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What the Death of an MMO Sounds Like: Firefall

Posted by Ozzallos Friday April 26 2013 at 12:48AM
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Raising a 1yr old consumes a lot of time. So does raising an MMO. Both have been consuming mine as of late, so i thought I would pop in with a status report.

Reagan is just fine.

Truthfully, I've been holding off on this post due to an intense desire to see Firefall succeed. It wasn't perfect but that's the stuff of betas and the ideas pushing it forward were revolutionary in the industry: An MMO FPS-RPG driven by a dynamic, expanding world that focused on PvE against a central AI dispatching forces to ensure your demise based on strategy and tactics. I could spend the next few paragraphs expounding on the virtues of Red 5's Firefall but we're not here for that. We're here for the tornado siren echoing on the edge of town screaming suck and fail as the twister approaches.

Those are hard words for a game in its beta, especially a game in its "pre-open" beta phase, but the writing is beginning to appear on the wall and I've got a good track record on this sort of thing. Open beta is coming up and advancement isn't finalized. Content is nowhere near ready. Enemy AI sucks ass. And while the forums are debating whether or not Firefall is even ready for that milestone, the CEO says this:

"We're not interested in what other companies call a beta. What we are calling a beta is *early* participation...2/3rd of our development time has been public, and its actually been invaluable. The old way of doing short betas after all core features are done is just idiotic in today's big budgets. The old way is greatly responsible for the "surprise" failures of many high profile MMOs that didn't realize their core systems needed work until it was far too late."

Good for you, Tex. Blaze your own trail. Do it your own way. And while you're at it, fall on the sword because while you're busy doing it your way, your gamers are expecting something else entirely. They're expecting a game that hasn't torched two radically different advancement systems and has barely settled into a third. They're expecting marginally balanced classes, not ones still being aligned with the new system for the third time. They're expecting real content to be enjoyed, not piece meal bullshit that barely works and half assed level design. They're expecting your resource and crafting system to be worked out by the time you say the word "open beta," not something still shifting like quicksand.

Most people are fine with giving you time to iron out the bugs and tweek the settings, but when you say open beta, they're expecting a intact product that- while rough around the edges -gives them a good idea of what to expect, not a CEO who wants to play word games with industry defined terminology. At less than two months until their self proclaimed open beta, Firefall is none of what players are expecting when they hit download for the first time. There's no vision, no meat, no identity. I've watched it lose its way across three advancement systems. It's no longer a game that puts fun first. Hell, it can barely lay claim to being an RPG of any sort these days. In short, Firefall has become some self absorbed FPS with multiple personality disorder and it's killing the franchise. I've never seen the offical forums as devisive as they are now.

All of that said, players are a forgiving lot. If Firefall can indeed turn their turd into something a sight more cohesive and reclaim its identity before their open-beta-that-really-isn't date in July, it stands a chance of making it to market and maybe a profit, because let's be honest-- You only offer founders packs to generate eyeballs and revenue. Going open beta in this condition, this early is easily a sign that the purse strings are undoubtably tighting with their parent company The9 regardless of how it's explained away as "...just idiotic in today's big budgets."

...Pushed to the wayside with "When it's ready," I guess.

I certainly hope Red5 and Firefall defy expectations, and not for the cash I've thrown in on Founders. That's an indication of faith in their vision, but I have to be honest, that vision is starting to faulter as they continue to set fire to key game elements while seemingly poised to point their finger back to the community for having welcomed their feedback a bit too much. While there seems to be no lack of vision and ingenuity, the hand on the steering wheel seems to be a bit too loose,and watching Firefall develop is like watching a drunker driver weave across five lanes of interstate traffic. Eventially something's going to get smeared across the pavement.

...Or I could have never participated in a real beta before. That seems to be the most popular counter-argument to date.