CEO Mark Kern and Lead Game Designer Scott Youngblood presented a little history of the game's development so far, with a look to the future. But if that's not enough to get you to gear up and plant a Thumper, maybe their announcement about a brand-new video channel devoted to everything and anything involving gaming will catch your interest. One of the first things Kern acknowledged in his Firefall presentation is the importance of the community in the development process. The team relies heavily on beta feedback, and even though it recognizes the risk of starting beta this early, it wanted to get the players involved in development from the start in order to make the game the best it can be when it does launch. As a result, the devs have basically rebuilt the game three times; the most recent patch included 26 pages of notes, most of them from player feedback. In addition, the team shifted gears recently to focus on PvE content, with plans for more on the way. In a trailer video, we got a glimpse of the Chosen, who are NPC invaders that construct siege cannons which target towns in game. If players don't repel the attack and the town's shield drops, the players lose control (and also lose the buffs the town provides). The Chosen are a diverse army of snipers, engineers, and Tortured Souls, who tag along and do their bidding.
As proof of their commitment to player feedback, Kern and Youngblood also talked about the many faces of the character progression system so far in Firefall. At first, the game had a traditional level-based system, with the chance for better gear the higher you level. The problem with that is that the higher your level, the longer it took to get a new piece of gear, and that didn't work well with the players. Next, the devs tried a tier system, but that's basically the same as levels, only now there were fewer of them. So Red 5 went back to the drawing board and created a skill tree system, but players pointed out that they occasionally had to take gear that didn't really fit their skill trees. With some work, the studio was able to adjust the tech tree and make it more fun without the gear issues. The team also took out manufacturing components from the gear to make PvP based more on skill and less on gear.
Next on the horizon is a new invasion system for taking cities in the main world, as well as the addition of armies to control and level up in combat. Armies are units built up by players, and they have their own progression path to make them stronger. On top of that, Red 5 has been working on a five-year story-arc with Orson Scott Card, which will be rolled out in episodes as part of the campaign. And now that the devs have nailed down instanced PvP, the team plans to focus on open world PvP, which will make those armies that much more important. As development continues, they have plans for biweekly tests during which they solicit player feedback. The results will be featured on the site to show how they drive the changes made.
But along with the plans to continue to improve Firefall, the team announced something brand-new at this year's PAX East: a gaming channel called Stage 5. It's a new video channel that will host network-quality shows that all center around gaming. It's free and can be found both on YouTube and at the Stage 5 site. The first show to launch is called Rise of the Indies, in which the hosts will track down indie developers and Kickstarter crews to highlight their efforts. Another is called Game Changers, which is essentially Mythbusters and Top Gear meets gaming. The first episode features the hosts trying to test out the gaming ability of being able to fire at targets while flying around in jetpacks. If you prefer something with a little more flair, Project Cosplay is devoted to the fine art of costume design. And of course, Firefall is featured on the channel on the show Firefall Live.
Stage 5 also plans iPad and Android/Ouya apps that include Firefall TV and the Firefall comic. Kern noted that the team will probably start with the Kindle devices first and then expand to other devices. As for Firefall, Kern explained that right now it's just being developed for PC, but there are plans for an open GL version that will allow the studio to branch out. When pressed about whether it's headed to consoles, Kern quipped, "Consoles are dead... soon(tm)."
Kern wrapped up by giving a little insight into the state of the industry. When questioned about the success of WoW and the struggles of titles like SWTOR to overtake it, Kern again joked and defended SWTOR, saying, "Don't say that. I dropped $600 after [SWTOR] went free to play." But he went on to talk about his panel at GDC a few years ago, where his advice was to not make WoW. He pointed out how his old EverQuest friends came over to try WoW with him, and since they were used to grinding mobs for experience, they repeated the action in WoW and were left unimpressed. Kern said he prodded them to "try the quests," and the rest was history because it was a game-changing experience. For the team at Red 5, the notion of keeping an open mind is ever-important, since the game is trying new things -- and it's made significant changes based on community feedback.
Massively's on the ground in Boston during the weekend of March 22nd to 24th, bringing you all the best news from PAX East 2013. Whether you're dying to know more about WildStar, DUST 514, or any MMO in between, we aim to have it covered!