Thursday, February 11, 2016

It's a Whole New Fall Game

Firefall spammed me bragging about all they've updated and inviting me for a month-long "VIP" session so despite being busy with EVE at the moment I decided to visit and see what they've done with the place. Before I get to the visual aid, allow me to provide some background.

I'm not entirely sorry I looked into Firefall. The original concept included some good ideas (or at least slightly different, which counts for a lot in today's homogenized MMO market) and the utter trainwreck it gradually became makes a quaint object lesson in game resign. Red5's "recent history" on Wikipedia alone would warn any would-be developers off relying on a single investor (especially the part where they're not paying their employees) as it becomes apparent that the project's gradual, repeated redesign was likely a result of a corporate overlord visiting a few times a year and demanding more WoW-bell.

Though Firefall had an occasional good point here and there to set it above some of its competitors, especially in its second or so incarnation, it betrays the curious failing of being simply the worst-managed business investment I've ever seen among games. Yes, there are a lot of bad games out there, but in most cases you can see method behind the madness, some Machiavellian (or Bond-villain) scheme for fleecing customers. You can see the corners being cut for profit, the attempts at inducing gambling addiction or some kind of dependence on the game's stimuli in its customers, the... ida know, boobs or something, but in any case that something quite blatantly is meant to benefit the product's peddlers. True in most cases, but not for Firefall.

It's been remade in at least four major installments that I can place. The first time I jumped in it revolved on arena PvP fights. The second time it saw it (the most promising version) I spent an almost pleasant time searching for resource nodes to craft objects for a player-based in-game economy. By two years ago it had become a "kill ten rats" daily mission-running routine, but at least it was still mostly open-world. Now it seems an endless sequence of instanced missions laden with cheesy cinematics, but I'll get into that in some later post. In between these various major stages it managed to trip through a slew of arbitrary reworks of its player classes, resource system, missions, etc. I'm not talking here about the sort of redesign suffered by most WoW-clones, in which later updates gradually dumb down the general tone of "endgame" content. Firefall has redesigned the same elements again and again... and again and again and again. Missions, voiceovers, cinematics, zones, anything and everything has been randomly removed or replaced with a side-grade of itself, usually repeatedly. Every time I've come back to the game I've had to replay the introductory mission sequence and it's been altered every time. Years of development seem to have been gratuitously flushed down the drain.

So I kinda knew not to get my hopes up when I clicked their latest spam. Sure enough I couldn't even patch the game but what the hell; an uninstall and overnight reinstall later, I was in, baby! Well, partly in. Just the tip. I was stuck at the loading screen through several reboots because they'd once again redesigned the class system, deleting the player's core classes after you reach a prestige class, and the system wouldn't accept my choice of prestige class and kept GOTO 10-ing on me. Finally though I was in, and rushed to the crafting stations to clear some space in my overloaded inventory... only to find out crafting had been disabled until the next no, wait, until two major patches later. Well, at least they're setting goals for themselves like highly effective computer people are apt to do. And redo.

Keep in mind I logged in because they officially invited me after a year and a half of well-earned absence. This, all this, is what's supposed to inspire me to return to the game. This is them showing off.

Then it was deja vu all over again running through some introductory crap about bandits and ogres, and then (wait, this is the kicker) I tried to spend some of the amusement park money that came with my offer of a month of VIP time.

Check-mate, good sirs. I declare myself defeated. I've seen and ranted about a lot of shitty games but even in the darkest depths of misdesign hell, when every other feature is broken, when there's no balance and your items get deleted and the servers crash and your character's suddenly naked in a volcano, you can bet your sweet ass the cash shop and PayPal links still work!

Nope, not in Firefall they don't.
I cannot begin to fathom what's gong on with this thing. The project's been off the rails for so long it's probably being pulled by Jed Clampett's mule at this point. I'm tempted to say its investors destroyed it (as is often the case) but who the hell would still be sinking money into this thing after five years of stagnation, ditches within last ditches and backsliding? Maybe it's the programmers themselves creating a sinecure for themselves. I'm just enjoying an occasional gander of the freak for my two bits.

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