Perfect Ten: Why Fallen Earth was a flawed gem of an MMO

    
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Even though I half-expected it for a while now, the news of Fallen Earth’s demise earlier this month made my heart sink. Way back in 2010 when I started at old Massively, one of my very first duties was to step in for a few weeks to cover the Fallen Earth column we had running back then. Even in 2010, it wasn’t the biggest of games, but there was a core of us on staff that were absolutely fanatical about the vision and freedom that this post-apocalyptic game offered.

It took me a couple of good tries to really get into Fallen Earth, but when I finally clicked with it, I clicked hard. I spent hours combing across the wasteland of the American southwest, I got deep into crafting, and I documented many of my adventures over the years. It was a weirdly wonderful game in spite of horrible coding, sub-optimal performance, and GamersFirst’s ham-handed free-to-play conversion.

While I still hope that Fallen Earth will be revised and rebooted under its new ownership, for right now I want to pay homage to 10 things that made this MMORPG kind of special.

It realized a true post-apocalyptic MMORPG

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote up a Perfect Ten on the subject of post-apocalyptic MMOs. And while I could fill up a list with them, only Fallen Earth seems to have fully realized the vision for both a full-fledged classic sandboxy MMORPG and a wasteland setting. For fans that felt let down that Fallout Online never (properly) happened, Fallen Earth was a great consolation prize.

All of the little immersive touches

Fallen Earth was kind of a survival game back before we really had survival games on the market. By this I mean that there was more of a sense of permanence and immersion into a hostile environment that required a lot of crafting, situational awareness, and mapping to make it far. One detail that always stuck out was that your mounts — whether it be a horse or vehicle — didn’t disappear when you got off of it, but rather stuck around and forced you to remember where you parked. It sounds silly, but that went a long way to making me feel like the world had reality, as did things like item weight.

The black humor

The more you played Fallen Earth, the more you realized that this game was really bonkers in the head. It had the blackest of black humor that popped up in all sorts of unlikely places. I lost count of how many times the game made me sputter out in surprised laughter when, say, random NPCs were found practicing a botched version of a Shakespeare play or coal-black snowmen were made to try to celebrate Christmas.

The crafting system

While I’m not normally one for crafting in MMOs, Fallen Earth made me change my mind. I ended up adoring this system, firstly because it got me into the spirit of a wasteland scavenger who was grabbing all sorts of junk to turn into useful items. The fact that you could craft 95% of the items in the game was great, but there was something so satisfying about queuing up crafting projects and seeing them take form in real-time (while online or offline). I remember the day I finally finished my first motorcycle. That was one of the greatest accomplishments I ever had in an MMO.

The factions

Fallen Earth’s player faction system was well-thought out and rather genius. There were six factions on a “wheel” that demonstrated relationships between them. The more you pursued one faction, the more the other factions would react favorably and unfavorably with you. Your choice of factions influenced what skills and resources you had available, so if you wanted certain special skills or recipes, you’d best think about who you’re going to kill and what missions you are going to do.

Exploration

If there was ever an MMO that tempted you to veer off the beaten track, this was it. Because… there was no track. It was simply a marvel to strike out in random directions and see what this sprawling and bizarre world had to offer. As long as you didn’t venture into the extremely dangerous radiation borders, you probably weren’t disappointed.

The soundtrack

At turns moody, evocative, barbaric, and homey, the soundtrack for Fallen Earth went a long way to giving you a rust-edged western vibe while adventuring in the game. I was always disappointed that only “Volume 1” of the soundtrack ever saw the light of day. I guess the composer was hopeful!

The help channel

Fallen Earth wasn’t the easiest of games to figure out on the onset, but fortunately there was always an incredibly useful help channel at the ready. Out of all of the MMOs that I’ve seen boast these, Fallen Earth’s channel was among the most genuinely helpful and friendly. I know that it definitely got me on solid footing in those early months and made me appreciative to the community.

The mobs

Have you ever given much thought to the “personality” of enemy mobs in MMORPGs? I never did much until I played Fallen Earth, at which point I found not only a diverse array of mutations and gangs but also characters that felt distinct and alive. Having swarms of giant ants pile over me or enemy factions shout quotes at me or seeing mutant hermit crabs wearing old CRT monitor casings on their back never failed to interest and amuse.

The mounts

Fallen Earth’s zones are big. Like, really, really big. Almost immediately you needed some sort of faster transport to get you to quest objectives and different landmarks, and those came in the form of either horses or vehicles. Horses had an old west feel to them, but vehicles like motorcycles, cars, and ATVs tapped into the Mad Max attitude. All of them required care and maintenance of a sort, but at least you got additional precious inventory slots with each!

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”

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Feyd Darkholme

I agree with everything you’ve said here 110%! I am gutted that they are shelving the game and hopefully it is temporary! I’ve spent probably well over 200 hours playing this over the years, including a fairly recent stint where I got obsessed all over again for a while. I’ve been a fan since the very early days! Attached is a copy of my alpha acceptance email! Long time ago! We really, desperately need more games like this! After playing this game for a while I was actually not really sad that a Fallout MMO never happened because Fallen Earth was everything that I could ask for and was firmly planted in my wheelhouse. I love meaningful crafting, economy and decisions in any game, but MMOs in particular and Fallen Earth delivered in spades… The atmosphere was just perfect as well, between the visuals, the amazing music and the personalities of the NPCs, it was just perfect IMO. Link to my old gallery of screen shots if anyone is interested. https://www.mmorpg.com/galleries/Darkholme/2319_fallen-earth

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Castagere Shaikura

I loved playing this. It just was so buggy. I really do hope they took it down to work on it. They really had to take it down to really fix it.

Poker Brat
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Poker Brat

Thank you for the work you’ve done to bring us the news on Fallen Earth Justin. This post is especially good. I agree with all the above, and the help channel was amazing back in the day!

I’ve said it before…the story of FE breaks my heart. Had a lot of great times, met good people, and was able to be in one of my favorite settings in a game.

Can you imagine what FE would be with the right money, engine, staff, ect? I still don’t get why this setting, post apocalyptic, doesn’t seem to catch on beyond a single player RPG. I know Fallout 76, but not what I’m looking for.

The original team had a great vision and interesting ideas. If there was a different engine…Here’s to hoping that LO can bring it back in the future. I know thats a roll of the dice but I wish them the best. They have really tried to improve things.

I plan to watch some sunsets before October 2nd, they are great in FE. I usually catch them from the radar tower outside of Embry.

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Vorender

FE = One of the best MMORPGs ever.

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Bruno Brito

So, i won’t hold my breath for the revamp of FE, but i do think it’ll happen. And i really want it to happen.

Which brings me to how things should be improved:

1- They need a way of catching cheaters. This game is a haven for scumbags. I love FE, but by god, the community were either amazing, or completely worthless. Better anticheat for one, would be nice.

2- They need to normalize the 3- slot crafting for F2P. Everyone can just vote for one week for FE and get 5bucks to buy something and get Silver Status. Just cut the middle man.

3- Hitboxes. FE’s hitbox situation is a mess. It’s so quirky, that it actually gives you advantages. More than 80% of the PvP population are small females because that’s the hardest character to hit.

4- Hazmat team and GMs. This isn’t a issue with FE itself, but with how G1 mismanaged the game. FE is a complicated game. It requires a decent staff team and decent volunteers. The FE GM team was always dubious, to say the least.

5- Factions ,Crafting, Housing. Those are the core of Fallen Earth. It’s a “survival” game, with focus on slow paced world building. FE would benefit GREATLY from a housing system, specially if it’s similar to SWG. Making towns would be really fun.
Crafting should be the be all, end all of the game. Do NOT make PvE rewards better than crafting, nor allow the game to become another souless raiding focus shitshow. Yeah, make meaningful PvP that gives you recipes and such, but the best stuff should be CRAFTED, or won by Faction points.

Keep everything balanced, and quirky builds will appear that will use everything someone can craft.

Anyway, i’ll miss FE, and i look forward to see this game shine again.

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Eboni

I agree with most of what you said, especially point 5. I remember when the old devs introduced the camping/tent system and everyone got excited. Then, the devs pretty much left the game.

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Bruno Brito

There’s another issue with the game i forgot to bring up: The game lacks a decent moneysink.

As with SWG, automatized quests are problematic because they create currency from thin air. Moneysinks allow you to control inflation, so it doesn’t happen what happens with Ragnarok.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

Any quest in any game – and any mob that drops NPC-salable items – contributes to currency inflation. It’s got nothing to do with generated quests. Every MMO has the problem, and every MMO needs more moneysinks. :D

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Bruno Brito

Yeah. But some games have moneysinks that are at least functional. FE didn’t.

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Bruno Brito

I’ll never understand people’s obsession with making commentaries that add absolutely nothing of value to a discussion.

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Paul

One of my all time favourite MMOs – RIP :(

Sixuality
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Sixuality

Exploration is amazing in FE. So many times I’ve stumbled upon questgivers or interesting locales (with good nodes) and even entire towns that aren’t on the map – all of which is encouraged by a view distance that allows you to see some points of interest from miles away.

One thing that makes crafting so good is that if you keep your tradeskills up to par then the gear you can make will almost always be better than anything you get as a quest reward at the same level. It’s not a game where you up your crafts because they will be useful one day – they’re useful from the get go.

If I may I’ll add an 11th item to the top ten. The lighting. There’s a reason roughly half of all screenshots you’ll ever see of this game are taken during sunrise or sunset, and the wide open landscape – especially in sector one – really shows it off to best effect.

Sixuality
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Sixuality

Fallen Earth is still running, for now.

Besides the line dividing the livng from the dead has become increasingly blurred in the mmosphere. Just ask anyone who’s been playing SWG or City of Heroes recently.

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Richard de Leon III

probably because almost all have some good points to remember and maybe other mmos can learn from them or implement them?