Wednesday, October 28

Brave New World

Every time I start playing a new MMO I am enthusiastic about it. It is something different, so I am entertained. At least for a little while. But as I have seen so many online worlds of the years I seem to be getting bored with them quicker and quicker. Aion didn't last a month. And that despite the fact I had a great guild to keep me entertained. But I really did like Aion the first week as my post Some Aion Screenies shows. Now I am playing Fallen Earth, and once again I am enjoying myself. So I better make a post quickly before this ends as well.

But I am relatively optimistic this time it will last me a bit longer. Fallen Earth has a couple of things going for it that is really in my alley.

At the scrapyard outside lovely Midway

I think one of the biggest charm is the fact that everything is new. Not just for me, but for all players. We have all been thrown into a new world, and we are learning our ways around in it. You get some basic training in the two tutorials you can play through, but after that you feel like you have been send out into the scary world in which you will have to swim or die. And that attitude shows in the chat channels. The busiest channel is the 'help' channel. It is a constant flow of asking questions and getting answers. There is no WTS/WTB/LFG/Recruitment blah, just people trying to figure out the game and helping those that follow. It is almost like I am back to the early days of the internet. It also helps there is almost always a GM active on the channel keep things in check.

In search of the thief with a horse.

One of the things that makes it different should actually be a reason for me to not play it at all. The controls are like a FPS. I have to move around with WASD, and actually aim with my mouse for both ranged and melee attacks. But I am doing surprisingly well. I am (probably) still rather pathetic. The scorpion that poisoned and killed me can vouch for that. But the game has much more to offer so that I don't feel useless because of it. It actually motivates. Yesterday evening I have been practising my kiting, circling and hit-and-run skills on the coyotes outside town.

I found the thief, and now I have a horse called 'Old Nag'.

Besides the (for me) different fighting controls, the game is still a real MMORPG. There are levels (woohoo! I made it to level 2), action points, skill bars, xp progression. The way leveling up works is a bit more like Anarchy Online. You get x amount of points (AP) that you can distribute over 20 or so skills. And each skill has a level cap beyond which you can't raise it yet. All attack skills and all basic skills (int, dex, str etc.) are raised by points gained through quests and kills. The harvest and crafting skills are raised by actually doing the harvesting and crafting. Crafting and harvesting are very important parts of the game. Everything can be made and/or found in the world. Skinning animals, stripping of pieces of broken cars, looting, digging through garbage, it can all be done. And about 90% of all the bounty I got can be used to make stuff. There is very little vendor junk.

Crafting works also interesting. It is all about finding out how to make something. Once you have managed to get the right instruction manual (which you can craft as well), the right raw material and the required skills you click on 'craft' and you start. Each item you make takes a certain amount of time. I made some lead pipes that was going to take 7 minutes at metal workshop. Of course I didn't want to stand around so I ran to look for some veggies I needed to make the burger. Of course I got myself in trouble again, and got killed.

On my way to the kitchen to make some tasty burgers.

I get regenerated at the lifenet station, and I was off again. 15 minutes had passed and I remembered I had been busy making that pipe. Apparently dieing and running around in the wilderness slows things down a bit since I still had to wait another 30 seconds for my pipe to be complete. This means they introduced a nifty system in which crafting is still a time sink, but it isn't anymore dumb staring at a picture of a workbench. It is all about finding the right raw materials and recipes. Which means I can start wandering around in search of materials.

I haven't ventured outside the starter town much yet. The world feels big and scary. Which in a awesome feeling. The map is not all that precise either, which only makes it even better. Fortunately I have a horse now. I just have to remember where it is because it doesn't disappear into your bag after you dismount. It just stays where you left it.

Of course there are issues too. The graphics are not super, there are still tonnes of bugs, including a broken power that requires relogging on the very first quest. It also is rather AnarchyOnline-ish in not being very clear about certain steps you are supposed to take. I actually like all those issues. The world isn't perfect, but it is a world, my brave new world.


  1. A few more comments. It the first screenshot you can see Keen asking several questions, which is indeed blogger-Keen. He has made several Fallen Earth posts already. Some of the comments players make about the state of the game are quite interesting. One player mentioned the game is so much better than when he tried it during beta testing. Most are just happy like me they have a big scary world to explore. Of course there are some whiners too. One was complaining he could get the xp gain show in chat. And plenty of people asking what they must do next. Having choices is clearly scaring them.

  2. Syncaine made one of his more senisble posts on the topic and it echoes some of how you feel and even explains it in ways you do not.
    Part of that explanation can probably be found in Tobold's post about generation conflicts while Ten Rats probably very aptly describe why I have trouble re-entering the Rat Race, I mean MMORPG scene. I'll seriously have to reconsider Fallen Earth for real now though. Most of what you say really appeals to me. My biggest concern right now is the horrible to read chat. WASD isn't as big an issue for me as you. Where do I go to get it nowadays Phè? Of course there's time-sink Dragon Age coming up now, and Rat Race free Second Life also beckons...
    *sigh* Time management :-/

  3. On a sidenote, I recognize the trend to get bored with MMO's sooner the more I've played. It's why I'm no longer trying to get into Beta's. It 'killed' Warhammer for me and Aio as well (note that I was in WAR Beta intermittently for a year and Aion for a few days). Fallen Earth was (hopefully) just a bad day (stress-test weekend) to try it out.

  4. Yeah, I read those articles as well.

    I thought Syncaine's post more explains why boredom sets in very quickly in Aion, and not so much why Fallen Earth will be better. I don't really know if Fallen Earth is a niche game, or which niche it is exactly catering for.

    I don't agree with Tobold generation gap, but I there are very distinct player groups. And I have the feeling that several developers have noticed that WOW (and AOC, WAR, Aion) went to far in holding the player's hand. They have gone back to the roots and hope to grab the jaded veterans.

    I had given up my beta testing, and following new game to closely way back with Vanguard. I am still glad I did that. I get to step into the new world squeaky clean. Ten Rats has some very good points, and those sentiments probably made me cancel my Aion account a few days ago. I don't play games for the rat race. As long as I can be on the road I am happy. And hopefully meet some cool people at the rest stops. If I am forced to run around in circles, or forced to rush, it will get boring very quickly.

  5. And what is wrong with the chat? You can add as many tabs as you like and disable channels you don't care for. The font, size and window border are right size. I was actually pleasantly surprised by it. It works better for me than Aion.

  6. The way I see it, Fallen Earth is a niche game appealing to people who want some of that early Internets feel back, what Tobold dubs Generation X, though I do agree with you it's not really generations so much as maybe playertype groups.

    FE will give you more that Explorer/Sandbox vibe you like. For people who discovery and the journey is more important than being able to feel 'better' than other players. For competitiveness there's the corporate ladder and Linked In / other social networks. The comparison to Anarchy Online isn't a bad one either I think. Did they ever finish that DX9 engine for AO do you know? I suspect it got put on the backburner with a lot of other things as Funcom is moving to low-wage country Canada.

  7. What is wrong with the chat is that I find the font-type, size, anti-aliasing, not too mention the opacity- and contrast- levels on the backdrop to be less than optimal for reading. If that's the case on a still, reading it on a moving background will be worse.

    Ok, maybe I should just get glasses. :-)

  8. More important question regarding chat.
    Can I have two chat windows, one to either side of my hotbars, as I'm wont to do with every MMO I play?

    One for local/group/social chat and the other for Environment/stats/help/?

    I just noticed that some of my problems with it stem from JPEG comrpession rate.

  9. The jpg thing might be it. Although I know I much less demanding in such things as you, I really had no issue with the chat at all. I have no idea if you can create two separate windows. I haven't tried that.

    AO in DX9 has probably moved very low on the stack. I doubt it will ever happen. FE does remind me in many ways about AO. Both in positive and negative. So be sure to not get to overly excited :)

  10. "Although I know I much less demanding in such things as you,"

    Well, you have been wearing glasses for most of the time we know each other and I've been hiding behind a 'slowly focusing left eye' excuse so i don't have to get glasses for most of those years.

  11. "Massive Real-Time Crafting System: Make 95 percent of the in-game items (vehicles, consumables, weapons, armor and more) while scavenging, fighting, exploring or even when offline."

    This paragraph alone makes me want to play, there are other things too, when my current financial limitations ease I'll be downloading this one from steam.

    Aion has me a little bit longer for 2 reasons- I got a timecard for £1 and MU are there, already though as people hit mid 30s and the grind really hits home we are starting to see a decline in enthusiasm. Most of us are achievers but not necessarily rushers, we have a high percentage of explorers but theres so very little to explore, the game has no journey it only has 'work' to reach an endgame you can participate in from lvl 25, albeit with a severe disadvantage, there is very little point in it for me.

  12. Syncaine's article I could agree with, Tobold's generation conflict, while having some small quota of legitimacy can mostly be taken with a pinch of salt, age does not necessarily reflect a preferred gaming style.

    The Ten Rats article was much more interesting and raised some interesting comments. For me the most interesting thing was how much one group of players gaming style impacts on another, which boils down to the question (in my eyes anyway) to how much does the vocal majorities gaming style impact on the developer.

    GW's pricing model was mentioned more than once in discussion about equality of cost meaning equality in game while comparing subscription based models to F2P, I'm not only a fan of GW (who btw have done some very nice new stuff for this halloween) but a big fan of their pricing model, just pay for the game and subsequent expansions.

  13. Thanks for the link and comments on my Race Ten Rats article! I'm a huge fan of the GW business model and game design. I wish we saw a bit more of that in the genre. As it stands, the MMO genre is far too much like a treadmill race in my mind, but I believe it can be so much more.

    I wish more devs would step up to the plate and offer something other than Yet Another DIKU Game. I've heard that Fallen Earth does some interesting retro things, and I wish them well. The horse mechanics alone might make the game worth checking out.

  14. Hi Tesh, awesome you stopped by our little blog. I think there are many players not interested in the rat race. But they are not really the vocal ones. But recent projects like Fallen Earth or Dark Fall and maybe others show that developers are starting to see they shouldn't make another treadmill, but something more complex. We are not that dumb. Or at least enough of us are not that dumb that we can't handle it. The more I play Fallen Earth the more I am enjoying it. It is definitely worth checking out.

    And Lani, yes, you can create multiple chat windows. Just tried it out :)

  15. Good to hear that Phè :-)
    I sent you some additional questions by e-mail.

    What Darkfall and Fallen Earth show to me is that spit 'n polish isn't everything to an MMO. Heck Aion is all spit 'n polish but barely any substance. Just another Diku game as Tesh puts it. (Then again it was never intended to be more than WOW for Asia)
    Vanguard was anything but spit 'n polish but is still one of the best MMO experiences I had.

    Guild Wars. I'm actually worried they're going to kill off with GW:2 what made it a success for me. As soon as you hit 20, (and ascended) aproximately 99% of the concurrent playerbase became potentially a playing mate. Advancement wasn't a linear line onwards, but more an expansion in width. I wish more MMO's adopted something like that. It allows for a more exploratory experience, and allows those who like that to join together. Of course GW still fell into the Itemization pitfall and the randomizaed drops actually made that more of a treadmill. But the great thing was a lot of that grinding was for things like Underworld armor, which wasn't statistically better than other gear, just as a status symbol.