Everytime I play Firefall it always comes down to me spending a large amounts of time just randomly thumping around with a group or by myself.. And I love it. There is something about the mechanic that is very fulfilling in its own way regardless of material acquisition. The content it creates is nothing special but it is the collection of mechanics involved that makes it my favourite concept in an mmo so far.
The essence of thumping comes down to being on demand customisable and dynamic open world content. Just let that idea sink in a little and contemplate the awesome. Sounds pretty good right?
In case you either have no interest, haven’t played, or just find Firefall a confusing ball of unknowns then I’m just going to explain Thumping a little further and maybe you might understand why with very little content, a small world, and now an annoying progression system that I still enjoy my time in Firefall.
Thumping revolves around this little device everyone should own called a Thumper; a technological marvel designed to be called down from the heavens to an area designated by you so as to extract precious minerals as well as copious amounts of dirt. Part of their function creates a large continues thumping noise (hence the name) every time they drill into the earth. This effect creates sound waves as well as vibrating the surrounding area which tends not to go unnoticed by the local wildlife.
The longer you dig, the further it goes down, and the more critters will notice including some rather large and annoyed ones. This by itself creates an interesting decision of whether or not to continue thumping and putting you, your group, and the Thumper in danger.
The next part is that these Thumpers come in a variety of sizes that cater to different sized and experienced groups. they come in light medium and large in the category of personal or group. This creates an easy to understand difficulty level for people to get acquainted with the system as well as test themselves. There is nothing stopping a new group from trying out a small personal Thumper all to themselves, or even an experienced player from trying to solo a squad Thumper for a minute or two. Regardless of the size of the Thumper and the difficulty you chose though it doesn’t inhibit your ability to progress in terms of collecting rare resources. The size does determine how quickly you extract resources, and even more specialised ingredients from the stronger monsters but in the end it is a decision about time and difficulty.
Another part of the difficulty in Thumping comes from the environment. The resources you collect in the world come in different rarities and quantities which both go into determining the value of a resource node. It seems to that bugs and the other inhabitants are also more fond of these high value locations which tend to make fighting on them a bit harder. A white node will be relatively easy while a rare purple spot means you need to be prepared and probably have a better constructed (tank and healer) and coordinated group.
Then there are many areas in the world which have something called the melding, a relative unknown cloud that surrounds the playing area. While going to far into it means death the area nearbye and around it is rich in rare materials which can make it very worthwhile to venture near. It is rather uncertain what the melding actually is and what it does but it does seem to make the area more unstable and chaotic as well as contain more dangerous monsters and chosen (which may in fact be linked to it). Being near the Melding when thumping creates some of the most chaotic intense and challenging open world PvE content I’ve done.. sooo much fun.
The interplay that comes in between machine and environment is that certain areas and combinations of Thumpers can be rather different in terms of the bugs, animals and chosen (the corrupted ones) as well as the amount that will spawn. There is honestly a lot of variability in the type of content you can create based on these variables which does a great job of keeping your attention and entertaining over the long term. You can also actively change your difficulty level based on these points depending on how experienced, the quality of your group, and how much of a challenge you feel like. The onus here is on the player to find what they like and enjoy, then to do it and that is a wonderful thing to have in an mmo.
At the start you receive a couple Thumpers to start you off and more of the different types can be crafted if you have a ready supply of materials but what makes this part interesting is that there is a real tangible loss involved in using these. During the event if the Thumper is destroyed it is completely and utterly destroyed, initially with the stock Thumpers you are gifted one the first time you fail but after that the loss lies on you.
It makes these events feel very interesting throughout as there is that certain feel of tension that only comes out when there is something to lose. In this respect thumping becomes a remarkable risk vs reward experience as you are evaluating the merits of trying to Thump a harder spot and resource as well as speeding the process up with a better Thumper (better Thumpers mine quicker, bigger storage, and more health). Also if you get the capacity of a Thumper to %100 you also gain a bonus on top of the resources you already mined making it a brilliant form of gambling in a way… Risk the Thumper for greater rewards.
I have been in a couple big thumps gone wrong so far, the perfect storm of events occur or it can even be the result of people making key mistakes. Some of these were very expensive crafted items and the loss when it happened was felt by all in the party, but during that fight it was nothing but exhilarating. There is a safety net for people here, the beginner Thumpers are remarkable easy and cheap to manufacture so even though you may have to take longer to mine the same resources your always able to make your way back to the better items and gain a greater sense of efficiency.
And then on top of it all, this player initiated content is remarkably free-form in how it is placed in the world. On top of mountains, hidden valleys, sandy beaches, roadways between the tower… everywhere really. when running through the world I also see many individuals and groups going about there business with Thumping away for minerals and now with he new mechanic of showing you were these events may be happening they are even easier to find. Then when you do find them feel free to get involved and help out as your contribution is rewarded.
Thumpers are pretty much and endless form of dynamic content and the way it is designed brings people together, makes you explore the world, rewarding in terms of personal progression, experience the thrills of loss, and makes the world feel rather alive even when there really aren’t that many people playing. It really is a system I adore in every aspect.