Ember Update & Poster Art

(It’s late, so sorry for any typos. I’ll edit as I re-read, but I wanted to get this out there as promised, once we hit the 500 signature mark.)

Here we stand at 600+ signatures. More than twice what I thought we would get. It may not be enough yet, but its amazing and still growing. It’s nice to know there are people out there the still love the game as much as I do. Players who remember what it was like to gaze out on the landscape while a thumper signals ominous doom approaching and thinking “this game is unique.”

How we lost our way since that early beta…from the early PvP in OCT to the tiers and the constant chase of rare resources, or even the sheer mayhem of xp valley. You don’t have to remind me of what we’ve lost, or my role in it. I’m too painfully aware of what could have been. You all have lost a game you believed in, and I’ve lost a very personal dream. It was my goal to show that online games (I hate to call them MMOs) can be different from WoW…stand on their own, and give back some of the magic we thought we lost since we first played Meridian 59, Ultima Online, Asheron’s Call, Everquest, Anarchy Online, EvE and yes, even WoW. I still believe that.

I’ve read all your comments since I started blogging about the lore of Firefall, its original vision, and the Ember teaser we put together. I’m deeply grateful to my friends Tommaso Renieri (recon and T.H.M.P.R. artist) and Laura Post (Aero!) for their help in creating the video. When I first finished putting it together I must have watched it dozens of times.

It’s from your comments that I know I am a controversial figure (to put it mildly). But I think you should also know that I feel a profound sense of responsibility for what happened to Firefall, and the gamers who believed in it. If you didn’t believe so passionately in the promise of the original game, you would not be so angry at me now for its failure to materialize. For my own anger, directed most often and intensely at myself, I’ve tried to channel it here: To allow myself a second chance which I still don’t quite believe I deserve.

Maybe I don’t, but you do.

You, who played for hundreds of hours, who lined our booths at PAX, who bought hundreds of dollars worth of founder’s packs and grabbed all your friends to play alongside you…you deserve that second chance.

But Ember is like Tinkerbell. She’ll fade away unless you clap and truly believe. That’s what we’re doing on change.org by signing the petition, we’re believing again. And maybe, if enough of us clap, I can give you my apology. My apology in the form of the game that you all signed up for in the first place, the one you deserve.

It won’t be easy. Even Blizzard had to cancel Titan and give us Overwatch instead as they too tried and failed to tame the elusive Shooter MMO. And yes, it will take years to do right. But to me, the years I would put in would be worth it, if I can see that game again, but complete and whole and with thousands of happy fans.

So, let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?

Anyone who tells you they can fund an MMO with a single kickstarter is full of shit. Even if you raise 1.5 or even 3M dollars, you’re an order of magnitude off base from what it will cost to complete. At least, that’s if you’re trying to create a traditional MMO. But what if there was a way to get there in stages, starting small and growing the game, perhaps episodically, funding each stage as you go. Companies that are most successful serial Kickstarters do this. Their first game raises tens of thousands, then hundreds, then millions as they prove they can deliver. Only, what I’m proposing here is funding a series of playable milestones over the course of a few years. Each funding milestone would build upon the last, and have higher and higher fund raising goals as it proved its worth. (I highly recommend spending time on kicktraq.com for those into heavy analytics)

Even then we’re going to have to run lean. Just like Matt Damon in The Martian, we’re going to have to shed “a little weight” off the MAV launch vehicle. First, no marketing except word of mouth. Every dollar has to go to development and keeping the lights on. Riot has a (famously) framed check for their first marketing budget for League of Legends, which they never spent, for just about $10,000. They didn’t need it. The game spoke for itself. That’s what we have to do with Ember too.

Second, we’ve got to run remote offices, people working from home, and temporary and contract employees instead of huge offices and a gigantic full time staff. We’d keep a very small, tight knit permanent staff to keep the vision of the game centered and do the key lifting.

Third, we’re going to manage our scope carefully. For example, starting small and proving each step as we fund and go. The first milestone could be to fund a prototype of resource gathering being fun, with a smaller map, a single frame, and our new T.H.M.P.R. MEKA and a couple of baddies that work together in interesting combos. Prove things: show we can procedurally generate waves and scenarios that are interesting by themselves. Next milestones would be more and more ambitious and expand the on all the previous ones.

Fourth, no overhauls, no wasting work, no huge revamps. This was the biggest mistake on Firefall and one that I’m personally done with. Some of this is unavoidable, for example if we have a badly received milestone, but at all time we have to stick to the true core principles of the game, and not drift over to “WoW with guns” again.

Fifth, listen and work with our players. How many times has the community shouted at the screen collectively, like an audience in a horror movie, about what to avoid, what was working, and what wasn’t? But who to listen to when the community itself is divided? Ultimately I can only tell you that I would have to decide what is right in those cases, but by looking at the original vision and values of the game and staying true to them. It also has to be the game I was dreaming of creating, or there would be no passion upon the creator to make it, and you would get lukewarm results. If you buy into the game as I describe it, and stay true to it, then your feedback can help us achieve that game.

So, these are some initial thoughts. I think we can develop these milestones in parallel to the tabletop game, which will also provide a lot of the backstory and lore of Ember. Since people wanted a place to discuss it, I’ve created a group on my other site, www.leagueforgamers.com, where people can post, follow each other and comment https://leagueforgamers.com/group/ember Please let me know what you think there. I’ll be responding actively.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this large, poster sized version of the art you saw in the teaser video. Use it. Put it on your website, print it out, distribute it as you will. Just link back to the petition, okay? https://www.change.org/p/crixa-labs-make-ember-a-spiritual-successor-to-firefall

EmberPoster

12 comments

  1. DeadSkullzJr says:

    Mark, you did nothing wrong, your ideas are flawless, you planned everything out just right. It is not your fault that the game was changed, I can tell you this, I still play FireFall in hopes it comes back, at the same time I want to get rid of it because of the changes the game has received, but I cannot because the title just by itself is my memory. It’s all of our memories, and you are a big part of these memories, you never ruined your first chance, it was taken from you, and in my opinion, as a community, as a big team/family, we can take it back, and your game will come to life, it will become the best, and you will be the commander. The war isn’t over yet, we still stand to fight to the very end. Sometimes one thing has to die to become reborn into something better.

  2. HeimerDonger says:

    I loved this game so much so sad it has been ruined, i support you 100% on this project i really hope it will concretize one day.
    i will try to spread the petition and get you visibility as much as i can, thank you for trying to restore the soul of this game 🙂

  3. Youngbllood says:

    Mark it seems you’re gaining progress. I hear there’s a discord server but I can’t seem to find a valid address for it. I’m extremely interested to work on this project if there’s an opportunity.

  4. Dr Doom says:

    So, do I understand that this game is already open or I misread it something somewhere? I am very confused about this thing.
    Also where can we talk (a forum like) and leave feedback, suggestions so on.

    • DeadSkullzJr says:

      No this isn’t a game, it could be if we sign the petition for it. As for feedback, suggestions, etc. I doubt there is at the moment. so sign the petition if you want to see the game ;).

  5. Wraithbane says:

    Thats great news Mark!. I’d be fascinated to see what you can come up with. But a few things concern me. First, it might not be best to open the game to the public as early as you did Firefall. Yes, many of us enjoyed the hell out of it, but (especially these days) most people lack the patience for bug hunting, and expect more than is possible that early.

    Second, this is YOUR vision, and it should remain YOUR vision. You know that old saying? Opinions are like belly buttons. Everyone has one, and most are filled with lint. ^^ The vast majority of players have little if any idea of what works (and why) and what doesn’t (and why) in terms of game design. Listening to players is fine, as long as at the end of the day, its YOUR vision that gets coded into reality.

    Finally, its good that you know that because of past history, there are going to be those who oppose you, no matter how good your ideas are (haters gotta hate…), but also remember that the glare from White Knight armor can be blinding… ^^ It can prevent you from seeing things from a realistic perspective.

    As always, I wish you the very best of luck. I hope things work out.

  6. Mahdi says:

    I’m all in with this dream. Can we even call it a dream now? Beginning steps are happening rapidly. A vision from your perspective is one I will believe in, Kern. Before it was ripped away and squandered horribly, Firefall brought me some of my best gaming memories and closest online friends I have ever (and still do) have. Life is full of learning experiences. You have experienced much and want to share with others. I am in full support of Ember and its future.

  7. Hexximus says:

    Hello Mr. Kern, long time player, first time open supporter of a concept game. FF has been a great part of my life for years. It has brought me many great times with friends around the globe, even when I was stationed overseas. I believe that this can become something great. The mistakes have been made and knowledge blossomed from them. Even my son (who is almost four) loved the game. Because of FF, he was able to calm down enough to learn simple concepts like over, behind, “do this then get that”… He has developmental issues, but when he runs around the house and chants “Firefall” when I turn on the computer, jumps into the computer chair, puts on his headphones, and proceeds to take off in a frame (usually Recluse) and then take out Chosen with clear precision (better than some players I’ve encountered), I can only hope that your dream comes true and he will be able to experience the fun and awe that I did when FF was originally released. Here’s to hoping this idea spreads like wildfire. Thank you for giving us players the opportunity to be a part of this journey.

    Very Respectfully,
    Joseph A. Vanattia
    SGT USA RET

  8. zerogrifter says:

    “For my own anger, directed most often and intensely at myself, I’ve tried to channel it here: To allow myself a second chance which I still don’t quite believe I deserve.”

    I heavily identify with this statement and admire that you loved the project so much. I don’t think its right to call this a second chance, for me that implies that if I get knocked down again I may not get up. You had an amazing experiment. You made a world that people loved (myself included), you created something you learned from, no creative or inventor ever “one and done’d” it.

    I’ve played video games my entire life but my involvement in Firefall’s beta inspired me to leave an unfulfilling career and become a software engineer. Something I’m eternally grateful to Red5, your vision and yourself. Every vision and creation has immeasurable tangential effects.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is keep creating, thank you, and I hope I can be of service in the future.

  9. Himax says:

    The best way I can think to understand your situation is to fall back on an old argument:
    I like Blizzard Entertainment. But they are fundamentally flawed;
    They have some of the best coders and programmers in the world– east or west hemisphere. And that’s saying something.
    Back in development of starcraft 2, they promised to develop the game so it could run well on less-that-optimal systems. And they did.
    That alone was an incredible act. It proved that not only were they considerate enough to actually think about the people who would be playing their game, but that they had the skills and knowledge to be able to actually undertake such a goal. Most developers these days don’t actually know how to DO any coding. They think that a part-time degree in arts is enough to make a game because they kick all the codework down the line to other departments. This attitude is why so many games are plagued with bugs, exploits, poor porting, and anemic gameplay these days.

    But Blizzard also fell into a horiffic trap;
    Nothing of worth was ever created by consensus, and trying to please everyone will only drag you into mediocrity.
    WoW was revolutionary for MMO’s as a whole. But it also introduced many of the darker aspects of them: gear being more important than skill to the point that victory was basically bought, cookie-cutter specs, repetition and strategies being more important than actual tactics, poorly balanced characters, abilities, and strategies, rewarding elitism and laziness, the list goes on.
    Blizzard is not innatentive or apathetic. The problem is not that they don’t listen to their players, but that they DO, too much.
    As criplling as all these flaws are, a LARGE segment of players mistakingly consider them positive traits; so long as you have a large list of easily exploited flaws that boil the game down to a small enough skill set, victory can be assured with minimal actual effort.

    Players don’t want to play a good game, they just want to win repeatedly with minimal effort– ensuring that specific “skills” like ADHD are what guarantees victory. And if you make a game where that is possible, they will spend a LOT of money on it. Hence the popularity of Call of Duty and MOBAS– and their horribly toxic player communities.
    How often, to this very day, do people flood the forums at EPIC with demands that they make the Gnasher shotgun in Gears of War more powerful? (Now THERE’S some hostile territory. If you ever challenge the trolls’ logic, they will attack you mercilessly.)

    Don’t try to please everyone, don’t even try to please as many as possible. To do so is to literally pander to the lowest common denominator.
    Blizzard fell into this trap. And now despite all their talent and ability, they can’t balance a game to save their lives. You can always tell when someone from a Blizzard game comes into a new game; the first thing they will do is ask what the BEST class/ weapon/ skill is. And they will try nothing else.
    They are greatly talented at making popular games, but I no longer have faith they can make good games.

    Don’t try to please forums– you can’t. Anything you do that pleases one person will piss off another, and trying to do what pleases the most possible people will drag down your quality.
    instead, try to more consciously CHOOSE who you piss off and who you please. Who you piss off will be a good gauge of your game in its own right.

    Above all, PLAY your own game! Enjoy it as you can, and always think about it’s balancing.
    Don’t try to make a succesful game, try to make one you yourself can be proud of.

    And have no regrets.

    • Demigan says:

      If I remember correctly, WoW’s most successful updates were the one’s with content that the majority of the players never finished. Those updates sported less ‘murder waves of enemies solo with little to no skill’ that most games and WoW updates pander to and had gameplay that was enjoyable for it’s own sake, rather than using that sawn-off idea of feeling powerful that most games try to give it’s players.

      So yes, don’t build exactly what your players ask of you. Listen to what they ask for, see what kind of experience they want to achieve, see how their idea’s and requests will mostly fail to achieve that experience and then give them that experience by not listening to their exact requests but to what they want to achieve with them.
      Also as ExtraCredits said: If you design something, design it for both the user and the one it’s used on. A sniper might be getting 6+ killstreaks every single time during a match, but for the 6+ people getting killed out of nowhere during the match this isn’t fun and you lose 6 customers and only keep one. By adding ways to react to such a weapon, such as the ability to dodge, identify the sniper location or reduce the chance of OHK’s through movement or abilities, you can actually improve the gameplay. The sniper can’t mow down 6+ people anymore, but he now has an entire skillset tacked on to overcome the defenses and maneuvers of his enemy and still get the kill.

  10. liviliam says:

    I really hope Mark can gives us back what was lost in Firefall. I love the sound of the Mech (Thumper) encounter. It sounds phenomenal, I really hope Mark can pull it off. I will be backing this game 100% and if you decide on a founders pack when a playable version is available, count me in.

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