On this week’s show, Justin and Bree mourn the passing of Firefall, find out what’s behind Tibia’s secret door, muse about World of Warcraft’s next expansion, and more!
It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.
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Firefall fans can cross their fingers hoping for the promised mobile edition, but we wouldn’t put too much stock in waiting for it. In the meanwhile, players have had to cope with the abrupt and unsympathetic closure of their game world.
Over on the Firefall subreddit, the mods made the decision to lock up the sub from any new posts going forward because fans haven’t had a bad enough week.
“What is the point of locking the sub now?” one player posted. “If the forums are going down surely you would expect this place to be the next spot for everyone to talk, but sure, let’s lock it up. Makes perfect sense.”
And as darkness envelops this colorful and controversial title, it would be a shame not to end our time with Firefall without one last look at its greatest legacy: the infamous bus. Go for a final ride after the break!
Do not go gentle into that good night forever,
Old MMOs should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the server.
Now that I’ve well and truly butchered a classic poem, I’ll turn the funeral proceedings over to Ralph the Wonder Llama, who has these kind words to say about the recently deceased: “Well, at least it’s finally official. Rest in peace, Firefall. You will be missed. Ares 35, signing off.”
Is it just me, or is anyone else getting Tabula Rasa flashbacks?
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.”
In tossing out a screenshot challenge last week revolving around combat action shots, you’d think that this would be a piece of cake. After all, we do fight a little bit in MMOs, right? But it turns out that capturing a good-looking combat picture is really difficult in the midst of the chaos… unless your MMO is set up for it.
“I hardly ever take screenshots in combat,” said Zyrusticae. “Usually too busy being distracted by actually playing the game. But Warframe’s Captura tool certainly changes things in that regard. Wish all games had something on this level. I need to jump in and take more screenshots!”
It is pretty sweet! Definitely second the motion to port this over to all MMORPGs.
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.
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.