Posted in Fallen Earth

Fallen Earth: Down on the Clinton FARM

With Midway’s quests all wrapped up (at least, the ones I could do there — I have another dozen or so that are breadcrumb quests to other locales), I headed out on the second leg of my starter town tour by going up to Clinton FARM. It wasn’t that long of a trip, all things considered, although I did prolong it by doing a lot of scavenging along the way.

Despite the name, Clinton FARM isn’t really a farm. It’s more of a training ground for emergency services. It reminds me a lot of the Desert Rangers in the original Wasteland, how there was still this post that was teaching people to defend, heal, and help. There are a lot of quests here that involve straight-up killing, but also some that include being a medic. I think there’s one quest that’s called something like “Try not to vomit” that has you poking around a cadaver for a while learning about causes of death. NPC in that room was wearing a mask. What’s wrong with me?

While I was here, I had to visit the bunker bar. I had forgotten about this until I saw it! It’s this underground tavern that’s not instanced — you climb down a ladder and it’s this big complex underground. What I used to love is that it had Fallen Earth’s two gambling minigames, slots and blackjack. Right now I think only slots work, as some of the features of this game aren’t activated, but it was nice to revisit this old stomping ground.

Otherwise, I’ve been gobbling up the quests, laughing at the weird scripted humor of the NPCs, and generally slamming my way through crowds of mobs with my baseball bat. Now that I have seven levels under my belt, I’m a little above starter town content and don’t have to worry too much about dying to anything.

Other than simply doing all of the quests for the sake of questing (and a bit more leveling/AP generation), my main goal with this town is to rack up a lot more in the way of crafting supplies. I need to get a whole raft of tradeskills up there, and that can be really expensive to powerlevel if you don’t have the mats.

Posted in Fallen Earth

Fallen Earth: Knives of the apocalypse

After a crazy busy month in which I’ve only been able to give Fallen Earth the passing time of day, I’ve managed to enjoy some lengthier play sessions in the wasteland.

And yeah, I’m STILL at Midway. I keep thinking I’m done there, and then I find more quests and have some more crafting to do and need to scavenge mats for said crafting… it feels like it never ends. There’s like seven (I think) starter towns, and by gum, I’m going to do them all.

It’s all still a re-learning process in which I keep making stupid errors or find myself flummoxed until I figure out the answer. For example, the other day I wanted to trade up my starter fireman axe for a pair of swanky skinning knives. I’m not melee, but I like having that backup in case I want to save on ammo or run out. But the second I started fighting with my knives, I realized I was doing practically no damage to mobs.

I nearly died before I could change over to my rifle and get some breathing room. After that came some evaluation — what’s going on here? What I didn’t realize is that all of the starter gear (which is fairly decent) has incredibly low stat requirements. The knives, on the other hand, required some investment into the melee skill to be effective. Some AP spent there, and bingo, I’ve got workable dual knives.

One factor that’s really upped my interest level is the fact that I finally found a great clan. It’s perfect for me — chatty, supportive, and not so big that you get lost in the crowd. They’ve been tolerating my silly questions, and we’ve enjoyed getting to know each other as newfound friends. Our clan leader even said that Fallen Earth was her very first MMORPG, which is probably not something most people could lay claim to.

Posted in Fallen Earth

Fallen Earth: Crafting crafty horses

Hey, it’s Thanksgiving! Have I told you that I’m thankful for YOU for reading all of my weird ramblings? Thanks for letting me be a part of your day, because I enjoy putting these posts out there for entertainment and maybe a little bit of information.

I’m also thankful that in 2021, we have Fallen Earth back. I won’t lie — time has been so limited this month and my attention so drawn to LOTRO that I haven’t been able to really dive deep into this game as I want to. But I am happy that I can jump in a few times a week to saddle up, explore the wasteland, and work on quests and crafting.

Speaking of saddles, one of my early goals for this character was to upgrade her transportation. Initially, the game gives you an “Old Nag” horse that’s pretty awful, all things considered. It has low stamina (fuel), and when that runs out, your horse isn’t useful for much.

While a lot of other people like to put themselves through hell trying to create an ATV or motorcycle, I agree with the camp that says “horses are better.” Sure, you get them in all fantasy MMOs, but they absolutely rock in Fallen Earth. Not only do they fit the western motif very well, but they’re relatively easy to make better versions — and cheap to feed and operate. I “crafted” a horse and then upgraded it to a riding horse with much better stamina and — yay — a larger inventory. I love being able to load the beast up with extra ammo and other stuff I don’t want counted against my inventory weight.

And there’s the world-famous Fallen Earth sunset. It’s worth waiting for just the right angle of the setting sun to grab that screenshot.

Posted in Fallen Earth

Fallen Earth: Jacking back into the matrix

Going back to an old game that you used to play a whole ton but haven’t played in many years feels a lot like jacking into the matrix and being overwhelmed by all of these familiar sights, sounds, and features. That’s how it’s been in the first couple weeks of Fallen Earth’s return.

I can’t rightly remember the last time I regularly played the game, but my brain nevertheless unlocked the memories vault and gave me an information cascade in those first few days. A whole lot more came back to me, from systems to the endearingly awkward pattern of combat, than I would have actually expected. This was quite helpful, because instead of flailing around without understanding the unique setup of this game, I could get to actually adventuring.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had nearly the normal amount of gaming time lately than I’d hoped, so Fallen Earth sessions have been infrequent and sporadic. Still, I’ve really liked jumping onto my character and having her work on leveling up tradeskills and start to go through Midway’s quests. And oh! the joy of queuing up crafting — Midway has a whole lot of crafting quests — and watching the timers clock down on multiple projects is still very satisfying.

There’s no rush to get through any of this, I know. Looking at the map, I’d really like to thoroughly explore all of Sector 1’s towns, go through the quests, and really get my build in a good shape before moving on. One of my more immediate goals is to start work on “crafting” a much better horse than the one I’m using. I’m actually very happy to use horses in this game, versus motorcycles and ATVs, because I feel they really fit the western motif.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy the great atmosphere and relaxed pace of this title. I don’t have any delusions that Fallen Earth is going to take off big in any way, but if a few new people check out what makes this truly special — and if the game keeps running for the indefinite future — then I’ll be satisfied.

Posted in Fallen Earth

Fallen Earth: The best present I got in 2021

Forget my birthday and Christmas — I already got the best present I’m going to get this year, I can tell. Last Thursday, Little Orbit activated Fallen Earth Classic, and just like that, we’re back in the apocalypse after two years away.

It was surreal to see the launcher working and heading to the character creator, but it didn’t really sink in that all of this was happening until I got into the game and saw the global discussion celebrating and chatting:

It outright destroyed my morning’s productivity, not that I was playing, but that I kept alt-tabbing over to read more of the excitement and questions in global chat. Man, I’ve missed this MMO, and it’s a true joy to have it back again — even if it’s the same old janky version. At least it’s free without any of the free-to-play restrictions or lockboxes, which makes it an even greater gift.

Starting back out again, I elected to go through the tutorial because (a) it’s been two years, after all, and I needed a refresher course, and (b) I want to fully document a playthrough from the start on this character. So the tutorial is kind of a prologue, putting you at Hoover Dam a few years before the rest of the game. I’m a clone, created to be harvested for parts, who is now trying to escape while two factions are fighting around me.

Sniping — and combat — is still a lot of fun, even if the game doesn’t register hits as fast as they’re performed. It’s that signature jank that we love.

After getting blown up in the tutorial, the game flash-forwards four years as my next clone awakens in the wasteland with a mission to find some solution to the failing cloning tech. Also, I’m going to stomp some mutant ants, but that goes without saying. I picked Midway as my resurrection location, and off I go!

I find it kind of funny that due to the ever-increasing resolutions of monitors, I had to pick “extra large” for font sizes just to read them comfortably. Also, I may be getting old.

This. This right here is when it REALLY hit me that I was playing Fallen Earth again. Getting above ground and seeing that oh-so-familiar western tableau, the cacti, the random mobs and nodes lying around. Oh, and the trademark broken monorail. Always wanted to ride that thing.

In any case, I took some time to simply run around, mine ore, and beat up a whole bunch of bad guys to get into the groove once more. I also got a start on crafting some ammo and bandages for the long road ahead. At least I have a rifle, pistol, and axe, which is a whole lot more in terms of weapons than the game used to start you out with!

Posted in Fallen Earth

Fallen Earth returns! Sort of!

Last week I was stupidly excited to wake up to the news that Fallen Earth — one of my flawed MMO faves — is coming back as a “classic” server while work hopefully continues on a full-fledged restoration.

“I am happy to confirm that Fallen Earth Classic is going to be a real thing,” said Little Orbit’s Matt Scott. “We are now at the very late stages of getting the servers back online, and as some of you on Discord have noticed, parts of the game are responding again.”

Now, as much as I want to jump into my hype rocket and blast off, excitement may be both premature and overblown. So far, this is reactivating some of the old patched-up servers for free to tide players over for the (presumably) long wait to a true revamped version. We don’t quite know how this will function. And it probably will be, as Fallen Earth often was, a very niche-of-the-niche experience.

Still, I can’t wait to see this happen because Fallen Earth is the textbook definition of a flawed gem. So many flaws. So many. Yet it was an incredible game that delivered a singular experience with a melding of an apocalyptic wasteland, black humor, intricate crafting, six bizarre factions, and mutated critters out the wazoo.

So yeah, I totally am there for Day One. Even if a character on this server wouldn’t be able to have its progress ported over to the revamped game (if/when that happens), I’d still love to jump back in, explore, and do a modern blog series on it. I vividly remember how I felt two years ago when I logged in for the last day and felt that wistful twinge that told me how much I’d really want to come back to this. If I get a second chance, I’m not going to waste it.

Posted in EVE Online, Fallen Earth, Lord of the Rings Online, RIFT, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Warhammer Online, WildStar, World of Warcraft

MMO fonts: The good, the bad, and the ugly

In my effort to start clearing out my drafts folder here at Bio Break, I’m digging out this topic that I started (checks) back in 2017. Anyway, fonts are most likely a part of online games that you never think about. Once you’ve been in a game for a while, you get used to its user interface and don’t really notice or acknowledge it.

Yet fonts are important, because a game usually just licenses (or creates) one and uses it everywhere — and if chosen poorly, that font can slowly and surely drag down on the user experience. So let’s take a look at eight MMO fonts today — chosen semi-randomly — and see if they’re easy on the eyes or not.

We’ll start with Warhammer Online (above), which prompted the writing of this piece. The font itself gives off a Ye Olde English fantasy vibe, which is good, but it’s not that easy to read in large chunks, especially when italicized. There isn’t enough spacing between the lines, either, so it comes off as crammed. Sometimes getting a little fancy with your font works against you.

We’ll move on to RIFT, which I always thought had a very clean and modern-looking font. Maybe a little too modern. It’s easy to read, which is a plus, but doesn’t do a lot to convey personality of the game, which is one of the jobs that fonts have to handle. Generally, though, I like it.

You know I had to include the itty bitty, smooshed-together font of EVE Online on this list. It gets points for a futuristic, minimalistic look, but dang is it always hard to read. It’s gotten better over the years, but my eyes have never leaked tears of joy to behold it.

And we’ll go with a classic — World of Warcraft — with this one. Blizzard did a great job all around with this font. It’s oozing personality (especially on the header fonts), has good kerning, and is easy to consume quickly without eye strain.

WildStar… sigh. WildStar had SUCH great art and interface style, but its font was terrible. From the color choices (blue-greens on blue-greens) to the thin, small style, it was too difficult to read without really focusing on it.

I’ll be fair and include Lord of the Rings Online here. It gets middling reviews for me. I think it does lend an appropriate personality to the game and is readable (especially if you increase the font size), but it’s not the quickest read. And considering just HOW MUCH text you go through, it could be better. I do adore the header font, though. That’s spot on.

Fallen Earth always struck me as a game that purchased its font at lowest bidder. It’s like a default Windows font that did nothing for the personality angle and wasn’t as eye-catching as it could’ve been.

I could keep going on, but I’ll end with a look at Star Wars: The Old Republic’s font. It definitely has that thick, bolded Star Wars look about it, and the spacing makes it easy to read. I think it does a pretty good job, all things considered, even if I feel like the text is yelling at me much of the time.

Posted in Fallen Earth

Does inventory weight help RPG immersion?

If you want to set gamers off on frothy rants, then one tried-and-true button to press is that of their opinion on inventories and inventory management in RPGs, MMOs, and other titles. Hoo boy, some people are really tetchy about the subject, throwing a hate at any game that features inventory limitations that would be better spent deriding the Klu Klux Klan.

Inventories just bother people, some more than others. These system are seen as artificially restraining, unwieldy, and — particularly in MMOs — an easy way to shove microtransactions in players’ faces.

All that? Yeah, it’s true. I’m not going to fight it or take a one-sided stance against it. I’m not always a fan of inventories, especially ones where the UIs are poorly designed (Bethesda/Zenimax) or overly restrictive. Sometimes I really don’t want to be spending time gaming just doing virtual spring cleaning.

Yet I do see the value of inventories and even appreciate them after a fashion. My inventory is part of my character’s possessions, a kind of “closet on the go” that is the best thing I get to a mobile home in these games. Going into an inventory is my own personal space that isn’t shared with others, and I enjoy chasing after bigger bag space and seeing a well-organized inventory.

And for those who beat on the drums of “artificial restrictions,” well, there’s no end to that in games. Everything in a game is artificially restricted, because it’s part of a developer’s design. Your character is restricted from doing a trillion points of damage with one button because of design. You can’t blink through walls because of design. The devs have to make choices in how to limit characters to keep from being too game-breaking while also giving players goals to pursue.

For me, inventory is about choice: What to carry, what to store in the bank, what to keep, and what to ditch. As long as there’s a fair amount of space, I don’t feel constrained, and I don’t mind that a full inventory serves as a prompt to head back to cities or auction houses. It does help immerse me into a character’s journey.

Of course, some games go much farther in the quest for immersion-by-inventory design. Fallen Earth, for example, made you consider item weight as well as available slots. This is an old school approach that I think works better for survival-type games, but it’s something that Pantheon is looking to bring back — including weight for coinage. Now that I feel is going a little too far in the name of netting a few nostalgia points from long-time MMO vets, and I don’t think it’s going to go over that well with the wider modern crowd of gamers.

Does weight help with immersion? Kind of? In Fallen Earth, I was keenly aware that picking up ore and picking up paper weren’t the same thing. One was more rare than the other (that would be the paper), and one had much more carry weight (the ore), even though they both took up a bag slot. Mentally, I could feel the heavier weight of the ore, which weirdly made it more real to me. I find this to be equally true in Fallout 76, as that missile launcher I just snatched is going to overencumber me quick.

I guess no matter whether you like inventory restrictions or not, having carry weight is not a step forward in today’s environment unless there are a lot of ways to deal with it. Even then… yeah, I wouldn’t.

Posted in Fallen Earth

Saying goodbye to Fallen Earth (for now)

It saddens me more than I had expected to be sitting here writing perhaps the last Fallen Earth adventure here on Bio Break. It’s weird — I had a strong dream about this game the other night, and when I woke up and logged in for real, it was exactly as I had recalled during sleep. I’d been away from FE for so long now that most of my fond memories went into very long term storage.

But that would change, for I was determined for one last cross-country trip in this game. All I had was a level 2 scrub who couldn’t fight worth anything and didn’t have a horse, but at least she had legs to drag the camera across the wasteland.

I started in Clinton Farm and determined that my road trip destination would be the seemingly near Hotel Nevada — which was ominously crossed out. I wanted to see why. The two might look close together, but if you know Fallen Earth’s map, you’ll know that it is so, so huge. Running this took me about a half hour between those two black points.

Before I left, I took some pictures of the starter town, including a representative of Franklin Riders up there. Everywhere I turned and snapped a pic, I kept telling myself, “I *remember* this!”

He proudly guards the veggies. God bless you and your service, sir.

Fallen Earth has a lot of NPC chatter, and in the local firehouse I caught this amusing interchange between a trainer and her students. This game still makes me laugh!

The road trip proper began, and I found myself crossing deep gorges and trying to skirt around mobs that would no doubt swarm and kill me. At least I had the occasional global chat and the pleasant ambient tunes to keep me company.

Run run run jump. So much running. I re-familiarized myself with the UI and even completed a crafting task that I began months ago. The more I was tooling around here, the more I really wished I could be back here playing it full-time. I think I am more than primed to return, which is why its shutdown is a personal tragedy.

I met some old friends — or should I say, frenemies — along the way. Hey, it’s a prairie chicken! I loved these guys. Even had one as a mount. I got too close to this one here for a picture and aggroed it and his cousin, earning myself a quick trip to the nearest lifepod.

I also had fun provoking the mutated hermit crabs toting around their CRT monitor shells and garbage cans. I still think they’re cute.

I reached Hotel Nevada at long last. I could see why it was crossed out: The place had been taken over by a gang, and the mob density was too high to permit my level 2 Tourist to come any closer.

With that, I found a slight hillock not too far away and took the picture that you see at the top of this post. That’s where I’m going to leave my character until the end. She had a short life, but it had a purpose — to remind me that this was truly one of the underrated MMOs of our time.

I hope Little Orbit can bring it back. I truly do. If it does, I promise to be there, day one.

Posted in Fallen Earth

My top 10 Fallen Earth adventures

If you’re a more modern reader of Bio Break, then you might be completely ignorant that for a good long while, I had a big crush on Fallen Earth. I *loved* this post-apoc MMO in a way that went above and beyond most games. I loved its humor, setting, freedom, and focus on exploration. But I also drifted away, in part because of its fading prospects following a horrible free-to-play conversion and subsequent mishandling.

I had hope that new owner Little Orbit would be able to do something good with the game, especially considering that its staff seems to have come to really like it, but it’s a tall order to sort out the mess of Fallen Earth’s code and performance. They’re trying, bless them, but it’s not enough to keep the game going. So Little Orbit is shutting it down next month with the hope that they can create a revised version to relaunch down the road. If they do that, I vow I will be there on day one.

In the meanwhile, I thought this occasion and Fallen Earth’s 10th anniversary would be a good one to go back through 140 or so blog posts I’ve written and pull out some of my favorite adventures from the past.

1. Finding your place in the world: “That said, one of the more valid criticisms levied at Fallen Earth is that the starting experience is simply too wide, too inscrutable and too bewildering for some players.  You learn as you go, for sure, but the problem is that you can make a few regrettable errors at the start that you will kick yourself for later.”

2. My biggest fear in Fallen Earth: “Okay, now, normally my response to ants is a gentle amusement and wonder as to what these socially-minded insects can do, and a deep assurance that I’m able to crush half their tribe with one well-placed footstep if I’m of the mind to do so. But in Fallen Earth?  There’s simply nothing more terrifying in the wasteland than these six-legged terrors.”

3. Off the beaten path: “In Fallen Earth, I have fully surrendered to the Explorer gene.  I am about the worst leveler in the world — I think I’m poking around level 24, up from level 20 around Christmas — because whenever I start to do a quest, something catches my eye and I have to go see what it is.  Before I know it, I’m about six miles away from my horse and not caring whatsoever.”

4. Wasting time in the wastelands: “It’s small things, like being able to go in a majority of the structures — something most MMOs, strangely enough, deny to the player.  Or the funny voice quotes, or the fact that the game really isn’t about combat as it is a journey.”

5. An-ti-ci-pa-tion: “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.”

6. One man’s junk is another man’s fortress: “The Junk Fortress is no small theme park funhouse; it’s actually a large, sprawling underground parking garage-turned-HQ for the Blade Dancers, a faction you end up fighting all across southern S1.  Mobs are in high density, and if you’re at-level, you should definitely bring friends.”

7. Adjusting to free-to-play: “Another change with the update is the addition of the wardrobe (cosmetic outfit) system.  Great to have it, but I was really let down to see that you have to buy, with reward points, each slot.  So free players aren’t going to have this, and even subscribers are going to need to purchase a few if they want the fluff.”

8. Gil and Rufus: “Fallen Earth NPCs are downright hilarious to observe, particularly since many of them have scripted conversations and actions that unfold if you stop to watch.”

9. A horse and a girl: “My recent return to the post-apocalyptic Grand Canyon of Fallen Earth has been slow-going but oddly satisfying.  I don’t craft in any other MMOs at the moment, but I can’t resist doing so in this game.  There’s something very compelling about constantly harvesting and queuing up recipes.”

10. It’s like riding a post-apocalyptic bike: “Back when I first started playing Fallen Earth, it took a long time before you were able to make and use guns (I think the default ranged weapon back then was a pathetic crossbow). Now the game dumps a wide selection of weapons in your inventory and lets you start shootouts the second you are able to craft ammo.”