At PAX Prime 2012 I was able to spend time and have a great conversation with David, a Lead Desiginer at Red 5 Studios. Please understand, nothing bad has ever come from the level of enthusiasm, sincerity and thoughtfulness David showed. Firefall is a game created by people who love games and quality and science fiction and stories and badassary.
I watched the trailer and was slack-jawed in awe of this amazing story and design. These characters were compelling and this story was engaging. I saw designs that surpassed my science fiction, dystopian dreams. I read comics with narrative and dialogue that had me smiling to myself in public because that shit was AMAZING!
Unfortunately, I can’t say all of those loved and amazing things make it into the Firefall game. Firefall the universe and idea are expansive, exciting and brilliant while Firefall the game promises something far different.
1. Firefall tells us stories in previews and theatrical trailers but we don’t get to experience those stories in the game.
This is not at all to say Firefall does not have a story. This is kind of hard to explain. Firefall as a universe has a great story, an exiting story. But, Firefall as a game… not so much. You don’t play as the people from the ship or even acknowledge them. Eh, you probably curse their names while you spend your days harvesting Crystite to push back The Medling (the poison cloud engulfing the Earth since they crashed their ship).
All this build up is like using The Old Testament to set up The Sims. So there was God and a great flood and serpents and… now we walk around and eat sandwiches.
Please read this set up story for Firefall, maybe if enough people are interested they’ll not only make a manga but also a novels or cartoons or a movie or a campaign mode…
The Arclight was going to be the greatest single leap in the history of technology – a starship that could fold space and turn the eight-year voyage to Alpha Prime colony into a stroll around the block.
Instead, in a vast and tragic dazzle of light, the Arclight broke in half and fell to Earth near Fortaleza, Brazil.
How the anti-technology commentators gloried in that fall! On and on they spoke of Prometheus, of Lucifer, of the Tower of Babel, of the hubris at the heart of Greek tragedy.
The most famous words came from a Brazilian newsman at the scene: “Construímos uma lâmpada de esperança, mas ela é morta, a luz apagada, a esperança quebrada.” (“We created a lamp of hope, but it has died; the light is out, the hope is broken.”)
But we are the people who had already endured the devastation of the Crystite meteor swarm. Three-fourths of humanity was destroyed – but we took the Crystite and turned it into a nearly miraculous source of energy. It was Crystite that took us to the stars in the first place – Crystite, which came from the stars and nearly destroyed us.
The Arclight broke, the Arclight fell, but we are not broken, we will not fall or fail. We will learn why spacetime, instead of folding, tore open; we will revise our plans and build again, and better next time; and we will stay alive long enough to do all this.
The real danger is not the strange and terrible thing that came through that rip in spacetime. The danger is that we might despair and cease to strive. For in that day we would cease to be human, and turn into another batch of dinosaurs, who failed to adapt and so became extinct.
2. Our main characters have disappeared and been replaced with simple class characters with no history or motivation.
As mentioned above, Pilgrim Entwhistle, the star of the manga, Captain Whoever who was piloting the Arclight and chose to crash the ship on Fortaleza even though it’s where his family lives (these are the details you get when people are truly geeked about their game), or this badass chick from the trailer.
You have the ability to build and customize your character but they’re still more tools for you you use than characters for you to play.
There’s a heavy emphasis around eSports but no indication as to who or why you’re fighting. If you’re all trying to rebuild earth and no conflict has been laid out except for the allusion to something that followed the Arclight to Earth. So, what the fuck?
Firefall is not an RPG so this aspect is completely reasonable, your character shouldn’t be a fully fleshed out character. But with writing and world-building like this, I really wish it was and RPG.
3. You farm forever and fight other players in an eSports way but it’s not clear why, given the setting and back story.
Your long-term and short-term goal in this game is to harvest Crystite and build up the Arclight/FTL so you can push back The Melding until Earth is free of it.
SPOILER: This will take forever and there’s pretty much no intention of it being accomplishable… You’re a Forever Farmer and Earth is one giant community garden.
I don’t like longterm goals much less fake one that will only pay off when my grandchildren are on their death beads. Maybe, in real life I’m okay with that as a reason to recycle but in a game? No. I want to know I killed a faction of enemies or held the base until Noble Six could escape.
So you can wander about killing giant spiders on the beach or fighting your friends to the death for sport or harvesting because that’s what you do.
*. I Strongly Recommend Watching Firefall for out-of-game content
The have a manga that is BEAUTIFFULLY illustrated (I want it framed in poster size on my walls) and written by Orson Scott Card and Emily Janice Card.
The Cinematic trailer shows an ability to tell a silent story the way they should be told. It and Blizzard’s Mists of Pandaria trailer were the only two cinematic trailers that truly left an impression with me from PAX.
I’m excited for Firefall because I think people into this style of game will be pleased with what the game has to offer. The Firefall team was passionate proud to show where the game had evolved based on player input and what might just be disruptive innovations in the eSports arena.
I’ve tried the beta and have a few keys to give away if some of our readers are interested in the Firefall closed beta.
Leave a comment with your thoughts about Firefall (more than a single word or two, please) to be eligible for a beta key gift.