Saturday, September 28, 2019

Road To Nowhere: Fallen Earth

I told myself I wasn't going to do this. What would be the point? I'd just be picking at a scab that closed over long ago. Best leave well alone. And then I went and did it anyway.

It was Syp's fault. I read his short news item on Massively OP yesterday and I thought "oh, the hell with it. Why not?" So I did.

I expected I'd have to download the whole thing all over again, but no. To my considerable surprise, not only did I still have Fallen Earth installed but the icon was right there, on the desktop. I clicked it. It took me straight to the login screen, where, naturally, my password wasn't recognized.

Easy fix. New password accepted. The patcher told me it would take nine hours to bring me up to date.  Then it went away to check its calculations and came up with a revised timetable: two minutes. I was back.

Back where, though? Not to mention back, why?

I have a long and fractured history with Fallen Earth. I bought it just after release, which, since the sunset is unhappily timed to co-incide with the tenth anniversary, must have been in 2009. I thought I was playing World of Warcraft exclusively in 2009 but who am I to know what I was doing? The past is a different country. I did things differently there.

At release Fallen Earth was a subscription-only MMORPG. Most were. I paid for the box, although I don't believe there ever was an actual,  physical box. If there was I can't find it and I have all my old games boxes going back to the early 1980s. I have a dim memory of it being one of the first digital downloads I ever paid for but don't hold me to that.

I subbed for a couple of months. Could have been three. By then I wasn't playing often enough to justify the spend so I stopped. Paying and playing, that is, since the two were conjoined.

While I was playing I got my one and only character just into the twenties. I remember it as being slow going but highly absorbing. Fallen Earth has some fairly simple combat but some pretty deep gameplay. There are a boatload of factions to balance, a sprawling skill system, some extensive and extremely time-consuming gathering and crafting options and a huge, vast, open world to explore.

If anyone thinks travel in WoW Classic is slow they really ought to take a look at Fallen Earth. Go on, it's free and you still have a couple of weeks. There are only a few zones but they are insanely huge. On foot it takes maybe half an hour - probably closer to forty-five minutes - to get from one end of Sector 2 to the other. On the road. If you survive.

I rode down that road yesterday on my Racehorse, the fastest of my four mounts. I started about three-quarters of the way North and it took me more than twenty minutes to get to Sector 1. I stopped a few times to take screenshots but mostly I just cantered.

And that's all I did. It's all I ever do. It's why I eventually stopped logging in, casually, every year or so, even though the game's been free to play for a long time. It's the same problem we all have, going back to former MMORPGs; all my bags are full and I don't know what anything's for. I have no idea where to go or want to do so I just ride around for an hour or two, take a lot of moody photos, then log out.

Endgame Viable had a post up yesterday about the new(ish) scaleable font in Lord of the Rings Online (who knew?). He ends with a zinger: "Now if only they could do something about those inventory icons…" He should see Fallen Earth!

It's an unfair comparison. FE's icons are orders of magnitude better than LotRO's. They're neat, detailed illustrations that have clear relevance to the objects they represent. There are always highly explanatory tool-tips, often with a good joke thrown in. They've been prepared with intelligence, wit and care.

Only there are so many of them. It's overwhelming. My entire inventory (and that includes a separate vault in each sector and large saddlebags on every mount) is completely full of things I obviously thought worth keeping when I last played "seriously", which was for a few sessions after the free to play transition. That overlapped with the start of this blog and I managed one proper post about it in May 2012.

I came back a few times after that. I remember logging in after they added craftable camps. I made the basic one. I thought I blogged about it but apparently not. Mostly, though, I log in, become overwhelmed at the prospect of doing anything substantive, ride around for a while and... that's it.

That's why I was going to skip the sunset. What would be the point? I know what the world looks like - unearthly, haunting, elegiac, atmospheric, mesmerizing in its stark, desecrated beauty. Then Syp mentioned there was an actual event leading up to the server going dark...

Plus, when I looked, it seems I have almost no screenshots of Fallen Earth. How that can be, when I know I took scores, maybe hundreds, and I have many much older shots from other games I can't exactly say, but it's an omission that needs to be rectified.

I took over forty screenshots yesterday. I hope to visit several old haunts and take a few hundred more before the apocalypse of the apocalypse. (With hideous irony, FE's rarely-used full title is "Fallen Earth: Welcome to the Apocalypse").

There used to be a way to hide the UI. The excellent wiki tells me it's Alt-F10 but it's not any more. As Wilhelm observes, information on the internet has a limited shelf-life, especially for games that change ownership and payment model. 

Having to crop around the UI isn't going to stop me taking the shots. If anyone knows the current key combo to hide the UI, though, I'd love to hear about it. That's assuming anyone else reading this is still playing. Or ever played.

If not, well, they say it's never too late to start. There's a whole two weeks left. That count as a good run in some of the imports I've played over the last few years.

And it might not be The End. Little Orbit, the current owners, have showed great good faith since they took the game over from Gamigo, who... didn't, much. LO say they would like to bring Fallen Earth back, somehow, sometime, with an engine they can maintain and with some kind of plan for the future.

I really hope they do. Fallen Earth is a gem of an MMORPG that somehow slipped through the cracks. It deserves a post-apocalyptic survival story of its own.

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