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E3 2009: Fallen Earth lead designer says 'We're not the Fallout MMO'

Tracey John

It's a post-apocalyptic world. Civilization has completely collapsed. You find yourself scavenging for food and supplies on a barren American frontier. And the thing you're looking for? Clean water. Just watch out for giant mutants along the way.

No, I didn't just describe a Fallout game. Well, actually I did, but I'm also loosely describing the plot of Fallen Earth. Developed by North Carolina-based studio Fallen Earth LLC, the MMO shooter takes place during the near future in America's Grand Canyon and allows players to switch between third- and first-person views. The game promises over 600 hours of play, extensive character customization, no fixed classes but six factions, and plenty of everything that good MMOs have to offer: an epic, immersive story, voice-over in missions as well as tons of equipment, weapons, vehicles, crafting and PvP.

However, besides all that, there was one main idea that lead designer Lee Hammock wanted me to take away from our demo session at E3: Fallen Earth is not the Fallout MMO. See his explanation why.

What were your post-apocalyptic influences for this game?

Of course, there are the Mad Max movies, because you can't really do that these days without looking at those. But also stuff like The Postman, more the book than the movie. The movie, no good, but the book is awesome. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Alas, Babylon. We have a lot of big readers in our content department. Also, role-playing games like Twilight 2000 and old computer games like Wasteland, and of course, Fallout to some extent. But we try not to draw too many parallels to Fallout.

[laughs] Now why would you do that?

We get a lot of people who look at our game, see anything post-apocalyptic and go, "Ooh, look a Fallout MMO!" But no! It's not Fallout! Road Warrior existed before Fallout!

I take it this happens to you a lot.

When we went to Gen Con a few years ago, that's all we got. People would say, "Oh, it's a Fallout MMO!" And then they'd play it and be like, "Okay, it's not a Fallout MMO." We're a completely different area, and we're a completely different feel, different humor. We don't have the faux '50s thing going on at all. There's no Power Armor in our game. It's a very different game, but people have trouble seeing that on first glance basically.

Why do you think that?

Because there haven't been many post-apocalyptic games. I mean, really successful ones in terms of story-driven MMOs. We're going very real-world-plus-mutants and not a lot of RPG-oriented games have done that sort of the thing. The main games doing that are Wasteland and Fallout.

But again, we're trying to go for a different look. Honestly, our look is a lot more Road Warrior, because we have the mohawks and the football pads and the desert and everything. So that's really in a lot of ways what we're shooting for.

In some ways [the comparison is] good; it gets people interested because Fallout's a good game. But on another level, it's annoying because it's like we're our own thing. So it's a mixed blessing. I'd love for people to not bring up the comparison so much but at the same time if people go, "Hey, I want to play this game because it reminds me of Fallout," well, that's cool too. Hopefully they'll play our game and realize that it stands on its own two feet and isn't just a Fallout clone.

Well, Bethesda is purportedly trying to get the rights from Interplay to make a Fallout MMO...

Which would be our main competition, when and if they actually ever get around to getting it out.

Does that worry you?

Well, their thing is so far off that they don't even actually have the rights yet. And I'm a huge Fallout fan; I just downloaded the last round of DLC for Fallout 3 and I've been playing that at home. I've spent way too much time playing Fallout 3. As a player, I want to see a Fallout MMO. As a person working on Fallen Earth... eh, maybe not so much because it's direct competition.

So despite not wanting your game to be called a "Fallout MMO," you admit you're influenced by Fallout?

Yes. It's impossible to play as much Fallout as I have and not carry something away from it. I'm not going to sit here and say, "There's nothing in here that's anything like Fallout!" Because yeah, there's stuff we're influenced by. We don't have a Brotherhood of Steel or anything like that. You're not going to look at it and go, "Oh, this group's the Brotherhood of Steel" or "Here are the ghouls with a different name." We don't have any of that.

It's not like we re-textured it and tried to sell it as ours. Fallen Earth is completely its own thing. Well, we do both have really big mutant guys. That's really about it. And we both have a humor aspect to [our games] but we find our humor in different places [than Fallout]. They go for the 1950s-everything-is-cheery-suburbia thing. Our humor is more ironic. We're going for a faux corporate '90s sort of thing. We're definitely going for a different feel but it's not something you necessarily pick up the first time people look at the game.

Fallen Earth is slated for release on the PC later this year. Until then, check out Massively's video of the E3 demo below, where you can see for yourself whether the Fallout comparison is valid:

Massively was on the ground in Los Angeles last week and covering all the latest E3 MMO news coming from the convention. Check out our breaking coverage (or all the Joystiq network E3 reporting) and keep your eye on Massively's front page for the latest developments.

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