Firefall, the massively-multiplayer online shooter, has been "coming soon" for quite some time now, but finally it seems the game is almost ready for general release: open beta starts on July 9, meaning that for the first time anyone will be able to download and play the game without having to jump through any hoops.
Firefall, lest you're unfamiliar, is developed by Red 5 Studios, a California-based team led by Mark Kern, former team leader on Blizzard's World of Warcraft. Red 5 has stated on numerous occasions that it doesn't want Firefall to be in any way a dumbed down experience -- in fact, writing for MMORPG.com recently, Kern noted that he felt World of Warcraft had become too casual; that it had "killed a genre."
Kern's justification for this bold statement is that the growing casual-friendly nature of many massively-multiplayer online RPGs -- led by World of Warcraft -- means that these experiences often become a race to the level cap and endgame content rather than games in which you enjoy the journey.
"An MMO should be savored, a lifetime of experiences contained within a single, beautifully crafted world," writes Kern. "The moment to moment gameplay should be its own reward. You should feel like you could live your whole life there, not by having infinite quests, but by having a living world that makes you feel good just for being in it and experiencing all it has to offer at your own pace. It's not about the competition to max out your character, it's about a way of life and a long-term hobby with enduring friends."
Consequently, Kern is keen to ensure that Firefall fits this mold rather than being overly casual or too rapid in its progression.
"Firefall is not a trivialized distillation of an MMO," says Kern. "We found that adding a little difficulty and depth has actually made the game more fun, not less. Maybe, just maybe, as an industry we've made things too easy, and it's time to get back to games being challenging as well as fun."
Firefall's challenge factor comes from a number of systems: dynamic events and missions that scale to players, skill-based combat, flexible player progression, and a complex crafting system. Kern is particularly proud of the latter, comparing it to the system of the original Star Wars Galaxies rather than more recent MMOs' simplified crafting mechanics.
Whether or not Kern's bold claims with regard to Firefall hold up in the long term remains to be seen, but it's clear his heart's in the right place. From July 9 you'll be able to make your own mind up and try the game for yourself if you've not already been playing the closed beta. Find out more and sign up on the official site.