Wasteland Diaries: F2P?

There are some big changes coming to Fallen Earth in the very near future. Sector 4's Alpha County is looming on the horizon. There is a new skills-and-abilities system coming. We don't know when we're going to get it, but we are going to get it. But the biggest news is the game's new partnership with GamersFirst. GamersFirst is the company responsible for the rejuvenation of APB: Reloaded and its conversion to the free-to-play format (F2P). I've heard mixed reviews on what's going on with APB, but without any first-hand experience, I'll withhold judgment.

Nobody has come out and said that Fallen Earth is going to convert to the F2P business model, but it's a pretty safe assumption at this point. Every GamersFirst title is F2P, so why would FE be any different? I haven't tried APB, so I'm in no position to judge the performance of GamersFirst on what has been done with that title. F2P can be a two-edged sword, and the FE community is strongly divided on this subject (at least on the forums). I am a member of the optimistic side, and after the cut, I'll tell you why I think this move could be a very good thing for Fallen Earth.

Fallen Earth already has a cash shop, but nothing for sale in the cash shop is overpowering or essential. Most of the stuff that is already available in the store is either a vanity item (like pets) or a convenience item (such as vault expansions). We also have items that we can buy with reward points in-game. None of these items is a game-breaker, either. The devs have done well in keeping the cash shop items desireable but not essential for success. It's a fine line, and not only have they not crossed it, but they haven't even approached it yet.

Both Marie Croall (FE's lead designer) and the spokesperson for GamersFirst have been emphatically against any type of pay-to-win system. In fact, they actually used profanity to express their disdain for such a system. They want to assure us that they will not go that route, and so far, the devs of Fallen Earth haven't. The existing cash shop has continued to grow since its inception, leading me to believe that the endeavor is a successful one.

There were a lot of worries expressed about the quality of the community. Some folks seem to think that making a game free-to-play attracts the dregs of humanity into it. While this may have some truth to it, it is mostly hyperbole. FE already has a free trial and tends to weed out the lowest common denominator with its complexity and steep learning curve. It should be noted that the learning curve will soon be much less steep. Whether this is an attempt to retain more players or just a way to make things easier to balance is anyone's guess.

I've always thought that Fallen Earth's biggest problem (and resulting low population) has been a lack of advertising. I found out about FE during the beta through word-of-mouth. I fell in love with the game before it even went live, but I'm lucky to have even known it existed. When I mention the game in conversations, most folks (even gamers) have never heard of it. Word-of-mouth can only go so far, and FE has very little in the way of advertising. If this is what it takes to give FE the exposure it needs to build its player base, then I'm all for it.

So far, so good on the server migration -- I'll give the devs that. It took much longer than they had anticipated, but it was relatively painless from my perspective. Once they announced that the server was up, I logged in and I was playing. Some players had trouble connecting, but within a half hour we were slugging it out with CSF for control of Park City.

Getting people to try the game is only half of the equation. Getting them to stick around is the other half. The people that have been around from the beginning largely fall into one of these three categories: hardcore PvPers, roleplayers, and PvEers who take their time or don't play often.

A small development team simply cannot create content fast enough to keep up with the demand for it, so it will have to give the players the tools they need to create their own dynamic content. I don't refer to dynamic content in the typical game-design-buzzword sense that really translates just to "randomized scripted events." When I say dynamic, I mean fully player-driven sandbox content. The PvPers need objectives and a meaningful faction conflict that isn't opt-in or -out. The roleplayers need accessories and locales to do their thing. The PvEers need... I'm not sure what they need. Maybe more of the same missions with a little randomization thrown in to keep things fresh.

I have seen a lot of players hit the level cap and then fade away. If there were just a few simple adjustments made to the game, many would come back. They would be very likely to come back were the game F2P, which it very well may be quite soon. The team has hinted that there are some big changes coming to the faction system. Sector 4 is imminent. Fallen Earth is about to get a lot more exposure than it has ever had. If all these things come together in the proper manner, we could see Fallen Earth reach the potential I have always thought it had. It's an amazing game, and at the risk of sounding like a complete fanboy (too late), I think everyone should at least try it out. Whether I'm paying a monthly subscription or not, I'll see you here next week. Hopefully, we will have more answers then.

Ed Marshall has been playing Fallen Earth since beta and leads the KAOS clan. Wasteland Diaries is his weekly column that covers all aspects of Fallen Earth: PvE, RP and PvP. To contact Ed, send an email to edward@massively.com, find him on the official forums as Casey Royer, or hunt him down in the wastelands as Nufan, Original, Death Incarnate, and Knuckles Mcsquee.
This article was originally published on Massively.