Road Trip!

I decided to go for it. I killed the ten Shiva’s Favored the mission I’d already taken had called for, and then…nothing. No difference, no faction rating change, nothing. So I took the mission to kill Human League members, did that one and…same thing, nothing, no change whatsoever. My faction rating with both groups is still zero. Good to know for the future, I guess.

After that, it was back to doing missions in and around New Flagstaff. I took one that sent me down to Last Stop. I got the first part done, but the second part is still a bit too tough for me to handle on my own, so I put it aside for now. I managed to finish one from a Banker that had me getting cash registers from Aesterly, but another mission in that town which has me taking down a guy named Devereau is still just a bit too much for me right now. I’ve come very close, had him down to about half his HP but died before I could finish him off a few times, so I’ve decided to wait on that one a bit too.

I’ve now taken one that has me heading up to Blaine to speak to someone, so that’s going to be today’s first mission, and I’m going to combine that with a ride out to Dieseltown to get a Mine Aluminum book. I’ve got the Geology skill I need, and that’s the closest place to get it. On my last ride into Kaibab Forest I was able to make it past there without any problem, so I’ll take care of that after I stop in Blaine.

After that, I dunno, I’ll probably stop by that newspaper box in New Flagstaff and get a new mission. It’s Saturday and I don’t have anything going on, so I expect I’ll have plenty of  time for FE…assuming the servers stay up.

*****

I’ve been experiencing something weird since the servers stabilized, an effect I’ll call “hitching”. It’s not really rubberbanding, though I’ve had a bit of that too now and then. Sometimes in certain areas, like just as I approach New Flagstaff or within the city itself, the screen will suddenly freeze and then unfreeze a few seconds later and I’ll be a bit further along from where I was. Usually this isn’t a big deal, but every so often I’ll find myself unfreezing right in front of a wall or other obstacle and I’ll have to make a sudden turn to avoid crashing into it. At least three times now I’ve unfrozen so close to an obstacle that I couldn’t avoid it and crashed head-on into it, requiring me to repair my motorcycle. Once I unfroze right into the middle of a mob of prairie chickens and had to seriously make a run for it, barely avoiding death.

I hope they get this worked out soon because it’s really a pain in the ass.

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Choices

So, I’m now in New Flagstaff. When I finished up in Sunshine Corners, I took a mission from the local Franklin’s Riders rep which took me up here. On the way, I stumbled into a mob of Vistas which sent me to the Haven Lifenet pod and I added that one to my fast travel list. Once I finished the Franklin’s Riders mission, I went looking for more work.

It was then that I noticed that my revolvers needed repair. I discovered that I didn’t have a high enough quality Ballistics Repair Kit, so I tried building some level 2 kits but that didn’t help either. Logically, I assumed that I needed a level 3 kit, but also saw that right now I currently don’t have anywhere near the skill to build one myself. As I soon found, however, logic doesn’t always rule the day in this game.

I thought I was going to have to take a trip deep into Sector 3 in order to get my kits, but then I discovered something I hadn’t realized when trying to operate solely by logic: There’s also a Simple Ballistics Repair Kit, which will repair any guns level 50 or lower. I’d probably have figured this out sooner of it had been named something else. I mean does it really make sense to have two different level repair kits called Basic and Simple? Wouldn’t calling one Advanced or something similar have made far more sense and been much less confusing? One thing that certainly wasn’t simple (or basic, for that matter) was figuring out which kit to use to repair my level 35 revolvers. It wasn’t until I went back to the local Firearms merchant and took a closer look at the Simple kit that I realized I could use it to repair my guns without having to take a long trip in Sector 3.

With my guns now repaired, I took a mission that sent me to the Underworks. I was able to complete that one and the one after it in the same quest chain, but the one after that requires a higher medical skill than I currently have so I’ll have to wait on that for a while.

Afterward, I found myself in an interesting situation. I took a mission from a Human League rep that sent me off to kill some Shiva’s Favored, but when I got to their camp I noticed that they weren’t attacking. Checking, I saw that my faction rating with them was zero, totally neutral, as is my rating with the Human League. There’s also a mission available here, which I discovered is to go back to where I got the first mission and kill some Human League members. I know that no matter which one I choose, I’m going to gain faction with one and lose faction with the other.

Right now, I’m still in the Shiva’s Favored camp but I haven’t killed anyone yet. I suppose I could take the Human League mission and then kill the Shiva’s Favored, but I know I’d probably have a pretty hard time collecting my reward for killing Human Leaguers later on if I did that.

So what am I going to do? I don’t know yet, but you know that once I do make a decision and carry it out, I’ll tell you all about the results right here.

Til next time, stay safe out there.

Going Deeper

Once again, I’ve discovered yet another example of just how example of just how much I still don’t know about this game. After doing some missions in Fracture, I decided to head over to Picus Ridge to do some stuff for the Techs. As I discovered when I arrived, if you do too much work for one allied faction, you risk pissing off your other (former) allies. As I approached Picus Ridge, the guards started shooting, much to my surprise. When I checked my faction wheel I noticed that my faction rating with the CHOTA was over double what it was with the Techs, which had turned from green to red. Not a good thing, but also something I’ll deal with a little later. Right now, I’m doing other things.

I went back down to Sector 1 to re-enable fast travel at Watchtower. That’s a very useful station for me and I want to have it available. Since I was in the area anyway, I decided to check out Trailer Park for the first time and add that pod to my fast travel list as well, leaving only Spider Hill as the sole Sector 1 fast travel location I haven’t enabled yet. I did a few minor missions while I was there and at the local gas station I took a rally mission which took me back into Sector 2 to Sunshine Corners.

Since was there anyway, I decided to do some missions up there and that’s where I am now. I’m planning to head over to Thorne’s Bluff when I’m done in Sunshine Corners to add that pod to my fast travel list and then I expect I’ll hit some more neutral Sector 2 towns.

*****

I rode my Spiked Chopper for while when I first got it, but I got a pretty rude awakening when I was killed doing a mission and had to tow it back to the gas station near the pod I materialized at. The cost of the tow was literally 100 times what it would have cost for my self-crafted motorcycle and 200 times what it would have cost for my ATV. Sure it’s a higher class vehicle but still…100 times the price? Seems a bit much to me. As a result, I’ve now parked that beast and will save it for combat situations as I just don’t have the chips to pay to have the thing towed every time I get killed. It’s back to my standard motorcycle for just getting around.

*****

In my previous post I said that it seemed that Fallen Earth’s servers had stabilized. Perhaps I spoke a bit too soon. It’s still a question every time I attempt to log on whether or not I’ll actually be able to. Nevertheless, something happened the other day which reminded me of one of the reason why I enjoy playing Fallen Earth that really doesn’t have anything to do with the actual game itself.

Last night around 7:30 eastern Fallen Earth forum community manager Tiggs posted a lengthy description of all the work and long hours put in by the Fallen Earth tech team to fix the problems and get the servers back up. It reminded me of one of the reasons I was attracted to this game back at the beginning outside of the game itself. Simply put, the people making this game actually give a shit. That is, unlike in so many other games there’s a real feeling of community on this forum, not the kind of often adversarial relationships so many dev teams seem to have with their game’s players.

For me, this matters, though obviously not as much as the game itself. When I was playing Crimecraft, it seemed to me that the dev team was far more interested in protecting the company which created and owns the game from any negative opinions expressed by the players than in actually addressing valid concerns and making the experience as positive as possible. Their attitude seems to be that since Crimecraft is a free-to-play game, the players had no right to complain if things weren’t working properly.

I was involved in creating a group blog for Crimecraft in part as a way for players to express themselves in a forum away from the extremely restricted and heavily moderated official forums. Because we allowed a former player to post a negative, dissenting opinion about the way he was treated and eventually banned from the game (which, I might add, as Editor-In-Chief I challenged him on certain aspects of in the comments because I felt he was being unfair to the company), our blog, Sunrise City Times, was banned from being promoted on the official forums by the community manager there, solely because he didn’t like what this player had to say and that we were letting him say it on our blog.

After a little while, I’d decided I’d just had enough and even though I did enjoy the game, I logged in less and less until I lost a character I’d invested a lot of time and effort in creating, apparently due to some sort of server glitch. Once that happened, I pretty much just stopped logging into Crimecraft altogether. Soon afterward, I got an email from Fallen Earth inviting me back for 7 free days…and, well, you can read the rest of that story right here on this blog in the posts preceding this one.

The truth is that in the end it’s always going to be the game itself which determines whether that game is a success or a failure, but another truth is that while a quality dev team which really does care about its players can’t make most players keep playing a lousy game, it most certainly can make a player base that does enjoy a great game even more fiercely loyal to it and inspired to find ways to promote and celebrate it, such as, for example, writing a blog about it.

Players certainly were frustrated about the repeated server crashes and other issues just after the free-to-play launch and frankly, they had a right to be. Many had waited a long time to play and they were anxious to get to it. In my opinion, some players were over-the-top nasty and disparaging in their complaints, but one of the most frequent concerns was something I felt had great credibility, a lack of communication between the dev team and the players about what was going on and when it would be resolved.

As time went on, I noticed an increase in the number of posts from devs letting players know that they were working on the issues and estimated server uptimes when they were available, capped off at the end of the worst of it by Tiggs’ long post. That post was an inspired and brilliant move by Tiggs because it not only let players know just how hard the devs were working to set things right, but also had the much-needed effect of turning a rather cranky and annoyed group of players into appreciative and positive loyalists. In short, Fallen Earth’s community manager turned what could have been a major problem and massive player outrage into a reason to come together and knit into an even tighter-knit gaming community that shared a feeling that we’re all in this together as lovers of this game. You just can’t ask for better than that.

Now that things seem to have calmed down, the servers (currently) seem to have stabilized, and players are back doing what we love best, playing the game, it’s my hope that the Fallen Earth and G1 devs will take a cue from this experience and keep the community well-informed when there’s a need. As a writer myself, I know that it probably took Tiggs quite a while to write that post, time that she probably could and should have spent doing other things. And yet, there’s probably not one single thing the dev team could have done at that moment that would have been more effective to chase away the black clouds of negativity and frustration that were filling the forum. I hope this is an indicator of what we’ll see going forward, because if it is I think it’ll pay off quite nicely in terms of player loyalty and support.

As someone with a fair share of experience as a community manager myself, I can say wholeheartedly that this, my friends, is the way it should be done. Nice job, folks.

Seeing The Forest For The Trees

So today, for my first decent length session with Fallen Earth since the magic account fairy left me back in early September, I decided to take a ride into Sector 3 and check out Kaibab Forest.

Soon after I entered Sector 3, I knew I wasn’t going to be staying long. For one thing, everything there needed a higher scavenging skill than I currently have so about the only thing I could do there was buy gas and look at the scenery. I made it as far as Banker’s Hole before I decided to turn around and head back to Sector 2. On the way back I stopped in Blaine, or at least I tried to anyway. About the only thing that excursion got me was a quick trip to the local Lifenet pod, where I was able to add it to my fast travel destinations. Interestingly, I noticed that I’ve apparently lost Watchtower and a few destinations I’d added before the game went free-to-play so I guess I’ll be making another trip back into Sector 1 sometime soon.

I headed back southward toward Credit Bend and Fracture, did few missions in and around Fracture while carefully keeping an eye on my faction levels as I want to remain primarily a Traveler. I’m currently finishing up one more Fracture mission and then it’s off to Picus Ridge to do some stuff for the Techs, where my faction rating is much lower.

I tried going to The Gallows to do the first conflict town mission but quickly discovered that I’m really just not ready for PvP yet, so I quickly put that to the side for now. I’ll try again once I’ve gained a few more levels and upped some more skills and attributes. And hey, I even set up some Heavy Rifle Ammo to craft. Of course, that was pretty easy this time as I had the foresight to make some Heavy Gunpowder back in September. What I still don’t know is how easy that’s going to be once my supply runs out and I have to start doing it completely from scratch again.

Anyway, it’s getting late so I think I’m going to jump back in-game for a while before I hit the sack.

More soon.

And So It Begins

After a couple days of unstable and overloaded servers, the free-to-play iteration of Fallen Earth seems to have stabilized and it’s now time to begin to exploring it in earnest. So far I really haven’t noticed much of a difference, but that’s probably for two reasons: First, because the last couple of days have been pretty busy for me and I just haven’t had the time to put in more than about an hour total during the times when the servers have been up. I plan on remedying that over the next few days.

I finally got my code for the Spiked Chopper last night and did get a chance to ride around on it and do a couple of short missions before I had to log off. Today will be pretty busy in RL too, but I know what I’m gonna be doing this weekend.

Oooooooo-yeahhhhh……

More soon.

Tick, tick, tick, tick….

So tomorrow, roughly 13-14 hours from now as I write this, the Fallen Earth servers will come back up and the game will be officially and forevermore free-to-play. This, I believe, I fervently hope, will be a very good thing.

I’m really not the best person to make this assessment as someone who already loves this game and is therefore totally biased in favor of it and rooting for it to succeed and flourish. Sure, I’ve spent the last few posts bitching about the new crafting limit and I don’t take back anything I’ve said, but that doesn’t mean I think this game going free-to-play is a bad thing. I just have certain concerns about a few aspects of  the way it’s being done. New information, however, tells me that my concerns may not prove to be as serious as I I’d feared.

It seems that sometime shortly after the free-to-play launch they’ll be offering the benefits of premium accounts ala carte for G1 credits and Rewards Points, including (I presume and hope) some kind of short-term 24-hour crafting buff. As a player who does a lot of crafting but will be dealing with a free account probably at least until the holidays, this is exactly what I’m hoping for to get me through until I can upgrade. As long as the buff is affordable and I can continue crafting at the rate I did in the past, I will be a very happy camper. So too, I expect, will be a lot of other players for whom crafting is an important part of this game.

While I know that not everyone spends as much time as I do crafting, I also know that unless you’re prepared to grind for chips a hell of a lot more more than most players are, crafting is a key part of keeping oneself properly supplied and equipped. Crafting is tough, if not impossible, to avoid entirely, especially when you’re using weapons which use medium and heavy ammo. Heavy ammo in particular is damned expensive to buy from merchants and so it’s not only just generally cost-effective but pretty much essential to be able to make your own.

Now, I know there are a lot of crafting recipes that have been adjusted or even eliminated over the last month so I’ll have to check all my recipes when I get back in tomorrow and see what I can still do and what I’ll need to do it, but I haven’t read anything as yet indicating that there have been any changes in ammo or related recipes. I hope not. The last thing I need is for it become even harder to craft medium and heavy ammo. I’ve been basically following a Pistoleer path in my AP allocations, but I do use both pistols and rifles and try to keep a decent amount of ammo on hand for both.

When you get right down to it, this is what I’d expect most returning players care about most: That the game we love won’t be too gimped for us as free players to enjoy as much as we used to, that we can experience once again the reasons why we started playing this game in the first place and why we are inspired to return to it now.

I believe this is the yardstick by which Fallen Earth’s free-to-play conversion will eventually be judged: Can returning free players still have just as much fun in this game as they used to, whether they choose to pay or not? If so, this game will be a success. If not, it’s a very open question. From all I’ve heard thus far, I think there’s plenty of reason to hope and so, I am.

See ya out there!

Four More Days!

Well, as of midnight tonight anyway.

While the new “crippled crafting” F2P scheme GamersFirst is planning to impose on free players still annoys me just in general, I’ve been doing some more reading on the topic and my annoyance has increased. From what I’m reading, it appears that they’re also doing away with being able to buy many craftable things from merchants. What this is likely to mean in the practical sense is that you won’t be able to get around the crafting limit by grinding for chips, you’ll have no choice but to craft most items yourself and therefore suffer the ridiculous 8-hour crafting limit regardless, unless you want to set something big up to craft and then just take a three-day (or more) vacation from the game.

Um, this is supposed to encourage more people to play the game? Really? Manoman, do I smell disaster in the wind.

Here’s what I now expect to happen once GamersFirst opens the F2P gates on Wednesday:

New free players trying the game for the first time will be fine for a while as their low-level weapons will require only short crafting sessions to keep themselves supplied with ammo. Once they get to a certain level, however, and want to upgrade their weapons they’ll begin to discover how the 8-hour crafting limit is going to slow down their ability to advance in the game and even just keep themselves supplied with ammo. Some will be willing to put up with it, some will buy a paid subscription, but many will just get fed up and move on to other games.

Returning players using their old accounts on the F2P level will reach that frustration point much faster. They’ll find themselves unable to craft enough ammo for more than just a few hours play per day at most, and upgrading their existing weapons and other equipment will often take multiple 8-hour crafting sessions, perhaps even weeks. Those with the money and the desire will shell out for paid accounts, but many others will decide it’s just not worth the the time and effort and they too will move on to other games which don’t involve long waiting periods in order to simply provide themselves with the tools they need to play the game and remain competitive.

Free players will avoid PvP as it will expend too much ammo too quickly and replacing it will now be far too time-consuming and/or expensive to make it worthwhile.

Over time, a schism between free and paid players will develop as free players will be much more reluctant to participate in multi-player combat due to the time expense of creating ammo and new weapons. Paid players will find themselves playing a very different game than that which free players are playing and so there will prove to be little mixing of the two socially or in clans. PvP-focused clans will start refusing membership to free players because they won’t be able to stay competitive with paid members.

The market for ammo and other equipment will crash as free players find themselves unable to afford the asking prices and so those who do stay with the game will simply set up as many crafting projects as they can and then disappear from the game for days or even weeks while they wait for their crafting to finish.

Eventually Fallen Earth will devolve into a game where the free players spend all of their in-game time soloing lower-level missions and a small hardcore base of paid players will be the only ones who participate in PvP and the higher-level content areas of the game. New players will end up leaving the game before they get to the point of wanting to invest in a paid subscription because getting to that point will simply take too long and they will feel too disadvantaged by the crafting limit to really enjoy themselves getting there, while returning players will quickly become disillusioned as they find themselves playing a very different, lesser game than the one they left behind the first time.

In short, free players will not feel they’re able to stay competitive with the paid players while the paid players aren’t going to want to play with gimped free players and after a while, they’ll just stop trying. What Fallen Earth will be left with are two very different player experiences, one for free players and a very different one for those who pay. The paid players won’t have enough numbers for decent PvP and the free players will find themselves playing what is at best a pale shade of what Fallen Earth always has been and should be, essentially a low-level solo mission-based game. The incentive to move deeper into more dangerous areas of the game will be countered by the steep rise in the time and effort to keep oneself supplied and equipped. The higher level areas will become sparsely populated with just about all of the action taking place in the non-PvP areas of Sector 1 and tending to stay there.

What bothers me most is that this is going to change the very nature of the game itself, that which makes Fallen Earth a game worth playing in the first place.

In the short-term, I expect we’ll see a massive increase in the numbers of players playing the game when the F2P gates open but that will be short-lived as the game population rapidly drops once these new players advance far enough that they must begin doing a lot of crafting in order to advance and compete. Over the long-term, the population of Fallen Earth will continue to decline as free players decide they’d rather be spending their time playing instead of waiting to play, and paid players decide that there just aren’t enough other players playing anymore to make the game worthwhile.

That’s what I expect. I hope I’m wrong, truly I do, but I don’t think I am. I’ve been playing MMO’s for far too long to reasonably anticipate any other outcome. In the end, gaming is about having fun, not waiting to have fun.

The folks at Fallen Earth have said that they want to take the game from a theme park model to more of a sandbox model. If that’s truly the case then you really have to wonder why they’re intentionally making the waiting lines to get to the attractions so much longer than they have to be.