As another member of the crew that went to PAX East this spring, I got the chance to interview my share of developers. One unexpected but thrilling interview was with Scott Youngblood, the lead designer of Red 5 Studios, of which FireFall is their first game. As this game was unknown to me until the day before we headed off to PAX, I did not know much when I first went to the booth. I liked what I saw.
The best way to describe what type of game this is is an “MMO shooter.” It is a free to download, free to play game with a persistent open world. The backstory is that a new energy source was discovered on Earth, called Crystite. The ensuing battle over this resource was called the Crystite Wars, and these wars brought a type of environmental storm called the Melding that transforms the Earth and brings with it creatures that have not been seen before. As a result, humanity has been pushed back into small pockets of Melding-free territory. Specifically, one of the locations Youngblood mentioned the game took place was Brazil.
There are PvP and PvE components here, just like many other MMOs. Whether they were all together in the same world, or accessed differently, I did not find out. However, I got to hear about an event would go down from Youngblood himself. For instance, there is a town called Dredge, normally run by humans. However, the creatures from the Melding may attack this town, in which case an alert is sent out. Players from a particular “Army” (this game’s version of guilds) may go and help the town fend off the creatures, or go and attack the defending army in their moment of weakness. Any person can create an army, so there can be theoretically a limitless number. Another important gameplay aspect is “thumping” for resources. Essentially, a “thumper” is sent into the ground to collect crystite. However, thumping the ground attracts the Melding creatures, so anytime this is done a sizeable army is required to ward off the bugs. This is demonstrated in the trailer and gameplay video, both of which can be found on the website FireFallTheGame.com.
The three classes (called “battleframes”) shown at the PAX East demo were assault, recon, and medic. When asked about the goals when designing each battleframe, Youngblood responded that they wanted to make each class accessible to any user. It should be easy to jump into the game due to the way they handled these battleframes. Although only three were shown, it was hinted that there may be more, and personally I hope there are more, as it is difficult to compete with modern shooters that typically have five or more classes to choose from. From what I saw in the demo though, these battleframes can fill a variety of roles usually reserved for other classes. For instance, the recon packed a sniper and machine gun for close-quarters combat, but one of its abilities was to lay down mines, something that you would expect an engineer-type class to do. Also, Youngblood emphasized the fact that everything in the game is very customizable. Modules can be obtained to enhance weapons or powerpacks, which in turn customize you abilities to use in battle. The game can be viewed in first or third person, changing very easily with a simple toggle key.
Youngblood stated that the development of FireFall was influenced by two games in particular: the Tribes series and M.U.L.E. The Tribes influence can obviously be seen in combat, with people jumping around with jetpacks to get a better shot. Apparently, the team inspired by the economic factor of the old game M.U.L.E. and decided to incorporate that as a large part of FireFall gameplay.
FireFall is scheduled for late 2011 release, with closed beta starting sometime before then. Again, it will be free to download and free to play, with some kind of system where real-world money can be used to purchase items rather than obtaining them in-game.