AGDC 07: Fallen Earth Interview with Lee Hammock


Ever get the urge to steal a dead man’s pants then spend a week or so taking them apart and figuring out how to make your own pair?

Are you fascinated by zombie movies, end-of-the-world scenarios, disaster flicks and post-apocalyptic visions?

Do Mad Max and his V-8 Interceptor hold a special place in your heart, right next to the Omega Man, Dr. Zaius and the man in run-down boots?

If so, Icarus Studios just might have the game you’ve been looking for.

During our trip to the Austin Game Developers Conference, we got a chance to sit down with lead designer Lee Hammock and take a closer look at Fallen Earth, the post-apocalyptic massively multiplayer roleplaying game that has it all, at least for those eager to try surviving in a world ravaged by disease and nuclear war.

“All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos. Ruined dreams. This wasted land.” – Narrator, The Road Warrior

In Fallen Earth, players find themselves in a world where disease and a nuclear holocaust have wiped out the majority of the world’s population. One of the few areas to survive relatively unscathed is the desert near the Grand Canyon.

Enhancing the coolness factor of the post-holocaust outback feel, Hammock explained that the development team started with an actual topographical map of the region and recreated it for the virtual world of Fallen Earth.

According to Hammock, the details are accurate enough that a player who knows the area really well would actually be able to recognize certain areas. Of course, one ravine looks a lot like any other.
Towns, outposts and even user-placed content will alter the landscape even further, as players try to build a new life out of the devastation.

“You’re a scavenger, Max. You’re a maggot. Did you know that? You’re living off the corpse of the old world.” – Papagallo, The Road Warrior

From the beginning, players have to work to get the things they need to survive, whether it be clothing, weapons or resources. According to Hammock, one of the ways to get gear is from people who don’t need it anymore.

“It’s really scavenger driven,” said Hammock. “If you want new clothes, you can steal some dead guy’s pants.”

And the same goes for weapons. Players can arm themselves with anything and everything from lead pipes to powerful rifles, all of which could come in very handy against any number of enemies, from zombies to animals, mutants and possibly even intelligent apes.

“Every sector has something new,” Hammock said. “The Road Warrior movies were one of our primary influences and we’ve tried to incorporate all the elements we can of all the post-apocalyptic movies.”

During the demo, Hammock took his avatar through a few combat sequences in a zombie-filled factory, where stealth was just as important as firepower. Make too much noise, and the zombies swarm… slowly, true, but they still get the job done.

“If you want to shoot stuff all day, you can do that,” Hammock said, “but if you want to get involved in the whole world-building thing, you can do that.”

“We have 12 of these shotgun shells, 26 of these pussy 9-mils, and 16 of those .357 magnums.” – Tucker, Dawn of the Dead

In such a dangerous world, having the right equipment could mean the difference between life and death. Without a local Wal-Mart, players will have to rob the dead, make their own gear or befriend a crafter.

Crafting will be a huge part of Fallen Earth, but unlike other MMOs, deciding what to craft will be a much more difficult decision.

“Crafting takes real time,” Hammock said. “The only real limited resource in MMOs is time, and there are some things that we don’t want to just give away.”

In short, the more complicated the item, the longer it will take to make and the crafter can’t make anything else during that time.

“A car takes like two weeks,” Hammock said. “You better be real good friends with a crafter.”
Or you could just buy a horse.

“She sips nitro… with Phase 4 heads! 600 horsepower through the wheels! She’s meanness set to music and the bitch is born to run!” – Barry, Mad Max

Recipes for crafters won’t be in short supply, but they could be hard to find. According to Hammock, new recipes can purchased from merchants, missions, scavenging or by learning them from other players.

Faction will play a role in most of those situations, with a player’s faction determining what they can learn or buy.

There are six factions players can choose from, most loosely modeled on the main character types from The Road Warrior.

First are the Enforcers, the law-and-order types, followed by the Children of the Apocalypse, a brutal bunch not known for their inventive nature. The Vistas are the hippies of Fallen Earth and seek to protect and restore the Earth. The Techs hope to restore the world’s technology, while the Lightbearers hope religion and spirituality will help the world. Finally, the Travelers provide a haven for the criminals of the old world.

Of course, many of these factions are in opposition, which will lead to player battles for control of territory, including conflict zones, faction towns and even trade routes.

“Here is the instrument of cleansing, my brethren. And nothing quite cleanses like fire.” – Matthias, The Omega Man

Of course, player factions won’t be the only thing to worry about. Crazy religious cults, the aforementioned zombie hordes, mutants and anything else the development team dreams up could be added to the menu. Just be sure to avoid that bunch worshiping the solar calculator. They’re quite strange.

Fallen Earth, Hammock said, is approaching a large scale alpha stage, which is a significant step in the game’s production. Gameplay at launch will be limited to the Grand Canyon region, but, Hammock said, more sectors will be added after launch, possibly including some ruined urban areas. Who wants to head for Las Vegas? Boulder?

Whichever you choose, based on the demo, Fallen Earth seems well on its way, which is good news for MMO fans tired of elves, hobbits and orcs. Pass the dog food. It’s going to be a long wait, but it should be worth it.

About the author