Rant: Dear Fractured, Cut The Crap

Latest feature spotlight filled with superficial nonsense.

Every once in a while I read a developer wax poetic about their upcoming game and it just steams my broccoli. And I had the same feeling today when reading Fractured Online’s latest feature spotlight. I came out of it thinking “what a bunch of superficial nonsense.” Because it is. Superficial nonsense. And I got more frustrated as I read it, which is why I’m here writing this.

I’ve been blogging about MMOs for nearly 20 years, and I’ve seen every Tom, Dick, and Harry come about to explain why their game is going to be totally different because they did the same thing but wiggled their ears while doing it, oh and they wear a bowtie. But it always turns out to be either a surface level name change or trying to fix a problem nobody wanted fixed with a solution they don’t appreciate.

Fractured’s feature spotlight spends a lot of time telling us how this game is going to be totally different because they call the mechanics something else and make it more complicated. Hear me out; you don’t gain experience points by killing tons of monsters, exploring the map, and gathering resources. You obtain a “leveling currency” called “knowledge points” by naturally playing the game.

And how do you naturally play the game? By uncovering points of interest (exploring the map), filling your bestiary by repeatedly killing the same monsters, killing boss level monsters, and discovering and gathering resources. But it’s totally different, because they call them knowledge points. It’s not experience, it’s leveling currency. And you don’t get it by grinding, it comes naturally by exploring the world and doing repetitive tasks.

Sort of like how I don’t gain sustenance by eating meals, I obtain nutrients by placing food in the vicinity of an open fire until its internal temperature reaches a desired level, after which I strategically assemble a variety of ingredients on a flat plate-like surface and transport said objects into my stomach via my mouth. It’s completely different than eating dinner.

At a superficial look, this is not much different from a canonical MMORPG talent system. Whereas in classic MMORPGs you gain a new Talent Point once in a while when leveling up, in Fractured Online you’re free to choose when to obtain one by spending a fixed amount of your Knowledge Points.

If you heard that popping noise, it’s the vein in my neck bursting. I can’t tell if the Fractured team genuinely thinks they’ve stumbled upon a unique idea, or if they just think we’re too stupid to connect the dots ourselves. But no, investing in talents is completely different in Fractured because instead of occasionally getting enough experience to obtain a talent point, you occasionally get enough knowledge points to get a talent point. It’s different, the knowledge point system has a funny hat with “hat” written on it.

What’s the difference between generating a thousand experience points in an MMO to get a talent point, or generating a thousand knowledge points in Fractured to afford a talent point? Nothing. The talent point part just has one extra step. I also would like to appreciate the “you’re free to choose when to obtain one” comment, another little point of trickery that says absolutely nothing but tries to make the system sound more superior. As if letting you sit on a pool of knowledge points is extra generous as opposed to not spending talent points in a standard MMO.

Stop talking to me like I’m stupid.

By looking at the tooltip of an Undiscovered ability, you can see what creatures in the world know about it (and thus use it in combat). The only thing left to do is for you to find where they reside and hunt them down! Beware though, as most abilities are only associated to a specific family of monsters, which reside in a specific continent of one of the three planets. Just getting there may prove to be a challenge, as explained in this Feature Spotlight!

Each creature typically knowns multiple abilities, which become Ready To Learn at different stages of the progression of the Bestiary entry associated to that creature.this Feature Spotlight!

The Fractured version is actually more complicated and theoretically requires more grind and frustration. In most MMOs to get an ability you just level up to the required level. In Fractured you have to figure out which creature knows that ability, make the trek over to wherever they reside, and then grind that creature until the game bequeaths you with the ability. Then once you have the knowledge you can spend the knowledge points on unlocking that ability. And there’s up to 60. It’s completely different than leveling up to 60 in World of Warcraft and getting 60 talent points.

But no, requiring players to travel to specific spots and grind specific monsters to gain specific abilities is absolutely providing progression through completely natural play and not grinding. So instead of just grinding experience points to level up your character, you’re grinding knowledge points and grinding the bestiary of that creature. I thought you said this was getting rid of traditional grind? This adds another layer.

Fractured calls this system “truly unique” and claims it “avoid[s] grinding” by making every ability a “small adventure.” This is how adults talk down to children when they say they’re not doing chores, they’re playing house.

And hold the hell on;

Please note that learning an ability is not enough to use it. An upcoming Spotlight will share the details on how you can Memorize an ability during a Resting phase so that it can be assigned to your hotbar and used in combat!

So there’s three steps to learning an ability; grind the knowledge points, grind the bestiary, and then memorize an ability while resting so you can use it in combat. And you’re not going to detail how memorizing works until a later date because…I don’t know. What does memorizing entail? Is it a time-gate? Do I need to spend more resources on it? What additional barriers does it present? Can I forget abilities? Why bring it up if you’re not going to explain it?

Stop talking to me like I’m stupid.

This spotlight has to be a really bad joke that got published by accident. Let’s go back up to their initial sentence.

Goodbye grinding and power disparities, hello Knowledge System!

Don’t spend an entire spotlight contradicting your opening statement. I’d also like to take umbrage with another comment;

In classic MMORPGs, moreover, I’m sure you’re used to thinking very carefully before allocating a Talent Point, knowing there is no way back – at least not without having to open your (real-life) purse. That’s not the Fractured way. Here, you can re-assign your Talent Points as many times as you want during a Resting phase.

This is where we get into flat out bullshitting the reader. Having to pay real money to respec your character is not a hallmark of classic MMOs. In fact it’s not a hallmark of modern MMOs, as the number of notable titles that require you to pay real money to respec is virtually negligible. Rearrange the chairs on your deck to make the leveling system sound unique, but don’t come out and lie to me about how magnanimous your respec system is by fabricating common knowledge on how the industry flows.

This is where the intent goes from reckless to malicious in my opinion. Stop talking to me like I’m stupid.

And here’s the thing about Fractured Online; I don’t think the mechanics they’ve presented are necessarily bad. Gaining abilities by hunting specific creatures is certainly an idea, as is a resting system to coordinate your hot bar and work on your character. I think building a system where the power difference between new and veteran players is minimal is stupid; If I’m not seeing natural progression in a game I’m expecting to play for years, then why am I here? You’re stripping away a big mechanic of RPGs.

A gradually filling pool of knowledge points isn’t inherently inferior to experience and leveling, it’s the same thing presented a different way. That’s obvious, don’t paint yourself as a liar by pretending otherwise. But we’ve been bamboozled with the knowledge pool as a system the eliminates grind in the past and it has always been an abject lie. In fact it often just creates more grind, which already seems to be the case here.

Present me the features of your game in a manner that explains what they are and how they will work. Tell me why your game is worth playing, and don’t do it in a way that smarmily mentions how the other methods are somehow trite or obsolete or inferior. Because I like those games whose systems you’re dumping on, as do many of the people your game is advertising to. And I have a lot more loyalty to those games than to your unproven title.

Otherwise I have no opinion on the matter, other than to offer my contempt toward the websites that will mindlessly regurgitate how the knowledge point system gets rid of grinding because they just plagiarized the press release.

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