FireFall: Interview with David Williams -- Part 2

We conclude our interview with Red 5's Lead Class Designer by talking about class balance, building the world lore and the team's approach to beta and free-to-play.

In the first part of our interview with Lead Class Designer David Williams, we focused on how Red 5 was increasing the depth of gameplay in FireFall by raising the skill cap, allowing highly skilled players to truly shine. We also talked about the incredibly powerful eSports toolkit that went live in the recent patch, and how Armies will form up and organize missions into the Melding. The first half wrapped up with a look at recent class revamps and the reasons behind them.

Concluding this mega-interview is a closer look at how class abilities and unlocks are balanced, and how the revamped crafting system fits into that. We also took a look at the lore that went into crafting the world, and what inspired the manga and overall art direction for FireFall. My discussion wrapped up with Williams explaining the team’s approach to beta and his thoughts on free-to-play.

With PAX Prime opening today, Red 5 has also launched a Founders Pricing promotion, with a 25% discount available on all packages throughout the weekend, even for those unable to attend. We’ve also got a hands-on closer look at the game itself, by our very own Paul Cleveland. And don’t forget to check out Part One of the interview if you haven’t already!

The Balancing Act

With all of the different options and permutations available through the tier system and the unlockable skills, I was eager to understand how it would be possible to balance the game across all the different combinations. Williams feels that it’s not a huge issue, partly because active targeting and limited abilities make skill much more important than spending hours trying to work out the best theoretical combination. Instead, he thinks we’re going to be much more focused on tailoring our gear for our own personal play style.

Using the Biotech abilities, Williams explained that the basic version of healing wave is a simple Accord version. It has a short range, a long recharge rate, but OK healing. Alternative healing waves made by one of the three military corporations have different properties: Omnidyne-M focused on a faster recharge rate, Astrek went for a stronger heal, and Kisuton chose a stronger knockback. 

Complicating matters further, each Battleframe has its own limits of CPU cycles, reactor power and weight. Swapping out standard issue Accord kit for custom-tuned gear means that you’re more likely to hit against those limits, meaning that you’ll have to juggle stats to get the loadout you want. Higher tiers of gear also see you playing off which power plant or computer processor you want to use for your Battleframe. 

The resource and crafting system is also completely new, with Williams explaining that all resources are now rated on a 1 to 1000 scale that describes the level of crystite infusion. This amount of infusion affects the properties of the material, including conductivity, malleability, reactivity, density and resistance. Using an example of crafting a new set of jump-jets, high reactivity means that the jet strength is very high, but has an impact on power cost. Conductivity impacts how long they last in the air, while resistance affects the recharge rate. Density affects the overall weight when hooked into your battle frame.  

All of these have an impact on play style – one resource might make great jump-jets for shock troops that are leaping over walls before launching an attack, while another resource would be better for recon players who want to hang in the air. Williams added that “you can’t have everything you want. Dial up the things you care about, dial down everything else.” It maximizes self-specialization to push the Battleframe the way you want it to go.

Of course, gathering materials are an area of FireFall that Red 5 has made more interesting. While players can still call down thumpers to harvest resources, the team can now govern where resources appear, what type they are and how long they stay. “We’ve got resources that appear, go away, and then not reappear for maybe weeks at a time. So we can create these scarcities.” 

There’s also a risk versus reward system for gathering materials. If you go harvesting just outside the central hub of Copa Cabana, the most you’ll find is poor quality scraps. Move out closer to the Melding, and chances are you’ll find the good stuff. But you’re also likely to be met with all kinds of “gnarly” creatures.

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