Fallen Earth going F2P, developers explain details

Fallen Earth is an action-MMO set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, built around faction warfare and team tactics. Until now it's been a subscription-based game, but tomorrow it goes free-to-play. That's just a part of how Fallen Earth is changing, however. Developer Reloaded Productions is keen to open up the game to more sandbox play, and to intensify the ongoing faction warfare.

Reloaded Productions' lead designer Mariel Croall and associate game director Joseph Willmon, of GamersFirst, were good enough to answer some questions about what's changing in Fallen Earth.

PCG: So is the switch to free to play gaming a matter of survival, or a matter of growth for a smaller MMO these days?

Joseph Willmon: I think that's really just two ways of saying the same thing. The idea isn't to survive, it's to grow and thrive! F2P enables that in a way that traditional model doesn't, especially given the MMO market of today where there are a lot of games vying for people's attention.

Marie Croall: Growth of the player base is really the big goal we're looking to hit on the F2P transition. Fallen Earth is heavily player-driven, from the economy to the game's crafting system, and without players the whole thing comes apart. Add to the fact that Fallen Earth is so huge, and a large, consistent player-base becomes paramount to success. Removing the entry barrier of the box-copy and subscription should bring in a whole new group of players to the game.

PCG: MMO communities can be really resistant to change, particularly a sudden influx of F2P members. How have your veterans reacted to the change?

Joseph Willmon: We'd be lying if we didn't say there was a good amount of anxiety between the announcement of F2P and the release of details on the new payment model, but that's understandable; even something as small as a change in UI can spark a reaction, and going F2P is huge. Since we revealed the details though, the reaction was pretty much like “Oh, well, that's OK then” and everyone just got back to talking about the game.

Still, there are some Fallen Earth vets predicting that the sky is falling, but I think we'd be more worried if we didn't have that. We're expecting a good-sized influx in the first 30 days, and then it's up to us to keep them there.

For veterans who play a lot of Fallen Earth, what kind of pricing options are available to them? What are the incentives to continue paying a subscription?

Joseph Willmon: Kind of a lot. A change in business model is a big deal, and we wanted to make sure vets knew we had their backs during the transition. First and foremost, any player that has subscription time left on their account when the game goes F2P on Oct. 12th will automatically be converted up to the Commander Premium Subscription (the highest tier) for the remainder of their sub time, and they'll get a permanent discount of more than 30% on that subscription if they decide to continue after that date.

Starting back in July we've been giving monthly gifts to subscribers as well (so far they've been unique appearance items and pets), which is a system we'll continue through the F2P transition and beyond. In addition, we'll be unlocking some of the new wardrobe slots for free for everyone who has stayed subscribed from July to the F2P transition.

Marie Croall: The coolest thing we're giving away has to be the new Spiked Chopper mount! This is free to everyone who has ever purchased the game at digitally, at retail, or converted a trial account to a subscription. If that's you, log in and check it out!

PCG: I was interested to read about commander bonuses for premium members. Do you see the role of premium members as leaders, in the community and in the game?

Joseph Willmon: Yes, certainly, though especially in the case of those who decide to go for the Commander level. We're acknowledging the fact that in every game, from MMO to RTS to FPS, there are people who go the extra mile to benefit those around them; they run Vent servers, host community sites, and rent practice servers. These players are excited about supporting the game they love, and their contributions not only help continue develop the game but raise the engagement of those around them. So we wanted to give them a tool to do that in the game.

PCG: What type of content will be tied to micro-transactions? You are saying there are no content limits for free players. What do you mean by that?

Joseph Willmon: Some games that are converting to free-to-play are setting this precedent where they charge for classes or zones or raid content. We're not doing that. It doesn't make sense to split everyone up, letting the “haves” go here and keeping the “have nots” sequestered in some other zone. We want everyone to mingle; we want free players to join groups and clans and participate in the economy, and we want them to be able to see if paying will actually benefit them by hanging out with players that do pay.

The micro-transactions will fall into several categories like services—such as name changes, faction resets, character respecs—appearance items, mounts, wardrobe slots, and a la carte versions of the benefits that subscriptions provide. Additionally, all accounts (free and paid) will accrue monthly Reward Points, in varying quantities, that can be used to purchase these things without having to pay any real money.

Marie Croall: One thing you won't see is resources or player-crafted items for sale. It's an easy out, just selling things people obviously want, but that would diminish the actual value of earning things using the in-game systems we've all worked so hard to develop. We'd rather make the game great and find ways to compensate the players that choose to support our efforts rather than trading on the soul of the game.

PCG: What type of missions will pop up as world events? Are these just minor side-quests?

Marie Croall: We have a whole bunch of different missions in all areas for all levels, and they are designed to let the player have more of an effect on the world of Fallen Earth. They also can be used as an incentive to level a particular skill or trade. For example, you can come across one of the many settlements in-game and find that they need high-quality bandages your character can't make yet. As a result of the quest, you'll not only get experience and in-game rewards, but you'll have a useful skill as you continue on your journey. Other missions may have you attacking an outpost to hone your infiltration skills or defending a town to brush up on multi-creature battles that have a direct connection to PvP gameplay. We're focusing on delivering satisfying rewards beyond just a loot drop.

PCG: Finally, how do you see the game developing and expanding in the coming months?

Marie Croall: The big next step after F2P is Faction Territory Control, where the factions can battle to control chunks of land that provide unique and significant benefits accessible only by the factions that control them. This will start out in a new bit of land no one's ever seen before, but the war could escalate very quickly…