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An Earth Unlike Our Own - The Conclusion of the Interview with Fallen Earth's Lee Hammock at AGDC '07

Posted Thu, Sep 27, 2007 by Cody Bye

by Cody "Micajah" Bye

(Editor's Note: The following article is a continuation of an interview that previously ran on Ten Ton Hammer a few days ago. If you'd like to hear everything you can about Fallen Earth, make sure you check out that first interview as it goes into the details of character creation and some of the introductory areas of the tutorial. Once you're finished there, head back here and read the final portion of the Lee Hammock interview.)

In an MMOG marketplace overloaded with fantasy-based MMOGs, Fallen Earth sticks out like a sore thumb. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where the dystopian society is trying to crawl its way back into a semblance of the civilization they once knew. Taking place 150 years from today, the world of Fallen Earth only slightly like our own - just enough to give it that creepy quality so inherent in quality horror novels and movies. Basing their landscape on a topographical map of the Grand Canyon, the last vestiges of humanity fight to stay alive even as they try to wipe each other out of the scene all together. The developers of Fallen Earth have held no punches when it comes to grit and carnal touches; they're shooting for a "Mature" rating. At the Austin Game Developer Conference, I sat and watched as Lee Hammock, Fallen Earth's lead designer, moved his character onto the surface and began to wander around the desolate countryside emerging in a ghost town by the name of Terrance.

The town that Hammock showed us in the demo looked alot like this deserted town.

At first glance, Terrance might be your average American town, albeit a ghost-filled shell of its former self. The Fallen Earth art team has done a spectacular job of making everything feel slightly dirty; the main palette of the game seems to be a mixture of brown, gray, black, and ruddy red. Scrub grass covers the countryside, and the surrounding landscape is exactly what you might see in the U.S. southwest; mesas and plateaus dominate the horizon. Real-time day / night cycles, weather patterns, moving clouds, and seasonal changes are also being planned. It's all towards making Fallen Earth as pseudo-realistic as possible.

"The map of the world is actually based off of a topographical map of the Grand Canyon," Hammock said. "Our map is approximately 83 km on a side. The first area that you'll be adventuring in (he points to an area on the map that's about a tenth of the whole world) is about 20 sq. km of space and will take 2-3 hours to run across. It is a huge amount of space.".

"While we have the map there for the players, any areas that don't have content in them yet we separate from the game world with radiation and plague sectors, so players can't go inside them," Hammock said. "That way players can't go run off and find an area with no content inside. Over time we'll pull those barriers back as we expand our content."

While we didn't talk specifically about what kind of town Terrance was, Hammock did explain that each town will have a particular story or motif. Story-lines are something that the Fallen Earth developers have always been interested in, as their previous interview with Ten Ton Hammer showed. In that interview with Wes Platt. we discussed the various factions, towns, and story lines that are introduced in the game in a bit more detail, but Hammock summarized what Wes said fairly thoroughly.

"There isn't one giant story going on here," Hammock said. "Every town has a story. Every country (an area encompassing five towns) has a story. Every faction has a story.Your PC faction and villain factions will have a story. All of them interrelate and interact with each other. You can play through multiple times. and not see the same thing twice. There are about 20 towns per sector, but players might only play through 4-5 of them before moving on. There's tons of content that you won't see, but you can certainly stick around and see everything if you want. However, if you're in a town with a story you're just not into - move and find another town! There are tons of things to go see, and we've given players those options."

The Fallen Earth developers are shooting for an "M" rating for their game. They "love dead bodies.".

As Hammock wandered about the town, very few NPCs were in the area, making it truly feel empty and barren. Being in pre-Alpha, however, my guess is that the town simply wasn't populated with any NPCs, and more character would be introduced to the area in the future. Walking around the buildings, Lee jumped into one house, which was full of dessicated corpses. "We like dead bodies," Hammock said. This isn't a game for the faint hearted, as corpses were lying around everywhere, even in the tutorial mission that we went through earlier. Even with the imminent threat of crazed enemies rounding a corner at any moment, that didn't stop Lee from exploring the area with only a pipe in hand.  

"Your first weapon is a pipe, while your second weapon will probably be a piece of rebar, two-by-four, or a wine bottle opener," Hammock said. "Your starting guns will be paintball guns and crossbows. Everything starts out very basic. By the middle portion of the game you'll have baseball bats, pool cues, hockey sticks with sawblades attached to them, barbells with all the weights at one end, that sort of thing. Eventually you'll get to rifles, fully automatic weapons, pistols, revolvers, or swords. My favorite is the spiked baseball bat with razor wire wrapped around one end. That's the winner right there."

"You basically have six weapon slots, two for one-handed melee, two for pistols, one for a two-handed melee weapon on your back, and one for your two-handed gun."

Although that sounds cool, it also sounds like your character may be a walking armada. During his presentation, every weapon the character was carrying wasn't visible, so perhaps only a few weapons are visible at the same time in the game. Whatever the case, it'd be cool to actually have that many weapons physically viewable on your character at the same time. I mean, this is a post-apocalyptic world where truly crazy things are occurring, maybe characters need that much weaponry just to get by.

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