a new area if you find a particularly scenic overlook.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

Unlocking items to build is also very slow. After 30-plus hours I’ve unlocked maybe a fifth of the possible items, none of them very fun or interesting. And none of it has a functional purpose beyond the various crafting benches and the player’s stash. For a long time I moved my base every 10 or 15 minutes, placed a crafting table and the stash, and then unloaded my accumulated junk. That’s another aspect that’s annoying: If you move your base, you have to rebuild it. Bethesda allows you to “Blueprint” your design and place it in one big chunk, but I’ve had times where the blueprint couldn’t be built in the space I’d chosen—and thus none of my crafting tables were accessible. Finally I just created duplicate tables to work around it.

But if the loot harvest is bad, the lack is even worse. I grumbled for the first half of the game about collecting junk, vacuuming up Abrexo Cleaner and Lead Pipes and Alarm Clocks and other miscellanea to break down into crafting components. Then I maxed out my stash, and realized that aside from collecting junk…there’s not much to do in this world. Just the missions, and those are (as we’ve covered) not very enticing either. With no impetus to explore, no especially unique or important items to find, there’s even less reason to enter the various generic buildings dotting the landscape. You go straight to the mission objective, grab the holotape or read the terminal, then leave—over and over again.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

Bugs. Let’s get back to talking about bugs. I’ve had at least four or five server disconnects, each time losing a bunch of progress when I logged back in and found myself half a mile from where I’d been dropped. I had one quest reset itself to an earlier stage when I logged out, losing half an hour of work. I never went back to finish it. I logged in once to find myself trapped inside someone else’s base, all the exits requiring a picklock skill higher than mine—meaning I was just trapped forever, or until I logged out and connected to a different server. Another time, a wolf spawned underground. It could attack me, but I couldn’t attack it, so I died. One time I picked up a comic book and the texture file was apparently just missing.

Performance is abysmal, but inconsistently so. Sometimes you’ll be humming along at a smooth 60 frames per second, and then with no warning you’re battling sub-30 frame rates, your weapon swinging wildly back and forth as you try to draw a bead on encroaching ghouls. I haven’t had this many “I swear I shot you!” moments in over a decade, some of my bullets passing through enemies with, I have to assume, the magic of bad netcode. A thick Vaseline-like smear makes everything more than 100 feet away blurry, but object pop-in is still pervasive. And my personal favorite is enemy pop-in, where a hallway looks deserted until suddenly three baddies appear out of thin air.

These encounters are especially frustrating because Fallout 76’s combat is terrible. I mean, all modern Fallouts have had mediocre gun-play, but in the past they got around this with V.A.T.S., the pseudo-turn-based targeting system that slowed action to a crawl and let you pop off a bunch of targeted shots. Fallout 76, being an online game, can’t be paused or slowed down, so instead V.A.T.S. is a glorified auto-aim with a percentage-to-hit modifier that fluctuates up and down wildly. On PC it’s far easier to just take out a shotgun and blast everything.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

And then there’s the leveling system. Fallout 76 ditches the traditional point-allocation system for some sort of card-based perk layout. More than 30 hours in, I still haven’t figured out how the hell it works, nor has anyone I’ve talked to. I think each card you buy gives you a corresponding skill point, except sometimes that’s not true? Or at least sometimes I’ve bought a card and then found out I can’t use it. So yeah, add “Unintuitive Leveling System” to the list of complaints.

Bottom line

I need to wrap this up, even though there’s so much more I could talk about. Some of it I talked about in the beta, like voice chat being always-on and automatically opted in, so you’re stuck listening to people ramble about “My controller batteries just died!” over top of holotapes and other key story beats. Other parts are just annoying quality-of-life issues, like friend requests not being friend requests—you have to add each other individually, or else every “friendship” is one-sided.

I could talk about the complete lack of reason for player interaction, which raises the question why Fallout 76 is a multiplayer game to begin with.

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