A Gift for Firefall Lore Hounds

Many of you have asked about all the missing original lore in Firefall. I wrote this lore with Orson Scott Card and had great help from Richard Pearsey in bringing it to life. Richard wrote the original Blackwater Marsh Anomaly mission, which I’ve always felt was Firefall’s best in-game lore work.

I’m writing this as notes from the point of view of someone already familiar with Firefall in order to keep it brief. Writing it all out would take volumes and wear out my typing fingers.

If you’re unfamiliar with Firefall lore, I suggest starting with the original manga, written by Orson Scott Card and his daughter Emily Janice Card, who did most of the heavy lifting. 

Then you can watch the video of the crash of the Arclight, which I wrote and directed.  This piece is the defining moment of the first story arc of Firefall.

Firefall’s original story is really a story about Nostromo vs Graves, the leader of the Chosen. Admiral Nostromo is wracked by guilt at choosing the death of his own family in order to save millions by diverting the crashing arclight away from Rio.

Nostromo blames the Melding–and more specifically the Chosen and Graves–for his loss. The fact that the Earth was lost to the Melding and that his choice mattered little is too much to bear. Nostromo is slowly going mad and becoming more authoritarian as the days progress. His rivalry with Graves is like Capt. Ahab chasing Moby Dick.

But more on that later.

Graves is an affinite, joining a number of humans who had begun to develop mental abilities far surpassing baseline humans. Smarter and more physically attuned than most of humanity, he can hear the call of the Melding.  He is consumed by its promise of unlimited power. He and the other Chosen believe themselves to be masters of this new power source. They do not realize that they are being manipulated by a sentience vastly outweighing their own.

The Melding itself is from a bubble universe, one of an infinite number of universes that, along with our own, exist separately and simultaneously. The universe of the Melding has been dying for some time, undergoing “heat death” where the very atoms of matter cease their vibrations and the energy of the entire Universe slowly decays to zero.

In order to survive, the races of the Melding’s universe collapsed into a singularity. All sentient beings were uploaded into a energy matrix, and all remaining matter was consumed to power that matrix.

Now, the Melding is time slicing, powering itself only intermittently in ever decreasing bits of time designed to preserve energy while giving the illusion of continuous thought and life. It cannot last forever.  The thought of its impending death, combined with the countless melded sentient minds of an entire Universe, have slowly driven it insane.

When the Arclight inadvertently punched a hole from the Melding’s depleted universe into our own matter-rich bubble universe, the Melding took note. It hungered for more matter to convert to energy. The path provided by the Arclight promised renewed life, and something else–something new. Crystite.

Crystite changed the Earth, raining down in a huge asteroid bombardment lasting weeks.  

It was named “Firefall.”

Firefall was an extinction-level event, wiping out much of the Earth’s population at the same time as it left it’s prize. Crystite offered boundless energy.  The very substance that nearly destroyed the entire planet was the key to Earth’s renewal.

New, advanced technologies were now possible thanks to the unique properties of this new element. Humanity rebuilt itself and thrived. Earth terraformed into gardens and peace.  The small remaining population settled mostly into towns that harmonized with nature instead of living in the monolithic cities that had choked the planet prior to the Firefall event.

But to the Melding, Crystite was a mystery. Unlike ordinary matter, Crystite was the first substance it could not absorb and break down into energy. Crystite was also unapproachable. The Melding couldn’t come in physical contact with the element. The crashed Arclight itself, its dimensional shift engines still running and projecting an amplified Crystite STIZ bubble, created a shield so strong it protected all of Fortaleza from being absorbed by the Melding.

Humans adapted this effect into portable units called Melding repulsors, which could temporarily push back the Melding or be carried by small groups into the Melding itself for exploratory purposes, surrounding them in a small envelope of protected space.

Even though it repels them,  there is one, extremely important aspect of Crystite that makes it essential to the plans of the Melding–Crystite’s ability to create an arcfold…the tunnel that brought the Melding through in the first place, was the key to bringing the rest of the Melding into our universe.

You see, the Melding was weak, only a fraction of it had transferred through the original arcfold. It only possessed a base level of consciousness, incapable of direct communication and unable to completely absorb the Earth or move beyond it into space to devour the rest of the universe. In order to reach its full strength and unstoppable sentience, it needed to bring the rest of itself into our universe. This meant creating another, more powerful arcfold, and gathering the tremendous amounts of Crystite necessary to perform such a feat.

Not being able to approach Crystite, the Melding had to get creative. It found the affinites.

The Melding had encountered affinites, psychically attuned humans, when it first fell to Earth. Affinites could perceive and respond to the Melding’s weak, subliminal messages. Since there wasn’t enough of the Melding on Earth to allow it to be fully conscious, direct communication was impossible. Instead, the Melding transferred suggestion, emotion, desires, and base-level brain instincts and needs deep into affinites brains. The first instinct the Melding created in affinites was the desire to bond with the Melding, to walk into it and to be absorbed. And many did, by the thousands. Graves was among the first.

When affinites are absorbed into the Melding, they are disintegrated, stripped down to elements and energy, and their consciousness uploaded. The Melding then feeds them just enough power to allow them to reconstitute themselves. The strongest affinites are able to regain their individuality, but are reborn as Chosen, infused with the desire for Melding power and driven by the darker nature of humanity. Those who are not strong enough become the Tortured Souls, mindless fodder for the Chosen, incapable of thought, not much more than shambling, violent husks of meat and bone.

The Melding feeds the base desires of the Chosen, filling their minds with visions of power and a new humanity. It drives them to do what it cannot, enter the STIZ bubble and acquire everything it needs to re-open the arcfold: scientists, resources, human technology and, of course, vast quantities of Crystite.

The Melding intends to build a second arcfold engine, one that will create a portal big enough to bring the rest of the Melding to our universe.

The Chosen are unaware of the Meldings true agenda.

To them, the Melding is not a sentient being, but the power to create and to destroy–their power. The Melding allows the Chosen to create whatever weapons and armor they need out of pure Melding energy.  They can even create clones of themselves to send into Battle. Chosen Prime, the original humans that were absorbed by the Melding, are loath to leave it. They bathe in its energies and are protected by its presence.

To face the armies of the humans, they would not only need a way to project their forces into human territory, but also increase their numbers.  There are few Chosen and many human survivors. Chosen Prime use Melding energy to replicate themselves and send their clones into battle. A Prime can create and control a number of clones at any given time, depending on his or her mental strength. When a clone dies, it is simply recreated after a brief time inside the Melding, before being sent out again to wage war.

And so the Melding feeds the Chosen dreams of power, driving them with base instinct to invade and wage war against the humans. The Accord, what remains of the human military, oppose them under Admiral Nostromo’s leadership. Nostromo is driven by a quiet rage at the destruction of his planet and the dreadful cost of the sacrifice of his own family. He seeks to utterly destroy the Chosen and drive back the Melding at any cost. But others in his command and in the populace feel that the Earth is a lost cause, and that war is futile. Instead, they believe they must hold out only long enough for the Aegis to arrive so that they may flee the Chosen and the Melding.

The Aegis will not arrive for several years, and the humans are slowly losing the war. Without enough trained troops, Nostromo orders the creation of Ares Teams – independent mercenary conscripts that he pays and  provides with weapons in exchange for running the Accord’s most risky missions.  Ares teams are often called upon to gather the Crystite and resources needed for the war effort.

This is where the player comes in. The player is a leader of an Ares team, a high-adventure, motivated, mercenary force that undertakes risky missions for the Accord and Nostromo. As the player progresses through the game, his team is supposed to grow stronger, and his relationship with the main characters of the story, closer.

The inspiration for the Ares teams was from when I played Chris Robert’s “Strike Commander,” which featured a group of fighter plane pilot mercenaries. I wanted that same feel with the Ares teams, so I also called the operators of Battleframes “pilots” as a sort of homage to Roberts. Ares teams were to be full of life, a mix of military bad-ass and frat-grade partying, a Top Gun vibe of elite men and women living in dangerous times and living life to the fullest because death may come at any moment.

Team members Oilspill and Aero comprise the player’s small Ares team. Oilspill and Aero represents the two sides for every narrative or moral issue presented in the game. Oilspill’s character is playfully cynical, driven by greed and fun. Aero does the job for the good of humanity, always doing what’s right. Mechanically, Oilspill handles transport and logistics, while Aero deals with information, communication with the Accord, and tactical awareness through the SIN, or “shared information network.” Typhon is another Ares leader, with Mourningstar as his second in command.  He plays a pivotal role in the story as the Typhon’s team and the player’s team increasingly work together through the campaign.

SIN was to be an important part of Firefall’s story. A huge theme of Firefall’s original lore is transhumanism which I took to mean post-singularity humanity–and non-humanity. Each faction in Firefall was a different approach to the pros and cons of a transhuman singularity. The Melding was one approach: take all the minds of an entire universe, upload them and meld them together into a single personality.

For the humans, it was the use of SIN through devices implanted in every infant that allowed them to communicate and share information collectively without giving up their individuality and privacy. They would use it to lay that information over the real world in an augmented reality. For the affinites, it was the emotional as well as an informational bond between them. And for the Ascendants, a planned future faction, it was a machine hive mind approach augmented with artificial intelligence. The factions’ different approaches to the Singularity were supposed to provide a way to explore these deep themes from different perspectives.

The initial story arc for Firefall involved Graves and another Chosen faction fighting for control to unify the Chosen under one banner. Until that point, the Chosen are divided and therefore easier to repel. Both Chosen factions are raiding New Eden are kidnapping affinites to make more Chosen, stealing and thumping for their own Crystite, attacking human fortifications and defenses, attempting to steal scientists and technology used for arc-folding, and generally causing a lot of mayhem.

The Accord, meanwhile, is commandeering all civilian assets for use in the war effort, such as taking over the Copacobana resort to create a forward base. These moves are not popular with civilians, many of whom are increasingly dissatisfied with war and simply want to hide and wait out rescue by the Aegis. Nostromo and the Accord say they must have control if they are going to be effective at repelling the Chosen.

In addition to fighting the war and protecting what remains of humanity, the Accord are trying to establish contact with the rest of the world to search for other survivors, mine extensively for Crystite and Crystite hybrids to use in the war, find the Chosen stronghold inside the Melding so they can wipe it out, and also search for the Arclight’s Star Chamber.

The Star Chamber was an interesting side story that was meant to eventually explain the arrival of the Ascendants, a third major faction that was slated for an expansion. The Star Chamber was the secret navigation system of the Arclight. When you can travel faster than light, you have no accurate information about what you’ll see when you arrive. This is because information from telescopes, via light, is years out of date. There could be an asteroid or nova by the time you fold into that distant part of space.

The Accord needed a solution, and that solution came from two sources. The first was a young girl, perhaps only 7 years old, an affinite of exceeding ability who had the power to do “remote viewing” or seeing distant places in her mind. The second was Ascendant technology, which was discovered in the ruins of Firefall asteroids, and allowed the Accord to create the Star Chamber to amplify the girl’s powers to reach light years away. The existence of the Ascendants technology, as well as the girl, was a tightly controlled secret. When the Arclight was knocked out of orbit during its fold, it ejected the Star Chamber for safety and to preserve a valuable, irreplaceable, military asset. The Chamber landed in Fortaleza, but because the Arclight’s fold engines are still running, it’s in an out of phase state. It’s warping in and out of random locations. The Accord have to build a facility at one of its “appearance points” to stabilize it and try to rescue the girl. Eventually the players would be enlisted in this quest to track it down and hold it in place long enough to recover the technology and the young girl. Unfortunately, once the players open the chamber, it would be revealed to be empty, with only a little stuffed teddy bear left inside–seeds for future story arcs.

But back to the first intended arc for Firefall, where I planned to have the players eventually discover that the Chosen were not aliens, but human beings. Typhon’s team is ambushed in the Melding, just like in the Blur cinematic of the game. Typhon is taken and is transformed into a fierce Chosen warrior. Players would encounter him as a mini-villain before ultimately capturing him so that Dr. Bathsheba can attempt a cure. The cure works, but only halfway, leaving Typhon in a half human, half Chosen state (his portrait for this was really cool in the game). Dr. Bathsheba is sure that, with a little more time, she could have a 100% effective cure that could save the Chosen and end the war.

With the player’s help, Nostromo finally locates the large Chosen city inside the Melding.  He orders a nuclear strike on the location from the Arclight itself. The players literally “push the button” by issuing the call-down to complete the strike. The entire Chosen city goes up in a fireball and everybody thinks it’s over.

Except it’s not.

Nostromo and the players have destroyed the only major faction that had opposed Graves. Graves, with his nemesis out of the way, then proceeds to unite the Chosen and begin the real war against humanity.

The culmination of the nuclear strike would have launched the second story arc of Firefall, which would have included much more of Pilgrim (Grave’s daughter), discovery and introduction of the Ascendants, and growing unrest amongst the humans who learn of the cure and are appalled at Nostromo’s actions which have not only killed thousands of humans who could’ve been saved, but also inadvertently united the Chosen and ignited a full scale war.

This would’ve been really fun if I had gotten the chance to finish it. At the end of that arc, I had Nostromo blowing the Aegis out of the sky to “burn the boats” and force the humans to stay and fight to reclaim Earth.

Ultimately, I don’t know why Red 5 spent money on redoing the lore of Firefall, going so far as to change very complicated missions like BWA–and even the logo. These changes cost months of developer time and millions of dollars. They didn’t affect gameplay, and would not have interfered with their new “WoW with guns” plan. I can only imagine it was done out of spite, which would be truly unfortunate.

I hope you enjoyed this lore drop for Firefall. I hope it answered some of questions about why this or that was in the game and filled in some missing pieces for you.

I have more of my thoughts on Firefall to share with you. Stay tuned.

 

35 comments

  1. Fooni says:

    Hey Mark! Dunno if you remembered me, but this lore sounds amazing!
    Just wanted to put this out here. You know you can make this game only you have to change a lot of the names and titles.
    That would avoid lawsuits and copyrights from R5. To be honest, i was thinking about going to re-create Firefall in UE4 with a different
    title and other character names just for fun and so i can experience the Firefall universe all to myself. Using the old build idea, Tier Tree system.
    It requires a lot of people to make the game so i shrugged off and never got motivate to do it. Eventually i thought about giving it to you if it was ever made so you can resume your dream, but yeah like i said…no motivation. Damns, if only Firefall could’ve gone down your path. So much regrets.

  2. Kelazun says:

    I remember spending hours discussing various lore theories with a friend, those were great times.
    Right now I’m working on a story that also involves a “sentient universe” it’s cool to see this concept here.

      • Kelazun says:

        Is there more lore behind the companies in Firefall? Like it is known that Kisuton were the ones first using crystite as a power source and unlike other companies they are driven less by corporate greed and more for humanity.
        And what about Tanken/ other bandits? Do they exist purely as a response to Nostromo’s regime or could they also be manipulated by other entities?

        • Demigan says:

          What was that part at the stranded ship of the MCarthur supposed to become? Or the Melding Tree in Forteleza Antigua? And in a shorter question that I did below: What of the high-tech raiders? Where do they come from (Alpha Centaurians bend on stopping the Arclight so they can have their revolution would be my guess), what is their purpose?
          And the inside of Melding Tornado’s. There was this massively huge shard at the top, and this shard seemed to be a screaming monster-face if you approach it from the front (yes I spend my time climbing as high as I could and looking around instead of gathering resources). Besides that, what on earth were Melding tornado’s doing in the grand scheme of things? With those shards they seemed a pretty big and nasty manifestation of the Melding, but you only mention affinites in the lore. There’s also nothing about the Melded creatures.

          And how many secret things were hidden in the world? I always liked the one above Sunken Harbor, where one ARES mission always spawned a rare crate above the waterfall just inside the Melding. It was a nice and rewarding little find, but there didn’t seem to be many of those despite the fact that the world was littered with strange little things. house-of-cards, cockroaches under

  3. Wraithbane says:

    Well… I guess no one can say the traditional “NB4 Fooni!”… ^^

    That was wonderful Mark. You have no idea how much I’ve missed the old Firefall. Its been all down hill since they back stabbed you, and forced you out of your own company. I wish you the very best of luck in your new activities.

  4. malorenor says:

    Good God. This is what I was hoping for when I first stepped into firefall, entranced by the lore and mystery, and close to everything I would want in a virtual world. Had something of that in the beta and still yearn for more of it.

    That was quite something you had cooking Mark, and I hope and pray that you get to rebuild this. There’s tons of us out there disillusioned by the current crop of generic mmos.

    Good luck with everything going forward. Hoping that “little something” you mentioned involves an Arclight-load of the original firefall.

    • Demigan says:

      Where? I just watched it, you can see something being ejected when the Arclight reappears after it’s failed jump, but it could just as easily be all the energies that are popping up almost simultaneously. The professor chick says later in the video she’s preparing to launch the star-chamber, so it can’t really be that. Then when the Arclight crashes is the next time it could visibly launch something, there’s all kinds of burning debris falling off as it screams through the atmosphere, one might be the Starchamber but I really can’t say.

  5. Kelazun says:

    On topic of Firefall’s backstory. I remember there was a chapter called “Crystite wars” that told a story of some jet fighters fighting for a faction for crystite control, what happened to that piece of the story, as it wasn’t seen later on in the timeline?

  6. Tomohisa says:

    Hi!Mark.
    Firefall is an interesting game, I entered the game in 2012, until now.
    I missed the most interesting version of the game 0.5-0.7
    Because I am in China, too high PING cause I can not smooth the game.
    So, Mark, can you give us such an interesting game?

  7. Himax says:

    I called it!!

    I was in the Firefall beta ever since Engineer’s had a blowtorch instead of a grenade launcher (good times).
    I was a big fan of the game, and I have to say that I was very dissapointed with the overall path the game took; every fun function and mechanic was dumbed down to appeal to the twitch-shooter crowd. I had such high hopes for the game.

    Still, I am an incredible lore hound, and I am VERY grateful to have so many threads sewn up like this. Thank you very much!
    I love the depth put into the background plot, especially how little of it was given to us at a time. Some of my best memories in the game are in the zone chat, discussing what the plot could unfold into.
    I am also tickled pink to say that a lot of my predictions turned out at least partially right. I have earned some major geek cred this day.
    I thought the Chosen were a type of gestalt hive-mind– full of people who did NOT like each other but hated us more. I was partially right in a way, I guess. But I couldn’t figure out how the mini-manga played into it. You played a sub-plot into the game very well here.

    My biggest fear from the plot was that Nostromo would “pull a Columbus” and shoot the Aegis down when it arrived, and then blame it on the Chosen to keep us fighting.

    I really wish we could have seen the plot you really wrote play out. But if you really get enough scraped together to try another game, I would deffinitely support it however I could!

    And so, for the last time I suppose, I would like to give everyone the friendly reminder:
    “You have a hundred-pound, high-voltage generator strapped to your back. No, you can’t swim.”

  8. Demigan says:

    Dear Mark Kern,

    Ever since FireFall started and added some human enemies I’ve had discussions and dilemma’s writing a fanmade story about them: The high-tech raiders that continuously try to steal crystite and technology. There’s nothing in this story about it! I need to know! How on earth do they fit into the storyline? They have technology that surpasses that of the Arclight soldiers, who were supposed to wield the latest high-tech humanity had to offer before the Melding came down. So how on earth do these guys have access to personal arcfolding techniques and other high-tech stuff that the Accord could only dream off? My only viable explanation I imagined so far is that they are soldiers from Alpha Centauri, send there through arcfold technology they developed to stop the launch of the Arclight, which they learned from the last cargoship that arrived and they didn’t know that the Arclight had already been finished. The Arclight was supposed to prevent Alpha Centaurians from staging a revolution since they had all the rich crystite and it would take years before Earth would learn of a rebellion let alone stage an offensive to retake it. Once on earth these high-tech raiders couldn’t get back due to the Melding, so they had to resort to stealing technology and crystite to create their own STIZ fields and set up bases for themselves and new soldiers being send to prevent them getting lost in the Melding and possibly prevent Alpha Centauri sending more altogether.
    But that’s just my theory, I really was hoping to get some info about them as well. I like all the other things this clarifies, such as the fact that yes, all Chosen are definitely affinites (which was always pretty strongly hinted at and the Manga left no doubts).

    As for the story, it’s first draft is almost finished with 150 A4 pages of story and still an in-story day planned to write (The entire story taking 7 days and a few hours). Don’t know if anyone’s interested in reading it but if you do, give me a message. Any feedback, any at all, is welcome.
    I had originally an idea for a story where mankind tried to use quantum-folding to create almost limitless energy and possibilities for instantaneous communication. This goes wrong as they open up holes into other realities, which starts spitting out increasingly more intricate creatures in the (partial) form of legends, fables, godlike creatures and nightmares. As time goes on, these holes pop up more frequently and start getting bigger. Humanity starts getting thinner and thinner as thousands of murderous creatures can suddenly appear out of a hole right in your living room and murder half a block of people before enough firepower is brought to bear and bring them to a halt until the hole closes again. This story of mankind slowly dying out and needing to completely change their way of life to try to survive would be the background for a group of people and how they try to cope with it as they set out every day to find small and big holes and close them or stop the creatures from exiting.
    Then I saw Firefalls storyline, and it had so many similarities that I decided to just write a the story but with FF as background instead. I tried to make it a lot darker, since the FF world seemed to go to an increasingly more happy-go-lucky approach with little lore-snippets of reporters that die several times in an afternoon while trying out the new Arsenal battleframe as if it’s no biggy. I’ve long since removed most of the names and direct references to possible copyrighted things out of the story, but you can still find many hints to the beta-world of New Eden.

  9. RangerWolf says:

    I have always enjoyed my experience with the lore and mechanics, But I didn’t like the fact the9 wanted to make this game traditional MMORPGs. I have always enjoyed playing with the red 5 staff employees and helping players with a green apple, As time goes on, I wished the game would have succeeded, but the9 wanted to change the rules, which saddened me.
    I stuck around until FadedPez announced on his twitter that he got fired, and soon after I left. because FadedPez was the only thing keeping the community going. Anyways, good stuff here

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