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Hello and welcome to another installment in my continuing series of blogs about Firefall, Red 5 Studios' upcoming MMOFPS hybrid that's currently in closed beta. In my last blog, I promised a patch note rundown, but since there's not much to say, I'll be following that up with an in-depth look at the Medic frame, my personal favorite playstyle.

With regards to the patch notes, we mostly got some bugfixes - the Scanhammer (the item used to search the world for resource veins, for those of you not in the know) will no longer replenish your ammo when used, the Medic's supercharge ability no longer gives players infinite energy for their jetpacks and alternate weapon fire, and an exploit to make players immune to water damage was fixed - and these are only a few of the bugs that were squashed. There were many more minor problems fixed, keeping Red 5's record of quick bugfixes going strong.

With regards to gameplay changes, the Medic's vampiric healgun got a nerf on the amount of self-healing it gives, the Engineer's upgraded Healing Station deployable now heals more and no longer restores energy, and some changes were made to the amount of Crystite (the main resource and form of currency in the game) earned from certain high-level refining processes. In addition, downed players are now easier to kill with gunfire (previously it could take an entire clip to finish off a player from range) and a few conveniences were added to the game's system. Overall, the patch was fairly minor in terms of new features, but still welcome and satisfying.

Now, on to the meat of this post: the Medic class. Firefall's Medic has many facets to it that allow for different styles of play, but the core gameplay seems to be inspired by Team Fortress 2's Medic class. The Medic's primary weapon is a lock-on healing beam with various options for its alternate fire, the default being an overheal beam. Simply having this weapon available makes the Medic an incredibly valuable asset to any team - teams with Medics will beat teams without Medics in 99% of matches, barring an absurd skill difference. The primary fire has infinite ammo, allowing you to keep a constant stream of healing without needing to worry about limits. With regards to secondary weapons, the Medic has the same options as everyone else (assault rifle, grenade launcher, SMG, and shotgun), so Medic players have plenty of options with regards to putting out damage as well. This means that a medic who's being shot himself has means to fight back, and more effectively than TF2's medic ever did.

The Healing Gun, like most primaries, has three options for its secondary fire, all of which consume the Medic's jetpack energy - thus, don't expect to spam these without limiting your mobility quite a bit. The default is an overheal, which both heals at a greater rate and can buff the Medic's healing target to 1.5 times their base HP. In addition, the Medic will get a moderate amount of self-healing while the overheal is being used, though if you try to rely on this too much, you'll quickly find yourself empty on energy and without any way to dodge Assault fire effectively. The next option you'll unlock is the vampiric beam, which is exactly what it sounds like - an offensive option that will lock onto an enemy and drain their life slowly, while giving you the same heal over time as the overheal does. Finally, as you advance through the ranks, you'll get your hands on the healing grenade gun, which allows you to charge up and fire an area of effect healing burst. It won't heal your primary target as much as the overheal and it has no offensive potential, but it's the most energy efficient of the three and has the best selfheal potential if used well.

Finally, we'll talk about the Medic's ability list. A new Medic frame will start off with the Healing Wave ability, which is an instant, directional, area of effect heal that also knocks enemies back. It also heals the Medic, though for (I believe) 25% less than it heals other players. Overall, a very versatile ability, one I personally use all the time. The first extra ability you'll unlock is Defibrillator - it can be used either as an instant revive on a downed player, bringing them up with half HP, or as a good-sized burst of damage on an enemy. Again, a versatile skill that should be on every Medic's ability bar. At the moment, the next ability unlocked is Supercharge, which gives the Medic's healing target infinite ammo, infinite jet energy, and an increased rate of fire for ten seconds - unfortunately for us Medic lovers, Red 5 is thinking about giving this ability to the Engineer instead. Oh well, maybe we'll get something even more awesome in return.

After Supercharge, the Medic will gain access to Healing Pulse, an AoE heal over time that allows the Medic to keep a group of allies alive. The overall heal is a little weak, but the fact that it can be spread around to an entire team if they stick close makes it a reasonable option. Finally, Medics will unlock Adrenaline at level 14, only one level before they hit the current cap. Adrenaline gives the Medic a huge speed and agility boost, allowing them to both dodge more effectively and escape from bad situations or cross the map more easily to save an ally. Overall, the Medic has a strong ability set, leaving some tough choices for all the Medic players out there.

So there you have it - the Medic, a versatile and powerful class that is always welcome on any team in Firefall. Learn to play it well, and you can be both a lifesaver and a deadly combatant rolled into one neat little package. And with that, we conclude this entry! Tune in next time for a possible patch rundown (depends on whether or not the patch has dropped when I post the next entry) and a probably in-depth look at the Assault frame.

See you next time!
~Jenrai
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Hello again, everybody! Today I'll be talking about one of the elements of Firefall I'm most excited for - the competitive PvP, which Red 5 is planning to push as a new eSport for all of us to enjoy. I have a history of involvement in eSports - I played amateur DotA, Counter-Strike 1.6, TF2, and Heroes of Newerth, as well as shoutcasting for Honcast (www.honcast.com) for approximately 4-5 months. In addition, I've followed the competitive scenes for a wide range of games, from the current king of eSports, Starcraft 2, to fighters such as MvC3 and BlazBlue. Suffice to say, I'm well-acquainted with the topic.

So, how is Firefall shaping up as a competitive game? There are a few conflicting opinions beginning to crop up across the official Firefall boards - some say that the Medic and Engineer frames, both of which have a semblance of auto-aim involved, have no place in a game that strives to be competitive. Others say that the Recon class is the most frustrating, able to quickscope and headshot players for the majority of their hit points in a single bullet. It's an odd mixture, to be sure - in TF2, the game which popularized the lock-on healing gun, the Sniper class has a delay before being able to score headshots after scoping and doesn't deal full damage until the rifle has charged up. Games which have very powerful sniper rifles usually don't have classes with homing bolts and tracking turrets, a la FF's Engineer. So in this grand debate, which side is right? Which playstyle detracts from the competitiveness?

In my mind, neither one does. While many gamers who grew up playing Quake or Doom may believe the Engineer and the Medic to be "easy mode," the truth is that it requires a very different set of skills to play well, meaning that you need more than players with twitch reflexes on your team to score well. On the flip side, many players who complain that the Recon feels "cheap" probably don't have the twitch skills to match up to the Recon players who are constantly taking their heads off. In reality, what Red 5 has done by creating classes with such varied playstyles and skill requirements is force teams to have depth, rather than create a game where only one type of skill is valued.

Think about it like a football team (soccer for us Americans). If you had a team with nothing but strikers, they would get destroyed constantly. Sure, they'd put on a lot of offensive pressure - but as soon as the flow of the game moved away from their comfort zone, they would get royally crushed and probably never recover their rhythm. They'd be fine if the rules only allowed strikers - after all, if the game were designed around only one skill, then you could build an entire team based on that single skill. However, as soon as other skills - such as goaltending and defense - become necessary options, the entire landscape of the game shifts. Teams need to have skilled players in every role, not just the flashiest ones - and that increase of depth makes the game more strategically interesting, both to watch and to play.

The first person shooter genre isn't one that would usually be called the most strategic - though of course games such as Counter-Strike and Call of Duty have strategic elements, the average gamer wouldn't compare their level of depth to something like Starcraft or DotA. What Red 5 has done is added depth to a game that still has a very high skill ceiling with regards to twitch - and doing that is not something that should cause backlash in the scene, but should rather be celebrated. There will always be a place for twitch games in the eSports world - the fact that Counter-Strike and its successors are still some of the most ridiculously popular PC games should tell us that. But that doesn't mean that we can't expand on the genre. TF2 paved the way nicely - it certainly didn't have the competitive scene that CS did, but it showed that even a game with these less twitch-style classes could do well and have a good competitive following, even as Valve makes it more and more casual by the day with their updates. Red 5 has taken the best of both worlds and promised to work as hard as possible to make competitive play amazing - and so far, I'm incredibly excited about Firefall's potential in that regard.

Alright, that's a wrap! My next post (probably Friday or Saturday) will likely be a patch run-down of sorts for this week. Also, expect to see me both competing and shoutcasting as soon as Firefall's competitive scene goes live.

~Jenrai, signing out
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Alright, alright, I know - this blog is supposed to be about Firefall mainly. And it will be! But I couldn't NOT talk about Guild Wars 2 right now. As a lot of you probably know, there was a Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend event this past weekend, and everyone who either pre-purchased the game or acquired a beta key some other way got to play to their heart's content. I'd been waiting for this since I got a key from PAX East, and I was quite excited to finally log in and play. The question is, how did it stack up against my expectations?

As far as basic MMO gameplay went, I had a very good time. The combat was fun, the leveling wasn't too tedious, the story quests were both challenging and interesting, and the environments were fun to explore. When the game releases, reviewers will tell us that the combat is more action-oriented than WoW, that it's less of a grind than your typical fantasy MMO (especially the Korean style), and that you'll have quite a few "wow" moments as you explore - especially if you played the original Guild Wars and come across some familiar locations.

It's impossible to talk about Guild Wars 2 without mentioning PvP, and what I played of it was both frantic and entertaining. I didn't play basic PvP this weekend - I went straight into World vs World, and I had a blast. The basic concept of WvW is a huge 3-way battle between servers for control of 4 separate areas of the map - one "borderlands" area for each server and one main battleground. The landscape was constantly shifting, and assaulting a fort ended up being a lot more than "kill X npc guard with your overwhelming numbers" - the presence of siege engines for the attackers and various powerful defensive mechanisms (boiling oil, wall-mounted cannons, and the like) within the fort made for a varied and exciting experience overall.

And yet, all of this isn't what impressed me the most about GW2. Yes, the combat was great - much better than the usual MMO in my opinion. Exploration was fun, there was plenty to do, and PvP was awesome. But what really stood out to me was how well ArenaNet has tweaked so many small aspects of the basic MMO feel in order to both remove the barrier to accessibility and to make you like running into other players, even if you're on the same quest and (in a different MMO) would be competing to slaughter certain mobs as soon as they spawned so you could turn it in and move on.

The first thing they've done right is to remove the need to hunt for questgivers. As you move through the world, you'll simply have notifications pop up informing you what you need to do to help the people around you. I played a Charr for this test, so many times I would head to a new area in the Plains of Ashford and find that someone needed help fending off either the Flame Legion or the Ascalonian Ghosts, two groups of people I was more than happy to shoot or stab until dead. Where other games may have had a "Kill 10 Flame Legion Axe Fiends, 5 Flame Legion Blademasters, and 8 Flame Legion Saboteurs" requirement, Guild Wars 2 simply said to me "Here's a bar, do anything you can to hinder the Flame Legion in this area and it will fill. Once it's full, you get your reward." So not only did I not need to kill any specific combination of monsters, but I could also destroy their supplies, burn their totems, or do any number of different things to help out - it all counted. I didn't need to seek out the single person on the map who would give me a quest. I also didn't need to hunt down that one last Blademaster who I just couldn't find in a sea of Axe Fiends. In addition, as long as I did damage to a certain enemy, it counted towards my goal - no need to worry about getting mobs stolen from you by other adventurers. Everyone's on a team, and as you progress it really starts to feel that way.

While playing, I also came across a veritable host of different small world events - even though I only played through one zone (admittedly I hit 100% completion for it, so I spent a lot of time there), I can think of more than ten different random events I ran into while exploring. From harpies attacking a Charr mortar range, to ghosts attempting to rally and retake Ascalon City for good, to the Iron Legion's newly developed submarine coming under attack by separatists - the events were varied, challenging, and fun. Some were standalone, with things simply going back to normal when they were finished. Others would have different followup events based on whether you succeeded or failed the first time - for instance, if the Iron Legion's submarine is destroyed, players will be asked to gather parts for repair and to protect the engineer as she fixes it. After the repairs are complete, she'll ask the local players to strike back at the Separatist camp and burn it to the ground. Again, the best part of this is that it encourages a cooperative atmosphere between players in the open world - these events are too much for a single player to handle, and the rewards you can earn if you work as a team are significant.

Past that, there are so many little things that foster a friendly and cooperative atmosphere among players. As long as you help to kill a monster, you'll get the experience for it. Everyone can harvest the same resource nodes - I'm not sure what sort of a cooldown they're on (I assume you can harvest them once per day), but this eliminates the ridiculous scramble present in most MMOs to get to that ore before anyone else does. Reviving other players gives you a bit of XP - and that little reward seems to make everyone more conscious of downed players in the area. I never had someone simply walk past me and leave me to respawn when I needed help - if they could get to me, they would pick me up, whether they'd been involved with the battle or not.

And finally, there are just so many little conveniences that prevent you from tearing your hair out over this game. You can teleport instantly to any discovered waypoint around the world for a nominal fee. You don't need to learn specific skills to gather resources - anyone can gather any commodity as long as you have the proper tools, which are readily available at most merchants and each have their own individual equipment slots, meaning they won't take up bag space or need to be switched around constantly. If you've already chosen your two crafting skills, you can change either one of them at any time - and you won't lose your mastery of a skill just because you dropped it temporarily, leaving you free to experiment to your heart's content. All of these things and more remove a lot of the frustration factor that other MMOs seem to have - and why would we want games to frustrate us?

Overall, the main thing I can say about GW2 is that it seems to be designed purely for the sake of fun - ArenaNet seems to believe that you should be able to log in, enjoy the game without obstacle, and log out when you need a break. So far, they've impressed me thoroughly. Sure, the game has problems - the frame rate gets quite choppy when there are more than a few players on the screen, even at minimum graphical settings. This caused some frustration in WvW, where we had constant large engagements going on, especially when assaulting or defending forts. Still, this is what stress tests are for, and I have faith in ArenaNet to hammer out the optimization issues. As it is, Guild Wars 2 looks to be more than just a promising game - it looks to be one that will help advance the MMORPG genre in a more entertaining and less tedious direction, and I can't think of a single reason why that's a bad thing.

~Jenrai, signing out. Expect more Firefall content in the near future!
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jenrai
3:47 PM on 04.27.2012

Hello guys, and welcome to the first of many blogs I'll be posting about Firefall, Red 5 Studios' exciting new multiplayer FPS. If you don't know what Firefall is, do yourself a favor - check out http://www.firefallthegame.com and search Youtube for some trailers and gameplay vids.

Done? Awesome.

I was lucky enough to get into the closed beta of Firefall back in December of '11, so I've had a bit of experience. I've seen where the game was just a few short months ago - and how far it has come since. When I first played Firefall, it was a PvP only beta. The game was playable two days a week, and all of us beta testers logged in for four hours to cram in as much Firefall-ey goodness as we could. We could level up, but it did very little for us - there were no vendors to sell us new gear. And yet we loved every minute of it. The PvP (though not completely balanced as of yet) was tight, responsive, and above all - fun. We were always waiting with baited breath to log in and play. Even in a minimal state, the game was pure entertainment.

That's the "then" I mentioned - "What about the now?" you might ask. Indeed, if nothing had really advanced in the past few months, I wouldn't have much to say - luckily, Red 5 has been pushing out quality content at an impressive speed. Where once we had a small area around an outpost in the forest, we now have bustling cities, golden beaches, and lush jungles to trek through and explore. Cross the river to the south of Copacabana, the starting city, and you'll find a shattered wasteland created by the impact of one of the Arclight's engines. Go further to the east and you'll find an area called the "Biosphere Research Facility," an as-yet unexplained laboratory that appears to be performing research on creatures mutated by the Melding. If you had decided to go west instead, you would have come across Trans-Hub Command - a city that (as the name suggests) seems to be the main transit hub for the forces of the Accord. And having seen all this, you'll still have about half of the map to explore.

While all of these areas are gorgeous, the shine would wear off if there wasn't much to do. Again, Red 5 has delivered quality content up to this point. There are plenty of randomly spawning monsters - mostly the ubiquitous Aranhas, but you'll find other types of creatures in the areas they call their homes. Near the spawning pools outside of Copacabana you'll find mosquitoes you'd never be able to swat with your hand. Almost as common as the Aranhas are the four-legged Hissers, nasty creatures that will pursue you relentlessly if you disturb them. Venture north of Copacabana and you'll find the Threshers, large reptilian monsters that will charge you viciously and send you flying with a swing of their barbed tails. And deep within the jungles of the Bay of Bones lurk even more vicious creatures, waiting for daring explorers to seek them out.

In addition to random monster spawns, there are minor random events that will cause players to encounter the most dangerous enemies we know of - the Chosen. Armed with similar weapons to the Accord armies and able to take a good amount of punishment while still dishing it out, the Chosen are not to be engaged lightly. While exploring, you'll run across Chosen patrols, crashed Thumpers (more on Thumpers later), and the occasional Chosen incursion in the world. Every one of these is an encounter that is sure to shave some hit points from your character and - if defeated - leave you with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction, as well as some nice cash rewards.

What would be the point of exploring, however, if there wasn't something to be gained? Sure, seeing the sights and finding all of the interesting points on the map is a worthwhile cause, but there's a finite amount of space available for you to wander - and heading into the Melding to search for more will lead to a quick and bloody death. Once you've completed a brief set of tutorial quests, you'll be given a Thumper - essentially a large mining tool that you'll call down from the sky to mine ore veins you'll find throughout the world. This is no simple "click button, get resources" mining style, however. Once your Thumper is in place, it creates a whole lot of noise - something that will attract the local wildlife (and any Chosen nearby), who will stop at nothing to destroy it.

That's what we've gotten from Red 5 in terms of open world content in just a few short months, and throughout that time they've also been updating and balancing PvP, adding new maps, working on their crafting and resource refining system, and laying the groundwork for more of the social aspects of the game, such as army creation. The fact that they're not only pumping out content at a good pace, but that the content is also of exceptionally high quality, has me very excited to see what comes next.

That's it for this post, I'll see you in the near future!

~Jenrai, signing out
http://www.youtube.com/medicalhippie <-- Firefall gameplay videos, taken from my live stream
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