Wasteland Diaries: Don't fear the reaper

Edward Marshall
E. Marshall|04.22.11

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Wasteland Diaries: Don't fear the reaper
Dying in Fallen Earth is not much different than it is in most other games. It's usually just a temporary setback or a very minor inconvenience. But for some, it seems to be more than that. In this week's Wasteland Diaries, I would like to ponder what might go through the mind of a gamer when he takes a dirt-nap in-game. In the past few decades I've spent playing PC games, I've seen some pretty over-the-top reactions to dying. I've tried to infer what might be going through some of these extremely emotional people's minds when they buy the farm. Various death penalties evoke wildly different emotions in general, so I'll start there.

When you die in Fallen Earth, you lose all of your current non-stance buffs. Most buffs can be easily re-applied, except for your food, drinks and other consumables. It's still not a major loss, especially now that food and drink components are ultra-cheap. If there's nobody around to rez you, you must respawn at the cloner and take a 5% durability hit on your equipped gear. It's still not a big deal. And you'll get cumulative cloning sickness, which can get pretty nasty, but you have to die a lot in a short period of time to warrant tier five. And the sickness only lasts five minutes. After the cut, I'll delve deeper into the plight of the struck-down avatar and try to determine what it all means.

The harshest part of the death penalty in Fallen Earth is usually a sizeable hit to my wallet. Consumables? No so much. Damaged gear? Hardly. I spend piles of red chips towing my Interceptor. When there is a need to get back into the fight quickly, I (and most other PvPers) spare no expense. Towing an Interceptor that is not parked at a garage costs a pretty penny. And those costs add up when you are consistently being sent to the cloner without your ride.

Despite all these (/sarcasm on) terrible (/sarcasm off) things that happen when you die, I still manage to take it in stride. Maybe it's because of my FPS-heavy background. I did play a few MMOs prior to Fallen Earth, but I'm mostly a fan of shooters. When I did play MMOs, it was usually Neverwinter Nights multiplayer (which is kind of a pseudo-MMO) on a permadeath server or Ultima Online. Both games carried pretty hefty consequences for dying. Permadeath wasn't such a big deal to an altaholic like me. I didn't mind re-rolling, although losing an established character was kind of a bummer. NWN perma-death felt more like table-top Dungeons & Dragons, and that's why I gravitated toward those servers. I never bought into the rumors in middle school about the kids that hung themselves because their D&D character bit the dust.

On the other side of the coin is the shooter game. Dying in one is an immutable reality. You will die -- often. There isn't much of a death penalty, unless it's a round-based game and you have to sit out the rest of the fight while dead. Playing mostly these types of games may be why I am able to take my death in Fallen Earth quite lightly. Fallen Earth is much more akin to a shooter than a permadeath RPGMMO, death penalty-wise. I've probably been gibbed a hundred times in Quake II for each death I've ever died in FE and have yet to die.

When you die in FE, you don't lose any of the gear you've accumulated, either. Losing gear was always tough in the MMOs with player looting. It results in a lot of rage-quitting and naked PvPing. Many people wouldn't risk losing their best gear and went into battle ill-equipped or not equipped at all. Compared to most other games of its genre (the MMORPG part, not the FPS part), FE has a pretty mild punishment for dying. In fact, there isn't a penalty at all for dying in Blood Sports. It's such a non-issue to die in BS that, if I am low on gamma, stamina or even health, I'll stop moving and lower my weapons and give the nearest combatant a nice easy kill. Two seconds later, all my bars are full.

I've killed people in Fallen Earth who have been completely jovial, and I've killed those who went completely ballistic. Both players, killed under the same circumstances, can have such widely varying reactions. Why? I think a lot of it has to do with ego. I really can't be sure, but when I die, my first thoughts are: What did I do wrong and what did he do right? Some people's first reaction is anger toward the person who killed them. I won't lie; my ego is rather large, and some might say that is a conservative estimate, but I don't get angry when I die in a video game. My pride doesn't get wounded, and I don't lose my cool. I have been known to get a little upset when I die due to "bad die rolls" at the hands of a random number generator that obviously hates me, however.

From many of the private messages I receive from players upset about dying, I can tell that in many cases their pride was damaged because they thought they deserved to win and didn't. Whatever the case is, I wonder whether they get angry when a mob kills them or when other players do. If anyone has the answer to this question, I'd love to hear it. Post a comment below if you have a theory on why people get so emotional about dying in a game. I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on this matter, especially those who come unglued when they die.

Many people won't even try PvP because of the "bad attitude" they think all PvPers have. Some people steer clear of competitive gaming for fear that someone might tell them how terrible they are (in not-so-nice terms). Sure, there are horrible people in the PvP world (even in Fallen Earth) who live to grief people, but it's not fair to say that they make up more than a small percentage of players. For the most part, the FE PvP community is small and polices itself. Most of the players who take the game (and dying in it) way too seriously never last anyway.

I still have no idea (aside from a few guesses) why people can't handle a few in-game deaths in Fallen Earth without coming completely unraveled. The next time you die in FE, don't get bent out of shape. Just thank LifeNet for giving you another shot, and learn from it. If you are getting monitor-punching upset because you died in a video game, how do you function in everyday life? For every winner, there has to be a loser. So if you become worm food out there in the wastelands, just laugh it off and head to the nearest LifeNet facility with a big smile on your silly clone face, because it really isn't a big deal. See you next week.

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.
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