Red 5 Studios CEO Mark Kern revealed that his previous job as team lead on World of Warcraft was actually detrimental to team-based online shooter Firefall.
Red 5 Studios was out at PAX East 2011 showing off Firefall, an upcoming online team-based shooter set in a persistent world. Red 5 CEO Mark Kern is known as a games industry veteran and previous team lead on World of Warcraft, which you'd think would only be a positive thing for his current project. However, he told us that moving from an online RPG to an online shooter was a harder transition that you might think.
Today, Red 5 is developing Firefall as a third and first-person shooter experience with more customization and features than the genre typically receives, not as an RPG/shooter like Borderlands. Kern said that his time working on World of Warcraft may have actually hurt Firefall in the beginning of development because Red 5 put together mechanics slightly more on the RPG end that "just didn't work." Luckily, Red 5 realized this, and are shaping Firefall into something that makes more sense.
I got some hands-on time with Firefall at PAX East and it's definitely a game that shooter fans looking for a little more depth should anticipate. Kern explained that the game's persistent world will feature many different quests to complete and lots of loot to pickup. While this part of the game won't feature player-versus-player, the world's zones are instanced when you want to take on other humans.
These instances start players in a base where they can choose from three different types of classes- an assault-type, recon-type, and medic-type - which are fully customizable with various types of pickups in both PvP and PvE. Each have their own weapon styles that are complimented by unique skills. For example, the recon-type comes equipped with a sniper rifle that can tag enemies with mines from afar, shoot freeze bullets, and more. Other class abilities include an up close area-of-effect ground smash and, of course, the medic can heal.
On the contrary, World of Warcraft may have positively inspired Firefall's level design. I was only able to try out one environment, a tropical island area with a busted up boardwalk, pools of water, and other colorful features, but the map was a far cry from the rusty, industrial environments of other shooters. It was like a battle vacation.
Kern added that while putting tons of players in one area might be fun, Red 5 determined that smaller skirmishes are sometimes even better. I tried a 5v5 match and the variation of class abilities combined with drops that might give players a cloak or similar bonus made Firefall feel like the unique type of shooter Red 5 is going for, because I was never just running around with an automatic weapon on blast. Instead, I was judging which attacks would be best to use in various situations, jetpacking to a safe spot to snipe from afar, or dashing over to a fallen ally to save him (which can deny the other team a kill).
The combination of shooter-focused gameplay with a persistent world in which Kern said Red 5 is doing its best to implement quests that are more than just "kill X space marines" has potential to lead to an extremely fun and deep action-based experience with MMO elements. The final product could appeal to MMO fans sick of pressing a key to watch themselves attack a bear over an over, and shooter fans bored with simply fragging lots of noobs.
Firefall will be free-to-play and supported by an in-game marketplace. It's expected for release on the PC in 2011.