Did our article yesterday on MMOs in limbo knock one loose? Probably not, but one of them is sunsetting all the same: Firefall. Late last night, an unknown Red 5 staffer posted the sad news.
“With heavy hearts, we regret to inform you that after much review and analysis, Red 5 Studios have decided to suspend the Firefall efforts on 7th, July 2017. Thank you for being an important part of the Firefall experience and for your loyalty and dedication to the online community. Your efforts and loyalty will not go without recognition, however. Firefall is currently developing a mobile version of the game and all of Firefall’s founders and players will be rewarded greatly in the new game. We will be sure to provide everyone with more updates as we have them. Thank you for your support and enthusiasm throughout the years; we will see you at the next battle.”
Yay, a mobile game. You could also head over and pick up your credit toward Mark Kern’s new game, Em-8ER.
The one thing that I thought we could all count on forever was that the MMO life cycle was pretty easy to understand. A game is launched, then it runs for a certain amount of time, then it shuts down. That last part kind of sucks, but the point is that you know when it’s time to move on. The life cycle is clearly one of creation, then life, then death, like a potted ficus or a cheap desk chair you get at Target.
But then sometimes you have a cheap desk chair that breaks in a crucial way, but you manage to screw the right sort of braces together so you can keep using it for another year after it should have been thrown out. And sometimes an MMO is born, and then it lives, and then it… doesn’t live, but it’s not actually shut down or in maintenance. Or it isn’t clear what’s going on with it, due to what seems to be total abandonment. Or it updates more than games which are supposedly live.
That’s what this column is all about. MMOs in a weird sort of limbo, where some facts are clear, but the results or the overall trajectory make no sense. Sometimes it’s not even clear if the game has actually launched or not. It’s weird.
If you were worried that Mark Kern’s Em-8ER (properly pronounced “eem-eight-er” for those willing to die upon snarky hills) wouldn’t fund on its latest Indiegogo push, good news! It’s already funded and looking toward stretch goals. Of course, one could argue that since the game has already had one successful Indiegogo campaign and is now having its second in a series of “serial crowdfunding” pushes, this is already a stretch goal, but let’s not split hairs. The point is that you can pay more money and get more stuff; that’s what the campaign is focusing on.
The newest stretch goals allow for model fights against a new beast, more emotes for players, and motion capture. “We will be modeling the ‘beast’ form of the Tsi-Hu aliens,” says the game’s newsletter. “This deadly creature is what Tsi-Hu can transform into for brutal melee combat. The next stretch goal is to animate it and have it fight the players! There are lots of great perks to unlock, including color changing CHROMA jumpjets, glowing Omniframe skins and even a full motorcycle. In response to player feedback, we also updated our $500 tier to include better rewards, like the Turret #2 Pet robot, and having NPCs salute and greet you by title.”
Em-8ER, Mark Kern’s attempt at subverting game naming conventions (and also something about giant mechs), is launching its next limited fundraiser on Monday to finance the development of a few more features for the pre-pre-alpha version. The goals include the funding of the creation of a weapon system, more interactive frames, the first little slice of actual gameplay (on an ice field) and both male and female character pilots.
To give fans incentive to part with their money, Kern has posted a batch of perks that will be familiar to anyone who has seen a crowdfunding tier reward system. Some of these perks include a PDF of the game’s newly created vision book, 3-D printer toys, forum tags, mech skins, and name reservations.
Mark Kern’s Em-8er project has reached another internal milestone, with the team achieving a few small (and decidedly quirky) goals such as creating an art demo with the THMPR mech and 3-D printing some tiny THMPR models as backer rewards. The team also put together a 20-page full-color design vision pitch book to sell prospective gamers and publishers on what Em-8er is all about (other than revolutionary titling, of course).
The small team continues to grow and will head into its next fundraising phase next week with a focus on creating male and female models. Kern said that interest in Em-8er continues to grow, with 8,300 people on the game’s mailing list.
“All these milestones (we anticipate 3 more or so), will combine to create the ultimate playable mockup of the game,” Kern wrote. “The mockup will include a sample THMPR encounter with attacking Tsi-Hu shapeshifting aliens, gliding and jetting Omniframes with basic abilities, and a frenzy of sample ranged and melee combat. This demo will be used to promote our eventual Kickstarter and future funding of the game.”
Mark Kern’s crowdfunded MMO-shooter Em-8ER has a slew of new videos out this week featuring animations for the THMPR, finishing off the mech’s “basic animation set.”
“Next up is our test terrain and skybox, then importing the animations into Unreal and wiring everything together,” Kern says. Over the weekend, he also posted a “draft spec” on the powered armorsuits in the game known as “omniframes.” They’re basically the game’s equivalent of classes; Kern likens them to building a deck in a collectible card game. Warframe-ish, maybe?
Back in February, we covered how the name “Em-8ER” came to be, but that’s probably not going to stop you from snarking, is it? Kern himself is well-known to the MMORPG genre thanks to his involvement with Firefall and the vanilla WoW community. He has previously discussed his plans for this shooter, including “serial Kickstarting” and a Firefall-esque foundation that doesn’t “drift over to ‘WoW with guns’ again.” Studio Crixa has raised $23,000 to date through crowdfunding and has since offered Firefall players credit toward the new game.
Today is the official release of Mass Effect: Andromeda, which was preceded by the frankly baffling decision to allow people access to an early build of the game ahead of time. Or perhaps the final build without everything enabled? The point is that you could play a bit of it if you were willing to drop some money. That seems like a bad idea that we’ve been dealing with in online-game-land for a long time, but regardless, it gave people the opportunity to see some of this RPG ahead of time.
This, in turn, allowed the typical internet trolls to find any and all animation flubs and then happily declare that it was all the result of one woman working on the game and handling all of the animations. Which, you know, is a conclusion that would be helped significantly if the woman in question actually worked in that role on the game, which she did not.
Obviously, the game under discussion is not an MMO. But it is symptomatic of two all-too-common problems in gaming culture that are worth noting to people who do not have balls of spiders in place of a soul. So let’s talk about those.
“Welcome to the world of Ember, or as star charts designate it, Em-8ER (‘E-M-Eight-E-R’),” says a new dev blog from Mark Kern’s Em-8ER MMO shooter. Yes, it’s a lore blog, which is going to make teasing it for its ’90s leetspeak name that much harder. It turns out that Em-8ER is the code name for a newly discovered planet in a vast network of systems discovered through humanity’s use of D-shift travel gates — and Em-8ER is haunted by and home to a hostile and ghostly sentient species.
The lore piece is massive, clocking in at just under 7500 words, and worth a look if you’re into spooky sci-fi built atop WWII alternate history where the Nazis win (or just wanted some assurance there’s more to the game than navels and guns).
Kern is a decidedly controversial (his word) figure to MMORPG genre veterans thanks to his involvement with Firefall and the vanilla WoW community, among other internet movements. He has previously discussed his plans for this shooter, including “serial Kickstarting” and a Firefall-esque foundation that doesn’t “drift over to ‘WoW with guns’ again.” Studio Crixa has raised $23,000 to date through crowdfunding and last month offered Firefall players credit toward the new game.
Virtual landsapes are made up of thousands of tiles that are shaped and forged into landmarks and obstacles. The first steps to making Em8er’s alien world are complete, as the art team has produced some ground tiles to use in the making of the zones.
“Em-8ER is a icy/volcanic world. Volcanoes with lava flows exist next to freezing snow and ice. The idea was inspired by the moon Io, which orbits Jupiter, and the fire and ice terrain of Iceland and part of Russia,” the team posted. “To create the look, we first had to create some terrain textures that would let us have snow, ice, volcanic rock, lava and snow/rock combinations.”
If you’re a former Firefall player — or a current one, since technically it’s still alive — and you are looking forward to Mark Kern’s next big thing, then there might be something in it for you.
Crixa Labs today announced a “Firefall Founder’s Credit Program” for Firefall players migrating to the upcoming “massive planetary wargame” Em-8ER. Kern was a founder and CEO of Firefall’s Red 5 Studios until his own board voted to oust him in 2013. He offered to buy the game from The9 last year; in the meantime, he’s building and crowdfunding Em-8ER.
“We are offering you a full credit on your original Founder packs for Firefall towards Em-8ER,” says a newsletter blast today. “Also, any Firefall player prior to the end of 2015 can receive a $10 credit by verifying their account” — on a validation page provided by the studio.
Em-8ER, the Mark Kern-led “massive planetary wargame” shooter formerly known as (and still pronounced like) Ember, has a new video out today showing off the THMPR — don’t look at me like that — model in Unreal Engine.
“The model you see here is being rendered in real-time in the Unreal Engine. We use a texturing/material technique called PBR or Physically Based Rendering to make materials like metal look much more realistic,” the team writes in the blog post. “Now that the THMPR is modeling, we’ll need to animate it and build a background scene.”
Kern is a decidedly controversial (his word) figure to MMORPG genre veterans thanks to his involvement with Firefall and the vanilla World of Warcraft community, among other internet movements. He has previously discussed his plans for this shooter, including “serial Kickstarting” and a Firefall-esque foundation that doesn’t “drift over to ‘WoW with guns’ again.” Studio Crixa has thus far raised $23,000 in the first of its planned miniature crowdfunding campaigns, exceeding its goal.
2016 was not Firefall’s year.
I’m not sure which year was its year, honestly, what with the e-sports bus fiasco and suspension of PvP and former CEO Mark Kern hoopla and “pre-launch reorganization” in the lead up to launch. Maybe it was 2014, when the best thing we could say about it was that it was “finally a real game.”
But 2016 was definitely not it.
Back in December 2015, rumors began to circulate that Red 5 had missed payroll, followed by a brutal company meeting, late salaries, and the inevitable “reorganization” layoffs and departures. The studio shakeup was itself followed by a hurried and bug-laden Razor’s Edge patch. In May of 2016, Chinese conglom The9, which by then effectively owned Red 5 Studios and has injected it with the cash to launch, traded part of its stake in the studio to a Cayman Islands cashmere manufacturer and announced mobile and console ports for Firefall, but that company’s stock crashed soon after and trading was suspended. Mark Kern even resurfaced to offer to buy the game that fired him.
This year, we’re taking a time-machine back through our MMO coverage, month by month, to hit the highlights and frame our journey before we head into 2017.
There’s nothing for it: The legacy server debate consumed the month of April, at least in MMORPG land. Beginning with the cease-and-desist-prompted sunset of the popular World of Warcraft vanilla emulator Nostalrius server, we were dragged along from petitions and meetings to “pristine servers” and even Mark Kern in a saga that continues still in December.
EVE Online was also beset by World War Bee, which actually began back in March but had all but played out by the end of April.
Read on for the month’s whole review!