Apr 212009
 
Authors: Johnathan Kastner

Like all made-up holidays, Earth Day was created by a collection of corporations to push a product. From the makers of The Sun, Mars and the now defunct Pluto INC comes — Earth.

Earth has been around for a long time, between 6,000 and 4.6 billion years (give or take an angry debate), and has great brand recognition, coming in just behind Coke in recognizability to the average American. But despite all this, Earth has gone largely uncriticized and unreviewed. Consider this fixed.

Technical Specifications — 5.9736 x 1024 kilograms. Several million USB ports. Problems with internal cooling.

Operating System — Carbon based.

Features — The Earth features “sandbox” style gameplay, with fewer mandatory objectives than might be expected. Some of the early “training” missions are rough, but most people are lucky enough to find a trainer straight off. These trainers provide helpful guides to world basics such as, “No, the fork does not go in the wall,” “Food goes in the mouth” and “The cat is not food. Please stop putting him in your mouth.” But they can be somewhat overbearing, making the Earth feel confined until later levels.

Other features include a wide variety of prebuilt “animals” and “people,” ranging from the mundane to the wildly inventive. There were some misses here, such as the platypus — a poisonous duck-beaver with electrical vision. Really, Earth? And some of the insect and fish models seem to just be recolors of the same base model, but we can let that slide, as Earth is home to millions of different and unique species.

This may be revised in a later patch.

Unfortunately, Earth seems to have put a heavy emphasis on PvP (player-versus-player) interactions. Nearly every creature is expected at some point to come into a clash for resources, sometimes even killing and eating other creatures. Needless to say, this focus on aggression is expected to reduce player enjoyment and may result in non-cooperative gameplay.

Usability — Earth did not come with any kind of instruction manual, and finding out what you’re supposed to be doing here can be a major hassle. Some supporters say that finding out is supposed to be a major element of gameplay, but this seems to be a bit of a dodge. Seriously, Earth, we’ll need at least a hint once in a while or we’ll just end up making it up as we go along. Can you imagine how that’d work out?

There’s some concern that with the number of people on Earth, a number that shows a marked projected increase, that certain in-world “resources” may become unpleasantly scarce. Until such a time as a patch becomes available, it would probably be best to just treat this as another “feature” of cooperative gameplay, and keep the resource-hogging to a minimum.

Support — Technical support has been downright unreachable, no matter how badly certain patches and fixes are needed. Older features have been removed, which is a shame, because the Age of Dinosaurs I heard was in the early version looked really stellar. Unfortunately, this product was buggy when released, and has gone through multiple server-wide wipes since it was first released in their Big Bang promotional event.

Bottom line — One star. Also one moon.

One sentence review — The Earth may be in need of a bunch of major patches, better gameplay direction and a more supportive online community, but it’s pretty much the best planet on the market, at least until Mars comes out in 2020.

Johnathan Kastner is a senior undeclared major with a physical and mathematical sciences interest. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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