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Ex-Red 5 staffers blast Mark Kern's 'destructive' behavior

Sci-Fi, Interviews, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, Firefall

Mark Kern
If you wondered what was going on behind the scenes of Red 5 Studios turbulent past year, then a new exposé on Game Front might illuminate you.

Anonymous former employees of the Firefall studio allegedly came forward to spill the beans about mass layoffs, questionable decisions, and ex-CEO Mark Kern's erratic behavior. One person said that Kern's constantly shifting decisions caused severe stress on the team: "Months of work would be thrown out simply because he would change his mind, or he would have another 'revolutionary' idea."

Another anonymous ex-staffer said that Kern was worse than that: "When he did get involved in the production of the game itself he was simply destructive. He would swoop in one afternoon and berate a series of features several teams had spent months on, declaring they begin again and LISTEN to what he told them to do. He'd be back in a few days to see if it was done. This crushed morale, and forced people into spontaneous, isolated crunch mode. He would shout and scream his perspectives."

[Thanks to Dengar for the tip! Part three of the expose is now live as well.]

Jukebox Heroes: Top 40 MMO themes, #10-1

World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, EverQuest II, Lineage 2, Lord of the Rings Online, Opinion, Star Trek Online, Ultima Online, LEGO Universe, Runes of Magic, Miscellaneous, Firefall, Jukebox Heroes, Music

We're finally here: my top 10 MMO theme tracks. I anticipate that out of all of the weeks, this will be the most controversial, since not only am I proclaiming the 10 best, but you'll realize which of your favorite games I've left out of the top 40 entirely.

A final reminder as to my self-imposed rules for this list: I limited myself to just one theme from a particular title, even if there were multiple themes in a game. Entries had to be a main theme or the closest equivalent of that; they had to be from MMOs, not from MOBAs; and I had to divorce my weighting of the track itself from the popularity of and my experience with that game. So there were no points added or subtracted based on my love of the game. I'm counting down the best music, period.

If you missed earlier parts of this series, check out themes #40-31, #30-21, and #20-11. Otherwise, hit that continue button and get listening already!

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Firefall patch takes us to the kingdom of the Crystal Skull Pirates

Sci-Fi, Patches, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, Firefall

A small update for Firefall is now live on the servers and with it comes a slew of small adjustments and additions including faster melee combat.

Patch 0.8.1745 reduced the cooldown of melee attacks from three to two seconds, while also making significant tweaks to the Electron battleframe. Get your Indiana Jones jokes in while you can, because the team has included Crystal Skull Pirates with this update as well. The pirates are rare enemies that offer up a special helmet if you can track them down and deliver a plasma-laced punishment.

Not So Massively: LoL update blocked by porn filter, Firefall's story campaign, and PoE's summoning skills

Betas, Video, Business Models, Culture, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, News Items, PvE, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, Dev Diaries, Miscellaneous, Not So Massively, MOBA, League of Legends, Diablo III, Firefall, Crowdfunding, Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous, Path of Exile

Not So Massively title image
​Star Citizen hit $37 million in crowdfunding this week, unlocking the strange new Tanga solar system in a rectangular planetary nebula. In the latest Elite: Dangerous newsletter, developers revealed plans for the upcoming multiplayer alpha stage, the travel and trading alpha, and the eventual full beta release. Red 5 Studios secured $23 million in funding for additional development on Firefall and revealed plans to launch in 2014 with a full story campaign.

Several League of Legends players in the UK have reported that innocuous game files in the latest patch are being inadvertently blocked by the new country-wide internet pornography filter. Heroes of Newerth indulged lore-hounds this week with a new content website for artwork and game fiction. Diablo III's latest public test realm patch doubled the drop rate of legendary items, and developers clarified that XP gain for players grinding paragon levels will be drastically increased in the next update. And Path of Exile revealed the four new summoning skills coming in patch 1.0.6 that will make necromancer Witch builds a lot more viable.

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Firefall developer secures $23 million in funding

Sci-Fi, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, Legal, MMOFPS, Firefall

Bright skies might be ahead for Red 5 Studios: the Firefall developer announced today that it secured $23 million in additional funding. Red 5 said that it entered into share purchase agreements for the funding from Shanghai Oriental Pearl Culture Development Co. and shareholders.

Red 5 Acting CEO James Macauley pointed to the influx of cash as a sign that the battle-worn company is moving forward: "This additional round of funding will offer us the means to execute on our plan for successfully launching Firefall in 2014. This is the year Firefall takes flight. The entire Red 5 tribe is focused on creating top quality content that will take Firefall to the next level and we are excited for this next stage of development."

The studio has plans to create a new story campaign for Firefall, take the fight to the Chosen, and reveal some of the burning secrets that have been in the game.

[Source: Red 5 press release]

Free for All: My three favorite MMOFPS games have a shoot-out

Sci-Fi, Video, Culture, Game Mechanics, PvP, PvE, Opinion, War, Free-to-Play, Casual, MMOFPS, Humor, Free for All, Post-Apocalyptic, Livestream, PlanetSide 2, Sandbox, Defiance, Firefall, Buy-to-Play

MMOFPS screenshots
I love a good MMOFPS or MMOTPS. A good one. Currently, I have three favorites: PlanetSide 2, Defiance, and Firefall. I have enjoyed other shooters in the past, games like Mechwarrior Online and APB: Reloaded and even a handful of standalone titles. There's something in a shooter that satisfies on a primitive level, some sort of textural quality that when done right can generate a good gaming session of zoned-out, open-mouthed pleasure. There's something even cooler about a multiplayer version of the same genre. I don't mind killing baddies alone, but blasting the face off of a monster is a lot more fun with dozens of other players around.

As you can see, I have a problem. Let's forget the fact that I play way too many MMOs as it is because between these three games I can easily kill a weekend and leave no room for games that I need to write about. That means I need to pick a favorite. Let this be a shootout to determine which MMOFPS will be my home. My awesome, loud, deadly home.

I've nominated three categories and will pick a winner for each. May the best shooter win!

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Jukebox Heroes: Firefall's soundtrack

Sci-Fi, Opinion, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, Firefall, Jukebox Heroes, Music

There's something about militaristic science-fiction shooters that brings out the piano in the composer, isn't there? That's what I was thinking when I first heard one of the Firefall themes. Not that the track was bad, just that it made me wonder why these simple piano themes have been linked to such games. Oh, it's probably because of Halo, but I'd like to think that there are greater reasons than that.

So this week we're going to be taking a crash course on the Firefall soundtrack. As far as I know, composers Michael Bross and Boon Sim's score isn't available to buy or download anywhere, so the avid video game score collector is going to have to do a little digital yoga to coax those files out of the library. I think it's worth hunting around for it, as Firefall's music is an obvious labor of love and a desire to create a quality product.

"Initially, we experimented with something that was mostly synth-driven and atmospheric," Bross said in an interview, "but then there was a desire from the team to have something that leaned toward the orchestral. Over time, though, we settled into something that combined both orchestral and modern elements that lend very well to an epic but atmospheric feel."

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Firefall getting 'rare legendary weapon drops,' lots of other stuff [Updated]

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Free-to-Play, Firefall

Did you catch Red 5's dev round table on Twitch earlier today? I didn't either, but fortunately the Firefall Twitter account susses out several of the more interesting tidbits.

The team mentioned the MMO shooter's revamped progression curve, which has changed to the point that "you will feel the difference." In-game mailboxes, separate chat channels, "rare legendary weapon drops," and clicking-on-player-names-to-whisper are just a few of the features in the works. The game's HUD is now drag-and-droppable, and the crafting UI has a new and less confusing layout.

There's more where that came from, too, so click through the links below to read all about it.

[Update: The official site has updated with a dev blog outlining the Q&A!]

Free for All: The confused state of Firefall's first few hours

Betas, Sci-Fi, Screenshots, Game Mechanics, New Titles, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, MMOFPS, Humor, Free for All, Post-Apocalyptic, Sandbox, Firefall

Firefall screenshot
As part of my research for an upcoming article about MMO shooters, I have been playing a lot of Firefall. There are definitely worse assignments in the world. I really, really enjoy the game; I love the fact that I can do almost anything I want even within a short play session and feel as if I accomplished something. Of course, the current enlightened state I am in does not reflect the game's non-newbie-friendly designs. As a matter of fact, the only place I was able to turn for reliable explanations and non-stop answers was a reader of Massively who recognized my name in the chat.

This reader and I have played together several times, and he went out of his way to answer all of the newbie questions that should have been answered by the game. I know that the developers have said (through Tweets to me and in other places) that a better newbie experience is on its way. There are also friendly little helper robots sprinkled throughout the game and a handful of helpful videos that can be found as well.

So why are so many new players still confused about Firefall?

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Not So Massively: Diablo III's Nephalem Rifts, PoE season six, and Firefall's ex-CEO comes under fire

Betas, Sci-Fi, Video, Culture, Expansions, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, News Items, PvE, Casual, Dev Diaries, Miscellaneous, Not So Massively, Sandbox, MOBA, League of Legends, Diablo III, Firefall, Crowdfunding, Star Citizen, Path of Exile

Not So Massively title image
There's just one day left to sign up to Star Citizen's Next Great Starship game modding competition, and 198 teams have signed up to compete. Following the recent delay of the dogfighting module, players who missed the livestream got an early peek at the delayed and buggy combat gameplay when the full video was uploaded to YouTube this week. League of Legends was hit with its own scary bug this week that appears to make players on the other team teleport across the map toward you.

Blizzard has now confirmed that the Nephalem Rifts feature coming to Diablo III will now be exclusive to Reaper of Souls expansion holders rather than the free update accompanying the game. Path of Exile developer Grinding Gear Games announced that its sixth race season will begin on January 10th, and players have recently discovered some odd stats spawning on fishing pole items originally thought to be worthless. And Firefall's ex-CEO Mark Kern defended himself on Twitter this week, stating that he wasn't fired but instead resigned after losing his status as CEO. Developers working under Mark have been writing about their discontentment with his command style this week on Glassdor and Reddit.

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Mark Kern addresses his departure from Red 5 Studios

Sci-Fi, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, Firefall

Using a mixture of geek culture references, former Red 5 Studios CEO Mark Kern posted a brief statement on MMORPG.com to address his departure from the Firefall studio.

Kern referenced the event as his "Kobayashi Maru test" and insinuated that fans shouldn't fully believe what they may have heard. "While there have been rumors about whether I was demoted, terminated, or maybe even corporately executed, I will only say this: Remember that Han always shot first," he wrote. Kern said that he had fond memories of his time with the company and wished the studio success in the future.

Mark Kern was let go from Red 5 on December 19th and replaced by acting CEO James Macauley.

[Thanks to ArchDevi for the tip!]

Not So Massively: Elite's Oculus Rift support, Star Citizen delays, and Firefall's CEO worries

Betas, Sci-Fi, Video, Business Models, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, News Items, PvE, Free-to-Play, Casual, Dev Diaries, Not So Massively, Sandbox, MOBA, League of Legends, Diablo III, Firefall, Crowdfunding, Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous, Path of Exile

¥ title image
The Elite: Dangerous combat alpha was updated with support for 3-D monitors and the Oculus Rift gaming headset this week, and developers gave fans a look behind the scenes in a new development newsletter. Star Citizen's dogfighting module was also delayed in order to bring the level of polish up higher and integrate the combat with the existing hangar module.

League of Legends released its annual Snowdown update alongside a coincidentally named Showdown game mode that offers short 1v1 and 2v2 matches. Dota 2 officially removed its Steam activation queue and opened its doors to the public, and Valve put out a call for 3-D modelers to make new items themed on the Chinese New Year. Heroes of Newerth's patch 3.3 went live, introducing a new tactical item that can copy runes without consuming them. And SMITE revealed new Mayan god Chaac, a rain god with a lightning axe that's bigger than he is.

Diablo III officially opened pre-orders for its Reaper of Souls expansion; fansite Diablofans collected together another 50 legendary item screenshots from players on the public test realm. Path of Exile's patch 1.0.4 is due to launch today, adding the channeled Flameblast spell and support for private PvP duels. And Firefall developer Red 5 Studios sacked its CEO and founder Mark Kern this week, prompting several anonymous employees to reportedly come forward with stories of poor management behind the scenes.

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Mark Kern removed as CEO of Red 5 Studios [Updated]

Sci-Fi, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, Rumors, Firefall

Someone losing their job is never fun times; have a picture of people about to shoot one another.
According to a recent report from Gamefront, Red 5 Studios CEO Mark Kern has been terminated by the company's board of directors, effective immediately. Vice President of Development James Macauly has apparently sent an email to all employees informing them of the change in leadership, with this latest dismissal coming in the wake of several previous layoffs at the Firefall studio. No official statement has been issued to the public by the company at this time.

An anonymous source within the company has also spoken out against Kern in The Escapist, claiming that the CEO was frequently absent and arrived sporadically to hand down arbitrary decisions. How true these statements are cannot be confirmed, although the company does hold a low rating for employee satisfaction overall. We'll have more on the situation if and when a statement is issued regarding Kern's continued employment or lack thereof.

[Update: Red 5 Producer Matt DeWald has issued a formal statement on the now-confirmed rumors: "As of Thursday, December 19th, Mark Kern is no longer the Chief Executive Officer of Red 5 Studios. Mark founded Red 5 Studios in 2006 to provide exceptional game entertainment along with a world-class team of developers working on the MMO Shooter, Firefall. Red 5 Vice President of Development, James Macauley, will be moving into the role of acting CEO. The team at Red 5 continues work on Firefall and looks forward to all that we have to offer in 2014."]

Not So Massively: SMITE's launch date, Star Citizen's $33m goal, and Elite's cockpit reveal

Betas, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Bugs, Business Models, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Launches, MMO Industry, Patches, PvP, News Items, PvE, Free-to-Play, Not So Massively, Sandbox, MOBA, Diablo III, Firefall, Crowdfunding, Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous, Infinite Crisis, Path of Exile

Game title image
Another $3 million was pledged to Star Citizen this week during the Thanksgiving livestream, pushing the total to over $33.5 million and unlocking several new ships for play. Developers now have over 50% more finance than was initially required for their ambitious plans. Meanwhile, Elite: Dangerous' art director took players on a tour of some impressive work on the cockpit and user interface systems in a new video dev diary, showing everything from battle damage to pilots reacting to g-forces.

Diablo III fansite DiabloFans has compiled a video list of all the new skills introduced in the upcoming Reaper of Souls expansion; each existing class gets one new class-defining skill with a selection of runes. Path of Exile added the Storm Call skill in its latest content update patch and revealed new supporter packs with unique cosmetic portal effects. And if you downloaded the latest Firefall patch, you'll need to head over to the website and download a small update or the next patch will break your game.

In MOBA news, SMITE finally announced an official launch date of March 25th 2014 and will be starting a huge $100,000 tournament in January to celebrate the event. Turbine's DC Comics MOBA Infinite Crisis also received a new champion this week with the introduction of the bizarre ranged damage-dealer Mecha Wonder Woman.

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Not So Massively: Star Citizen's mining ship, D3's cow level, and Elite's incoming alpha

Betas, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Video, Business Models, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, Endgame, News Items, PvE, Free-to-Play, Casual, Dev Diaries, Miscellaneous, Not So Massively, Sandbox, Dungeons, MOBA, League of Legends, Diablo III, Anniversaries, Firefall, Crowdfunding, Star Citizen, Path of Exile

Game title image
With the monumental funding push from its anniversary sale, Star Citizen broke three million-dollar barriers this week and unveiled its plans for several new ships. Players will get a new luxury yacht, a salvaging vessel, and a much-requested mining ship. Elite: Dangerous announced that its alpha test will begin very soon and will initially focus on the flight control portion of the game before opening up to become a full-scale PvP battleground.

League of Legends released its major pre-season update ahead of competitive season four, making huge changes to support classes, wards, and more. Heroes of Newerth confirmed that it will be running its usual $30,000 US tournament at DreamHack next week, and developers released a spotlight video on new hero Klanx.

Diablo III's Reaper of Souls beta will officially launch by the end of the year, but many streamers are already in the beta thanks to Blizzard's Family and Friends beta scheme. One streamer got the surprise of his life when he stumbled into what appeared to be a new cow level, but we aren't sure whether it's the real deal. Path of Exile saw record turnout for its first Descent Champions events this weekend. And Firefall's latest development update blog entry confirmed that the game will be getting an episodic storyline.

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