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PAX East 2011: Q & A with Mark Kern and Hands-on with Firefall

Title: Firefall

Screenshot
Screenshot
Webzen/Red 5 Studios
Firefall
Webzen/Red 5 Studios

Publisher: Webzen

Developer: Red 5 Studios

Release Date: TBD Late 2011

Platform(s): PC

Player(s): 1+ (co-op & competitive multiplayer)

MSRP: Free

Genre(s): Action, Team-Based 3rd-Person Shooter

ESRB Rating: RP – Rating Pending

During PAX East I was able to get some talk-time with Red 5 Studios CEO and Founder, Mark Kern (former Team Lead of Blizzard’s World of Warcraft) regarding his new shooter, Firefall. Here’s what he had to say:

Tell me about the game?

Mark Kern: Firefall is a team-based action shooter with two key elements: One, is that we have an open-world co-op element where hundreds of players can basically adventure here at the same time. The other thing is that we have a very competitive multiplayer mode with clan support built right in. So basically what we’ve got here at the show is we’ve got four armies setup and they’re sporting their army colors and their battle frames; the colors are completely customizable. And they’re going head-to-head in a map called Sunken Harbor.

It’s really important to realize that we’re entirely skill-based: there’s no dice-rolling or anything else going on behind there.

Tell me a little bit about the background, about the world.

MK: Firefall takes place in an Earth that’s been devastated by an event called the Melding.

So it is Earth?

MK:Yes it is. Basically the Earth gets enveloped by the Melding and there’s only one pocket of humanity left that we know of and this is where the player starts. There’s also a very aggressive race that has started to come out of the Melding called the Chosen that are invading human territory, human towns and we have to push them back. That’s the story, it’s a future Earth.

Any chance of [different factions fighting one another]?

MK: Right now there are only the humans and they’re the playable faction in the game. The Chosen are a NPC (non-playable character) faction that persists in the open-world and attack towns and villages.

Will there be any support for DLC in the future? Paid or free.

MK: We’re free-to-play. I want to emphasize that you’re not going to buy a map pack or anything like that. You download the game you can access all the areas, no problem. But over time we’re going to release more items in the store and things like that and that’s kind of our DLC. DLC is a term that fits maybe more of a boxed game. As a free-to-play game it’s like no, we just keep releasing content over time for free and the item store will have different things that you can buy.

What inspired you to create Firefall?

MK: Well, after a long time working on World of Warcraft I wanted to try something really different. We were having a lot of fun on that team playing shooters and I said, “I bet there’s a way we can create a shooter and selectively blend MMO (massively multiplayer online) into that shooter.” That was really the inspiration behind Firefall.

What are the classes?

MK:We don’t really have classes, it’s really about the equipment that you’re wearing. We call them Battle Frames, the exo-skeleton you see on the characters. At PAX we’re showing three different exo-skeletons that you can equip: one is a Medic, the other one is Assault, and the last one is the new one for the show called the Recon, it’s kind of like the sniper class. It’s unique because of the abilities we have. You can load cryo rounds, shoot enemies with that and slow them down and drain all their energy. Or you can plant explosives on them or plant proximity mines from a distance. You can do a lot of different things depending on the Modules you find in the world and slot them into your Battle Frame.

How many [Battle Frames] are you expecting to have?

MK: As many as we think are fun! (laughs)

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After the interview I was treated with a round of the competitive multiplayer. I started out as Assault and had a special pack that allowed me to slam down from a great height when triggered. Assault is the usual high damage-dealing character. After blasting some dudes I was killed and I switched over to Medic which allowed me to heal teammates. The Medic can also Overheal their teammates which causes their life bar to go over the maximum threshold. Of course I was also able to resurrect members of my team as well. After my stint as a Medic was done I tried out the brand new Recon Battle Frame. This Frame had me scoping in and taking down opponents from afar. With what I played it seemed like a good balance and with the possibility of more Frames in the future the battles will only get more fun.

Going into the game I was skeptical at first: a free 3rd-person shooter with co-op and competitive multiplayer modes in a market saturated with similar others? Imagine my surprise when I enjoyed the time I spent with it so much when my multiplayer round was over I said aloud, “Awww!” It was fun, very fun. The longer I played I felt an addiction forming and I didn’t want it to abandon me. A team-based shooter encompassed in an MMO-like open-world is a very exciting prospect. What I played was a 5v5 team deathmatch round but I’m told there will be a multitude of match sizes to coincide with the amount of modes. The controls were as you expect of similar games and skill is the most important driving force in the gameplay. I don’t know about you but my interest is very much piqued to play a whole lot more and Red 5 Studios is looking right to plant its stick in the ground with Firefall and have gamers take notice.

For more information check out the official Firefall website. Also check out some screenshots in the sidebar to the left and the Cinematic Trailer & Gameplay Trailer.

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