Preparing for the apocalypse (again): GamersFirst on Fallen Earth's F2P shift

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|10.06.11

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Preparing for the apocalypse (again): GamersFirst on Fallen Earth's F2P shift
Fallen Earth
Today was my last day in Fallen Earth. My subscription ran out, so I was cut off from everything: glorious crafting, expansive exploration, black humor, and gas mask fashionware. Fortunately, my adventures will resume on October 12th, when Fallen Earth officially makes its transition to a hybrid free-to-play/subscription model.

Like many current players and potential clones, we are understandably curious about the implications and (pardon the pun) fallout from such a fundamental shift in the business model. Will F2P be the savior of this niche game? What's being done to prepare for the change? To answer these questions and more, we talked to Joseph Willmon, an associate game director for GamersFirst.

Massively: How are you preparing your servers for the added influx of free-to-play tourists?

Joseph Willmon: We're still wrapping up some of the final stages of settling the Fallen Earth servers into their new homes at GamersFirst, so soon they'll be as optimized as we want them to be. We're lucky in that Fallen Earth was designed from the ground up to support lots of people playing -- we'd have to blow all estimates out of the water really quickly in order for population to be an issue, which wouldn't be such a bad problem to have!

How has feedback been from veteran players regarding this transition to F2P?

It's tough to make a statement that will apply to everyone that's made a forum or Facebook post, but the overall sentiment seems to be that Fallen Earth has always been a fantastic game deserving of more exposure, and switching to free-to-play should be just the thing to get it that exposure. There was a lot of justifiable anxiety leading up to the announcement of how we were modeling the premium subscriptions, but the reactions since then have been almost uniformly positive and welcoming. I've seen a lot of awesome comments about Fallen Earth's F2P model being the fairest out there, and that's really what we're going for.

Fallen Earth dune buggy
There's a lot of focus on the F2P aspect of this, but if players want to stay subscribed, they'll actually be compensated quite well in game. Can you describe those subscriber rewards for us?

Fallen Earth wouldn't be here today if it weren't for everyone who bought a box copy and subscribed. We're not going to move forward without showing our appreciation, and to that end we've got three different groups of gifts we've been giving and/or plan to give.

Since July we've been giving out monthly gifts to active subscribers as a way of saying thanks for supporting Fallen Earth. When the game goes F2P, this will continue on as a benefit for having a Premium subscription in any given month. Unlike how we've already been doing it though, we won't be announcing what the gifts are ahead of time.

To everyone who has stayed subscribed from July through the F2P transition, we're giving out some of the newly announced wardrobe slots. Lastly, we have a very special item that we're very excited about giving to everyone who had ever bought a copy of the game or subscribed before the F2P transition, but you need to wait till next week for the announcement.

Is there a difference in accounts between someone who just starts F2P on the Scavenger tier, and someone who is a former paying player who decides to go down to Scavenger?

Technically yes. If you ever pay (or have ever paid in the past), you won't be subject to the chips limit that free accounts that have never been paid for are saddled with. We're also putting together a "first time purchase" package that will grant permanent benefits to an account the first time it's purchased, meaning that if you ever paid but stopped, there would be a number of things differentiating your account from a standard free account.

When the game originally launched, the GM and Hazmat community was outstanding. It still is, but especially at launch, this level of support is important to help new players find their way and stay in the game. Do you plan to take on this F2P launch in the same way, with extra attention from the in-game GMs and Hazmat team?

Well, as you know, GamersFirst is all about community, and that's one thing we're never going to compromise on. We'll continue to support our entire playerbase though our online knowledgebase and forums, and that includes the stellar Hazmat community system. The in-game help channel is also the default chat channel when you start out, and it's specifically there to allow experienced players to help out as new players begin to navigate the enormous -- and sometimes complex -- world of Fallen Earth.

Considering the fact that this F2P launch could be called a second launch for the game, can you say whether there any additional advertising being pushed by GamersFirst to let people know about the game, possibly for the first time?

We were planning on etching the Fallen Earth logo into the moon, but it turns out somebody already beat us to the punch, so now we're just going to have to focus on the standard stuff! Honestly, though, one of the main driving factors behind GamersFirst acquisition of Fallen Earth was to expose our existing membership to the game while raising the bar for what a F2P game can be. We believe that the gameplay and Fallen Earth's rich source material will resonate with our European playerbase. Along with that, we plan to engage players though media partners (like Massively) with giveaways, contests, community outreach, and more standard media coverage.

Will there be cross-promotion with APB: Reloaded or other GamersFirst games? (Like launch client ads, etc.?)

Potentially, though it's not something we're prioritizing right now. That said, there are interesting opportunities we're pursuing for both games to benefit from one another in terms of development, but that's about all I can say right now!

You mentioned in a previous interview with us that GamersFirst is providing more resources to make Fallen Earth even better than before. Can you elaborate on what types of upcoming changes will be made in direct correlation with these new GamersFirst resources?

Certainly. Fallen Earth has previously been very content driven. The team was hard at work using the existing design capabilities to create additional content in the form of the zones that were released post-launch (like Alpha County). Despite Fallen Earth's huge world and class-free progression, it ended up feeling more themepark than sandbox. We want Fallen Earth to fulfill its destiny as a sandbox, and the resources and horsepower GamersFirst is providing is geared towards that end.

Starting with world events (to be introduced in the F2P transition patch), we're rolling out new systems instead of new content. World events will dynamically trigger different... experiences, I guess is the best way to put it... at certain points in the world. If the event is one in which the player is interested -- if you're a crafter, for instance, and it's a world event where a town needs more supplies -- then you go to that location and attempt to help out. Other events might just provide a benefit to players who want to hold a roleplaying event there. It breathes new life into the world as a whole rather than treating it as a linear progression of zones.

Complementing the more PvE-focused world events will be the PvP faction territory control. We'll talk about it more as we get closer, but this is our next step towards making faction choice and PvP a lot more meaningful.

Thanks for speaking with us!
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