Wes Platt - Fallen Earth Interview
Going From an
to a Fallen Earth
An Interview with Wes
Platt, writer/content developer for Icarus Studios
May 7, 2007
Currently in the midst of a deep development cycle, the MMO
is beginning to take shape. Although the game has yet to
enter beta testing, the staff at Icarus Studios is slowly leaking more
information onto the internet; from videos of the apocalyptic world to
screenshots and wallpapers. Although there’s been a large
media surge by Icarus Studios, there was quite a bit of information
available about the game previously, mostly in the form of written
stories, backgrounds, timelines, and character factions.
style="font-style: italic;"> style="font-style: italic;">Wes Platt
One of the individuals behind that lore is Wes Platt,
writer/content developer for Icarus Studios. For those of you who
aren’t familiar with this veritable font of story arcs and
roleplaying scenarios, Wes first hit the roleplaying scene in 1994 when
he began writing columns for Top MUD Sites, The MUD Connector, and
Online Gaming Resource. He also created style="font-style: italic;">OtherSpace, a
space-opera MUD where
hopeful player characters submitted written biographies to
administrators to become a part of the game world. Story-telling was
the focal point of the game, and the setting ran from 1998-2004.
Besides developing text-based games, he spent about 12 years
working as a reporter and editor at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida
(he graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in
mass communications). In 2005, Wes devoted himself to the
text-based MUD Necromundus,
which is now in beta testing at
nm.jointhesaga.com. As he was contributing to style="font-style: italic;">Necromundus, Wes
engaged in the World of
Warcraft Earthen Ring RP server community,
where his Tauren, Stamp, has become something of a celebrity.
Eyeing his constant work in the MUD and RP community, Icarus
Studios snatched Wes up in 2006 to work on the content behind style="font-style: italic;">Fallen
Earth. Since then, Wes has been churning out content for
yet-to-be-released MMO and laying flesh to the apocalyptic bones of
In the eyes of many, Icarus Studios made a great decision when they
enlisted your aid in the production of style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth. Your
work in the
greater roleplaying realm has spanned nearly a decade, and your strong
foundation in journalism can’t hurt your writing proficiency.
How did Icarus Studios first contact you regarding a position with
style="font-style: italic;"> style="font-style: italic;">The Fallen Earth Logo
style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(0, 0, 153);">Wes
style="color: rgb(0, 0, 153);">: I had packed up my dog,
Huck, and gone from Florida on a sort of wild sabbatical to the Pacific
Northwest in November 2005. Spending the winter in the wilds of
Washington's Columbia River Gorge meant a lot of time indoors while the
snow piled up. During my time on the Earthen Ring server, particularly
once I'd focused on Stamp, Horde-side, I'd gotten to know Michael
Rollins, an excellent roleplayer in his own right. He got work as a
writer at Icarus. I was understandably envious. And then, one day, he
dropped me a message, saying it was too bad I'd moved out west, because
Icarus had openings for more writers. I told him I wasn't THAT
committed to living in the wilderness and promptly got in touch with
Lee Hammock. Icarus flew me to North Carolina for an interview and I
soon had my dream job.
How do you think your work in the other roleplaying venues helped you
to get noticed?
style="font-weight: bold;">Wes: I've been
active in the online roleplaying community since 1994, writing columns
about the topic for Top MUD Sites, The MUD Connector, and Online Gaming
Resource. I wrote a lot of stories about Stamp on the Earthen
Ring server of WoW and they became very popular. Dan Clayton, a friend
of mine who helps run the games at jointhesaga.com, went so far as to
make a fan site about Stamp, where we stored the chronicled adventures.
I still write them, on occasion. I'm not sure Michael and I ever would
have crossed paths without WoW, and that connection was invaluable to
my getting noticed. But my background in the prose-based games
certainly added to what I could bring to the table.
There must be a few things that took you by surprise in the development
of a 3D MMO. What have you learned since joining Icarus Studios? What
things are different?
are different, besides the obvious focus on visuals instead of words.
From a development standpoint, it's a good sort of different. With the
prose-based games, the storylines are driven by a give-and-take between
the players and the staffers (effectively game masters/dungeon masters
in tabletop games). It's real-time storytelling. That's a lot of work,
flying by the seat of your pants. With an MMO, you can still have
storytelling, but we can actually plan for specific outcomes and write
with those outcomes in mind. It's not quite as on-the-fly and
improvisational as the prose-based games.
This is a new venue for you…is it nice to see your
characters come to “life” in 3D?
style="font-weight: bold;">Wes: Yes and no. I
find I'm more excited by the towns we build in tandem with the art
department coming to life, along with the storylines that bind the
characters together. I certainly miss leaving some things to the
imagination, but we've got a lot of opportunities to go places and do
things in Fallen Earth
that just aren't possible (or, if they're
possible, they're not really practical) in a prose-based environment.
title="Gotta Keep Warm in the Grand Canyon"
alt="Gotta Keep Warm in the Grand Canyon"
style="font-style: italic;">The writers and
artists collaborate on the look of their NPCs.
How much of writer’s work is translated to the game in
textures and sprites?
style="font-weight: bold;">Wes: When we're
developing towns and missions, we plot it out fairly carefully and
think out everything from how the NPCs in towns will look, talk, and
think about things. We'll give the artists our write-ups, and then it's
a collaborative process as their vision evolves along with ours. Some
ideas we propose just aren't workable. When that happens, we take
Speaking of Fallen Earth, how does the post-apocalyptic world stack up
to any of the other ‘verses you’ve worked with in
style="color: rgb(0, 0, 153);">
style="font-weight: bold;">Wes: It's the first
time I'm really working in-depth on a game universe that isn't my baby,
from start to finish. I've adopted bits and pieces of this one, so I
definitely feel responsibility for it and a desire to see it flourish.
But when I walked in the door, a lot of the general lore already had
been established. So, it's been a fantastic challenge looking for ways
to put my own fingerprints on a world that was someone else's creation.
Tell us a little bit about the story you’re formulating for
Fallen Earth. It’s a post apocalyptic world where people are
trying to rebuild, obviously. Are there any “main”
characters? What kind of civilization do these people currently have?
What sort of world is this, besides
style="font-weight: bold;">Wes: We do tend to
have main characters among the NPCs, from town leaders to prominent
members of the six factions, which the players will get to know during
the course of their adventures in the Grand Canyon Province.
civilization is one you might expect to find in such circumstances:
Different groups of people with competing agendas, settling in and
rebuilding amidst the ruins of the world that fell, struggling just to
get enough resources to survive. Times are grim; people are desperate.
But the game wouldn't be much fun to play if it was just dark and
gloomy all the time. It has moments of light-hearted fun and humor. It
also offers a good bit of hope, here and there.
What about the factions? There are a good number of them and
they’re described in brief on the main site…how
will they function in game? What other details can you give us on these
guys and gals?
style="font-weight: bold;">Wes: We've got six
factions with different worldviews. The CHOTA are real
screw-the-rules-ANARCHY-NOW!-types. The Lightbearers want to save
humanity from itself. The Techs want to build shiny gadgets and restore
the world to the way it used to be before the Fall. The Vistas want to
stop the abuse of nature and certainly don't want to see a return to
the old ways. The Enforcers want to bring order to the post-apocalyptic
chaos. And the Travelers – this is the faction I have the
privilege of working on – mostly want to make money and
thrive off the ongoing struggles between the other factions.
the first sector, the factions just provide flavor and story hooks for
missions. You can do a mission for the CHOTA in one town and then do
one for the Enforcers in another town without suffering any negative
(or positive) consequences with either faction. It gives us a chance to
introduce the factions and their views of the world without requiring
players to pick sides. In later sectors, however, faction-specific
missions will make you friendlier with some factions and put you in
dutch with others, and the factions will compete against each other to
control towns and resources.
How much content will be used in-game, and how much out-of-game (on the
internet, manuals, etc.)?
style="font-weight: bold;">Wes: Well, we've got
a lot of content going into the game, to be sure. I wouldn't be
surprised to see more lore-related content on the website down the
road, but we're hoping to let players get as much of the story as
possible from within the game itself.
style="font-style: italic;"> style="font-style: italic;">That guy isn't pretty.
Will there eventually be a book based on the style="font-style: italic;"> style="font-style: italic;"> Fallen
Earth lore? I know you
constructed a Canterbury Tales-type novel for NaNoWriMo based on your
work. Can fans expect something like this in the future?
style="font-weight: bold;">Wes: That hasn't
been discussed, honestly. I'd love to do something like that, but all
our attention is focused on getting the game rocking and rolling. And
I'm not the only novelist on the content team. I'd love to see some
books, though, whether I write one or not.
How much of your previous “story” experience will
be visible in Fallen Earth? I’m guessing the story for the
game will be grand, epic, and will blow my mind…but what can
you tell those people that aren’t familiar with you?
style="font-weight: bold;">Wes: I'm working
with more than a dozen other people to bring the stories of style="font-style: italic;">Fallen
Earth to life. I can in no way take credit for how grand
or epic it'll
end up being. Everybody on the writing team brings skills to the
project and we're having a good time weaving elements to and fro
between our storylines. Lee Hammock, our Lead Game Designer,
has really encouraged us to focus on telling good stories (and not just
making bland missions for players to kill time), so we're all trying to
do that within the framework of the game engine.
I can say about the long-term storylines we've envisioned is that they
will build up to some amazing stuff.
What about other current MMOs? Do you think their overall story is
lacking, or is it purely up to the players in those worlds to make
their play-area smaller and write their own adventures? I know you did
some of this on the WoW RP server, but I wasn’t sure if you
thought the games in general had decent storylines or not.
style="font-weight: bold;">Wes: Some games are
just grinding to level. Some are definitely trying to put story into
their worlds. I think WoW has done a pretty good job of telling stories
through their quest lines, if only more people would take the time to
read them. There's also plenty of lore to build from in games like style="font-style: italic;">Lord
of the Rings Online and style="font-style: italic;">Age of Conan.
a player-character standpoint, I think that, regardless of the game,
whether it's a graphical MMO or a prose-based MUD, the role-playing you
do relies almost entirely on you and the immediate circle of people you
play with. Play your character in the game. Write stories about them in
the forums. If the MMO server has a dedicated Wiki for role-players
(such as http://earthenring.wikia.com/ ), get a character page there!
You're the stone, dropping in the pond. Hopefully, it ripples outward
and generates enthusiasm for others to build characters.
more information, visit www.fallenearth.com.
Thanks for giving us the chance to talk with Ten Ton Hammer readers.
style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">
style="font-weight: bold;">Micajah: It was our