At long last Firefall is launching. I’m not sure exactly how long this game has been in development, but I remember it was playable at the first PAX East which was 4 (?) years ago. The game launches for everyone on July 29th.
In this case, “launch” apparently means “we’ll remove the beta tag and make it available on Steam” and that’s about all.
After all this time in beta and all the huge changes the game has gone through (including one that just happened) I was pretty astonished to learn that they weren’t wiping the slate clean for launch. But they aren’t. That means if you log in on launch day for the first time you’re going to be WAY behind.
To add to that chasm, many (maybe all?) beta testers got in to ‘early access’ yesterday, on the 15th. That’s a two week head-start on any new players that come into the game when it is officially open to all comers.
Now just to be clear, old characters have been changed in some ways. I’d tell you exactly how but it’s been so long since I played the game that it seemed new to me when I logged in, except I was level 8 (or more precisely, my battleframe was level 8) and had an inventory full of stuff and a wallet full of credits.
Now folks who’ve been playing the beta are fine with this. I mean they’ve been playing the beta for YEARS so I can understand why they wouldn’t want their progress wiped. Some have also spent money and of course Red5 can’t just delete things players have spent real money on.
This isn’t the first game that has sold stuff in its cash shop ahead of launch though. Usually what happens is that at launch you get all your store currency credits refunded. After launch you can spend them again on the same stuff, or on different stuff.
So why does this all matter? In a lot of ways it doesn’t. I suppose it means new players should stay away from PvP until they’ve caught up, but there’s plenty of PvE stuff for them to do with their fellow, level-appropriate new players. My biggest concern is the auction houses. Firefall is supposed to have a “robust” player economy but when your brand new players are dumped into a game chock full of filthy-rich long-term beta testers they aren’t going to be able to buy anything on the auction house.
Imagine logging in for the first time on July 29th with the goal of becoming a crafter who supplies other players with gear. Fat chance of that since there’ll be hundreds of players who have already done the (in-game mechanic) research and who can farm materials much faster than you can.
Firefall isn’t the first game to roll open beta into launch with no wipe and in fact the practice is becoming more and more common. I’m singling it out mostly because it has been in beta for such an incredibly long time that the gap between the old-time beta player characters and the new “Hey I saw this new game on Steam” characters is going to be HUGE.
And compounding that, somewhat, is the fact that you only get 1 character slot. That means that if you’re a beta player and want a fresh start (maybe to re-learn how to play) you have to really commit to it by deleting your old character, thus placing yourself in the ghetto that Red5 has created for its new players that will start the game far, far behind on July 29th.