This past weekend at href="" target="_blank">PAX
2009 the Ten Ton Hammer ground
crew had the opportunity to speak with Lee Hammock, lead designer for
upcoming indie MMOG href=""
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth
to discuss the recent open beta as well as what the studio has planned
for the game after the official launch later this month. We covered a
wide range of topics, so whether you’re a seasoned beta vet
or simply looking for your next great gaming fix there’s
plenty of great style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth
info to be found in this exclusive interview.

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href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" alt="Fallen Earth 01"

Ton Hammer: Faction choice can play a fairly large role in Fallen
Earth. Have you been seeing any unexpected trends through the open beta
in terms of certain factions being more popular than others?

: So far it does seem
to be leaning towards the Enforcers
and the Techs which was surprising to us. If you took a poll a few
months ago, the Travelers were always the top faction and now
it’s changed to Techs and Enforcers which tend to be fairly
equal, so we have been noticing that people have been skewing that way.
They are kind of the easiest to get your head around.

The Enforcers are
all about law and order, so that’s good, and they shoot guys
– who doesn’t like that? Compared to the Chota,
their arch nemesis who are the crazy guys with mohawks who hit people.
So obviously one of them is really heroic, so you want to be that dude.
The Chota do have some really heroic qualities in that they hate people
being enslaved and they always hate people being pushed around, so you
can play a ‘good guy’ Chota and it would be a
really interesting character, it’s just not the character
that’s evident when you look at the faction. You look at the
faction and you see crazy barbarians, not the guy who champions the
downtrodden because he doesn’t like people being pushed

Ton Hammer: When we spoke href="" target="_blank">earlier
this year, you mentioned that
each of the factions is even somewhat of a ‘gray
hat’ – that there’s no clearly defined
good vs. evil absolutes.

: Every faction has
its good guy / bad guy elements to it.
So with the Enforcers, everyone seems to look at them and go,
“wow, they’re law and order –
they’re the police” There also can be fascists
– so there are Enforcers who think our way is the best and if
you disagree we’ll shoot you, and tough shit. So just like
the Chota who are anarchists who tare everything down and just do
whatever they want, there are enforcers who try and control everything.
So every side does have that good and bad element to it. It’s
just that with some factions it’s harder for the player base
to see.

Ton Hammer: Sector 1 essentially introduces players to what those
different elements of the factions are. Have you added any new content
that might help make that path selection a bit more evident as players
advance towards Sector 2?

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: We did introduce
some more content. Each of the factions
has a starting town, and we’ve also added some stuff in
Watchtower and Trumbull – the towns in the northern part of
the sector – that also have members of every faction in the
town. So you can talk to them all, get their missions and gain more of
a perspective on what each faction does. So by the time you get to
Sector 2 you’ll have a pretty good idea of what
they’re about.

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href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" alt="Midway"

Ton Hammer: For some of our readers who might not be familiar with
some of the terminology in Fallen Earth, could you give us a brief
overview of what the various sectors are and how they fit into the
overall structure of the game?

: Sector 1 - which is
levels 1 through 15 - has 20 or so
towns in it so it’s the largest in terms of town population.
Its overall theme is sort of an old mining area. It’s not
well developed, there’s a lot of heavy industry or mining,
and some toxic waste dumps. Before the apocalypse it was sort of the
underdeveloped area, so there wasn’t a lot of commercial or
residential space. It was primarily just mines, toxic waste dumps and
facilities like that. There’s an abandoned missile silo, a
lot of water tanks, chemical vats – so it’s not a
very pleasant place. It also is flat out desert.

Sector 2 is more grasslands – it was the more residential
section that Globaltech, the company that bought the Grand Canyon Park,
used to house all of their people or at least their upper-crust
executives. So it’s got a lot of mansions and subdivisions, a
golf course, a zoo, and county fairgrounds with a rollercoaster and all
that kind of stuff. There are movie theaters, bowling alleys
– all kinds of suburban stuff you’d find. The
sector is mostly grasslands with some treed areas, so it’s
much greener than what you’ll find in Sector 1.

Then Sector 3 is Kaibab Forest which is the wooded area of the game.
Previous to the apocalypse it was a heavy logging and industrial
harvesting area. Now it’s under assault largely by a group
called the Human League – who are not an 80s band –
but are in fact a group of anti-mutants that are basically racists who
try to kill all the mutants in the world.

It’s very different because our forests are really thick,
it’s a very big sector and it’s very easy to get
lost. At E3 we met some guys from Russia who saw that sector and said,
“wow, that looks like our country with all the broken
buildings and stuff!” I was like, “wow guys,
that’s kind of depressing!”

Ton Hammer: And then the PvP areas are also somewhat broken down by
sector as well, correct?

: In Sector 1 most of
the PvP areas are more free-for-all
where you’re fighting over a specific resource. In Sector 2
you start getting introduced to conflict towns, and large swaths of the
sector are PvP zones instead of the more limited areas found earlier.
In those you fight over towns to take control of them for your faction
and unlock new content by doing missions and doing stuff in the town.
So that’s really the focus of PvP from Sector 2 onwards.

Ton Hammer: Last time we talked you also mentioned that you were in
the process of tweaking the design of the conflict towns because you
wanted to make it a bit more balanced for melee. Has that process been
successful in achieving the balance you were aiming for?

: We added more
difficult terrain, more blockers and that
kind of stuff. Also, previously to take control of the towns you had to
complete missions. The way we set it up originally was that those
missions would send a faction to go get a certain resource, and then
we’d send another faction to go get the same resource. But
since it wasn’t specifically telling you to go kill the other
team both sides would just go get the resource and not shoot each

It was kind of like, OK we tried to get you to PvP but you
didn’t actually shoot each other which is kind of the goal
here. So we added missions to all the conflict towns so now you can
actually get rewards just for killing other players.

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href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" alt="Kingman"

Ton Hammer: So would you say there’s a good mix of PvE
elements even in the conflict towns to make the two aspects of gameplay
fit more seamlessly together?

: Right. If you enter
a conflict town and there are no other
players there, it’s effectively a PvE zone. So you can still
do missions and stuff like that.

Ton Hammer: Were there any other surprises that came up during the
open beta in terms of certain types of content that players naturally
gravitated to more so than others?

: It was really about
what we expected. We were surprised by
how militant people got about liking the game which is kind of funny.
It skews to more hardcore players than most games, and when hardcore
players find something they like they really hang on. So that was kind
of surprising.

Otherwise it was kind of surprising which towns people would go and
hang out in. Even some of the higher level players would go back to
sector 1 just to hang out. So it was interesting because it was like,
there’s nothing really for you here –
there’s no resources that would be particularly useful and
you’re not going to earn anything, so why are you here? But,
that’s what they did.

Ton Hammer: So players have been artificially creating their own
social hubs?

: Yep. So one of the
things we’re looking at now
is increasing our ability to have social hubs to give players more
places to hang out and we’re also looking at possibly doing
some stuff with camps kind of like Star Wars Galaxies used to do. So we
have a lot of things we’re looking at that would increase the
social aspects of the game.

Otherwise we had a lot of fun just interacting with the beta players.
We’ve run into a bunch of them at the convention so far, so
it’s been really nice getting to meet those folks and get
their feedback. We’ve been trying to be as responsive as
possible to people on the forums – I read the forums every
day. Actually I read all of the worst posts I can find just to find out
the worst opinions of the game so that I can see if we can do something
about addressing those. So we really do try to make sure
we’re being responsive so we can ultimately give players what
they want.

Ton Hammer: What are your plans for Fallen Earth post-launch?

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: We’ve
started work on Sector 4, the Grainway.
There’s going to be a 15 level expansion that hopefully
we’re going to do a few months after release, and
we’ve talked about doing a boxed expansion about a year after
that in addition to regular content updates. We’re going to
be doing some flash mini-games… we’ve basically
got a whole bunch of stuff on the horizon.

Our game is fairly complex compared to some games and there are certain
things we didn’t cover in the tutorial, so we’re
actually adding a stage two tutorial. Our tutorial exists as a
completely linear experience, but then you get out into the world and
its like, “do whatever you want!” You can go
anywhere you want, you can get a mount, go out and kill people, do
missions – and that’s just too much for some

So we’re adding something in between that we’re
calling the trainer town which is a small area with 10 or so missions
that you can do in any order you want to sort of bridge that completely
linear to completely open experience and not have it be so jarring.
Plus, it will teach players more about crafting, how to use their
mounts and how to use their special abilities.

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href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" alt="Fallen Earth 02"

Ton Hammer: So at the end of the current tutorial would all players
end up in the trainer town? Currently players exit the tutorial and
have a number of options on where they want to start in the world, so
how will this fit into that experience?

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: Right. Currently you
basically go to that converser to
talk to the computer terminal where you can choose which town to start
in. This new content will be about fixing that terminal so that you can
talk to it. So you’ll have to do all those missions to get
the terminal to work and then you can talk to it and go where
you’re supposed to from there.

Ton Hammer: What is the live team working on right now as you head
towards launch later this month?

: A lot of it is bug
fixes. We’re trying to clear
out all the bugs that we have before launch so we can go in with an
empty queue. We’re also working on the tactical map changes
that I mentioned, some work is going into the sector 4 development,
we’re working on the training town and even adding some
unique drops to boss mobs. Currently we have a lot of boss mobs that
wander around the world that are part of a mission somewhere, but if
you just come across them and kill them you don’t really get
anything for it. So we’re look at adding some unique items
and rare drops so that if you come across a boss mob you’ll
get something for killing it even if you don’t have the
mission for it.

Ton Hammer: Would you say your content focus moving forward is
primarily going to be on adding in new sectors, or will you be
expanding any of the current sectors as well?

: We’re
going to be doing both. We basically broke
the content department into four teams. We have two dev teams currently
working on sector 4. Then we have a systems team which handles all the
crafting, weapon balance and special abilities and supports the dev
teams working on sector 4 in terms of all the new items
you’ll need for 15 more levels of play. And then you have the
live team which fixes bugs and does live events as well as expanding
content in sectors 1 through 3. So we’ve already got some
plans for new encounters and new levels we’re going to add.
So we’re not only going to be adding new things at the end
and raising the cap, but we’re also going to be adding some
content back towards the beginning as well.

We also have some plans for a long term PvP system where you can
effectively play a “bad guy”. Early on you can
basically decide that you’re going to play an outlaw so you
can go through this outlaw play and will have a whole set of towns that
are run by the bad guys, but you’re PvP flagged all the time.
So for people who want that hardcore PvP experience, they can choose to
go and do it.

Ton Hammer: And this would on the same live server?

: Yep, it would be all
on the same server. Then other
non-outlaw players can flag themselves as sheriffs or deputies to get
involved in the system, and then they would also be permanently flagged
for PvP but they would be kind of the “good guy”
side of things.

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href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;" alt="Fallen Earth 04"

Ton Hammer: That almost reminds me of the old Priest of Discord in
EverQuest that you could turn the book into that would perma-flag you
for PvP, only a more advanced version of that system.

: Exactly. For a whole
PvP server there are so many little
things you have to look at. For example we’d have to make the
Lifenet pods non-PvP zones because rezzing in a place where you can be
killed is just ridiculous. So there are all these little things
we’d have to do to make a full-on PvP server, but we think we
would do a better job integrating the ability to be fully PvP flagged
into an existing server rather than try and make it into a separate
one. Also it’s better for us in terms of maintenance to be
able to just focus on the one server type.

Ton Hammer: Do you have plans for any live events scheduled for
after the official release?

: Totally.
That’s part of the live
team’s job. We’re planning on having some holiday
events – probably 6 or 8 a year – most of which are
going to be based around the factions. We’re probably not
going to hit Halloween because it’s too close to launch, but
we’ll be doing Thanksgiving which I think is going to be a
Vista holiday. Each holiday is going to have a particular faction
that’s associated with it so it should be a lot of fun.

Ton Hammer: What’s the mood at the studio right now? Is
it the launch crunch or are things pretty laid back?

: Actually
it’s pretty laid back at this point.
There’s definitely stuff that we’re trying to get
in, but we’ve done all we can for the most part.
We’re still working on patches and we’re doing all
that we can to get things like fixes in, but really there’s
not that much stress.

We’re a fairly small company; very much an indie game
developer. We’re not part of a huge studio, but rather
independently financed. I think the running joke was for a while
– I’m not sure if this is still true –
but for many years WoW’s cinematic department had more people
than our entire company.

So it’s the sort of thing where we don’t need to
launch with 500,000 players to be profitable. If we launch with 50,000
we’re actually very profitable. If we launch with 100,000
we’re extremely profitable. So we are confident we can hit
the launch numbers we need to stay in business, and we’re
very much shooting for the EVE model of realizing we’re not
going to be the biggest launch and we except that. But we are confident
that over time we have enough depth of gameplay to really pull more
people in.

So overall we’re good. We’ve gotten a lot of
positive feedback lately, and I think we’re starting to find
our audience in terms of the beta testers and all that kind of stuff.
It is very true that this is a very niche game, it’s not for
everyone. Folks who like an easy experience who don’t like
having to learn how the game works – I’m not saying
that’s a bad thing – but this is a complex game.
It’s not a simple thing to just pick up and play without any
real thought or effort. But there’s a real audience of people
who want that. The audience I think we’re going to end up
with are the people who would play EVE if it wasn’t so much a
spreadsheet in space, or would play WoW if it there was more depth to
what you were doing. That’s really the audience
we’re shooting for.

Ton Hammer: We wish you all kinds of luck with it!

: Thank you!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Fallen Earth Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Sardu 1
Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.