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Fallen Earth | Official Site
MMORPG | Genre:Sci-Fi | Status:Final  (rel 09/22/09)  | Pub:GamersFirst
PVP:Yes | Distribution:Download | Retail Price:n/a | Pay Type:Hybrid | Monthly Fee:n/a
System Req: PC | ESRB:MOut of date info? Let us know!

Fallen Earth: Interview with Lee Hammock

Lee Hammock, the Lead Game Designer on the upcoming post-apocalyptic MMORPG Fallen Earth, sits down to answer Garrett Fuller's questions.

MMORPG.com:

It is great to talk to you guys again about Fallen Earth. We got a chance to see the game last year at E3 (and again brefily at GDC) and it looked very in depth; can you tell us how development has been going since May?

Lee Hammock:

Development has basically changed focus from laying the groundwork for the game to filling it with content. We've got the technology, tools, world background, and art needed to make the game work and now it's primarily the task of filling Fallen Earth with fun things to do that lies before us. We've been going full steam ahead on that front for a good while now.

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MMORPG.com:

With all the fantasy MMOs that are out, you have a unique genre on your hands. Give us some insight into the world of Fallen Earth.

Lee Hammock:

Fallen Earth is set in 2156, one hundred years after the world is brought low by a plague known as Shiva that killed 99% of the population. The game takes place in and around the Grand Canyon, one of the few habitable places left on Earth, which makes it a place many are willing to kill to control. Our world is one where mankind teeters on the edge of extinction, clinging to the bones of the old world while trying to recover their lost secrets. It's a world of scavengers and desperation. The players are those who choose to rise above the hardships of this new world and work towards a better world, or decide the old world was corrupt and all signs of it must be erased completely.

MMORPG.com:

With this post-apocalyptic type of setting, what technology can players expect? Will we see anything from baseball bats, machine guns, or even high tech laser weapons in action?

Lee Hammock:

For the initial release we're sticking to a level of technology based on that found in the real world as the players struggle to recover the achievements of the world before Shiva. So they'll start out with pipes, wooden boards, and crossbows but eventually move on to swords, assault rifles, and submachine guns. In the future players will have access to more advanced technologies


MMORPG.com:

There are many factions represented in your game. Can you highlight some of these groups and tell us a little about them?

Lee Hammock:

We have six main groups that the players can ally with in the game, plus a large number of villain factions that serve as opponents. The player factions are:

  • The Enforcers: Military-oriented soldiers, sheriffs, and police who think that law and order is the best way to secure the future of humankind.
  • The Techs: Scientists, mechanics, and researchers who believe that science is the key to restoring humankind to its previous place in the world.
  • The Travelers: Merchants, criminals, and entertainers who believe that commerce is what drives humankind to succeed.
  • The Children of the Apocalypse, or CHOTA: Warriors, mutants, and philosophers who believe that only by destroying all that remains of the corrupt old world can humankind survive.
  • The Vistas: Farmers, rangers, and ranchers who believe that nature must be restored for humankind to last.
  • The Lightbearers: Monks, healers, and mutants who believe that mutations are the next step in human evolution.

Each of these factions has both "good" and "evil" aspects to it, so the factions can't be simplified into good guys and bad guys. Some Enforcers are well-intentioned bringers of peace and order, while others are fascists who bring order at the end of a gun barrel and abuse those under their charge. Among the Lightbearers some believe that all humanity should be helped when possible, while others believe only mutants should be helped and non-mutants should be killed. Within each faction there are strong ideological conflicts based on different interpretations of their goals.

Among the villain factions we have groups such as the Judges, religious fanatics looking to clear the world of sin, or the Outsiders, a mysterious group of well-equipped soldiers and scientists from outside the Grand Canyon. While much of the conflict in the game is concerned with the player factions coming into conflict, the villain factions have their own story lines and settlements that the players can interact with.

MMORPG.com:

Character creation for players is always an important mechanic. Tell us how players will be able to develop skill in a post-apocalyptic setting.

Lee Hammock:

At character creation players will have a wide variety of ways to customize their appearance, such as hair, makeup, face paint, tattoos, piercings, size, etc. Initially all players start out with the same abilities since we want players to advance through play rather than have to make long-term character decisions (what special abilities to get, what attributes to raise, etc.) before they've even played the game. Once out of character creation, players will advance quickly.

Fallen Earth uses a leveled system to measure advancement, though it is a classless system so players can develop whatever skills and abilities they want. Players will earn experience points through missions, combat, exploring, crafting, and other means that will advance them in levels. For each level attained a player gets a small boost in their attributes.

Players also earn APs, or advancement points, for every 1/10th of a level they progress. APs can also be earned through doing specific storyline missions in the game. APs are used to raise skills, attributes, and mutation skills, allowing characters to customize their abilities. Players earn enough AP through the game that they will be able to have the maximum level in several skills, so they won't be pigeonholed as one type of character and can instead branch out effectively.

APs will not affect raising tradeskills, which are increased through use. This is so craft players won't spend all their APs on tradeskills and then be useless in combat.


MMORPG.com:

What made you choose the Grand Canyon as a setting for the game? Needless to say it is one of the most fascinating geographic sites here on Earth, but there are many others. Why that one?

Lee Hammock:

The Grand Canyon provides some amazing terrain, creating a feel of being in an epic, massive place. If we set the game in a less interesting area, topographically speaking, we'd be squandering our potential for having unique terrain for players to travel through. The region has a wide variety of plants and terrain, from desert to forest, allowing us to provide a lot of diversity for players to experience. We use the location to bring up certain Western themes in the game, and it gives us a huge level of recognition when we say the game is set in the Grand Canyon, since so many people already have a basic idea of what that involves.

MMORPG.com:

Ranged combat in any MMO can bring up a handful of problems to game developers. How have you balanced ranged combat with hand-to-hand combat?

Lee Hammock:

Essentially it's a matter of timing. We've balanced our weapons so melee weapons kill faster than ranged weapons. So if someone starts shooting you, you'll still be able to kill them if you get to them quick enough. The actual process of balancing it all is much more complicated, but that's the basic idea. We also have a number of special abilities and combat moves available to each combat style, such as using a melee weapon to knock someone down or pistol whipping someone to stun them long enough for you to back away.

We also have the tool of limited ammunition to use in our balancing process. Ammunition is not plentiful in our game and can be quite expensive to acquire. This means players won't just blast away at everything and will instead try and conserve bullets for when they are needed.


MMORPG.com:

You are using a FPS system, how is this incorporated into the game? What made you choose this type of game play for Fallen Earth?

Lee Hammock:

You are using a FPS system, how is this incorporated into the game? What made you choose this type of game play for Fallen Earth? On a basic level the FPS system means your target has to be in your cross hairs in order to hit them. Players have weapon and defensive skills that affect damage, but the ability to hit a target is completely dependent on your ability to line them up in the cross hairs.

We chose this in order to provide a more active game play style than most MMORPGs. Also with the genre we're working in, a more immersive, visceral play style seems to fit the setting very well.

MMORPG.com:

With development moving along what are your plans for testing? More importantly have you established a launch date yet?

Lee Hammock:

Currently our testing is internal. External testing has become a tricky business in recent years and ended up being more of a marketing gimmick than an actual process. People, including media, tend to prematurely judge your product based on your testing states. We are about results more than hype.

We aren't ready to announce a launch date yet, but that doesn't mean we don't have a launch target.

MMORPG.com:

Is there anything you want to talk about with our readers that we may have overlooked? This is your chance to tell us something new about Fallen Earth.

Lee Hammock:

Fallen Earth is a game about choices. You have six factions to join if you choose, or you can go it alone. You can change factions later if you wish. There are dozens of paths to take through the game, each with their own story. Individual encounters can often be solved in multiple ways, such as choosing to save a merchant from being attacked by raiders or attack him yourself.

For more information, visit www.fallenearth.com.

Thanks for letting us talk with MMORPG.com readers!

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