PAX East 2013: Firefall & Stage 5

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Unlike previous years, Firefall did not have a presence on the expo hall floor. Instead, they opted for a more intimate setting. Red 5 Studios invited press to an event that was mixed with community members, and explained all the coming updates within their latest patch (available now).

Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even realize Firefall was a free-to-play MMO, as my past experience with the game was limited to a versus multiplayer type mode. But with the closed, and ongoing beta, I have been able to experience what can only be referred to as an action MMO. The combat appears to be realtime, though you can almost see the dice rolls happening in the background.

firefall-2My biggest complaint from the Firefall beta stemmed from lack of variety in PvE venue. I’d come across the same two world events over, and over, and over: The Tornado Encounter, and the Thumper Encounter. One was manageable, but the other was suicide if you didn’t have others to help. From what it sounds like, the patch has added a ton of variety to the world with a lot more events.

What was most interesting, was learning that Firefall has been reworked three times since it began development, and that has all been based on community reaction. In fact, the stance of Red 5 Studios in general appears to be one of adaptability and attempting to make the game as fun as possible for their users based on feedback. While from a bulletpoint view this sounds fantastic, I worry about how sustainable this is once the game goes live. Sweeping changes to the hardcore are rarely met with applause.

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Still, Red 5′s ambition is clear as they’re also attempting to move into the gaping hole left by G4TV. Announced at this event was a new video YouTube based ‘network’ called Stage 5. They’ll be producing several different broadcast quality programs, including a documentary series on independent game developers and the games they’re making.

The initial content they’ve launched with is a series called GameChangers which effectively mixes Mythbusters with video games, trying to pull off some of the more outrageous things you’ve seen. In their first episode, they’ve asked the question “Can you really shoot things while using a jetpack?” I was impressed at the quality of the snippets they showed and it seemed like an entertaining premise. Other programs include Project Cosplay and Firefall Live with more in the future.

I really like Red 5′s ideas but the question still remains about sustainability and how they’re going to effectively recoup the millions already invested. Playing to a community is both a great move, and one that could effectively cripple them in the future. Time will certainly tell, but I hope it works for them.

About Jim Hunter

Jim Hunter is Editor-in-Chief of Splitkick and host of the Rocket Jump podcast. He has three kids and is constantly cranky, but also highly awesome.
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