A Demonstration of Fallen Earth at AGDC '07 - Your First Steps in an Apocalyptic World

by Cody "Micajah" Bye
by Cody "Micajah" Bye

Fallen Earth is trying to break out of the typical MMOG mold..

Over the years, massively multiplayer games have steadily spiraled into a stagnant sort of gameplay model. Most of the games in the current MMOG age are based around a class-oriented system where characters can improve their characters in large leaps and bounds. Starting with the original Everquest (although it REALLY started with text-based MUDs and the original D&D), gamers grew used to that "grind" through the level, often having to push their way through several "dead" levels before eventually breaking through to the new, interesting content. While many gamers and even some developers believe the class-based system is now the norm, there's a growing number of vested MMOG developers that believe the class-based system is an unfortunate side-effect of the popularity of Everquest and is only being followed because it was done before. A new breed of game designers, like Fallen Earth's lead game designer Lee Hammock, have taken it upon themselves to change public opinion and swing RPGs back into a viable skill-based system.

While at the Austin Game Developers Conference, I had scheduled an interview with Lee for the second day of the show at the Icarus Studios booth. However, upon walking onto the show floor I was stunned to see that the Icarus Studios booth was by far the largest booth at the show. A two story spectable, the booth had an upper section reachable by stairs along with a lower section showing-off the games that are being created on the Icarus Studios platform. I met Lee at the lower section, where he sat in front of a Fallen Earth demonstration area. After a few minutes of chit-chat, we dove into the game.

Our intial foray had as starting out in a standard adventuring area, with a few houses and no enemies to be seen. However, the landscape of the area was astounding; I've traveled through the Southwestern part of the United States and Fallen Earth's graphics truly atest to the desolate place it could be if an apocalyptic war started. He manuevered his character around, and I noticed a small box located in the middle of the screen. I assumed it was a targetting reticule and Lee informed me that it was a reticule and it would be used in the combat system. Unlike a normal RPG, you have to actively click to attack your enemies around you, much like Dungeons and Dragons Online or the latest Elder Scrolls games.

You'll have to "aim" your targeting reticule to actually hit someone in combat..

"Although you have to 'aim' with your targeting reticule, the damage you do is completely determined by an RPG-based system oriented around the weapon, your skill with that weapon, your opponent's skill in avoiding the weapon," Hammock said. "It's basically a half-FPS / half-RPG sort of system." According to Lee, the decision to make the game more oriented around this sort of FPS-style gameplay was the desire to get away from the standard "damage-per-second" combat style that is infused into most modern MMOGs. As Lee mentioned, each of the game's combat modifiers is tied to the skills a character possesses and any items that he has on his persona. A truly classless system, Fallen Earth allows players to excel at any area of the game they want to pursue.

However, this could be very daunting if the developers at Fallen Earth forced players to try to understand the skill system on their own. Thankfully that isn't the case, and Lee stated that the FE developers assume that the player hasn't looked at any of the material presented in the manual or on the website. "At character creation we don't assume that the player has done any sort of research on how to play the game," Lee said. "That's what I do. I don't want to watch a cutscene that explains the backstory or wade through a manual that explains all the mechanics of the game. Character creation is completely cosmetic, all your stats are the same as any other beginning characters. Even your appearance can be changed after you enter the world at the appropriate place (a barbershop, etc.)."

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