Over the past few months, Red 5 Studios has worked tirelessly to take Firefall to the next level. This includes bashing over 1000 bugs, improving the New User Experience, adding campaign missions, reimagining the crafting UI, wandering encounters, and many other improvements. We acknowledged the problems with our game and we have made it our prime goal to produce a better, more entertaining Firefall. All of our efforts boil down to an upcoming patch at the end of January and we are beyond excited to give you a preview.
To usher in the big January milestone, we’ve kicked off the celebration with a Developer Round Table Live Stream on Thursday, January 9th at 11 AM PST. Top Red 5 designers and developers including Scott Rudi, John Deshazer, Matthew Cucuzza, James Macauley and host Frank Lettieri got together to discuss the changes and new features coming to Firefall.
Q: What can we expect from the new campaign missions and how will players access the story installments?
A: Players can expect a heightened emphasis on the backstory and lore of Firefall along with a deeper look at the reoccurring characters. We delve into the characters that you already know like Oilspill and Aero and also add some new ones to the mix. In terms of accessing the campaign missions, players will not be required to start over with a new character in order to experience the campaign. Anyone can play and enjoy these missions. It is also our goal to make some of this content instanced so players can tackle them over and over again, including leaderboard functionality at some point in the future.
Q: What is the mission ledger?
A: The mission ledger will act as a roadmap through the campaign. It is your quest log, achievement tracker, and instance launcher all rolled into one. In between story missions, players will earn rank points by participating in world events and open world gameplay such as tornados and ARES missions in order to unlock the next mission. We want to encourage users to take their time instead of charging through the story, and knocking it out in a matter of days.
Q: Tell us a little bit about perks.
A: The perk system is a new mechanic in Firefall gameplay focusing on battleframe customization and variety. As you progress and unlock battleframe constraints such as Mass, Power, or CPU; you will gain perk points which can be used to equip an assortment of perks. Many perks can only be unlocked by attaining a certain number of constraints with a particular battleframe but once unlocked, they can be utilized by any battleframe. For a detailed look at perks, check out Ktav’s post on the Firefall forums.
Q: Perk points vs. perk pool.
A: Perk points are specific to each battleframe and can be thought of as a spending allowance for adding perks to a battleframe loadout. The perk pool represents all of the perks that have been unlocked, and are available to equip to any class. Players will all start with a pool of common perks that can be used as soon as enough perk points are acquired on that frame. The starting perks are general purpose improvements that will make life easier while fragging around the world of Firefall. The types of perks vary greatly from adding entirely new functions, like the melee ability, to an array of both passive and active traits.
Q: Should we expect perks to include stat boosts?
A: There a few perks that increase stats such as increased health regeneration and movement speed, but the vast majority of perks create more dynamic options and gameplay possibilities to suit varied play styles.
Reparability, Salvaging, and Prestige
Q: Can you explain tiered reparability?
A: You will now be able to increase an item’s lifespan by spending crystite on equipment repairs. For example, if you’re a stage 4 player who has worked very hard to build an awesome weapon, you have the option to repair at five different repair levels. Each repair level has a different crystite cost and repair point value. At maximum repair level, you are using only 25% of your repair pool to repair your equipment allowing it to last much longer and therefore have more time to earn prestige through use.
Q: How does salvaging and prestige work?
A: While in combat, your items’ will natural degrade and the durability will decrease. Now, these items will also gain prestige. The more prestige an item has, the better rewards you will receive when salvaging it. These rewards range from research points, crystite, and even special “legendary” blueprints.
Q: How will the inventory cap factor into salvaging and prestige?
A: With salvaging, players can now take their huge backlog of items and turn them into extra crystite and rewards. It will be very profitable and useful to salvage unneeded items and clear out your inventory.
Research Professions and Crafting
Q: How many research professions can we expect?
A: We are launching with three professions: one for weapons, one for abilities, and one for battleframe modules which includes plating, passive abilities, servos, jump jets, and HKM abilities. Although we’re starting with just these three, we are planning to introduce new professions over time. We also want to encourage players who aren’t interested in crafting equipment to participate which is why we will be including non-crafting professions in the near future.
Q: Can you give us an example of a non-crafting profession?
A: We have a lot of ideas in the works such as a resource hunter who would be adept at locating very specific resource types. Another idea is a thumper specialist who would be able to use modified thumpers with turrets or other alterations.
Q: What will happen in the new system with recipes that have already been researched?
A: You won’t lose recipes that you’ve already researched. Existing players will be grandfathered into the profession system and will have access to all professions as long as they’ve already researched recipes within those professions. As we add new professions, those players will have to choose whether they want to respect into the new profession or not. There is a cost for respecs. The more often you switch, the more expensive it’ll be. If you do so infrequently, the cost decreases over time. You do not lose the research you had when you respec, but you do lose access to the recipes for any profession you are not specialized in.
Q: What changes have been made to the crafting user interface?
A: We simplified the interface, broke it down to be cleaner and easier to navigate. The new UI utilizes more of a visual representation, focusing on easy digestible steps. Another change, players will be able to see the final stats of a component before actually crafting it, allowing you to tweak what resources you use before building the final item to craft exactly what you want.
Q: What changes have been made to the HUD user interface?
A: The new HUD has had a visual change to give it more of a sci-fi feel, but has also had some usability improvements. The best part is that it is customizable. With the new HUD, you can drag and drop abilities, calldowns, and items, wherever you want on a total of eight ability slots. We’ve also improved the chat UI with a cleaner look, and the ability to add customized channels for army or squad communication.
Progression and Constraints
Q: What can you say about upcoming progression changes?
A: To start, we want to be clear about the progression changes; this is an iteration pass on the current system. We decided that we needed to adjust the numbers to better correspond with the balance of the open world, the creatures, and the crafting.
We identified a series of problems with the existing progression system, but luckily we were able to fix those issues without a complete overhaul of the system itself. The first problem we noticed was players being able to ignore entire stages of gear; in other words, being able to beat the higher stages of content with stock gear. The second problem was a lack of clear paths of growth for your character. There was no real need to acquire different gear in order to move into new zones and experience new content.
With this in mind, we first implemented a concept of minimum zone stages for creatures. This has been live in beta since December and was the first step in driving progression changes. For people who haven’t experienced this yet, its framework is as follows: New Eden has been labeled as a stage 1 and stage 2 zone. Diamondhead is now minimum stage 2, Sargasso Sea is stage 3 and Antarctica is stage 4. This effectively means you won’t see any creature lower than the minimum stage of the zone, even if you call down small thumpers in these new zones.
To incentivize players to head to the higher stage zones, we’ve distributed the different resource qualities based on the stage of the zone. The higher the stage, the higher quality resources that you can attain in that zone.
The next step was to increase the power of the creatures in the game. This will make it much more challenging for players to fight creatures of certain stages without correct staged gear. To be clear, this isn’t intended to make battle with higher staged enemies impossible, just harder. We still expect players to be able to fight at a stage above their own level, just with a higher risk and higher reward.
Q: In this iteration, what differences can players expect when going through the process of unlocking constraints compared to the previous iteration?
A: We increased the overall number of constraint unlocks along with increasing the statistical differences between stages. In order to simplify the overall usability of unlocking constraints, we only show you the stage that you’re in currently. Once you’ve unlocked all the constraints within that stage, you can then unlock the next stage and continue progressing.
This not only had the benefit of a visual simplification, but also stretched out the high costs associated with unlocking higher-staged constraints. You now see higher costs associated with the final constraint unlock in each stage, but a more linear increase in costs within a stage making it feel less like hitting a wall and more like jumping a hurdle.
Q: What was/were the key factor(s) in deciding to change the way constraints are unlocked?
A: Readability was one key factor. Also, we wanted to present the final stages in an open fashion so players would have the opportunity to utilize more incremental improvements and earn progression in fewer sessions. While the amount of progression earned will be smaller, it effectively matches the old system. This was designed to allow players to tackle upgrading in smaller, more digestible chunks.
Q: At what point within a stage can I use that stage's equipment?
A: With the removal of staged gear, players will be able to equip any gear as long as they have the constraints available. However, with the increased curve on constraint cost, equipping gear outside of the current progression stage will be quite costly. Because gear is unstaged now, you could effectively make an item that pushes one stat into the next stage but decreases the other stats, resulting in a piece of gear that isn't too expensive to equip. There is a lot more leniency here for flavoring your gear and customizing your battleframe to your play style.
Q: What kind of impact will this have on Firefall's power curve in progression?
A: This will increase the vertical progression of Firefall. A maximum Stage IV battleframe could have approximately 8x more hit points and/or damage capabilities depending on how they customize their equipment.
Q: In the past, developers have spoken about wanting to have more "diagonal" progression with less emphasis on vertical progression. What made you decide to incorporate more vertical progression in this iteration?
A: This wasn’t a decision that we took lightly. We received feedback, and agreed with that feedback, that the current progression lacked meaningful growth for players to notice. Unlocking constraints only provided marginal improvements to your frame; you couldn’t really feel the difference. Only when you change from a high stage frame to a stock frame would you really notice the growth you had earned. The newer system will be much more apparent, you’ll be able to feel your character become more powerful while still staying within reasonable limits of a power curve.
Q: What will happen to players' unlocks when this change goes live?
A: Players will retain the same constraint unlocks they currently have unlocked. Your battleframe stage will be determined by the lowest constraint you have unlocked, but you will not have to re-unlock any constraints you’ve already got. We’re not going to take away your progression or wipe your character.
Q: What will happen with players' equipment when this change goes live?
A: Players will keep their old stage gear which will be granted a higher-than-average prestige value by default (the idea is to encourage you to salvage them), and players will also attain new gear based on what battleframes they have unlocked and what stage that battleframe is at.
Q: What kind of steps will you be taking to engage players at the higher stages of progression?
A: The expansion of Diamondhead, expected to come online shortly after this milestone patch, will be the first step to give mid-tier players a place to play. Our goal is to then tackle Antarctica to give end-game players a playground as well. Along with the addition of open world PvP and boss battles through 2014, we feel these things will provide the much-needed end-game content for max-level players.
Q: What will the resource distribution curve look like?
A: It will roughly imitate the progression curve. Stage I zone will have resource qualities between 1 and 150, Diamondhead will have resource qualities between 75 and 300, Sargasso Sea will be between 125 and 600, and Antarctica will be between 250 and 1000. Each of these zones will have their own internal distribution curve to provide qualities mostly within the middle of those ranges so the extremes are less likely to appear. To build the best equipment, you’ll need to get out there and into the appropriate zones. These numbers are still being tested and may change.
Q: What kind of impact will the new progression iteration have on player rewards?
A: The stage of your character will be a factor in the rewards that you receive. You want to be doing missions that are associated with your level of progression. You are highly incentivized to play content that matches or is above your own stage.
Q: How will specific activity rewards be changed in the upcoming patch?
A: With the big January milestone patch, different types of activities will give out different rewards. For example, ARES missions will grant normal XP, normal crystite, no resources, high AMPs; while defending watchtowers will reward players with high XP, low crystite, low resources, a normal AMPs; and thumping will reward high resources, no crystite, normal XP, and no AMPs. This should increase the overall crystite available in the world and create a more customers for resource purchases on the marketplace.
Upcoming Features in 2014
• Players will be able to actively push back the Melding in the Diamondhead region and we’ll see it transform from a Melding Pocket into a fully-fledged warfront.
• We’ll be working on bosses in Firefall and the Melding Titan will make an appearance.
• Open world PVP is on the horizon sometime during the first half of the year which will include army vs. army, squad vs. squad, and territory control content.
• New vehicles will make an appearance along with vehicle combat in head-to-head vehicle PVP.
• And much, much more. Firefall takes flight in 2014. Stick around.
For more information about the topics discussed during the first Developer Round Table, check out Firefall Live tomorrow at 10 AM PST/6 PM GMT on Twitch.