A couple of days ago we were able to present you with the pleasing news that Firefall will be released before the end of the year, but today we have some even better news for you: Red 5 Studios CEO Mark Kern has announced that following PAX Prime this August, Firefall will be going into its more open, less closed beta phase. This is no ordinary beta though, so read on if you’re intrigued. If not, might I add that for Firefall is a luscious marriage of shooting, manga and Orson Scott Card? Now do I have your attention?
In an open letter to The Escapist Magazine, Kern has indicated that he feels as if the game has already “launched.” In my opinion, that’s a strange sentiment, considering that the game is still in its friends and family beta stage. After seeing Red 5 Studio’s beta rollout plan though, Kern’s perception makes more sense because even as I write, there are people (probably) playing the game at this very moment.
All of the specific details can be found on the official Firefall forums, but let me synopsize all the important bits for you. The beta rollout will follow a similar format as Gmail’s. For those of you that have no clue what this means, let me explain (I myself had not a clue).
While Firefall is in the Friends and Family testing stage right now, every tester will be given invitations to give to their friends and accomplices, or “invite slots”as Kern puts it. Those people will then get invites to give out as well, increasing “testers and content… in layers,” and “As each layer proves itself out… our testers” receive more “invite slots, which they are free to send to their fellow gamers. We use different criteria to decide when and to whom we release more invite slots.” And then, well, I think you get the picture. While at first the number of players will probably be quite small, this process will allow people to have access to the game and content at an exponentially increasing speed.
Now you might be wondering to yourself what you’re supposed to do if you don’t have a friend that’s been invited into the beta. Never fear! Red 5 Studios is still going to implement a more traditional beta selection process into their overall beta release scheme. If you head over to their website and register, you’ll automatically be entered for a possible beta invite. In addition, if you stay sharp, you might also be able to snag beta access through various contests and giveaways that will be offered through both the official website and other unannounced partner sites.
So all of this begs the question, why are they doing it like this and what’s wrong with the tried and true? Kern feels that in this day and age, especially for a free to play game, the traditional alpha, closed beta, open beta, launch cycle is no longer cutting it. I guess pyramid schemes are the new “in” thing, as following their earlier success with the Gmail release, Google has been releasing their Google+ service in a similar fashion.
Love it or hate it, you have to give the man credit for trying something fresh within the realm of online gaming.