On the side of many Lifenet pods (at least those in Sector One), there’s graffiti that covers the last word of the Globaltech motto, “Making Life Better”, replacing it with the word “CHEAP”. It adds a little insight into how residents of the area must have viewed Globaltech and Lifenet before The Fall…or perhaps even how they view them now, at least the residents who aren’t clones.
In a way, it’s not only a clue to the feelings of the fictional residents of Sector One toward clones who, unlike themselves, can be instantly reborn in one of these pods to go continue on with their lives as if nothing happened, it’s also a clue to the developer logic behind Fallen Earth as a whole, and to how those who play FE may perceive it as well.
Life is indeed cheap in FE. The penalty for dying and being reborn is relatively small, just a few minutes of less than optimal experience gain, a minor loss of experience points, and maybe a long walk on foot to the nearest garage and paying some chips to recover your vehicle.
Compare that to EvE, where the price of death can be far steeper as you progress in the game. Ship losses can represent millions of hard-earned ISK even with insurance payouts, and a pod killing without a sufficiently advanced jump clone available can make the loss vastly more expensive in terms of lost skill points.
FE and EvE are very different games in just about every way thematically, but nowhere in my experience with both games is the difference greater than in the value placed on death…and therefore life. It fundamentally changes the way a game will be played and probably also by whom.
Overall, players in MMOs seem inclined to take on as much risk as they can handle in these games, especially if the potential reward makes it worth that risk. On the one hand, a game like EvE will often inspire players to be thoughtful and cautious in their risk-taking, knowing that failure may set them back in the game considerably. On the other hand, in a game like FE, where the cost of death is comparatively dirt cheap, more of an inconvenience than an actual setback in achieving one’s in-game goals, players will tend to take more risks and try more things they’re not sure they’ll succeed at because they know that if they do die in the trying it won’t be very long before they’ll be right back where they were in the game before they bit it.
Which is better? I’d argue that’s really a matter of taste. Just as in RL, some will prefer a high-risk and high-reward system, while others will prefer a lower risk even when coupled with a lower potential reward. It’s an issue for me right now, coupled with many others, as I make some decisions about my own MMO gaming going forward.
As you may know, I played EvE for a year starting about three years ago, long before I ever heard of Fallen Earth. I enjoyed my time in EvE immensely and my reasons for leaving the game were tied up in having the responsibilities at my RL job at the time increased substantially. I just didn’t have the available time to play not only EvE but any MMO or other game that required a major time investment.
This was especially true with EvE, which in my position in the later months of my time in the game was being a co-founder and the second-highest ranking officer of a corporation a friend and I founded. This required a lot of concessions and changes both in the way I actually played the game as well as the amount and the scheduling of the RL time I had to make for it.
Eventually it got the point where I had to make a choice. I was finding myself with less and less available time to devote to EvE, and I began to feel guilty because I knew that other players were dependent on me taking care of my in-game responsibilities so they could take care of theirs.
When I did make my final decision to leave EvE, I was so embarrassed, disappointed, and sad about it that I just quietly vanished from the game with barely a word. I’d been writing a fairly well-read blog about EvE that I just abandoned, mainly because I could not bring myself to write a goodbye post telling my readers why I was leaving the game.
“It’s a game, a work of fiction, not real life.” I kept telling myself these things, but my sense of failure, my guilt for having to let down people who depended on me, and my sadness in feeling I had no other choice but to leave a game and a gaming community I dearly loved were all too real. I wanted to, desperately, but I just couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye. I left EvE, threw myself into my RL responsibilities with gusto, and didn’t look back for almost exactly two years.
I’d been keeping up with major news of EvE in the gaming media over the last year or so, and early last week I decided that it would make for an interesting piece if I revisited EvE two years after I’d left and wrote about it from my perspective as an MMO gamer today, one with a lot more experience under her belt.
I could probably have chosen to reactivate one of my previous toons in EvE, one of which had a year’s skill training, but I decided that the best way to judge the game as it is now would be to go in as a new player and start from scratch. My main intended purpose was to check out the graphics, which I knew had gotten a major update since I’d played. I hadn’t owned a PC good enough to handle those new graphics until earlier this year, and I wanted to see how much of a difference there is in playing EvE with my old PC, which barely met the minimum system specs for the game, versus my new one, which exceeds the game’s recommended specs by a substantial margin. In short, I was going to go in as a tourist, not a serious player, see what I wanted to see, try what I wanted to try, write and publish my piece and then move on, back home to Fallen Earth. It was a good plan, it just didn’t work out that way.
The problem I had when I did this and reentered EvE for the first time in two years, and the one I’m wresting with now, was one I hadn’t anticipated. Despite all of my best intentions, I think I’ve been sucked back into the EvE wormhole.
As I went through the tutorial and my first mission arcs, I remembered why I fell in love with EvE in the first place, why I stayed with it for a year, and why I was so sad when I left the first time. Hours zoomed by before I realized I’d been lost, completely absorbed by the game, in a way that I haven’t been since, well, since I stopped playing EvE.
And yet, at the same time, I love Fallen Earth. I enjoy the game, I enjoy the community and the players, and I have a great time with it. Sure there are still some kinks yet to be worked out in FE but so what? Most MMOs have them, including those that have been open for a lot longer than FE.
Knowing that at some point in the future I may be forced to choose between these two games, I’ve been comparing them, not really feature for feature or thematically (do I like an ultra-high-tech space-based theme better than a post-apocalyptic one?), but rather by the one score that really matters:
Which game is more fun to play?
I’ve yet to come up with a definitive answer. I like both games equally, and I like them in some cases for similar reasons and in some cases for different ones.
For example, one thing I like about both games is the quality of the players they attract. Both games boast pretty mature player bases, though I’ve had experiences in both games where those who are more potent in-game will use that power as a way of taking advantage of and preying upon those less capable or experienced.
In EvE, griefing has been basically institutionalized and given its own game-relevant role as piracy. This makes sense for a game like EvE, and perhaps for a game like FE as well, though personally I think Icarus needs to decide where they stand on griefing, kill-stealing, and other such behavior and create a firm policy, which they must then make a real effort to enforce (or not enforce, if that’s the way they choose to go).
Right now, not only is there no real in-game role for this kind of behavior in FE, but it’s specifically discouraged in FE’s TOS. Icarus needs to decide on a firm policy here, inform the FE community of it, and then administer it effectively. Left unchecked and unacknowledged, griefing and related tactics that prey upon noobs will drive many new players away, probably never to return. After all, getting fucked over all the time by jerks who get their yuks by griefing those players less able to defend themselves just really isn’t any fun at all, and if it isn’t fun, what’s the point of playing?
The hopefully good news for FE is that I haven’t noticed a lot of this kind of thing since the first few days after the game went live, but I also haven’t spent much time in the major starter towns recently, either. The bad news is that just because it may not be an issue now, doesn’t mean it won’t be an issue a month from now or a year from now. Again, Icarus needs to decide on a policy here and stick to it, and they need to do it now, while it’s still early on. If they wait until this becomes a major issue I expect they’ll have already lost a lot of players who might otherwise have stuck around a lot longer.
So, what I am I gonna do now that I have not one but two MMOs I love and want to keep playing? In all honesty, I haven’t got a clue yet. I do, however, know what I’m going to do until I I come up with an answer. As for most of us there at the beginning, on Thursday, October 22nd, my first subscription payment for FE comes due. I’ve signed up for the quarterly plan, and I’ll make that payment. My free trial of EvE is good for another ten or eleven days, after which I’ll have to decide if I want to start a subscription plan and jump back into it with both feet. Right now, I’m still not sure if I’ll subscribe to EvE again or not, but I’m having so much fun with it that it’s becoming harder and harder to imagine not doing it.
As tough a decision as this may prove to be for me, if my RL decisions were based solely upon how much fun I would have as a result, I suspect I’d have a lot easier time making many of them.