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.”

Posted in Fallen Earth

Could Fallen Earth really get a second chance?

One of the more uplifting stories of 2018 that ran under most people’s radar was the acquisition of APB and Fallen Earth by Little Orbit. It’s no secret that most people feel that GamersFirst was a horrible thing to happen to Fallen Earth, dragging the post-apocalyptic MMO down into a tacky monetization scheme with no further development. It really looked like it was going to limp on until it petered out into nothing and vanished.

But along comes games publisher Little Orbit and snaps it up. More surprising than that, Little Orbit’s CEO came out quickly to say that the small team there had kind of become smitten with Fallen Earth and wanted to see it succeed. And ever since last summer, work has been done to analyze the game’s state, its buggy code, and to formulate a plan going forward.

It’s not just talk, either. The team managed to run a few events so far and have kept the communication channels open as to the back-end projects being done. Parts of the game are being taken apart, examined, fixed, revised, and put back in. Even more promising than that is the talk that Fallen Earth might see a complete reboot as a new and improved game — albeit one that releases a good long while from now.

If this isn’t just talk, if it’s actually doable, then it would be a smart move by this company. Fallen Earth is one of those faulty MMOs that people love despite its flaws — but this has gotten harder over the years, especially after development stalled out. With Fallout 76 kind of floundering over there, Fallen Earth still remains the most true post-apocalyptic massively multiplayer title on the market.

A reboot, refresh, what have you, could do many things to inject this title with the population it needs and perhaps deserves. It’ll generate more attention, for starters. I mean, everyone loves a scrappy underdog story as evidenced by how this story has taken off on Reddit and MOP and elsewhere this month. It could help potential players overcome obstacles such as obtuse game design, poor performance, nasty bugs, and a pretty cruddy free-to-play model.

If that happened, then I would definitely be there. There’s so much to really love about this game once you get into it, including the crafting system, black humor, expansive world that begs to be explored, and the bizarre take on the end of the world. But will it get that chance? I’m not holding my breath, but I will be cheering it on from afar.

Posted in Fallen Earth

Fallen Earth: It’s like riding a post-apocalyptic bike

With all of the Fallout hoopla going on as of late — side story, I bumped into a guy at a park wearing a Fallout tee and I was like “cool shirt!” and he was like “hey have you heard of the new game?” and I was like “yeah, we should be best friends forever!” and he was like “i think i hear my wife calling my name…” — I’ve gotten into this weird and unexpected post-apocalyptic gaming vibe this month. Not only am I going through Fallout 4, but I reinstalled Fallen Earth, which you might remember from back when I was an absolute raving mad Fallen Earth fan who wouldn’t shut up about this game.

It wasn’t just Fallout 76, however. I’ve been meaning to revisit this game for a while, but its “barely hanging on” status under GamersFirst’s management was an effective repellent. And then last month, another company acquired GF and all of its games and started to make talk about rebuilding Fallen Earth. It’s actually kind of exciting, especially if you’ve always been rooting for this dark horse of an MMO.

So I figured it was time to go back, if only to say howdy and see if the magic is still there. I rolled up a new character (I don’t even think I know what my old account info is at this point) and jumped right into Sector One.

If you’ve never played (or even heard) of Fallen Earth before, it’s pretty much the closest thing we’ve had to a Fallout MMORPG for a long time now. It came out back in 2008 or so and wasn’t exactly a smash hit — more of a deep sleeper hit. It was messy and a little complicated and not always the best-looking or -animated game, but after I pushed myself to get to learn it, I found that it was a pretty amazing sandbox that let me live out my wasteland scavenger fantasies quite well.

Exploring and fighting and questing is all part of it, to be sure, but what makes Fallen Earth different than most MMOs is that it is highly, highly dependent on gathering and crafting as a core gameplay loop. Yes, this is the modern survival game genre done a while back, but it hit that sweet spot of what most post-apocalyptic gamers were seeking. We wanted to make our way in this harsh land.

Plus, you know me. I don’t really craft that much at all — except when it came to this game. Then, I couldn’t get enough of it. Fallen Earth’s crafting was addicting for three reasons:

  1. You could craft MOST anything in the game without having to specialize
  2. You actually used what you made
  3. You crafted in real-time (whether online or not) no matter where you were in the game

Seeing the crafting timer count down while I was doing other activities always felt satisfying, and I got a rush of that right when I started this character and was told to make bandages and ammo. The memories!

As I said, Fallen Earth can be messy. It’s a big, big world that has all sorts of weird respawn rates and camps of bad guys where the corpses pile up faster than they can dissolve. Sometimes you just get this old school clutter like above, but after a while, it becomes part of the game’s atmosphere. You can’t always pull one mob at a time or spend forever looting bad guys in safety.

It’s been years since I’ve played — about five at least, according to the last time I was blogging about it — so I really thought I would have forgotten everything. But I guess my brain’s long-term storage is still functioning and ticking along, because I had one of those memory cascades during the first half-hour of play. I remembered the sounds, the weird UI, the way to do combat, the crafting, the AP system… pretty much all of it. Just flooded right on back and I was in the swing of things.

And of course, when you play Fallen Earth, you have to stop every once in a while to gaze at the skybox and feel small and insignificant. Moon!

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.

If you play, I strongly recommend ranged over melee for two reasons. First, you can do headshots for extra damage and that just rocks. Second, enemy mobs can literally be blown away (or back a few yards) when you deliver the killing shot. It’s a lot of fun.

In my short session, I also stumbled upon the vaults and was reminded of the quirky and limiting inventory system. You have weight and slot restrictions, and if you decide to dump stuff into vaults, you have to know which type you’re using, as some only work across a single sector (a large zone) and not the whole game.

Anyone else playing Fallen Earth or heading back? I saw some interest on Massively OP as of late and figured that I might not be the only one.

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Online, Elder Scrolls Online, EverQuest, Fallen Earth, RIFT

Five MMOs I’d be playing if I had all of the time in the world (which I don’t)


I don’t care who you are — there ain’t none of us who have the time to do more than either scratch at the surface of a handful of MMOs or really dig deep into one or two of them. Even if you’re so “fortunate” as to have few responsibilities and copious amounts of free time.

Well, unless you’re this lady from NCIS, who apparently figured out how to beat all MMOs:

“You hold the high score in virtually every massively multiplayer online roleplaying game!”

Man, that clip never fails to crack me up.

While I certainly wouldn’t trade my job and family for something as frivolous as having more time just to game, it doesn’t stop me from creating impossible hypothetical situations in my mind such as, “If I had as much gaming time in a day as I wanted, what other MMOs would I play?”

As it stands now, I’m pretty contained into three games: Star Trek Online, World of Warcraft, and The Secret World. I feel like I have a great balance going and can dip lightly into each of these to pursue various goals. But if I was to add more to the pile without concern for time, here’s what I might tackle:

Elder Scrolls Online

This is probably just because ESO has had a good run of news lately, but I’ll admit to always being attracted to/impressed by MMOs that have fleshed out content offerings, have a thriving community, and are showing signs of future growth. ESO has all of these in spades, and perhaps if I had gobs of time, I could end up liking this game as much as any other MMO. My one and only foray into it was rough and unimpressive, but first impressions aren’t always spot-on.

Fallen Earth

Yeah, Fallen Earth probably doesn’t have many years ahead of it or great amounts of future content, but it’s pretty much the best post-apocalyptic MMO out there and one that I had a great time playing. It’s also a total time gobbler, so that’s kept me from heading back into it. I just miss riding my horse across the irradiated wild west and blasting mutated hermit crabs with my shotgun.

Dungeons and Dragons Online

It’s been a very long time since I played this regularly, but I still haven’t come across an MMO that’s quite like this one. The focus on dungeon runs, the dual campaigns, the free-form character creation, the dungeon master, the passionate community… these are all speak in favor of DDO’s worth. And Turbine keeps adding onto it, too. Probably more content in that game right now than I could get out of it in a couple of years of hardcore playing.

EverQuest 2

I and all of the fortune tellers and industry analysts in the world couldn’t tell you what Daybreak has in store for the EverQuest franchise at this point (if anything). The premature demise of EverQuest Next is still rippling out across the MMO community, sending the impression that the lineage of EverQuest has come to a sad end with Landmark.

Yet there’s still EverQuest 2 and it’s still getting expansions and some dev love. This has always been one of those MMOs that I feel that, in a parallel universe, I would be totally into. It certainly checks all of the boxes of my wish list, has a vibrant playerbase, and is so packed with content at this point that it’s almost intimidating to consider playing. Which is probably why I don’t.


I’ve always seen RIFT as a “safety” MMO. If I’m disillusioned or burned out on whatever I’m playing, there’s always RIFT to go back to. Good comfort gaming: lots of features, regular updates, and that sweet, sweet soul system. I think back to the first year or two of playing this game and trigger all sorts of nostalgic love for the fun I had in the game. I never stick around long when I do go back, but I usually have a great time.

So what about you? If time wasn’t a restrictive factor, what additional games would you be playing (if anything)?

Posted in Anarchy Online, Fallen Earth, Lord of the Rings Online, The Secret World, World of Warcraft

5 most immersive MMOs I’ve played to date


Game immersion is perhaps one of the most subjective and indefinable qualities when it comes to MMOs. We know in our gut when we feel more drawn into one virtual world over another, yet it might be difficult if not impossible to explain why.

So instead of fiddling around with definitions, today I want to share five MMOs out of my entire resume that were the most immersive that I’ve played — and why.

Fallen Earth

There’s no doubt that Fallen Earth is a messy title that’s perhaps a little too rough around the edges. It never broke into the big time, that’s for sure. But even so, I was so in love with this game and its breathtaking ambition to create a living, breathing post-apocalyptic world. From the black humor to the mounts that stayed put where you left them to the weird factions and the vivid sunsets over the desert, I always felt drawn into this title like no other. Plus, crafting everything you end up using made those items feel more precious.

Lord of the Rings Online

One of the reasons that I stuck with LOTRO for so long was that, unlike so many other MMOs, it felt like a cohesive world that played by a predefined set of rules instead of ones that the devs made up on the fly. I’d argue that having to fit under the umbrella of a rich IP actually helped to create a world that felt “real,” so to speak. So many times I would lose myself in traversing the lands where it wasn’t just endless packs of mobs, but civilization clashing with the wild and with evil. And I can’t discount that incredible music for drawing me in as well!

The Secret World

TSW’s brilliance is not just in its storytelling (which is magnificent) but in its meticulously crafted world that bleeds over into ours. In fact, the myriad of ways that the developers blurred the line between game and reality broke down that fictional barrier in part and allowed me to believe (or at least pretend very hard) that I was actually part of what was going on on the other side of the screen.

World of Warcraft

Maybe we’re all like this with MMOs that we’ve spent so much time in, but my previous passion for World of Warcraft and the countless hours that I poured into it took my understanding of Azeroth beyond a mere game and into a much more personal space. The little details — the sounds, the animations, the locations, the music — swirled together to form a world that was vividly immersive for years. I miss feeling that way about it, I won’t lie.

Anarchy Online

I’ll probably chalk Anarchy Online’s immersive abilities up to it being one of the first MMOs that I played, even though I felt pretty lost in it at the time. It’s “alien” nature set it apart from fantasy CRPGs and made it feel other, different, and alluring. At no point was I looking beyond the immediate details of the world to number crunch or break down mechanics, which is a sign that I was pretty content just being instead of mastering.

So those are my five. What are yours?