Since I began playing I’ve always had a soft spot for Firefall. The game and mechanics just appealed to me in a fundamental way, enough that I’ve been following its development now for…hmm.. a year? It honestly feels longer. And that’s the thing, It has so many wonderful mechanics but much of it feels unfinished. Some lacking the polish to make them great; a restricted variety of events, mechanics, items and things; or just areas that haven’t been completed yet. It of course was still in Beta but it’s been in beta for a long time now and we should have been getting closer to something resembling a finalised product. Instead we get aimless updates in unrelated areas, constant iterations on previously completed parts and even the removal of areas. It’s development that more resembles a dog chasing its own tale.
Earlier in the week we received news, first from Gamefront in the form of a leaked in-house memo and later on many other sites that The9, the parent company for Red5 and many of the board of directors had voted to remove Mark Kern from his position in charge of Firefall. To effectively make him a puppet in the company with no control over its direction. This news was later confirmed when Red 5 released their own press statement of the event stating the facts and wishing Mr Kern on his Merry way.
If that was all that had happened during this transitory period than it wouldn’t be an interesting, CEO’s of large and influential companies get dumped all the time. However over the last week the plot has thickened dramatically and wow it’s getting goooooooood.
It all started with a blog Post by Mr Kern himself over at MMORPG with the title “My own Kobayashi Maru” where the insanity starts to runeth over. It is a rather confused post; devoid of much meaning beyond what you can scrabble from vague mainstream geek references. One minute he sounds like a sad dejected man lashing out, then an egotistical pighead leader proclaiming he left first to something like a revolutionary of the business saving us all from certain oblivion.
Then there is the blog Title. It just makes no sense within the context of this situation. It is not a no win situation. For Mark Kern, obviously if he’d been doing his job as required this might not have happened. And for Firefall, I honestly see this as the right course of action. The development has been sporadic at best, I even posted certain feelings along this line months ago and he’s the one in command, he’s the one that’s been chasing squirrels for a year and more.
During this time I had forgiven Mark Kern’s part in all this, yes he’s in charge but those higher ups and the ones with the money can exert a lot of influence on the development of a project. They have and do ruin many good games by changing the core of the game or just fiddling with certain parts throughout the process. There wallets are big and so is their reach.
And then Mr Kern started acting rather erratic on twitter. He has had an account on there for some time under the name @Grummz and has usually been in touch with regulars on there, answering questions but it suddenly turned into a desperate man wanting to recognised for his achievements, someone after a bit of petty revenge against the company that wronged him.
And then he started proclaiming his stance against updates and important facets of the game he had vehemently defended and often spearheaded. The person in charge of an organisation with as much power as he had could have stopped mechanics and development on areas he didn’t support. But then, a lot of his posts have been deleted from the Firefall forums now so it’s hard to go back and see if he was voicing any dissent.
A little bit later and it seems he didn’t even understand the mechanics of his own game. Yes it’s a recent change in the structure of the game, one not even fully implemented yet but you would think that the person directing development would know this big planned changes.
There was also this weird website titled xiuniverse which seems to be some kind of arg that apparently hints at what the future holds for Mark Kern. First impressions were of a basic mud with a console to type in commands that would lead you around this alternative world. Who knows what’s inside at this stage or how it connects to the situation but it certainly made things feel a lot weirder. LIke alice tumbling down the rabbit hole of insanity.
But wait, there’s more
During the day a Reddit thread surfaced where Mark Kern was going to answer questions regarding the situation. A little bit later on his twitter it was being claimed his account one Reddit was shadow banned to not enable him to post or leave comments in order to answer any questions. These later popped up although there really wasn’t much clarification to be found except for the same vague responses and further iteration on his position.
Not to be outdone by this an anonymous poster, who was later verified had obviously had enough and posted their thoughts on why Mark Kern had been fired/ demoted and the situation within the company leading up to it. And now, it all makes sense.
The wild changes in development focus, the half finished ideas by the truckload, and the weird marketing stunts that honestly don’t have a place for a game that is still in beta. Sure, I liked some of their production stuff on the website. The Firefall live events were actually pretty cool at times and gave a lot of decent information on updates as well as engaging with the community but it should have been used as a way of getting attention for a finished and polished product. Using it this way just seems like a waste of funds that could better be spent elsewhere.
There have been bad reports on Glasssdoor reviews for some time now as well and this all brings credence to the claim. The poster sums the situation up really well thoguh, especially with this choice quote:
So. We have a thoughtless man who knows how to raise money and saves the day for dozens of people. Fertile ground for an ego to bloom. If being Thoughtless is an Axe, then an Ego is the arm that swings it. Mark has a mighty swing.
A thoughtless man, an absent man, a man subject to wild flights of fancy, a man with a closed mind and vision and one that had absolute control over a project he wasn’t really interested in… or so the story goes. An all too familiar story in the business wherein the charismatic person with access to funds or at least to those that do in control of a company and dooming its development. 38 studios says hello….
I’m not sure if Firefall is doomed just yet; maybe this happened before it was too late, maybe it already is having lost a lot of its core players, consumed vast amounts of money and still having an unfinished product. In the end this just seems like another tale to act as a warning to the gaming industry
And for me, just a another sad tale of a game whose potential has been squandered and I’m a little pissed off about it as well.