Exclusive Fallen Earth Update Interview - Testing, Timelines, and Flying Fists

Questions by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor

by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor
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by Lee Hammock, Lead Game Designer on
style="font-weight: bold;">Fallen Earth

For game developers, creating an MMOG is one of the most daunting tasks
imaginable. Thousands of man hours are logged in the creation of even
the most basic MMOG, and the bigger a project gets the longer it takes
developers to produce a final product. So when the group of developers
at Icarus Studios opted to create a skill-based, post-apocalyptic title
that included real time combat and vehicles, the Ten Ton Hammer staff
knew it was going to be a major undertaking. However, it seems
the team and their product - which is titled style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth - are
really starting to come together. Recently, the developers announced
that they were “feature complete” and ready for
testing. To find out more, Ten Ton Hammer’s Cody
“Micajah” Bye sat down with style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth’s
lead game designer Lee Hammock and had an in-depth discussion about the
game and its progress thus far. Please enjoy!

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The developers behind
Fallen Earth have really made some outstanding improvements to the
in-game graphics.

Ten Ton Hammer: Over the
past month, you’ve really made a point to show off all of the
new artwork and models going into Fallen
. Have the graphical upgrades been a recent push or
were they simply churning in the pipeline until everything was ironed
out and you could show them to the public?

Lee Hammock:
We’ve been working on the graphics upgrade for a good long
while and a lot of it has been ready for public exposure for several
months, we just wanted to save it for a big constant media push rather
than trickle out some bits and pieces.  Things are moving
pretty quickly for us now and we want to keep interest constant rather
than just create interest spikes every few weeks. 
We’re going to be continuing our weekly updates, including
screenshots, for awhile longer and as always we’ll continue
the Question of the Week feature on our forums.  

Ten Ton Hammer: Recently,
you announced that Fallen
was “feature complete” and ready
to begin testing. How are you going to be rolling out the Alpha testing
positions? Will this Alpha test go beyond the “friends and
family” sort of stage we often see?

Currently we’ve got a Friends and Family test running
following the “If you screw up I can punch you in the
face,” rule to only recruit people personally and we know
won’t break the NDA, will give good feedback, etc. 
In the coming weeks we’re going to be running a wider Alpha
Tester recruitment process through Gamespot.  That pool of
Alpha testers will be increased steadily over time until
we’re ready for closed beta testing.  

Ten Ton Hammer: If you
could have the Alpha testers concentrate on one thing, what would it be?

Combat.  It’s the meat and potatoes of our game, so
we want it to be as fun as possible.  Being an FPS system with
a strong PvE element we’re doing something not many other
MMOs have done and we still have fine tuning to work out. 
We’ve got lots of bugs and stuff to work out in missions,
crafting, etc but the only thing that I real think needs fine tuning in
terms of overall feel is combat.  

Ten Ton Hammer: Now that
you’re feature complete, what’s the next big step
in your development process aside from becoming content complete? What
kind of information should gamers expect over the course of the next
few months?

Lee: Really,
aside from content complete we’re primarily focused on
getting the outside testing process rolling, but most of our energy is
being spent on reaching content complete.  We’re
concentrating on getting missions, crafting info, vehicle stats,
instances, levels, and storylines into the game now.  Our next
big goal is to get all of that in the game and running so we can switch
over to a primarily bug fixing stage.  Over the next few
months players will see how our initial plans may have changed after
they’re run through rigorous testing.  Much a no
battle plan survives contact with the enemy, no game design doc
survives contact with the testers.  

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If all goes well,
Fallen Earth should be content complete in a few months.

Ten Ton Hammer: What sort
of timetable do you have in mind for content completion? Will there be
a day when you simply say, this is as good as it can get?

We’re shooting to have content complete wrapped up in the
next few months.  We have a deadline, we’re just not
making it public in case something goes wrong and we have to move
it.  Then we’ve got scheduled polish/testing time to
make sure everything works right, during which we’ll also be
working on the first round of expansion material.  

Ten Ton Hammer: As you
unveil more and more of the creatures seen in style="font-style: italic;"> Fallen Earth
, it
becomes readily apparent that radiation and mutants are going to play a
large part in your Fallen Earth storyline. However, are we going to see
any “normal” enemies that players can encounter
like unmutated humans just bent on violence? What about creatures that
have simply “evolved” since the apocalypse?

We’ve got plenty of non-mutated creatures and people, we just
don’t tend to put them in screenshots since most MMOs have
wolves, bears, velociraptors, etc.  We’ve got lots
of bad people doing bad things to…less bad people and most
of them aren’t mutants.  Some of them are rabidly

Ten Ton Hammer: Vehicles
have also been a big part of the recent image unveiling. What sort of
role are vehicles going to play in Fallen Earth? Will they be
incredibly important? Will everyone have a vehicle?

Vehicles are important, but we’re not making a driving
game.  Our world is freaking enormous, and without a vehicle
or horse it will take a good long while to get anywhere, especially in
later sectors as they get bigger with every sector.  Primarily
vehicles serve as transportation and cargo haulers, allowing players to
store more gear in their vehicle.  They can also be used in
combat, but that can get real expensive real fast.  We expect
most players to have vehicles or a horse by the time they reach the
middle levels of the game, but most won’t get to the higher
end vehicles like the Interceptor.  Researching and building
vehicles have massive time and resource requirements, so people
won’t be churning them out quickly.  

Ten Ton Hammer: Obviously
it’s been pretty busy few months for the style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth

developers, and there have probably been a large number of changes to
the game and the general gameplay. Is there anything that has been
adjusted that the gamers should know (or care) about?

Lee: We
haven’t made a lot of large scale changes aside from the
graphics upgrades; it’s mainly been tweaks here and
there.  Making melee combat faster, improving reticle control,
adjusting movement speeds to make PvP more fun, etc.  The
biggest change we’ve done overall is revamping the tutorial
to be more intertwined with the history of the game and to show the
player more of what the game is about at middle and high
levels.  The old tutorial was sort of a relatively low key
zombie killing experience where the players were armed with a revolved
and a pipe, while the new one has vehicles, machine guns, rocket
launchers, mutant super soldiers, and lots of explosions.  

Ten Ton Hammer: style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth has
now been in development for quite some time. Personally,
what’s been the most challenging part of the whole process?
The most exciting part?

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Vehicles will
certainly play a large role in Fallen Earth

Lee: Most
challenging: the longer you work on something the harder it is to see
the good in it after spending so much time trying to fix the
bad.  Our testers have been a huge boon in dealing with this
since they’ve really energized us by having tons of positive

Most exciting part: seeing people play the game and having a good
time.  This comes both from our testers and from internal
tests in the office where people don’t want to log off
because they’re having such a good time.  

That, and finding a good harvesting node.  Our
crafting/harvesting system is like crack.  

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there
anything else you’d like to tell Ten Ton Hammer readers and style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth

Lee: The
regular updates are going to continue for the next few weeks and
we’ll have more announcements regarding our schedule as they
go along.  Check out target="_blank">www.fallenearth.com for more info
and the Question of the Week posts every Thursday.  Also
thanks to the Ten Ton Hammer folks (who are always a bright spot in the
interview schedule at conventions) for letting us do this update.

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

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