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Old 03-16-2011, 12:03 PM   #1
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PAX East 2011: Firefall Hands-On and Interview


I managed to get my hands on a playable build of the furiously anticipated Firefall. The game had a big presence on the show floor and a steady flow of players occupied the large number of booths in order to play out a round of Team Deathmatch on the big screen that could be seen from all around the main hall.

Click the headline for the full preview and interview with Mark Kern, CEO of Red 5 Studios.
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Old 03-16-2011, 12:03 PM   #2
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I managed to get my hands on a playable build of the furiously anticipated Firefall. The game had a big presence on the show floor and a steady flow of players occupied the large number of booths in order to play out a round of Team Deathmatch on the big screen that could be seen from all around the main hall.

Obviously with TDM being the only mode on show I can't give you any insight into how the free-to-play model is going to affect the wider online experience. Still, I can tell you plenty about the style of gameplay you can expect before handing over to an interview with Mark Kern.


The map on show was large, really large, and took place in a sort of coastal scrap yard littered with high platforms and disused miscellany. Taking point on top of a large galleon-style ship that lay grounded I was able to use my assault class character to drill a few bullet holes into some distant opponents. While my weapons weren't those best suited to this kind of combat, I was still effective and managed to pick off a player from the opposing team.

That's when things got a little different, as a stipulation to the TDM round I was playing I had to go and claim the body. Effectively I was required to teabag the guy, although not literally, by approaching his corpse and holding E until a short meter filled. This forced me into the open where my weapons came into their own but so did the abilities equipped to the battle frame strapped to my character.


Using Crater I was able to ground pound and take out another player with a few follow up shots, quickly claiming him before moving quickly with Afterburner to get the first guy. If that sounds like fun, you're right. The game feels fresh, especially within the stale multiplayer shooter crowd, and the rest of the round allowed me to experiment and continue to claim bodies.

If there are concerns about the game they come from gossip that was going about the show floor. Word on the street is that this is actually the second attempt at making this a success. Apparently an original version was scrapped, explaining the lengthy 5 year development cycle. On top of that people have concerns about how much it borrows stylistically from Borderlands, TF2 and Starcraft. Still, I can't imagine any of this bearing problems significant enough to warrant players not giving the game a download and trying it when it releases.


Now, onto the main feature.
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Old 03-16-2011, 12:03 PM   #3
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Interview with Mark Kern, CEO Red 5 Studios

MP: For the uninitiated, for those that haven't heard anything about the game, tell us a little bit about the story...

MK: Basically, Firefall takes place on a future Earth that has been engulfed by an energy storm called the Melding. The Melding has wiped out 99% of the population and the players start out in the last pocket of humanity that we know of in Porta Lisa, Brazil. And that is a story of how humanity is split into a two groups. One that want to use this as an opportunity to make things better, and one that wants to put it back to the way it was. In the midst of all this there is another group coming out of The Melding called The Chosen, and they've started to attack human settlements. We haven't quite figured out who they are yet, just that they want us dead, and that is an NPC faction, with the players playing as the humans.

MP: The medic class has been mentioned today, and the recon class, and we've already seen a demonstration of the assault class. Can you walk us through these and explain how they perform differently in the game...

MK: Sure, so we have class roles so that when you create a character your role is governed by the battle frame that you chose to wear. The battle frame is an exo-skeleton that you strap on to yourself, and that determines the types abilities that you have and you can swap and customize your battle frame with. Those are broken up into the assault, the medic and the recon, and we raised these from a high twitch, to a low twitch perspective. So, the medic at PAX being the low twitch battle frame that we are showing, and the recon class being the highest twitch option because the recon has a sniper rifle, having dexterity makes a big difference when playing the recon class. The assault is your heavy duty damage dealer, his signature weapon is the plasma cannon so you can sit there and fire long range plasma bolts that explode on impact. Your medic is equipped with a healing gun and he goes around healing and buffing other players.

MP: When I was playing as assault I used the crater ability, like a ground and pound. How about some of the other abilities and how are they separated by class?

MK: So in Firefall it's not just about the gunplay, it's also about the abilities that you chose to slot into your battle frame. These are abilities that you find as drops and you can buy in the world. You can only carry a fixed number of those, there are only three active, so you have to chose what abilities you slot. For the assault, as in on show today, the crater ability is sort of like death from above, you get a lot of height and you smash down into the ground. It's all physics based combat, so the higher you get the more damage that you do. You also have the overcharge ability that basically bumps up your damage a little big but the longer that it goes on the more the damage buff is. He also has an ability called afterburner that lets you run faster and jump higher. You can combo that with crater in order to get a lot of height and do a tonne of damage.

MP: So how about with the medic and recon classes?

MK: The recon abilities are more ammunition based, so like slotting a resonator bullet. A resonator round is going detonate on the battle frame of an opponent, and like a bomb it's going to detonate at a certain time and everybody around that person is going to take damage and you can stack these and get a couple of them on. Hopefully you'll take out any medic that might be healing them at the time. You've also got a cryo bullet, it's one of our counters in the game. We like to think about counters and parries in the game. So a good counter to the medic is the cryo bullet because it slows you do when you get hit with it, and it drains you of all energy, which the medic needs to use any of his healing of buff abilities. The last thing that the recon has is the long range proximity mine that you can fire through your scope and attach to the geometry of the world. That will detonate when an enemy goes by or you can pick it off with the sniper rifle at just the right moment. The medic abilities are more based around healing and buffs.

MP: We've seen team death-match today, what other kinds of modes are we going to see available?

MK: We haven't announced our other game modes yet, but we're designing the maps to accommodate several different modes and one thing that I wanted to point it that it's not just team based, it's army based. So, we took the concept of the guild and we said, “why is it when you play a shooter there's no clan support built in?” You gotta like say, hey, you and your mates gotta say lets form a clan, and then you've got to make a website somewhere and support it, and then you have to find another clan to play against at a set time. Why don't we build all of that into the game, and so MMOs have the concept of the guild, but we have the concept of the army. You band together, and you can chose your own name for the army and you can build your own symbol out of a template, as we're showing at PAX on the scoreboard, and not only that but when you collect resources within the world they go towards the army. You can unlock special army tech that's shared between everybody in the team. It's more than teams, it's army versus army and there's very rich clan support built right in. That includes competition ranking and tournaments.

MP: The art style is quite different. What was the thinking behind that?

MK: We call it the manga shader, so it's like Japanese comic books, because we're half way between a cell-shaded look and a photo-realistic look. The backgrounds are more photo-realistic but they are actually stylised. We don't want you to see anything that you see out in the real world, we want you to be transported when you play our game to a fantasy sci-fi environment and we want to make sure that when you see a screenshot of Firefall that you instantly recognise it for what it is. And it's a chance for the artist to really stretch their wings and do something different.

MP: Final question, when are you planning to release?

MK: End of this year, you can download the game for free and play online.

MP: Thanks very much for that, good luck with the game.
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Old 03-16-2011, 12:10 PM   #4
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Good stuff lost.

I'm going to be on this one like white on rice.
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Old 03-16-2011, 12:11 PM   #5
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MP: The art style is quite different. What was the thinking behind that?

MK: We call it the manga shader, so it's like Japanese comic books, because we're half way between a cell-shaded look and a photo-realistic look. The backgrounds are more photo-realistic but they are actually stylised. We don't want you to see anything that you see out in the real world, we want you to be transported when you play our game to a fantasy sci-fi environment and we want to make sure that when you see a screenshot of Firefall that you instantly recognise it for what it is. And it's a chance for the artist to really stretch their wings and do something different.
That art style is serious bleh. Just fess up you hired a bunch of Asian artists on the cheap who only know how to do mana style, but you want to release this in the west and know how well that goes....

What the layman will instantly recognize this for is a cheap imitation of borderlands so you better get on that.
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Old 03-16-2011, 12:19 PM   #6
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It's amazing how much they rip off StarCraft with their logo and surrounding art assets.
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Old 03-16-2011, 01:30 PM   #7
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Nice interview!I'm not a big fan of the art style, but it seems to work for this game.
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Old 03-16-2011, 04:28 PM   #8
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Nice interview lost. Here is a pretty good (it zooms in after a few seconds at the beginning and is in HD) shaky cam from PAX of the team deathmatch:


Last edited by bean19; 03-18-2011 at 05:43 AM..
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Old 03-16-2011, 05:30 PM   #9
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It's amazing how much they rip off StarCraft with their logo and surrounding art assets.
I get what you're saying, but whenever I look at the Firefall logo, all I see is the Sega Genesis logo. Go figure.
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Old 03-16-2011, 09:29 PM   #10
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Zomg, I'm sorry I made fun of your hair... and you're drive, Lost! You are a Celtic god!
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Old 03-17-2011, 05:52 PM   #11
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I get what you're saying, but whenever I look at the Firefall logo, all I see is the Sega Genesis logo. Go figure.
The first thing I saw was the Starcraft logo
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Old 03-17-2011, 07:19 PM   #12
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Logo looks great in hi-res too.
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