Fallen Earth: Surviving an MMO Apocalypse

With the summer months of 2009 swiftly approaching, new details continue to emerge about many impressive sci-fi MMOs currently in development. Recently we’ve seen everything from all new

the summer months of 2009 swiftly approaching, new details
continue to emerge about many impressive sci-fi MMOs currently in
development. Recently we’ve seen everything from all new href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/66569" target="_blank">videos

for such promising titles as href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/306"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Jumpgate Evolution
and href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/926"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Global Agenda
to highly informative href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/66095" target="_blank">interviews
for href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/806"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Earthrise
and href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/117"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek Online,
not to mention the bevy of screenshots and href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/65637" target="_blank">class
information for href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1422"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars: The Old
While each of these games certainly has a long list of unique features
that set them apart from the pack, there remains a unifying factor
beyond the overarching sci-fi genre.

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Much like the fantasy genre’s prolific use of Orcs, Elves,
swords and boards, it’s become an industry norm nearly
overnight that sci-fi is synonymous with high-tech. Yet in other
creative mediums such as film and literature, the sci-fi genre is
almost limitless in scope, encompassing a broad range of settings where
the only true limits are, as Rod Sterling would say, that of the
imagination. While gameplay will always be king in terms of what makes
or breaks a new MMO’s potential for success, sometimes the
simple notion of creating a unique setting for a game world
that’s never been fully explored is enough to get MMO players
to stand up and take notice. One such sci-fi MMO that certainly
deserves some attention for taking a vastly different approach to
setting and core gameplay elements is href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/177"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth.

the Post-Apocalyptic Wheel

For more years than I can remember, my favorite sci-fi writer has been
the late, great Philip K. Dick. Somewhere between the paranoid
ramblings of later novels such as style="font-style: italic;">V.A.L.I.S.
and the thought provoking masterpieces of his extremely prolific period
in the late 60s, the author’s unique take on the genre still
continues to influence the creative talents behind modern masterpieces
across a multitude of mediums. There have been countless occasions over
the past few years where I’d be watching a film or reading a
novel only to hit yet another of those points where I subconsciously
began mumbling, “That’s a total Philip K. Dick

Sometimes that type of influence will intentionally shine through in
the finished product, almost like a polite nod to those creative
geniuses who’ve come before. Other times, though a given
influence will be prevalent throughout a given creative endeavor, it
may not be intentionally so. Whatever the case may be, as a life-long
Philip K Dick fan I can’t help but see those moments
blatantly glaring in my face and get excited to see how far reaching
the genius’s influence has truly become.

The most common point of reference I’ve seen used whenever style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth
is described in terms of setting tends to be the Mad Max films, but
thanks to a life-long fascination with Philip K Dick’s
various paranoid, amphetamine-fueled ramblings I can’t help
but look towards the late author instead. In particular a core concept
behind the 1976 novel, style="font-style: italic;">Deus Irae,
that Dick co-authored with Roger Zelazny springs to mind whenever I see
new images, or read new details about FE’s spin on what a
post-apocalyptic America might look like.

Mind you the exact subject matter between style="font-style: italic;">Deus Irae
and Fallen
tend to be vastly
different, but one of the main concepts that stands out is that, should
an apocalypse come about there’s every chance that there will
be plenty of tech that survives, but hardly anyone left alive who knows
how any of it functions. To the handful of survivors who understand the
intrinsic value of various types of circuitry or how to properly retool
a drive shaft, old tech is the new gold. To everyone else though,
it’s just so much useless junk unless it can be somehow
turned into a weapon, sold on the black market or traded for something
of immediate value like food.

This kind of gritty, more realistic approach to what a post-apocalyptic
world might look like hasn’t really been taken on so directly
in MMO form previously. There were certainly hints of this found in
titles such as NetDevil’s href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/31"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Auto Assault,
but for the most part even in the broader gaming market, only last
year’s style="font-style: italic;">Fallout 3
or the upcoming Id title style="font-style: italic;">Rage
come to mind in terms of the overall atmosphere of the setting. True,
setting alone isn’t necessarily enough to guarantee an
instant success in style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth,
but it certainly points to ways the developers are looking beyond the
norm to deliver a sci-fi MMO that stands on its own strengths rather
than falling into the trap of relying too heavily on catering to
established norms. Should style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth
achieve this same unique vision across other core aspects of gameplay,
there are plenty of reasons why sci-fi fans should be excited for the
title’s launch later this year.

Factions to Fabrication

Faction will play a leading role in FE, but I’m not talking
about the kind of faction where you  complete the same
mindless task exactly once each real-world day until you eventually
please the NPCs enough to let you in on the secret of how to stuff a
handful of additional  arrows into a quiver for the low, low
cost of a month’s worth of skinning rare beasts. In style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth,
factions are representative of what one might imagine would happen were
attempts made to rebuild society in a post apocalyptic world. Like
minded individuals would eventually band together in what could only be
described as a more tribal form of society, regardless of any attempts
made by some of those factions to rebuild an exact societal replica of
what’s come before. It’s inevitable that at least style="font-style: italic;">some
factions would either prefer the more chaotic climes of the new
post-apocalyptic America, many of them in fact even thriving in such a

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Perhaps even more intriguing than factions that actually matter to a
degree rarely seen since the original href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/38"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest
is Fallen
’s approach to
crafting. I’m one of those MMO gamers who never expects to
get wrapped up in crafting when new titles launch, but when done right
will eventually focus entirely on creating useful items for other
players, adventuring then becoming a means to an end should it be
necessary for things such as obtaining materials or recipes. Outside of
perhaps healing in PvP, crafting is one of the most direct ways for an
individual player to have a positive impact on the broader player base
in any given MMO. When you consider that 95 percent of the items in style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth
will be created by players, it’s no wonder the crafter in me
is itching to get my hands on the game to see how deep the crafting
rabbit hole really goes.

Solid Connections

Between crafting and use of faction in style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth,
there’s certainly a formula ripe with potential for harboring
a tight-knit, solid player community. Add in the href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/66638" target="_blank">recent
announcement that style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth
will bear an “M” rating from the ESRB, and it could
potentially be a more thoughtful, mature community to boot. While a
‘mature’ rating is by no means an indication that
the community itself will actually style="font-style: italic;">be
mature, it does lend itself to catering to a core audience of MMO
players who focus their efforts on PvP victories rather than petty
squabbles in guild chat. At least one can only hope!

Considering the approach to the overall atmosphere and setting for style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth,
it should come as no surprise that the developers chose to promote the
title through a series of fan events, or what’s essentially
been a grassroots tour stopping in key locations in the US. I was
fortunate enough to attend the first of these events that was held in
Raleigh, NC towards the end of February and proved to be an extremely
interesting way to connect with fans outside of the usual overly
distracting industry shows that seemingly creep from one end of the
summer calendar to the other. Promoting the game in such a way also
speaks volumes of the type of connection the developers hope to create
between themselves and fans of the game – a key area that
many MMO players have been quite vocal about with many previous titles.
By establishing a willingness to connect with fans in such a direct
way, the developers behind style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth
could very well establish a new norm for listening to the voice of
their community.

Log: Stardate 4130.9

While many of the concepts behind style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth
may not be entirely unique in and of themselves, the approach taken to
bring them all together paints a sci-fi picture of an MMO that promises
to be greater than the sum of the genre’s previous parts. The
title’s gritty post-apocalyptic setting certainly sets the
upcoming MMO apart from an industry seemingly hell-bent on
homogenization. In the coming months, I fully expect that as we see
more details emerge on core gameplay mechanics, many gamers will begin
to see Fallen
as a beacon leading
them towards more interesting sci-fi waters than what’s
promised by many of its high-tech contemporaries.

What are your thoughts on style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth?
Do you consider the title to be different enough from the crowd to make
a solid impact on the industry when it’s released later this
year? Or perhaps you’ve been fortunate enough to attend one
of the dev team’s stops along their national tour? Be sure to
share your thoughts and stories right here on our forums, or you can
always feel free to href="mailto:[email protected]">email me directly.

Until next time dear readers, this is Captain Sardu signing off!

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