We sat down with James Macauley, Executive Producer at Red 5 Studios, to get the skinny on their upcoming free to play title Firefall which was announced earlier this year at PAX. The game is slated to be released sometime next year on the PC.
Co-Optimus: The art style is great. It's good to see devs getting away from Gears of War Brown, Fallout Green, things like that. Do these brighter colors signify a brighter mood to the game? Or is it going to be another moody post apocalypse, or alien invasion affair. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm just glad to see purple and blue.
James: First of all, thanks. We spent a lot time zeroing in on the art style of Firefall and are really excited about where we ended up. We are fans of Manga and Anime – you can see that in the design of the battleframes. We didn’t want to be photorealistic, so we created our own custom “Manga Shader” to capture the essence of Firefall.
The game world is alive, varied, and colorful – which as you mention, seems to go against the recent trends in gaming. Though Firefall takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth, it is not your typical everything-is-nuked apocalypse. Here, Earth has been transformed by the Melding - an aggressive energy storm that has engulfed the majority of the planet. Both flora and fauna have rapidly evolved giving the world a vast range of environments and creatures. This offers a great backdrop to the story of Firefall. Though we’re leaving most of the story for you to enjoy in-game, there is definitely a mix of moodiness and hope. Not everything has to be doom and gloom.
Co-Optimus: With that beauty, what kind of system requirements are you targeting? How scalable will the engine be?
James:Honestly, we haven’t finalized the system requirements yet. We’re still optimizing, and ensuring that Firefall is compatible with a wide array of systems – not just upper end PCs.
Since Firefall is an online game designed for a global market, we also need to make sure that it runs just as well on bargain gaming rigs as it does on the top-of-the-line system in your home office.
Our non-photorealistic art-style lends itself nicely to having visual quality knobs we can turn based on the available hardware while still having a visually pleasing gaming experience.
Co-Optimus:You just announced Natural Motion support for animation. I've seen this strongest in player animation for simple things like climbing stairs, leaning against walls, and contact with other objects. How will Firefall utilize it?
James: We’re fans of the team over at NaturalMotion, and their tools are great. Morpheme has allowed us to optimize our animation pipeline and focus on other technologies to make the game the best it can be.
One huge advantage to using a package like Morpheme is that it gives virtually full control over animations to the animators. This means our animators do not need to work with programmers, every step of the way, to implement new animations or to change how different animations blend which equates to faster iteration times and high quality animations.
We also will rely on Morpheme for some of the more advanced animation blend support for things like foot placement and head looks. We would like to explore some of the other physic-driven animation blends such as leaning against walls or “bumping” into objects as time permits.