We’re taking a trip back to the halcyon days of Firefall to set the stage for this piece, so hop aboard the esports bus and let’s find out what happened to Mark Kern and his next big thing.
Kern has been a controversial figure in the MMORPG genre for years. He was probably most notable for his work as a developer on Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, which he flamed repeatedly after his departure. He then founded Red 5 and Firefall, from which he was removed in 2014; readers will recall that his own employees trashed his behavior and the infamous esports bus. He then became involved in raising seed money for a presumably defunct VR MMO, promoting weird petitions, proclaiming he’d buy Firefall if it sunsetted (denouncing the final product as “a complete disaster”), and centering himself in the now-antique Nostalrius vanilla World of Warcraft emulator debate.
That brings us to 2016, when Kern floated a new indie game called Ember (now Em-8er), which was marketed as “spiritual successor” to Firefall based in the same sci-fi lore as his separate tabletop game; the idea was to make a game with a Firefall-esque foundation that doesn’t just become “‘WoW with guns’ again.” To fund the game, he proposed a type of “serial Kickstarting,” and since then the game has gone to Indiegogo twice, raising $23K and then $107K on Indiegogo from over 2000 combined backers. Additional funding is now being carried out through a custom shop; it looks like the cheapest buy-in is $35, though there’s a monthly subscription option too.
The last time we checked in on the game was in 2018, when the developers said that most of the characters for the game demo were complete. But updates – in the form of “milestones” for the “vertical slice” mockup of the game – actually have marched on, to our surprise, with demos for movement, multiplayer, weapons, missiles, spawning, resources, mining, grappling, and first-person play rolling out to backers, in addition to lore. The developers are still calling Em-8er a “massive planetary wargame” and “Mech vs Kaiju open world MMO FPS/TPS” and promising “grand invasions and counter-invasions that rage across the planet” on a “massive persistent battlefield,” though the website has no official release window and still refers to the game as being “in the beginning stages of development” almost five years in.
Most recently, the team has been working on a demo for the Tsi-Hu enemies’ combat, which reportedly launched last week.
“This is the demo that you’ve always dreamed of, we knew it from the start. You’ll find the Tsi-Hu are fighting back, and they’ll rip out your heart. In the next Em-8er demo build from Crixa labs, the Tsihu will be moving, reacting, and FIRING at the players with their own firearms. The world of Em-8er has never been more dangerous. This build will be ready to download this Friday, March 19th, for all eligible backers. […] In this build-
– The Tsi-Hu will be out in force fighting the Reaper teams with everything they’ve got!
– Reapers will be Scanning for resources and mining them with THMPR mining mechs!
– Don’t forget to take a look at your personal inventory of resources!
– Use the glider to escape and engage or slide around in your omniframe firing with style!”
So there you go: Em-8er is still around, still being funded, and still being worked on.
Get caught up on the whole saga:
We’re tucking in a few of the more recent videos too, including a run-down of the sub.
Oh fine, obligatory photo of the esports bus.