PAX East 2013 – FireFall’s Rebirth and the Stage 5 Experiment
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
For anyone that’s followed Red 5 Studios from the beginning, you’ll know by now they are about as unorthodox of a company as it gets, at least in the online gaming industry. So when my team was invited to sit in on an hour long panel smack in the middle of PAX East, I figured they had something important to tell us. Heck they bought a pack of over 50 members of the gaming press lunch just to keep us in our seats till the end. It really made no sense to me, especially when they started off talking in great detail about their latest patch.
Now this isn’t to underestimate FireFall’s latest patch. It essentially broke down everything that we knew about the game and threw a whole new (and in the opinion of nearly all, much improved) version of FireFall at us. This includes a completely new progression system that offers a multitude of battleframe options, a rework of the current tier system, and a completely new crafting system that makes your character feel a lot more personalized than under the previous system’s ‘oh this is fun but now I’m done and not much different than everyone else’ set-up.
They’ve also made the new user experience much friendlier with The Accord Battle lab offering quick PvE tutorials on movement, combat, customization, weapons, and abilities. And with a game as unique as FireFall is, I’m sure it will be much appreciated by new players trying to get into the game.
But perhaps the most notable upgrade is the focus on the story of the game and incorporating the feeling that you are truly fighting a war of survival against The Chosen to hold onto what’s left of our world. The AI team must have put some serious overtime in on this patch as the enemy AI humanoid faction of FireFall now work together, specializing in various roles with various abilities, and bring the fight to you more as you would expect an organized PvP team would and less like the bunch of random predictable drones we experienced before.
The Chosen not only bring the fight to you harder than ever before, but now will seek to kick the sorry human scum out of various points of interest in the world, costing players buffs depending on the location and pulling back the melding (a wall that essentially acts as the boundary of the playable world) to restrict you from getting a chance to take the zone back for multiple hours. This change adds much more sense of meaning to FireFall’s PvE that has been lacking (badly I might add) in the game up till now.
In addition The Chosen will be unleashing suicidal new zombie units called Tortured Souls that the team at PAX promised would have further story behind them as the game progresses. Oh and watch your head as The Chosen are even now packing siege weaponry to make sure that carebears don’t just turtle inside their towns and wait for the Chosen to break on the city walls with little effort involved to fight them off. The new trailer says all of this so well that I would be amiss to not include it in this write-up.
Impressed yet? I certainly was. But what if all this crazy talk of MMOFPS gameplay doesn’t interest you in the slightest? I know our engineer is more of an RTS guy and was about to enter into a food coma at this part of the panel. But this was the part when everyone in the room got quite an awakening as Stage 5 was revealed.
Now what is this Stage 5? Has Red 5 Studios lost their minds and decided to get out of the game industry and into television? The answer is… sort of. Imagine a revival of TechTV before the slow gutting that G4 wrought upon the network. Now put it in the online realm where costs are much cheaper, contracts much less restricting, and Red 5 Studios has full reign to do as they please. This might not be a big deal to some people but as an ardent fan who couldn’t have remained sane through college with X-Play, I welcome the return of true gaming television.
And thankfully we can expect a wide range of gaming and gaming related television including a Game Changers which is set to take Myth Busters into the realm of video game science, a cosplay creation show, and plenty of focus on the indie scene where nearly all the creativity in today’s gaming realm seems to be coming from. Beyond that I’m rooting that we’ll see some eSports coverage, preferably with Morgan Romine involved as FireFall is an ideal candidate for some intense eSports action and who better to cover said action than a fiery red headed hardcore gaming girl?
But back in reality you have to wonder is this a viable direction for Red 5 Studios to head? Honestly it’s an idea I have been waiting to see spring up as the G4 has slowly given up on filling this niche in entertainment over the past few years. Yet it’s more of a project I expected to see a larger company set out to capture first, and in baby-steps, such as Trion’s current attempt at gaming television synergy with Defiance on SciFi. But the fact that they are going with an Internet only approach is why I’d hedge my bets on its success.
Why? Let’s face it, the Internet is a massive realm filling the gap in our day to day lives that used to be pure boredom. Look at how much money is being made on Youtube these days! Look at how many gaming related channels can survive and prosper simultaneously. The audience is obviously there. But while the volume is up there, there still remains a notable gap in quality between Internet entertainment and television entertainment, minus a few exceptions like Freddie Wong.
So there you have it! Even if Red 5 Studios isn’t exactly in the best situation right now to make this epic leap in focus, they realized the time is absolutely perfect to do so. And more power to them! I hope their channel helps usher in a new era of Kickstarter focused Indie developed games that trounce the Big Money strangling creativity in the online gaming realm. Because honestly I can only review the same old for so long before I become one of the soulless ‘jaded veterans’ in gaming press that I have been meeting more and more of as my career progresses. Long live Stage 5 TV!
Oh and one last note: Lee “Typhon” Reherman is sticking around as a host personality. Everything he does is magic so Game Breakers is in good hands.