Since its launch, Fallout 76 players have been hoping for human NPCs and the stories that follow them to return to the wasteland. Bethesda must have agreed that its irradiated West Virginia was lacking because they announced the Wastelander update last year to bring human companions and related quests to the game. The update has been delayed to an unspecified time in 2020. It must be getting closer, because Bethesda are now asking players to help test it.
In a blog post today, Bethesda announced that they will invite a select number of PC players to try the Wastelanders update in a private test server. This Watelanders server will be separate from the opt-in test servers that Bethesda now run to vet changes to the current version of Fallout 76.
You can head to Bethesda's sign-up page to register for the private Wastelanders server. The cutoff date for registering is 11pm GMT/3pm PST on next Tuesday, January 14th. Importantly, you'll have to sign a non-disclosure agreement if you are selected to take part in the server, meaning you can't share videos, screenshots, or information about the test.
For now, Bethesda are only looking for "a few hundred" players to take part in the test so not everyone that registers will be selected. Interestingly, the Wastelanders server will be persistently available. "Invited players will be able to access the Wastelanders Private Test Server at all times after January 17 until we bring the PTS offline at a later date," Bethesda say. Progress will be saved across sessions on the Wastelanders server but occasional server wipes may be needed.
Bethesda say that Wastelanders is "still a work in progress," so this private testing almost certainly isn't preceding a sudden, unannounced launch. With any luck, they will be able to properly aggregate feedback from test server players and adjust the update as needed before nailing down a new release date.
Fallout 76 is available exclusively on Bethesda's own launcher.
Correction: Originally this story listed the cutoff date for registration as November 14th. It has been corrected to January 14th, 2020. Time is a construct and I am apparently incapable of abiding by it.