Red 5 Studios has been hard at work on their game Firefall, which is a science fiction shooter with an amazing amount of quality put into it. However, as a game in beta it is demonstrably a work in progress. Red 5 has been carefully keeping the population in check with a beta invite system and while the rendering engine and the game itself are all complete, some of the scaffolding and wires of a product-in-development can clearly be seen.
Over the past six months, Red 5 has been thinking about how Firefall plays and has been modifying their game as more people move in. They’ve also monetized with founders packs and a rudimentary virtual item store with festive products.
For an in depth first impression of what Firefall is like to play, read my original first impression article for the game. It’s still awesome, but the game is changing.
Battleframe technology tree has changed
One of the fun things about Firefall is that there are no classes, just chassis.
The different battleframes essentially set the role the player gets to take in a particular time and frames can be changed virtually any time a garage is available. The primary roles are set between Dreadnaught (tanks), Assault (dps), Biotech (healing/support), Recon (ranged/support), and Engineer (dps/support). Originally, frames came with tech trees that players would buy their way through with experience that would open up new abilities and capabilities–now those capabilities are available via crafting and the frame itself but they’re limited by the frame’s attributes.
Each of the attributes of a given frame can be upgraded with experience and some mined resources–these limit the tier and advancement of extra equipment. There are three attributes: Mobility, Power, and CPU. As more equipment is added it suppresses one of these attributes. Thus upgrading each line is needed to equip bigger and badder stuff–all of which is crafted.
Now the tier 2 battleframes are not accessed via pure tech tree advancement; but instead can be bought for microtransaction currency (red beans) or with pilot points (gained via experience.)
Each of the battleframes currently has two second tier variations that provide a whole new set of equipment and capabilities; and interestingly equipment from lower tiers can be installed into higher tiers in some cases. It’s a good idea, but it’s hard to understand how to mix-and-match to produce the game you want to play.
This change is perhaps the most profound to me.
Tech trees are something that many players are already used to; but crafting components to progress and looking at fully-built roles.
PvE content is getting better, exists but its in a bit of a limbo
When I first played Firefall there was no tutorial, now there’s a bit of one at the beginning that teaches the basics of how to interact with the UI passably. I expect that this might get beefed up a little more–but it’s your basic: “THis is a shooter, this is how you shoot, crouch, jump, and make things explode.”
As for the overland, the quests that explain how Copacabana works are often a little broken, but they do explain how to fill out the map, how to explore, the concept of “thumping” (resource collection) and a few other important basic game elements.
I didn’t get much time to play before but while there’s currently not much story or narrative content–there is a lot of dynamic events to keep people interested. The primary type of dynamic event is resource collection–or thumping–and that’s done by the player or other players. People running a thumper show up on the map, and as it collects resources it attracts monsters; as a result, going to one means getting a little cut of resources and some experience for fighting the onslaught of bugs.
Then there’s some missions called ARES missions that involve going into bunkers or overland to clear out bad guys.
Now and then there’s a thumper that’s crashed and needs repair (and of course fight off bugs) and also vehicles crash and need to be looted or protected while they’re hacked. There’s technology to recover from bad guys as well as small skirmishes to involve in.
Of course the best and most fun is sometimes tornados of extradimensional “melding” appear and must be put down–they open up portals to a strange horrible place that whispers strange nothings.
And, all the while, the Chosen are slowly invading and attacking the surface sometimes making regions unsafe or unpassable. Not to mention their invasions also mean that crafting interfaces and garages become inaccessible (which is annoying) giving another reason to clear them out.
Virtual item store and founders packs
Right now the game is a bunch of minigames to play with other people. It’s a shooter–so there’s a lot of shooting involved (and it’s fun to progress through the different frames.)
As for how Red 5 intends to monetize: first there’s “founders packs.” Right now that the game is in beta, buying into one of these packs means an XP booster, some unique looks for frames and characters, as well as neat thumper graphics. The most expensive tier also gives a vehicle (the only way to get one right now.)
The microtransaction currency is called a red bean. Beans can be used to buy colors for frames, patterns, hair, costume, etc. Also XP boosters and other quality-of-life items that we’re used to in virtual item shops.
Beans can also be used to speed up crafting–which takes time sometimes a minute to 30 minutes to hours depending on what’s being done.
Finally, red beans can be used to buy higher tier battleframes without having to play through other frames first. Getting a high enough number of attribute upgrades to a particular frame produces “pilot points” that can be used to buy higher tier frames. 100 red beans can be used to circumvent this–it’s expensive but it’s a time-vs-money.
Keeps getting better
Firefall is currently in closed beta–so there’s a lot still left to develop. The graphics engine is brilliant but there’s a lot of plot and narrative to be written in order to engage players–thumping for resources and PvP make up half the game right now and they’re a good casual half.
As the episodic content beings to come out, the game will become more compelling for players who want to earn their way through the frames, who like experiencing the shooter aspects, and want to explore the world.
I’m still looking forward to where Red 5 is going to take the game.
I’d love to know more about the Chosen, why Copacabana is the center of Accord activity, and how players fit into the story.