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
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
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
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.)."