Fallen Earth Interview – The End of Days is Now 100% free!
By Bryan King (Bryan), OnRPG Journalist
The competition in the F2P MMO industry just got a little bit hotter (or should I say, deadlier? Haha.. ha… *clears throat*), with the F2P transition of Fallen Earth. Originally developed by a section of the Icarus Studios team (now incorporated under GamersFirst’s Reloaded Productions), Fallen Earth provides players with a post-apocalyptic world with a mass variety of weapons, vehicles, and powers under their control. I had the chance to sit down with Joseph Willmon, associate games director for GamersFirst and Marie Croall, lead designer of Fallen Earth to speak about Fallen Earth’s transition to F2P, upcoming content, and the state of the game past, present, and future.
OnRPG: Thanks for sitting down with us today, Joe and Marie. Can you please give us a brief introduction about yourself and the team you work with?
Marie Croall: I’m the Lead Designer for Reloaded Productions, Cary. I’ve been the Lead Designer for Fallen Earth since its days with Icarus, and continue to be in-charge of all game development, features, gameplay, and source materials.
Joseph Willmon: I’m the Associate Game Director for GamersFirst, and among many other job duties I’m responsible for the smooth integration of Fallen Earth into our Free2Play game catalogue. I also work very closely Marie and her team on game balance, fair monetization, and community relations.
OnRPG: Can you give us an introduction to Fallen Earth, notably for those who haven’t played the game yet?
Marie Croall: Sure. Fallen Earth is a post-apocalyptic sandbox MMO. Players take on the role of a clone in the year 2156 struggling to survive in a world ravaged by a global pandemic and nuclear war. The game features a class-free system and a completely open-world environment of more than 1,000 square kilometers. Because the game uses a skills rather than levels, there are near-infinite choices to mix skills, attributes, and mutations. More than 95 percent of the game’s items, armor, weapons and transportation are player-crafted. The game also has a unique FPS/MMO hybrid combat system that is one-of-a-kind in the MMO landscape.
OnRPG: Many players were skeptical about the transition from a pay to play game to a free one. How did this change in business model come about?
Joseph Willmon: The community response was pretty welcoming, actually. True, there was a brief moment of anxiety between the announcement of Free2Play and when we actually revealed the details of how the monetization would be handled, but that’s to be expected with such a large change. Once we put up the details of the new ways Premium Subscriptions would be handled, the conversation sort of moved on past the payment model and just got right back to talking about the game!
Regarding how the change in business model came about, we’re always looking for opportunities to find gameplay-rich, community driven games like Fallen Earth. When we started talking to Icarus about a possible partnership to help off-load their overhead costs, we ended up diving deep into the game and really liked what we saw. The talks naturally progressed to acquisition, and evolving the business model to Free2Play, which we have a ton of experience with but which is only now starting to enjoy popularity.
Marie Croall: Anyone who’s ever played Fallen Earth can tell you that it’s a unique and fun experience. And while the traditional MMO subscription model did get us a great, small hard-core audience, the facts are that we couldn’t get enough players past the cost of the game to populate the world. The world is so huge that the game really thrives with a large-volume audience. GamersFirst has the experience in the Free2Play market and wanted the title, so here we are!
OnRPG: Can you give us a description of how this new payment model will pan out?
Joseph Willmon: Sure. The details of the Premium Subscriptions can be found at our website (http://www.gamersfirst.com/fallenearth/?q=premium-subscriptions,) but here’s the breakdown: We have one free rank (Scavenger) and three subscription ranks named Survivalist, Wastelander and Commander. As with all GamersFirst titles, free players are not restricted on content or levels; they can go everywhere and do everything, including joining and creating clans, trading, using the auction house and mail system, travel the whole map, do all quests, and run all instances. There is a limit on how much in-game currency (chips) a player who has never paid can amass (to limit gold farming; this goes away if you ever pay), and an eight hour per-day crafting limit. All three levels of the subscriptions open these up and provide quality of life upgrades, such as more character slots, faster experience gains, faster crafting, faster harvesting, more Veteran Reward Points, faction reputation gains and the like. The top subscription tier, the Commander, also comes with a cool feature call the Commander Aura.
We’re also planning on mirroring items found in the marketplace on in-game Reward Merchants as well, so if you have a subscription you can pick some of these items up in the game without having to spend additional money.
OnRPG: Can you give our readers a description of the “Commander Aura” that is included with the new payment model, and tell us how the decision to implement this came about?
Marie Croall: Yeah, the Commander Aura is really cool. It extends some of the Commander’s in-game benefits to everyone in the Commander’s group, including free players. The Aura stacks with other Commanders in the group, so if you have, say, three Commanders in a group, then you’ll see a 15 percent increase on all the stats a Premium Subscription increases (EXP gain, faction gain, etc). This is especially beneficial to groups of players who have friends who can’t afford a subscription, since they can effectively subsidize their free friends’ experience.
Joseph Willmon: Paying players support the game for everyone, and we wanted to find a literal way to project this into the game. The players that go for Commander are the ones who are going out of their way to take care of their friends and allies; these are the same players that pay for Vent servers, host websites, or rent clan-servers in FPSes. As we work to make the game successful and further development without resorting to selling things that trade on the gameplay value, it seemed obvious to allow these players the opportunity to help us and their friends out at the same time.
OnRPG: Since your announcement regarding the transition to an F2P model, what changes have you guys made to the game?
Marie Croall: Kind of a lot, now that I think about it! We’ve updated the new player experience to reduce the sort of dizzying-confusion that can result in starting out in a sandbox MMO, guiding new players to important questlines and learning valuable skills to survive in the wasteland. With July’s Alpha County expansion we raised the level cap to 55, introduced new skill-lines and abilities, new enemies, quests, and added a whole new section for players to quest and discover. Then there’s Fast Travel – a way to unlock travel waypoints to help navigate Fallen Earth’s massive world—unlockable Wardrobe slots that let players customize their appearance, and Progress Towns, which are towns that players must capture and hold from waves of hostile NPCs, building up defenses and extending the passive benefits the towns offer. It’s sort of like bringing the raid to the player, rather than sending the player to the raid. Of course there’s the new Chopper and the upcoming World Event system.
OnRPG: How has the community responded to these updates?
Marie Croall: More supportive than not! We are doing some pretty extensive updates to fundamental gameplay systems players have gotten used to, so there’s some apprehension, but they’re updates that ultimately make the game more awesome by several orders of magnitude. It’s fantastic watching the realization set in that these changes help make Fallen Earth more of a virtual world than a standard linear MMO, and seeing how excited players are getting about that.
OnRPG: Along with the transition to the F2P model, you guys will be rolling out a brand-spanking-new “World Event” system, tell us a little bit about that.
Marie Croall: The World Event system is us making good on our goal of making Fallen Earth the premiere Free2Play sandbox MMO. World Events are dynamically generated events that happen at random all around the world, offering players who participate the opportunity to not only experience more of the world of Fallen Earth, but learn helpful skills, earn chips, and gain valuable, rare resources. World Events come in all sorts of different flavors, so there’s stuff there for PvP players, PvE players, crafters, and roleplayers. We’re keeping sort of quiet about what the actual events are because we want everyone to feel that rush of exploring something new, but as they happen you’ll definitely start to hear about them!
Joseph Willmon: I also want to point out that this system is not just for higher levels. By making the game more sandboxy, we’re adding in new systems that everyone can enjoy rather than just layering content onto the end of the game. There’s a lot of great stuff here, and when you see your first World Event pop up on the map, you should definitely go check it out!
OnRPG: Fallen Earth boasts a strong faction-based loyalty system that plays a role in character benefit, as well as allowing for various RP elements. Will we see any more faction warfare/territory control systems come in to play here?
Marie Croall: The short answer is yes, absolutely; our core focus with the transition to Free2Play is introducing more reasons for players to both compete and cooperate. We are currently working on Faction Territory Control, geared specifically toward letting PvP players capture and hold territory, paving the way for PvE players to exploit the controlled territory. There’s more coming, of course, but this is a huge step in that direction.
OnRPG: Speaking of RP elements, how has your team utilized FE’s robust RP fan base to its advantage in terms of community events and gameplay systems?
Marie Croall: We’re always looking for way to draw the RP fan base into every feature we do. We want every player to feel the same immersion that the RPers bring to the community. Part of the incentive behind releasing the new unlockable Wardrobe Slots was to allow players to customize their appearance to be in accord with the character they want to roleplay as, extending that feeling to everyone in the wasteland.
OnRPG: How will you keep the game balanced between players who pay for the game and those who do not?
Joseph Willmon: Like I mentioned before, we’re not segregating our free players from Premium subscribers, and we’re not limiting them with level caps. We looked carefully at what options we had available to us when creating the subscriptions, and ended-up focusing on things like crafting, leveling – things that make life easier for subscribers rather than just giving direct combat advantages. We’re not offering weapons, armor, resources, or crafted goods on our cash shop, so that’s the main pillar of our paid vs. unpaid balance. Additionally, as mentioned above, since players who opt for the Commander Premium Subscription route can project some of their benefits onto others, it’s still possible to get a leg up without having to pay anything.
Marie Croall: Joe pretty much nailed it. We’ve worked every heard of the last two years to create a game where almost everything is put in the hands of the player, and we’re extremely careful not to mess that up with the change to Free2Play.
OnRPG: What features disassociate Fallen Earth from other F2P games out there?
Marie Croall: Rather than one or two single features, I think what separates fallen earth is how everything is put together. We have a large open world for players to truly find their niche in.
Joseph Willmon: Man, so much! What other Free2Play game has twitch-based third-person combat in a massive seamless world with the ability to craft everything while giving you the opportunity to really define your character from stats to appearance? That was a mouthful, but you get the point!
OnRPG: Personally speaking, what is your favorite feature in Fallen Earth?
Marie Croall: It would be impossible for me to pick one! Although in game I do find myself harvesting and crafting more than anything else. I love being able to make everything I need to get by, from food to ammo.
Joseph Willmon: As someone who has always been into the post-apocalypse setting, for all of Fallen Earth’s awesome systems, I’m a huge fan of the world and the writing. Marie’s team really nailed it here, and I get a huge kick out of making my way through the various settlements and towns, meeting these new personalities and getting caught up in their unique storylines. My favorite NPC is this military guy with a crew cut and armor who gives out Enforcer missions. When you talk to him he says out loud “I give out more missions before 9 am than most people do all day.” Then there was the time I accidentally ran into the Chupacabras…
OnRPG: What do you have to say to gamers who have left Fallen Earth, and players who haven’t given the game a shot yet?
Joseph Willmon: If you’re a vet, definitely come back and check out your Chopper! The world feels so much more alive now than it ever has before, and if you, like me, appreciate Fallen Earth for the opportunity to participate in this living, breathing post-apocalypse, well…we’re waiting to welcome you home!
Marie Croall: The chopper is really cool, but new players have so much to experience that you just don’t find in other games. Ever had a cockroach for a pet? Put an ATV together with your bare hands? Tested dangerous new medications on unwitting specimens? Protected a town from raiders with your group? Explored a junk castle? Strapped a bomb to an ATV and driven into the heart of the Hoover dam just to make a statement? All of this is and more is waiting for you to check it out!
OnRPG: What upcoming features can we see coming to Fallen Earth past the month of October?
Marie Croall: Beyond Faction Territory Control, I can’t really get into specifics. I can say that we’ll look to make the crafting and harvesting of materials more interesting or…. industrial I guess. We also are planning more PvP content and continue on our idea of making PvP and factions affect the world in more dramatic ways. I really can’t get into details because PR has installed kill-switches into our collars if we say too much!
OnRPG: Anything else?
Marie Croall: I suggest you try it out; it’s free after all!
Joseph Willmon: What she said!
OnRPG: Thank you so much for your time! If you want to find other players to join you in your wasteland trials, be sure to check out OnRPG’s active forum thread to share your IGN and meet up with other members of our community.