What exactly does this grim future hold? Is there hope for mankind? Have Facebook and American Idol died horrible, well-deserved deaths? Are Cool Ranch Doritos still available? Who cares about all that, we just want to know whether MMORPGs have great communities and good customer service, right? Fortunately, Fallen Earth fits both bills, even though each institution has its quirks.
Find out what's good, bad, and ugly about the game's social elements after the break.
Vanguard, Fallen Earth's players are spread all over the map. Travel is also something of a throwback, as there is no "fast travel" to speak of, save for zoning between the large sector maps. Luckily the game does have global and regional chat channels (unlike last issue's Star Wars Galaxies), which made my info-collecting job a tad easier.
This week's methodology is pretty standard, as Fallen Earth features global help chat, which I used extensively to poll the community and get a sense of both its friendliness and helpfulness when it comes to newbs and their newbtastic questions. Fallen Earth also features a single server, much like earlier Community Detective subjects such as EVE Online and Darkfall, and it's much easier to get a clear picture of the overall community from these types of games than multi-server titles like EQII or Warhammer.
In addition to community interaction via chat (Fallen Earth is largely solo-oriented, so I didn't group as much as I have in past issues), I also tested the response of Icarus customer service representatives via the help ticket interface.
I started out by asking a couple of random passerby in the newbie town of Midway, and when I didn't get a whole lot of help, I moved on to the regional chat channel. This wasn't terribly successful either, save for one chap who directed me to the global help channel, even after he'd answered the question. I made use of global help from there on out and asked the question at various times during the week including weekday afternoons, evenings, and weekends.
For the second community question, I asked the following:
Discussion was fairly lively during the evening session, with upwards of 10 people bantering back and forth. The weekend and weekday afternoon periods were more subdued. I got a few tells, a clan invite, and a general consensus (mostly soloable with grouping required for only a handful of dungeons).
That said, there is the occasional RTFM individual. You know the type I mean; if you dare to ask something that might've been covered in paragraph XIV, section 28 of the FAQ, they're going to let you know about it. I'm not sure what it is about some folks that makes them hesitate to help people, but I ran across a couple of these guys during my wasteland polling. By and large, though, Fallen Earth's community is one of the best I've sampled in terms of friendliness and helpfulness, right up there with SWG's Starsider and LOTRO's Landroval.
My petition, concerning a deleted starter armorcraft kit, received an immediate acknowledgment email, followed by a GM response less than an hour later. It contained the familiar "we can't restore a deleted item" refrain, but unlike many of the responses in games we've surveyed thus far, the email also featured detailed instructions on how to go about replacing the item with a better one via Fallen Earth's auction house, tradeskilling, and NPC merchant systems.
It should be noted that players can also contact Icarus GMs in the game. The process involves opening the social menu (the "o" key by default) and filtering the minimum and maximum player levels to 51 and 100, respectively. Next, select "any" from the "county" drop-down box and you'll likely see one or two level 65 players. These are your online GMs, and they can be contacted via private tell just like a player. I elected not to bother them this time around, preferring instead to probe the help ticket apparatus. My next trip through the wasteland will feature some one-on-one GM interaction, as the GMs are notoriously helpful and quick to muzzle rebellious denizens of the help channel.
That concludes this week's trip to the wasteland. As always, share your own experiences in the comments, and let me know if you have questions or ideas for return visits to Fallen Earth as well as more of your favorite MMORPGs.
Community Detective case files are an essential part of any game-hopper's research library. Suggestions welcome, care of firstname.lastname@example.org.