Developer Journals

Developer Journals
Fallen Earth: Villains We Love to Hate Pt. 3

Suzie Ford | 11 May 2009 11:43
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In part three of WarCry's exclusive developer journal by Grace Hagood, a writer and game developer for the upcoming post-apocalyptic MMO, Fallen Earth, fans learn about the development of some of the villain factions in the game. In the this part of the series, Grace discusses the Judges, a villain faction of major religious fanatics.

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Let's face it: religion is a touchy subject. A lot of game designers would rather steer clear of including religion in their work. However, a game like Fallen Earth, set in a future based on extrapolations of current society, can't ignore the reality of religious extremism. What we can do, though, is use our particular (and sometimes peculiar) filters to present religious fanaticism in a post-apocalyptic framework.

Fallen Earth has several groups with religious or pseudo-religious elements. One of our print ads features a woman hiding from some dark strangers, and the tagline reads, "I'm low on bullets, out of gas, and some freaks are trying to steal my ride to worship as a god." Those freaks are the CoGs, a group that reveres technology and attempts to restore broken devices through worship. The Cult of the Dead is another zealot group, human worshipers of the vampiric Pale Ones. Even player factions like the Lightbearers have some hints of religion; Buddhist philosophy provides a strong tone for the group.

My favorite fanatics are the Judges. Players meet the Judges in Mumford, one of the starter towns. The Judges have been drawn there by what they believe is a sign -- a "falling star" -- to offer their own brand of salvation to the population. Players who miss Mumford will encounter the Judges in Coppermine, further into the Plateau. Here they begin showing their true colors. They have forcibly taken over a mine searching for some kind of relics. They've also murdered most of the citizens in the neighboring towns of Pinkston and Mowbray because they viewed the populace as sinful beyond redemption. From there, the Judges only get crueler and quicker to... well... judge.

Of the villain groups, the Judges have probably changed the least from their original form to their current iteration. They started out as a Judeo-Christian group of survivalists who hunkered down in a stronghold as civilization collapsed and came out some years later with a notion that God chose them to finish cleansing sin from the world. In their early development, the men were in charge, while women were sequestered in the stronghold, called the Ark. As a strongly patriarchal group with strict codes of conduct and a very particular interpretation of their sacred texts, the Judges bore some striking similarities to well-known groups like the FLDS, the Branch Davidians, and Jim Jones's People's Temple.

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I suppose that's what interested me most about the Judges. I'm intrigued because their beliefs seem very real; they're the kind of religious cult I imagine will actually evolve should society crumble. Their realism was also a little problematic. It made them perhaps a bit too generic (as far as cults can be generic). I thought about what could distinguish such a cult in Fallen Earth. We've worked hard to ensure that every group has an interesting back-story and motivations, and I felt we had room for improvement with the Judges.

Lee Hammock, our lead designer, allowed me to tweak the group's history. I kept many of the basic elements. The Ark is an awesome name for a stronghold, and we agreed that we wanted it to be a major instance in the Grainway. The Judges are still monotheistic and use some of the rhetoric and philosophy of modern Judeo-Christian cults. That choice makes sense, given that Fallen Earth is set in northern Arizona, where a number of fundamentalist Mormon splinter groups and neo-Christian apocalypse cults are known to function currently.

Hypocrisy is also an important element of the Judges, and always has been. They believe God sent the Shiva virus as a plague to kill sinners and that their mission is to finish what the Shiva virus started. They simultaneously believe in the biblical commandment "Thou shalt not kill" and that their Lord wants sinners exterminated, and refuse to see those two ideas as mutually exclusive. Similarly, they despise mutants as abominations, yet their leader exhibits powers that any outsider would recognize as mutations.

I also liked the idea that the group kept its women sequestered, though I wanted to change the reason. The leader of the Judges was written up as a woman before I ever got my hands on their history, and I thought that was strange considering they were so patriarchal. To deal with that disparity, I made the founder of the Judges a woman. The Judges now believe that their women have been chosen to lead them, and the High Inquisitor is always a woman. The women remain in the Ark because they are viewed as too precious to be exposed to the filth of the outside world. That change created an interesting dynamic and moved the group towards a curious kind of gender equality.

The last change I lobbied for was a story arc that opened a possibility of redemption for the Judges. Players will find some hints of that possibility in places like Barret Manor, where one of the Judges has left the group to settle down with a local gal, or through reading the short story called "The Daughters of Sarah" on our forums. I'm not at liberty to say exactly how the Judges' story arc progresses, but I can tell you that the players will have some meaty choices. What choice will you make when you get to judge the Judges?

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