Exclusive – Nexeon Technologies Face of Mankind: Fall of the Dominion Q A

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Face of Mankind is a Third Person Sandbox MMO that launched officially on August 31st 2006. It was the product of Duplex Systems under the watchful eye of Marko Dieckmann. However, in 2007 a malicious DDoS attack was levied against the Face of Mankind portal, and resulted in major damage to Face of Mankind’s financial venture. In 2008 it was announced that Face of Mankind would be developed in cooperation between Duplex and Nexeon Technologies, Nexeon provided the hosting service Face of Mankind utilized. The MMO re-launced in 2009 under the partnership. After it’s initial success the shooter MMO’s upkeep was transferred from Duplex Systems to Nexeon Technologies out of Houston, TX. Now with Dieckmann on board as creative director Nexeon is looking to bring the sandbox MMO up to speed with a new iteration called Fall of the Dominion, a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter was opened on May 7th. I jumped at the chance to question Marko and the team at Nexeon about it’s past experience with the IP and where the teams new vision will land Face of Mankind: Fall of the Dominion.

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Q: What game first peaked your interest in the MMO genre?

Marko Dieckmann: It all began back in 2000 when I somehow had the urge to create something. As I’ve always been a gamer, one thing was clear; it should be about games. I loved the Wing Commander series (WC3 was just incredible), adventures like Monkey Island 1+2, Space Quest, Indiana Jones, and shooters, especially Doom. I have always been enjoying communities. In my early computer days it’s been text-based BBS systems such as the famous Voyager in Berlin. You logged into the system with a modem and used the chat room or shared files. For Doom 2 for example I organized a tournament in the community. We built a set of 3 special maps for that, each with unique music. I guess all that sparked the interest to forge communities, growing them and keeping them alive.

So the first thing I wanted to create was some sort of portal, where players could hang out, list the games they played and then play them together. That even grew to a thought of doing a 3D lobby where players meet and then they would leave through various gates to enter all sorts of games.

But then I thought why not create an online game myself. In early 2001 I’ve laid out the concepts for a game in which players could enjoy a great story, thousands of players, each with their distinctive role. You know, everything someone who thinks up their first game should not do. Too much of everything, impossible to realize. :-) Later that year I witnessed the launch of Anarchy Online, which I was watching for a while. It was a really tough launch that they had, but nonetheless that was the final spark for me. I said to myself, “I want to do that. Yeah, I want to make an MMO.”

Christopher Allford: Interestingly enough, the first MMO that really stuck with me was Face of Mankind. It was about eight years ago, and I was fresh to online gaming in general. I came across the game in a search, and after spending a little time in it, I was instantly hooked on it. The kind of freedom that it allowed was something I had never seen in an MMO before, and haven’t seen since.

Q: Back in 2001 you founded Duplex Systems and began creating Face of Mankind. The MMO market and technology itself was quite different in those days. Did slower internet speeds and less powerful servers make it more difficult to create an MMO in those days?

Marko Dieckmann: It was quite different indeed. The market was filled with excitement. These games were new and something real special. Today new MMOs come out regularly, built after the same schematic trying to gain the highest profits. Social games go even further, these games are created from psychological and mathematical point of view. Users are analyzed in ways they couldn’t imagine. A game where you constantly click to farm stuff on the screen makes millions because it specifically satisfies certain desires of the players. But I’m beginning to leave the track here.

Less powerful servers were definitely an issue. I remember someone mentioning that 300 connections would be the hard cap of a game server and thought, well that’s not much. Slower internet speeds of course forced you to optimize your packets to the extreme, every bit counts. While that is always a reasonable thing to do, it’s not necessary so much today. But the biggest challenge was working under different operating systems. Working on Windows provided more comfort, but at that time this OS was in no way capable of running a good game server, they were all Linux based. So that was very time consuming. Nowadays that’s much easier. The newest Windows Server OSes are much better and a true alternative.

Q: Face of Mankind was your initial project with Duplex Systems. It required approximately five years of development time to complete. How close did you come to your initial concept? (Creators are seldom completely satisfied with their end result)

Marko Dieckmann: That is true for me as well. I was never fully satisfied with the end result. Actually there is no such thing as an “end result”. The game always changes and becomes a bit better with each iteration. I have to admit that we also grew as developers along the way. At first the concept was rather a vision and became much clearer further in development. You have to make all these experiences to learn. We learned a lot about player freedom on this journey. What I always wanted more is the integration of an actual on-going storyline. But at some point I had to admit that this was too ambitious for a team of our size (we were 1, sometimes 2 programmers, 1 composer, a changing number of level designers (avg 8) and volunteers for community work). At that time nobody earned anything, we lived from our own savings. That alone was very tough. So creating a deep and immersive story just was out of our possibilities. The solution was to give almost everything into the hands of our players, giving them the option to shape the game and create the stories for the 8 factions.

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Q: When co-founding Infernum Studios GmbH to create Project Theralon, what was it like working with Crytek’s CryEngine 3? How does a tool like CryEngine 3 impact development?

Marko Dieckmann: That was a very interesting experience. After 10 years of working on Face of Mankind I was burned out. The same thing happened to Chris Roberts, which is why he took a long break. The industry is just very demanding.

So I decided to hand active development on FoM over to Nexeon, who were already hosting the servers, manage the billing and the community. And I co-founded Infernum Studios with the former management of Frogster Online Gaming. The goal was to create a prototype for a new MMORPG based on an IP that we built in-house.

Working with CryEngine 3 is not necessarily easier than with “smaller” engines. It’s a high caliber engine and a beast of its own. You can create breathtaking visuals, but it also comes with quite a few traps and complex processes, that you have to master to become efficient with it, particularly challenging with small teams. In the end we managed to create a great looking prototype, but the project couldn’t take off for many reasons, that I’m not allowed to talk about. That’s one thing, that in the end pulled me back to Face of Mankind. I think transparency is the key to a good relationship between developers and their community.

Q: Nexeon Technologies was founded in 2009 and soon after took over the development and operation of Face of Mankind in 2011. How long did it take for the phone to ring after Nexeon took over Face of Mankind?

Charles Wood: We actually received several calls and emails within the first hour of the announcement, from players who were excited to see development move forward for the game. We had been players of Face of Mankind for quite a long time, gaining plenty of experience working with Marko during the two years leading up to our inheritance of the game’s development. Although we had a lot of positive feedback, there were also a lot of critics in the community who didn’t like the idea of us developing the game, but after a few patches, we had gotten an idea of what we wanted to do with the game with the backing of the majority of the game’s fans. After two more years of learning through experiences, we decided on the milestone that you see in our Kickstarter now, working together, hand-in-hand, with the original creator of the game, combining our collective knowledge and experience to create the true sandbox concept you see us pushing for today. It has been a lot of work getting to this point, but we feel with the right support, we can make Face of Mankind into the immersive, player-driven game we all want it to be.

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Q: Just how much has the team learned from the Face of Mankind community over the past ten years? How will their feedback help to shape Fall of the Dominion?

Christopher Allford: I will be the first to admit that the community in a game like is the most important aspect. Their input over the last decade has been invaluable, shaping the game and our understanding of how sandboxes work. It hasn’t always been easy though, that’s for sure. Dealing with a community as passionate as us has been a roller coaster, full of friendships, ideas, and plenty of chances to learn from our mistakes. At the same time though, it’s very important that we as developers are also able to express ourselves and our ideas for the game.

Sometimes this means making hard decisions that the community may not necessarily agree with, but we have never done so without good reason. Moving forward into this milestone, community outreach and involvement has been one of our top priorities. Realizing the importance of honesty and openness, we aim to keep our users more connected to the design of the game. If we make a decision that they may not agree with, we would like to make sure they understand why, and equally, give them opportunities to suggest mechanics and features to better the game.

Q: Face of Mankind: Fall of Dominion promises real weight to the decisions players make. Besides full loot drops, what kind of ramifications fall upon a player when they die? Is there permadeath in Face of Mankind?

Christopher Allford: Historically, Face of Mankind has always included permadeath. What we have come to discover though, is that in our case, it has always been something of a hinderance. New players and those seeking to change their identities have only ever been the ones to permadie, which actually works against what we aim to do in Fall of the Dominion. Your most important asset in the game is your reputation. This will decide what players think of you and how they will interact with you.

If you are known as a nightmarish ganker who plays the game purely to terrorize others, many players will do their best to avoid you, or kill you the moment they catch sight of you. It is in here that the deepest of consequences lie in Face of Mankind: Fall of the Dominion. You cannot escape what you do to other players, and they are free to interact with you in any way they see fit.

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Q: One of the new additions in the Fall of Dominion update will be two separate prison colonies. Does the development team expect players to create their own hierarchy from within the prison colonies? Will players have to essentially start over like a real ex-con upon release?

Christopher Allford: Originally the ability to arrest had a profound impact on the game, given to the faction which defined the laws of society and enforced them. Their ability allowed them to take players out of the game for a period of time equal to their crimes, creating an organization directly antagonistic to everything else in the game. In our experience, this doesn’t work out too well because it’s hard to mechanically define what is and isn’t a crime, in a game so driven by player freedom. For this reason we opted to make a few changes to the way prison works in the milestone.

Rather than mechanically defining who is and isn’t a criminal, we wanted to give players the ability to do so through the bounty system. Bounties allow players to place a target on each other’s heads. Once a bounty is placed, other players may kill them to collect the bounty, or a faction that owns a prison territory may arrest them, sending them to jail and collecting additional funds. As an actual consequence with this, the amount of money in the bounty will also deduct a portion of the target’s funds.

When a player is arrested, all of their items are confiscated and stored. They are given methods to escape and be broken out, but if they do their items will not be returned. We feel this, along with the lost money from the bounty, are adequate penalties to getting arrested.

Q: How large of a factor do you anticipate piracy being in Face of Mankind: Fall of Dominion? Will the risk of piracy be worth the gain of crafting minerals?

Christopher Allford: Piracy is one of the most interesting elements of the new crafting system in my opinion. The risk to piracy is mostly one of potential death, and gaining the reputation of someone that goes around killing harmless miners and stealing their goods. It will be common for users to mine in groups, making it less likely that they will be lonely and bored. We feel this will be beneficial to the game, and add to the minor complexities of crafting in the game. As for the worth, that’s really up to the individual, and whether they get caught or not :)

Q: Will the game universe be large enough for players to set out in the early stages and “stake a claim” of their own without other players being aware?

Christopher Allford: This answer to this question actually depends upon whether or not we can reach our $250,000 stretch goal. I’ll answer about what will happen as planned right now, and Marko will tell you what will happen if we reach that magical number!

There are a number of worlds, but due to the overall size of the game universe, it isn’t really possible for anyone to go unnoticed if they start laying claim to territories. That isn’t to say there isn’t a lot of territory, we have plans for many different capturable services around the worlds. Their value will depend entirely upon their location in the Vortex Network, and so bigger factions will care less about smaller territories, giving the newer factions an area all their own to fight over.

Marko Dieckmann: Our ultimate goal is to recreate the game world with a new engine. We have already released a video of our technology prototype. We want to create large open spaces, where players have enough room to claim their territory. Then it would indeed be possible to settle down without other players taking notice immediately. But the world will not be so huge, that it takes ages to travel. If it is too huge, the world will just become empty and lifeless, which is not what we want. We aim to find the right compromise of a large world filled with many players.

Q: The player progression outlined on your KS page once again reinforces a players freedom to adapt their character to players specific style. One of the forms of progression mentioned is through “actual experiences.” Can you elaborate on this detail?

Christopher Allford: As we’ve mentioned before, one of the strongest beliefs for us is that the players should be at the heart of everything in the game. You as a character in our world are merely an extension of your real-life persona, with everything you do reflecting through your character. The social skills you have in real life will translate to the game, just as your hand-eye coordination and leadership abilities. Playing Face of Mankind: Fall of the Dominion will reward you as an individual, playing off some of your real life talents and enhancing them, much in the same way it will reward you as a character. We feel that ultimately this will create the most immersive game possible, and keep players interested for years to come.

Q: How difficult is it to compensate and keep gameplay fair when players with differing connection speeds are locked in large scale third person shooter combat?

Marko Dieckmann: That’s the biggest challenge in a shooter MMO. You can only compensate that much. It will never be completely balance if the latency difference is too big (500+ ms). We have implemented a few methods of compensation to make it rather balanced for latencies up to 300 ms. One such method is putting the game’s simulation time on all of the clients a bit into the past, so that players around you appear moving smoothly. Players with 100ms should not have much advantage over those with 300ms. Latency varies of course and the fact that our game has twitch based combat action requires a larger update rate. So you can only compensate that much, not everything can be totally smooth at all times.

However, in the process of developing a total of 3 different MMO server architectures now, I am confident to further improve this. I’d like to implement a new idea that further reduces the bandwidth of the game.

Q: It’s mentioned many times that the team at Nexeon consists of gamers, what kind of path would you choose with the new additions Face of Mankind will bring to the original formula? Bounty hunter? Mercenary? Crime Lord?

Christopher Allford: Player roles in the original Face of Mankind were entirely dependent upon the faction you were in and the style that you chose to play with. This was severely limiting, in that you had to follow the rules of your faction, and the number of game mechanics that supported other roles were insignificant. In Fall of the Dominion, users will be free to form their own factions, and are now being supported by a number of interesting game mechanics. These will allow players to do and be any number of things. We are adding support for everything from a straight laced detective searching for stolen goods, to a drug dealing kingpin, ruling a criminal underground from his throne at the edge of the galaxy. Ideally we would like anything to be possible.

Marko Dieckmann: The long-term goal is provide even more tools to the players to express themselves in our sandbox. There must be a large number of options available to organize politics, even more territory types that players can control. Also included in this goal is the option to build, especially once the game world is larger and more open. Players should be able to build their own bases and stations and decorate their apartments. There are tons of options to explore, new ideas never stop coming. :-)

Now, if your wondering where the “What happened with Face of Mankind Rebirth” questions are, I took this interview as an opportunity to talk with Marko and Nexeon rather than opening old wounds. Face of Mankind has a chance for a powerful update if Fall of the Dominion’s crowdfunding efforts are successful. The team is re-energized and thinking of ways to deliver a great experience to their players. Marko is coming back to Face of Mankind with a fresh set of eyes. Nexeon has shown their hand, and they’ve gone all in with Fall of the Dominion. For more information on Nexeon’s campaign, visit their Kickstarter page.


Face of Mankind: Fall of the Dominion -- Kicktraq Mini

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Dylan Zellmer

Dylan splits time between games journalism, designing video games, and playing them. Outside of his deep involvement in the games industry, he enjoys It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, fitness, and family.
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  • FoM Vet

    This game unfortunately lived its glory years long ago, there are games/MMO’s out there that will set deadlines for content and deliver on those deadlines, there are games with larger and improved communities and this game, while a gem in the rough through 2000 to 4 it slowly degraded with lack of money and breakdown of developer and player communications. Not as bad as AV and Darkfall but certainly a close contender.

    • http://twitter.com/SufferingPariah Sheep

      If you’ve been around now, you would know that the developer-to-player communication is beyond any of those “larger and improved communities” of games.

      If you’d check out the developer blogs and the updates on the this Kickstarter, you’d see that this would be most glorious and greatest iteration of Face of Mankind by quite a bit. I highly recommend checking it out.

      • FoM Vet

        I’m afraid I have played the latest iteration and it still is an awful, awful game. The developers claim its a sandbox and suggest there are multiple avenues of creating and developing your character but there simply isn’t. The Kickstarter has been all talk, no videos of the current game or features being worked on have been posted. People vote on what they see and not on what they hear.

        • http://twitter.com/SufferingPariah Sheep

          The current game has absolutely nothing to do with this project, design-wise , and is irrelevant to showing the final product’s features.

          “The Kickstarter has been all talk, no videos of the current game or features being
          worked on have been posted.”

          Do you even know what the Kickstarter will do (or what a Kickstarter is)?

          Because y’know, it was on that KS page that you seem to have skimmed.
          Here are the KS goals:

          “The goal of $50,000 is the minimum goal to be able to complete the development work that we started. This includes programming, improving a range of art assets and it will ensure a proper launch with a small advertising budget”

          At $75,000 we will be able to afford additional art assets, allowing us to add more character customization to the game. We feel it’s important that you are able to express yourself through your character.

          At $100,000 we will expand the galaxy, creating two completely new colonies to explore and conquer. This will expand the size of the Vortex Network and lets us make the galaxy even more epic. Along with these new colonies we will further expand on other content, like new music, items, augmentations and styles for your gear.

          At $175,000 we will redesign and remake all of the characters and their equipment (includes nearly all items). We would like to see new avatars that better reflect the cyberpunk theme of the game, and we have always dreamt of redoing the animations.

          At $250,000 we will have raised enough capital to fully remake the game, including a new rendering engine, new wide open worlds, new vegetation, vehicles, and breathtaking outdoor complexes”

          They actually are proven to be able to implement this , they’ve seen what makes FoM work and what makes it not work, but they’ve never actually had the funding to implement those things.

          Besides that, their long-term goal is the what the 250k stretch goal gives them. Fully remaking the game with a new engine. Even if they only fund it to 50k, they’ll still be working towards that,

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-fRuyMULU8 > and they do have far more “what people see” than you imply.

          In the developer blogs leading up to this, there were things even more concrete, if people would like to see that, they should contact nexeon. Then again, there were screenshots and videos like that within the game mechanics video for the Kickstarter that will be in the new game.

          The developers and, the entire community of active players in a sense, has had to fight “FoM Vets” from even before the Kickstarter, The game, in ways, deserves its bad reputation /of those times/, but not from this team who have been working hard for over a year on this.

          Considering this is pretty much the exact same thing, I find this hard to take seriously when it’s a blatant contradiction of at least 1-2 facts.

          “suggest there are multiple avenues of creating and developing your character but there simply isn’t.”

          It will have player-made factions this time, you won’t have to shape your character within the structures of the storyline factions, as well as a skill system.(read: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53Rn8ye17B4 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aDunj15H5Q)

          However , even in those structures, and I just played this game 2 days ago-

          (the old version, known as Legacy FoM now, was kept open for those who had an account before the Kickstarter began and which will eventually go down [And trust me , it needs this Kickstarter , but it was pretty good] )

          -and you can still pretty much play any role you wish within those, unless you’re referring to other types of customization which would be:
          “At $75,000 we will be able to afford additional art assets, allowing us to add more character customization to the game. We feel it’s important that you are able to express yourself through your character.”

          I’m pretty sure what you’re saying here is just lol.

          Really, even what you’re saying that ,some of which, may apply to Legacy FoM, you’re pretty much stating a view which is trying to invalidate and contradict everything posted on the Kickstarter and everything outlined in the Fall of the Dominion design.

          (IE completely untrue)

          So yeah.

          • FoM Vet

            Unfortunately all of what you said would be relevant if FoM was being developed from the money being tipped into the kickstarter, unfortuantely for you FoM is ALREADY A GAME and the kickstarter money is just going to be adding stuff ontop of what FoM already is. There are videos of what the game is all about and following the devblogs that has been DEVELOPMENT footage of whats going to change in the game, I don’t see how 50k is going to change a whole lot for this game considering they’ve already shown the little amount of content its actually going to pay for.

          • http://twitter.com/SufferingPariah Sheep

            I already disproved that last claim. (IE the videos I linked which you are welcome to continue to dispute I suppose)

            A Kickstarter ,in this case, is to fund development, claiming that they haven’t showed enough when that’s completely besides the point and impossible without funding. They have shown quite a fair bit, as I’ve already said.

            Explaining how you think that’s a little amount of content in any way would also help. I do disagree without any details currently of your criticism there.

            “FoM is ALREADY A GAME” that’s actually far more attractive to a backer because you have developers with 10 years of actual experience but Legacy(the previous iteration) Face of Mankind was a pretty flawed game(by this I mean enjoyable with major flaws that prevent the system it works in from reaching its full potential )

            Well what you said would be a selling point if this was really what you could call “Face of Mankind”

            This is to make a /different game/ , it’s really only in FoM in name and most of the concept, The old Face of Mankind itself is scrapped completely and won’t even exist a while after this is funded. (and they legally cannot change the name of it due to the engine license for Face of Mankind)

            And IT IS being developed from all of the money from the Kickstarter , they couldn’t possibly afford any of these changes on their current budget.

            “Q: How can you justify asking for $50,000 if you aren’t creating any art assets?

            I think the best way to explain this would be to break down our expenses:

            10% Kickstarter/Amazon Fees

            20% Rewards

            10% Advertising

            10% Campaign Expenses

            35% Programming

            15% Art Assets (Improving animations, clothing, etc)

            A large chunk of the Kickstarter money is gone before we even get to lay our hands on it. After we do, we are going to set aside some money for advertising, with the rest funding the development until completion.”

            If you can dispute this with actual knowledge on how much these things should take, then feel free to try.

            The 50k will literally change everything as was said before. The design is something that has been partly derived from the flaws of the old game(those flaws will be removed ,so to speak) And also a /different game/ due to the massive changes.

            “10% Kickstarter/Amazon Fees
            20% Rewards
            10% Advertising
            10% Campaign Expenses
            35% Programming
            15% Art Assets (Improving animations, clothing, etc)”

            By the way, they will be working toward the engine remake even if they only reach $50,000. Building the game with a new engine is hardly “a little amount of content”

            And also from the KS page itself: “Creating a game is not cheap, and $50,000 is incredibly low for something with such freedom”

            Reminds me of when people didn’t realize that creating DLC characters for Skullgirls would cost as much as it did(and they wanted even more, specifically $150,000)

            (read: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/keep-skullgirls-growing)

  • Loxic

    It’s an epic game! Support it!

  • Adam Jensen

    GREAT game, even if it’s old this kickstarter campaign is exactly what it needs to get up to date with modern standards.