Sunday, May 22, 2022

My Life As A Gamer: The Fallout MMO We Should Have Had (Fallen Earth Classic) & Why It Was Doomed To Fail

Recently Josh Strife Hayes revisted Fallen Earth, a post-apocalyptic MMORPG that is now free to play on Steam as "Fallen Earth Classic".

Josh reviews a lot of bad MMOs. Josh also reviews a lot of MMOs that didn't get a fair chance and never will, and not entirely due to their own faults. This game falls into the latter category; it's janky, the aesthetics haven't aged well, and its user interface is not intuitive. However, it has no instanced solo content and they go out of their way to justify typical MMORPG gameplay tropes such that they comprise the plot.

In short, what you have here is a decent single-player title that has optional multiplayer and requires an Internet connection to play. As this is free to play, and there is no cash shop as of this post, it may be something to do on the side when you need a change of pace. Just don't expect much in the way of other players and you should be fine.

This game's history is typical of the MMORPG space, as it is of every single medium that relies on the Network Effect for its value. Normies go where the action is. In any medium that runs off the Network Effect, you quickly run into monopoly or near-monopoly situations, where the dominant entity becomes synomyous with the medium and its norms become the default for the entire medium- competitors are forced to market by specifying what they are not vs. the dominant entity.

This is why very few MMOs got traction after World of Warcraft achieved dominance; its norms became the medium's norms, and even the current #2 game still have some element of defining itself by what it is not- though this is usually done by the users and the press whores than formal marketing. Fallen Earth would never find traction in this environment, even if it was a technical and ludological masterwork, simply because of the Sunk Cost Fallacy preying upon existing players of the dominant game preventing them from doing so.

Look at what had to happen before WOW actually got put into its current vulnerable position, a position--I remind you--that it can still recover from and put down the threat from Final Fantasy XIV if it has a good expansion launch down the road. You had to have two bad expansions in a row, the latter being a complete disaster, AND multiple public scandals, AND multiple public legal disputes, AND several self-inflicted and unforced errors of management at multiple levels all in rapid succession to maintain media focus on the company long enough to actually disgust enough players to quit in large enough numbers to make a difference.

That, folks, is a lot of damage done in a short period of time that could not be ignored or explained away. That is what it takes for a dominant player in a medium dependent upon the Network Effect for value to merely be rendered vulnerable enough for a viable overtake attempt by a rival. What it takes to actually throw down that dominant player is FAR greater.

Don't believe me? How long has Official D&D dominanted tabletop RPGs? Oh, yeah, 48 years AND COUNTING. Even the most incompetent, malevolent, spiteful, petty, and maliciously contemptuous management has rarely done more than put it into a vulnerable position where it tasted the threat of being dethroned before putting down that threat and sitting comfortably on its throne once more.

That, folks, is the power of the Network Effect in action. The only real threat to D&D is D&D, the only threat to WOW is WOW, and so on. The dominant party can only be thrown down by a medium of superior network potential OR by the effects of years--even decades--of downright fucking retarded stupidity and/or malice (because the result is the same) finally being manifest.

The best that Fallen Earth can hope for is that the small team currently running it manages to finally beat out the jank and make it run smooth as butter. It will never be more than a side game to be played when there's nothing more relevant or interesting to do or play; in tabletop terms, this game would fit below Palladium Books' catalog, so down there with every Chaosium game that isn't Call of Cthulhu or Stormbringer.

This means that the viable space for business within a medium is far smaller than people think, as merely being a superior product or service is not sufficient to overtake a dominant player. Couple this fact with the reality of how many markets are really rackets, and now you have a clearer picture of why some players in some spaces just won't die- and why expectations need to be tempered.

Fallen Earth may not be the Fallout MMO we got, but it should have been. Alas, the reality is, well...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anonymous comments are banned. Pick a name, and "Unknown" (et. al.) doesn't count.