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GDC 2010: Fallen Earth comes to the Mac, brings an iPhone app

Fallen Earth is a respectable postapocalyptic MMO -- I've never played it (one MMO is enough for me, and the gigantic World of Warcraft is still claiming my time), but it's grown pretty popular since release in September of last year. And now the game is set to pick up another chunk of audience, as the owner Icarus Studios has announced that they're releasing a Mac client for the game. It's currently in beta (and was made using Wine), but if you're interested in trying out a new MMO with a postapocalyptic twist, head on over, give the client a download (you'll need a game account, though there's a free trial available), and give the team a good Mac welcome.

That's not all, though -- Icarus is also working on their very own iPhone app, and I got to play with it this week at their GDC 2010 booth. For Fallen Earth players, it'll be a must-get, but even if you're not currently a player of the game, the app is a shining example of what's possible with a "supplementary" game application -- it allows for all sorts of in-game functions directly from Apple's handheld device.



The app is pretty barebones in terms of main screen UI -- there's simply a menu that leads you off to all of the app's various functions. But the functions are what's most fascinating about this: almost anything that you can do outside of combat in the game can actually be performed using the iPhone app. It works as a full gear and inventory viewer -- Icarus has replicated the game's UI for the player character's gear and inventory, so you can browse and examine your gear within in the app just like you can any time in the game.

That's not unheard of in the current MMO space (Blizzard has a similar viewer app for WoW), but this is: Fallen Earth's app goes beyond just viewing to actually acting and interacting with items in the real game. Logging into the app is just like logging into the game, so you can check the ingame mail system directly from the app, and even send mail out to other players from the iPhone. You can craft items directly on the iPhone, assuming you have the items in your inventory -- and even if you don't, you can access the in-game auction house to both buy and sell items from within the app. Purchased items appear in the mail window, so you can collect them there -- if one of your guildies needs a certain item crafted and you're away from your main PC client, you can log on to the app, buy the necessary crafting materials, craft the items (crafting is a passive action in the game that can sometimes take hours, so you can set items in the queue via the app), and then send them items away to your friend all without ever using the desktop client. Crafting gives XP, too, so you could potentially level your character using just the iPhone app. That's pretty incredible.

The app also has full messaging and chat ability -- you can chat directly with players either in the game (or even logged in using their own iPhone), and send private messages, chat in certain channels, and anything else you can do in the normal game. And it also has a full set of in-game maps installed, so even though you can't explore the game world with your character, you can still examine it.

It's a pretty impressive application, especially for one that's designed just to supplement the full game client. Dave Haydysch, Icarus' associate production manager, told us that the company had worked with Showtime to make an iPhone game based on the Dexter television show, and since they'd already ported most of their game engine for that project, they figured it wouldn't be too hard to make their own iPhone app. He wasn't sure on a release date yet, and the company hasn't yet decided a price -- "talks" about whether it should be free or not "are ongoing," he said.

And just for the heck of it, we asked him about the iPad -- certainly, the app would work on the iPad, but would Icarus want to put their game on there? Like most developers, they haven't actually seen the device yet, so he didn't have a firm word for us. "We haven't looked at the iPad," he said, "but the possibilities are there." Very interesting to see a larger MMO developer use the iPhone to extend their brand in this way.

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