Fallen Earth. I can’t seem to stop playing it. It’s haunting my dreams, even.
I think that after a year-plus in mostly fantasy worlds, it’s wonderfully freeing to be running around in a semi-contemporary environment (if one can include mutated chickens and ants in that statement), enjoying the lack of elves and exploding particle effects. One of the aspects of the post-apocalyptic genre that calls out to fans is the Robinson Crusoe effect — the fantasy of “starting over” out of your element, using your wits and whatever happens to be lying around. Questing in Fallen Earth takes about four times as long as it should because I’m forever hopping off my chicken mount to salvage a piece of wood, plastic, or metal for my ever-expanding crafting vault.
In today’s modern MMO climate, Fallen Earth’s approach of delayed gratification flies in the face of what devs have fooled themselves into believing is fun and necessary for every aspect of online games. Now, some innovations that help cut out annoying and unnecessary factors are welcome, but I’ve become increasingly unsettled whenever I’ve seen a dev team make achieving something much quicker — or even instant — instead of making us wait and work for it. The thinking behind such decisions is that it’s more fun to have something now so why not just give it to the players?
Except it’s not always as much fun to have things now, not if you’re honest and look at the big picture. Let’s take RIFT, for example. Initially, RIFT was going to make players wait until level 20 to obtain a mount (I think it was 20). Sometime in beta, this got changed to “whenever you can afford one.” Players rejoiced, it was hailed as a step forward, etc. Same reasoning why Trion stopped making players wait and work for class souls — “It’s not as much fun as if you just give them the souls right away.”
It’s the same progression we’ve seen in numerous MMOs. City of Heroes speeds up leveling to the point where it’s a joke. So does WoW, which also allows for the use of mounts at very low levels. Why should we wait for anything? GIVE US UBER GEAR AND ABILITIES FROM THE GET-GO!
The thing is, anticipation and effort have that funny effect of making you appreciate something way more when you get — or earn — it than if it’s just handed to you with little effort. This is a cornerstone of RPGs dating all the way back to the beginning — the joy comes in the attainment of better loot, better abilities, better stats, and better progress. We accept that, starting out, our characters aren’t going to be super-powerful millionaires, because it’s much more fun to go from zero to hero.
So I appreciate this about Fallen Earth. The game gives you a handful of starter gear, but the rest is up to you to either find, make, or earn in some fashion. I may really want a motorcycle and crazy powerful shotguns, but those are going to have to be goals for me to attain instead of welfare handouts. It’s okay, in my book, for MMOs to be withholding of goodies until a later date, because I don’t want all my “fun” front-loaded, and I don’t think that’s healthy for a game’s lifespan anyway.