Firefall

 

Our interview at PAX Prime with Red 5 Studios regarding their new game Firefall sure started off awkward.  In a way that’s kind of how we intended it.  Bill and I walked into our appointment surrounded by larger than life statues of game characters and huge screens playing cut-scenes from the game itself.  We introduced ourselves and told them we were with NERD TREK.

Soon we found ourselves talking with a gentleman whom we later found out wasn’t just any lackey programmer, but the LEAD developer of the entire game.  Of course, we found this out after asking a series of somewhat uncalled for questions to appease our own comedic appetites as well as those of our readers.

NERD TREK:  “So, this game was made by the same people who made WoW (World of Warcraft)?”

FIREFALL:  “Actually, No.  Mark Kern CEO & Studio Founder was team lead for WoW.  He left Blizzard and formed Red 5 Studios with the purpose of doing a product that Blizzard didn’t want to do which was a shooter.”

NT:  “How do you handle your customer base and their requests to change the game to their liking?”

FF:  “We are building this game for our community.  Whatever their desires and opinions, wants- we will do it.”

NT:  “Do you have bananas in the game?”

This question was originally posed by Khalid Yassin in our interview with Bethesda regarding Skyrim.  He wanted to know if there would be bananas in the game.  We thought that was hilarious so after asking Lead Art Director Matt Carofano of Bethesda Softworks, we went around asking every game developer in the room if their game had bananas. 

FF:  “Bananas… hmmm.  I haven’t seen a banana yet.  What would you do with it if there was a banana in the game?”

FF:  “There actually might be some bananas in the game.  One of the vendors might be selling some food with bananas.  But we don’t have an in game mechanic around bananas…. yet.”

 NT:  “Yet!  Yet is the key word, bananas….”

*onlookers nearby erupt in laughter and awkward snickers*

 NT:  “Is this an open world game or more of a linear game?”

FF:  “Everything that we built into the game is on top of a shooter.  We’ve added progression elements from MMO titles.  We’ve added resource collection from RTS titles.   What I’m really interested in doing is providing a well rounded, balanced game where you have a lot more stuff to do than just shooting players in the face.”

FF:  “Another large goal for Firefall is that we wanted to make sure that it is more accessible than a traditional shooter.  We’re a class based game where your class is defined by your gear.”

FF:  “We want people to get comfortable playing a shooter in an open world environment at their own pace.  That means either doing missions by yourself or forming up a squad to go do missions to advance your knowledge of the world.”

 

NT:  “I saw that there is a healer class in there.”

FF:  “Yeah, the medic.”

NT:  “Which is reminiscent of many RPGs.  I was watching a video on one of your promotions that showed what looked like a weapon that the medic would shoot that towards their comrades to heal them.”

FF:  “Each battleframe comes with a primary weapon.  For the medic it is a heal-beam, a nano repair gun.  The game is class-based but your class is really defined by your gear so you can change your alt fires and your secondary weapons, even your abilities are modifiable.  You can really switch up your gear to do very specific things.”

From here I was really itching to get into the game.  I hopped over to the keyboard so I could play while Bill and I conducted the interview.  While I took the helm Bill adopted the audio gear and we continued rolling.

A few more additional details while I got logged in to Firefall for the first time…

The “Battleframe” is your suit and determines your class.

Your “Backpack” is where you plug in your modules.  When you start out you have only one module slot in your backpack.  As you rank up you obtain access to additional abilities via slots in your backpack.  You can really customize your character based on what you want them to do in game.

 

 

Firefall is a First Person Shooter (FPS) first and foremost, but don’t let that scare you away if an FPS normally turns you off.  I myself am a Role Playing Game (RPG) fanatic, I rarely play FPS games unless they really grip me or are exciting in multi-player combat (SNES Goldeneye 007 and the Halo series come to mind).

Immediately upon playing Firefall I noticed that the controls are extremely smooth.  There is no need to bring up a menu or stumble through uncomfortable tutorials to figure out how to move about in this world.  My hands gravitated to the most comfortable places on the keyboard and mouse. There’s no stumbling over the controls, no bumping into half walls or getting stuck in awkward places.  Right away I was running across a cobblestone street, gun in hand, ready to blast some enemies to high heaven.  Targeting your enemies comes naturally and joining into combat with other players feels great.  You start out with a jetpack that allows you to easily propel yourself up and around obstacles without a second thought.  The controls were quite possibly the absolute best of any game I have ever played.

I asked about abilities while I started playing.  Turns out that you can plug various abilities into your backpack and depending on which combinations you have selected can greatly affect the way your unit takes on certain challenges.  For example if you have the “Assault Battleframe” and plug in the Crater & Afterburner affects, you can use both abilities together to your advantage.  Crater launches you into the air and slams you down into enemies causing more damage the higher you are.  Since you already have a jetpack you can jet up high into the air and slam down.  Really creative players will realize that they can use the jetpack to get as high as they can, then use the Afterburner ability to get even higher, then finally use crater ability to slam down doing massive damage to their enemies!

FF: “The Accord are the good guys, the people we want to help win the war against the Chosen.  The Chosen are an alien race who have come to earth seeking a specific resource used heavily in the future.”

FF:  “The players primary goal is to progress their technology, their equipment, and their army and ultimately use it to push back the Chosen and reclaim earth.”

NT:  “Can I accidentally hurt friendlies?”

FF:  “You can hurt yourself, but there currently is no friendly fire.  You can hurt yourself if you use a plasma cannon too close to you.”

NT:  “The game looks and feels really good.  Do you guys have your own independent graphics engine?”

FF:  “This is our own engine.  We started by partnering with Offset back in 2006.  Offset was working on their own graphics engine.  The reason that we paired with them was because we didn’t have the time to build our own engine at the start.  We needed to heavily modify the engine to do the crazy things that this game does.  We have servers running AI and we have servers running all different types of things and they have to play nice with each other.  It’s VERY complicated.  That’s why it’s taken us so long to get the game to where it is, because we had to build a platform, an infrastructure for all of what this does to do.  So after [the] Offset team got purchased by Intel, they stopped working on the engine and we took it over from there.  We have heavily modified it since.  The only thing that remains from the original engine is about 10% of the rendering code.”

NT:  “I have to say, I really like the way the graphics look.  You’re playing online with a bunch of people and it feels really smooth.  I haven’t seen any glitching or lag at all.”

NT:  “I’m honestly surprised, I came into this interview thinking that Firefall was mostly hype.  After playing for awhile I can say I REALLY like this game!  I could play this for a long time!”

FF:  “The proof is in the pudding.”

NT:  “I can’t believe this is free to download and free to play.”

 

I continued to play and joined a mob of friendly players to gang up on an enemy drop ship.  We pummeled it with fire until it finally left the villa we’re protecting, but not before it dropped a plethora of enemies outside town.

I sprinted off to reload some ammo and explore the outskirts of town.  There are fewer players out here but many rock formations and lots of scrub brush to hide behind.  A few players in the distance battled a large enemy.  I tested out some new abilities from afar and summoned the anger in one of the larger beasts, which turned and charged me.  I backed up, used the jetpack to get up to a higher location, and fired down multiple shots that penetrated the skin of my enemy and detonated. I killed the beast.  The real beast of potential Firefall addiction already reared its ugly head and had grown inside me throughout the entire experience.

Final word on Firefall?

Firefall is easy to jump into, fun to play, and highly addictive.

 

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About Jonathan G. Nelson

Jonathan G. Nelson is the editor-in-chief and owner of NERD TREK. He is also owner/publisher at AAW Games / AdventureAWeek.com, a tabletop gaming company based in Snoqualmie, WA.

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