Firefall: A Q&A With Red 5 Studios

Firefall! It’s the upcoming free-to-play team-based shooter currently being developed by Red 5 Studios. Nightmare Mode recently had the opportunity to ask the developers extensive questions about the game–from their influences, to the game lore, to the thinking behind the free-to-play business model and just about everything else in between.

What sets Firefall apart from other games?
Where do we start! Firefall is a team-based action shooter that’s set in an online persistent world. Firefall incorporates character progression, clan progression, class-based gameplay, a huge world, rich story, integrated social and eSports features, and kick-ass gameplay. We are producing a shooter that’s not only offering a variety of competitive and cooperative modes, but we’re also offering the game for free. There are no costs to download or play Firefall. This is a AAA game, which in the F2P space is extremely rare. We’ve built a rich, persistent world for people to play in, with dynamic world events and all kinds of fun areas to explore.

What are your influences in developing the game?
The team at Red 5 has a deep love for the shooter genre, so you’ll see a lot of our experience in the industry reflected in the game. Scott Youngblood, who helped bring the Tribes franchise to life, took a lot of the ideas he couldn’t put into that series and made them cornerstones of the Firefall framework. We play a lot of games, including a good portion of Battlefield and TF2, as well as some of the older shooters from back in the day like Quake, Tribes, and Counter-Strike. It’s an amazing genre, and one we’re hoping to make a substantial contribution to.

To what degree will gear/loadouts be customizable in the game?
The different armor and weapons that you equip on your character will not only have different visuals, so players will be able to change the look and style of their character, but also a high level of customization in how the frames and weapons play. There are a myriad of abilities and modules that you can install into your equipment, but a limited number of slots available. A big part of the game is customizing how you want to play. We’re also adding in other options like customizable colors, logos, and decals. We know that everyone loves to have a unique character, so we want to do what we can to let our players leave their mark on the world of Firefall.

What are ‘dynamic world events’?
As you saw in the trailer we released during our unveiling at PAX Prime last year, dynamic world events are large-scale battles and story moments that affect the entire game world, rather than just updating what one player sees. If a Chosen army suddenly attacks an outpost and gains control of it, that isn’t just a phased event that times out… the Chosen will hold that position and defend it until the players take it back. It helps keep players on their toes. 😉

How will your classes differ from stereotypical class paradigms?
There are two key ways in which we do this. First, our battleframe structure lets players swap between the different classes on-the-fly. In most games, you pick out a class before you’ve ever set foot in the game world, and then you’re stuck in that class for the rest of that character’s life. But we feel like that’s also doing a player a disservice. We want them to experience all the rich complexities of each class without having to create multiple characters to do that.

We’re also going to set up our battleframe so that it’s customizable. Battleframe upgrades and modules don’t just improve your defensive ranking or change your paint. They add unique abilities that affect the way you approach combat. For example, a high damage battleframe may add movement based speed enhancements to their loadout, which will get them into the fray faster. It makes for a lot of creative choices, as well as excellent pwning opportunities

Why the cel-shaded art style? What ‘feel’ are you guys going for with the sci-fi cel-shaded aesthetic?
Shooting for a unique stylized look that also appealed to us and the type of game we were making was always the plan. It took us many, many iterations to finally achieve the look we have today. We refer to it as a “manga shader” that combines clean lines with shading and texture to create the look and feel. Our game tries to blend stylized with realistic while maintaining cohesion. I think we’ve achieved this very well.

What can you tell us about the lore/story?
We’ve been spending a lot of time collaborating with a certain amazing writer, honing the story for Firefall . I can’t reveal any details yet, but I can tell you that the backstory for Firefall is extremely rich. We’ve developed an entire science for a new source of energy, Crystite, which powers everything in Firefall.

Everything was going great until humanity attempted the first FTL travel with the enormous starship, the Arclight. The ship explodes and crashes towards Earth upon activation, and Admiral Nostromo, on board the Arclight, is forced into a critical sophie’s choice, type of decision which unfortunately creates a rift in space time and allows an energy storm, known as the Melding, into our universe and it proceeds to smother the planet in vast swaths.

The Melding disintegrates almost everything it comes in contact with that is biological, and brings with it a litany of horrors from its own Universe. The story is very character driven, and Nostromo’s choice opens up a huge can of worms for humanity who has to deal with surviving the aftermath of the Melding and fighting back a new mysterious race, called the Chosen, who come out of the Melding to attack what’s left of humanity.

Why the free-to-play business model?
We believe strongly in what we’re doing with Firefall. It’s a top-notch game with a huge production value behind it. But we also feel like traditional retail games don’t have the math right. Why charge a player $50 up front and then keep asking for more money from them over time? It seems wrong to do that to a gamer. The current model of selling games is broken.

The free-to-play model isn’t new. It’s a proven, successful business plan. We want to bolster the model with high quality games that will help keep the innovation and creativity in the gaming industry.

It also tells our fans that we’re in this for the long haul. Too many other games get stale after a development team cashes in on the initial sale. But with a free-to-play model, it keeps us focused on maintaining the game and presenting a product that is amazing throughout its entire lifespan.

What can you tell us about the microtransactions? Related: What sorts of things will players be able to buy? What do you guys foresee the average price-point for the microtransactions?
Our goal with microtransactions is to maintain the balance and stability of the base gameplay. We don’t want to let the person with the highest credit limit get access to the best weapons and armor in the game, and buy their way to the top. That’s unfair to the rest of the players.
While we’re still working on the exact items that will be sold, we envision the microtransactions as focused on customization and convenience options. We’re hoping to offer things like battleframe customizations, character details, as well as other enhancement options as part of the microtransaction process.

One of the key features of Firefall is a persistent world. How does this world mesh with the PvP/TDM gameplay?
Firefall combines two main features. A persistent world and a competitive multiplayer aspect. These things are not separated. When a player logs into Firefall, they will enter into a huge persistent world with hundreds of other players all fighting against the Melding and the Chosen. If they choose to compete in multiplayer modes, they can enter into instanced maps for some intense combat for rankings and awards. The maps used for competition all exist as part of the open world. You can explore and complete missions in Sunken Harbor, for instance, before ever stepping into a competitive match.

Players have the choice to play what they want to play. Both competitive multiplayer and the co-op open world provide experience and rewards to allow the player to level up and gain new equipment. In the end, our goal is to make sure that players can have fun. No matter what their play style is.


  1. David

    I know PC gamers are all about kb-m, but native gamepad support would be a nice touch.

    • Fernando

      Not sure what kb-m is, they have said that the xbox 360 controller will be an option for controls. That said, there is no possible way that a gamepad can match the twitch-based speed of a mouse & keyboard. It has been tested with xbox live and windows live players – not matter the degree of skill, a mouse & keyboard player will be faster.


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