I’ll admit that Firefall‘s been on my “Yeah, maybe I’ll look into that someday” list for a while. After spending an hour with the game’s executive producer James Macauley at PAX, it’s moved up a few notches on my priority list.
We covered a little bit of everything in our talk, but James had to give a shout-out to the Firefall community, which he accurately described as “amazing.” There was apparently a Firefall community party at PAX on Thursday, which Red 5 Studios had no hand in planning, though some of the staffers did stop by to hand out swag.
I got my first real look at the battleframe changes that were made in the recent wide-sweeping patch to make progress more horizontal. Though intimidating at first, it basically boils down to picking your base BF and then progressing through to more specialized roles, somewhat like advanced classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic and other MMOs. Even more impressive: James said the change only took about two months to implement.
In fact, making quick changes is the name of the game. “As soon as we have a map, we release it,” James told us, which sounds like a basic concept, but many other developers will “save” new content to be released in a bigger package. To wit, Red 5 released two new maps in August alone.
Crafting was also a major part of our tour, which, if you haven’t seen it already, looks like one of the richest crafting experiences to be found in any MMO – something I wouldn’t have really expected from a shooter.
Standing alongside an excitable Gary Gannon, he and James re-lived their Star Wars: Galaxies days – not an unintentional comparison – when discussing the various types of crafting possibilities and the ability to become truly elite as a craftsman either by having uncommon skills or simply being in possession of rare materials and selling them as the market dictates.
And then there were the thumpers, which are probably the coolest approach to resource-gathering I’ve ever seen. I’m sure it’s old news to people who have been following the game intently, but the way it works is that when you detect a material, you then airdrop in this giant machine that goes to work pounding the ground to extract your precious ore.
As it’s thumping, the vibrations in the ground attract all sorts of nasties, which will attack you and your thumper, turning every crafting experience into a defensive battle. Sure beats chinking away at a rock with your pick.
Finally, James let us in on some PvP details, including Red 5′s major push for e-sports. At the heart of this was a phenomenal e-sports toolkit which allows a streamer/caster to run an event and offers a bunch of camera views and other management tools to provide a marvelously watchable experience for viewers.
With a robust spectator mode, free-flying camera view, and other swell features, I could see myself watching Firefall streams just because they’ll make it so easy for even casters with the most rudimentary setups to look professional.
So will I play Firefall? I have to say, the semi-permanent beta state the game is in is a bit of a turn-off for me. I know there won’t be any more character wipes, but, from what I’m hearing, the game still seems a bit unfinished – fun, but unfinished.
But there’s lots of potential here, and you can’t go wrong with the game’s and Red 5′s basic outlook. As James expressed: “Monetization doesn’t matter if the game isn’t good.” Red 5′s less concerned about profit and more about making the game good, figuring the money will follow. That’s a philosophy that’s easy for gamers to get behind.