“No-Win Situation” Looks At the Troubled History Of Red 5 Studios

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Firefall screen

A lengthy, in-depth examination of the history of Firefall developer Red 5 Studios has just wrapped up over at GameFront.

Both Firefall and developer Red 5 Studios went through some pretty big changes in the second half of 2013. Firefall’s PvP mode was surprisingly suspended in September of that year, despite the prior determination of then-CEO Mark Kern to make a big splash on the professional e-Sports scene; then in December, the plug was pulled on Kern himself, as the Red 5 board of directors voted for his dismissal. A few employees spoke out on the matter shortly thereafter but aside from a general feeling that Kern was a hard guy to work for, actual details regarding his ouster were few and far between.

But a new report on the history of Red 5 and Firefall posted at GameFront paints a less-than-flattering portrait of working conditions at the studio and strongly suggests that Kern’s removal, or the eventual collapse of Red 5, was inevitable. Numerous employees portray him as a mercurial man, prone to favoritism and capricious decision-making, whose temper was so volatile that he actually gave some of them a “safeword” they could use “in case he was being particularly verbally abusive.” Money was spent almost recklessly on side projects, perhaps most appallingly the Mobile Gaming Unit, a customized bus costing an estimated $3 million for construction and repairs that never worked properly, could not be driven and now languishes in a warehouse somewhere.

It’s not exactly a tragic tale – Firefall is still running and Red 5 still exists – but it is kind of sad; Firefall has been in development for the better part of a decade and yet remains mired in open beta with no proper release date in sight, while the studio sounds like it’s still trying to recover from years of mismanagement. It’s also an impressive behind-the-scenes tale that’s well worth reading. Get the story in full over at GameFront: Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

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