Fallen Earth: A new way of looking at things.

November 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Many years ago, I studied popular cultural theory.  It was an eye-opener, I can tell you that.  It’s quite scary how much we can be influenced by what we see or hear, and this course was the closest I’ve ever seen to a “How to take over the world” course, as endorsed by Pinky and The Brain.

Ahem.

The main upshot is that whilst I’ve forgotten much of what I learned (I’ve slept since then), I can’t watch or read anything without analysing it for any intended or unintended meaning.  My wonderful beloved-intended just starts rolling her eyebrows whenever I open my mouth when we’re watching something, especially if it’s something she likes and I find fault in.  She’s right; my days of watching something “just for the fun of it” are long gone.

You might be wondering how this little bit of rambly exposition applies to anything regarding Massively Multiplayer Online gaming.  Well, every so often some of the partially remembered theory decides to bubble up in my brain, and rather than being expelled as a brain-fart it allows me to remember the term for something that’s been niggling me.

The term I’ve been after recently was “Defamiliarisation”.  It’s a part of the literary theory of Russian Formalism, and for those who don’t want to go through the Wikipedia link, is all about using language to render the familiar, the unfamiliar.  Through new eyes we learn to see again, and all that.

Playing Fallen Earth has been what’s making the Formalism thoughts bubble up in my brain the last couple of weeks.  Here’s some reasons why:

Crafting Skill Books. Normally skills are an easy thing, as we’re spoon-fed through the early skills to get to the later skills.  But in crafting, I’ve been looking at skill books and wondering how and where to begin.  It’s daunting at times, especially when I can’t help feeling I’m going to make a mistake somewhere and end up buying something I can’t or won’t be able to use.

Healing Skills. We all know I loves a healer.  But right now, with the open nature of character progression, I’m not only wondering how I’ll be able to create a healing character, but if it’s actually possible to create a Healer Classique…  So rather than just going to a trainer and clicking on the shiny buttons to get my rationed-out skills, I’m looking at everything I can to see if there’s anything there that points to what I want to play.

Quests. I’d managed to start a quest chain at Embry, which was all about trying to alleviate, and possibly find a cure for, an illness which was plaguing the area.  I am bad at reading quests.  To be honest, most of the quest text in World of Warcraft could have been replaced with whatever was appropriate out of the following:

a) Kill 74 Lesser-Spotted Cockludgers

b) Fetch me a  box of cornflakes

And it’s not because most of the quests are the same, it’s purely because I can only read so much fantasy-based quest text before I just want to stop reading and get to the meat of the game.  Yet I’m finding myself drawn into Fallen Earth’s quest text.  Maybe it’s because of the change of scenery, or the fact that I’m treated as less of a hero than a zero.  There’s also the semi-sarcastic nature of many of the quest-givers.  Or maybe, just maybe, I’m following a quest-line that appeals to me; rather than killing lots of monsties because they’re annoying the quest-giver (that would be you, Aion) I’m gathering items and crafting things.  If I’m killing things, it’s for a decent enough reason for it not to be a random cull.   And let’s face it, any quests that result in me beating to death mutated chickens with a length of pipe can’t be all that bad.

It’s been a lovely change.  I’ve been playing Lord of the Rings Online with a new appreciation, and it’s taken the Fallen Earth free trial to do that.

Cheers,

Hawley.

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  1. I’d love, to some degree, to have a quest feedback mechanism which doesn’t immediately give the players concrete numbers to work from. Things like faction quests which ask you to “go out and do things we like”, and leaving it up to the player to find out what those things are by the reaction of the NPCs. If you beat up mutated chickens, they like you more (say +10 per chicken), but if you use lead pipes in the process, they like you less (-5 per pipe broken). But without the numbers being visible as soon as you do something, so you have to gradually learn what’s good and what’s bad. For example, only show the numbers when you talk to the NPC (because, let’s face it, players like numbers, and it’s an easy way of measuring success), but only if the total changes significantly (say, by a jump of 100).

    So… if you beat up 9 chickens, the NPC says “meh”. Beating up the 10th makes them say “nice”. Unless you’ve been using the pipe (free lead particles are polluting, right?). In which case, they’re still saying “meh” (until you get the 20th chicken). Under normal circumstances, you’ll have been doing a range of things (picking flowers as well, for a different quest), so it’ll be hard to work out *exactly* what’s good and what’s not, but you should be able to get the general gist, if you actually think about it.

    I suspect the number crunchers (like me) would soon sit down and experiment to determine the individual effects though. Which would spoil the concept.


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