Fans of Firefly, rejoice! While many gamers eagerly await the highly anticipated AAA titles slotted for release in the next two years, an upcoming gaming gem has slipped into the queue in relative silence. The promised MMORPG Firefly Online looks like it will not only be a spiritual successor of the cult classic scifi series, but all evidence so far points to a well-rounded, welcoming game that can be enjoyed by everyone, Browncoat or not.
Firefly, for the uninitiated, is a TV series created by Joss Whedon that aired in the early 2000s. It follows a crew of misfits trying to keep their spaceship afloat by taking odd, occasionally less-than-legal jobs while avoiding Alliance intervention. The world, lovingly called the ‘Verse, combines traditional scifi tropes with the American West and a heavy dose of Chinese cultural influences to create a place unique in feel and narrative. Despite its tragically short run and the lack of new source material, Firefly has attracted a large fan base that remains extremely active even today.
Created by Quantum Mechanix in partnership with Spark Plug Games, Firefly Online (FFO) is the latest in fan-endorsed creations attempting to bring us back to the ‘Verse. But with an experienced team of developers, designers, actors, and musicians behind the project, it just might be the most ambitious and successful one yet. Moreover, while FFO promises to be a playground for Browncoats old and new alike, the developers have expressed a desire to make FFO a welcoming gaming experience even for people unfamiliar with the source material.
To that end, here are my top five reasons why gamers should be keeping their eye on Firefly Online.
1. Player Character Diversity
One of the things I’m most excited about for FFO is the deliberate choice by the developers and designers to make FFO an experience that can be accessed and appreciated by all players, regardless of race, gender, age, or body type. Women especially will appreciate the choice to create character models that go beyond just the typical hourglass figure and present a range of body types that better reflect the diversity of women in the real world.
Similarly, while clothing items might be labeled “male” and “female,” developers have stated that clothing will NOT be gender-locked. Nor will items be restricted to a particular set; players will be free to mix and match their articles to their heart’s desire, allowing for a degree of personal expression and creativity that few games offer in such depth.
2. Autonomous NPCs
In keeping with their goal of creating a rich, diverse ‘Verse for the players, Firefly Online will implement a system in which all NPCs will be randomly generated—first by age, race, gender, body type, and THEN class. This is true for hirable NPCs as well, meaning that no two crews will ever be exactly the same. If you want a ship full of nothing but medical personnel and mechanics, you can not only have them, but each one will be their own unique character rather than a ship full of near-identical models.
Even better, the “autonomous NPC” process explained by the developers in the image above means that if you lose a crew member by incompetence or through personality conflicts, that NPC doesn’t just disappear. Rather, they go back into the ‘Verse fully loaded with all the skills and experience they gained on your ship, ready to be hired by another player—and possibly seek revenge against their old captain to boot.
In addition to diverse NPCs, original series fans will be excited to learn that FFO will be bringing back the entire crew of our beloved Serenity, and then some! Since FFO is fully licensed and supported by Fox (the original IP owner), the game is free to use the likenesses of the original characters to tie in with some of the original story. Mal, Wash, Zoe, Inara, Kaylee, and the rest will be making appearances, along with new characters voiced by the amazingly talented Kelly Hu (Warehouse 13, Arrow), Michael Dorn (Star Trek TNG, Castle), and others. Such high-level, quality voice acting promises to lend this indie game some triple-A-style credits, and hopefully lead to an amazing player experience.
3. Ships and the ‘Verse
A scifi game set is space wouldn’t be the same without spaceships, and Firefly Online’s got them in the plenty. From the beloved Firefly class herself to new boats just waiting for their captain, the team behind FFO has been hard at work creating a customizable ship experience that will not only change the aesthetic value of the game, but also how many crew members you can hire, how fast you can go, and even what types of jobs you might get. So far, the largest ship can hold up to eight crew members, each with their own space aboard that will need care and attention in order to keep them happy while you’re zooming around in the black.
The overall aesthetic of the game seems on point with the original series as well—as far as one can tell from concept art and a few in-game screenshots. Finding the right balance between technology and the unforgiving frontier might be a challenge, but if the concept art coming out of the studio is anything to go by, FFO players are in for a beautiful, immersive experience in the ‘Verse.
Similarly, the developers have gone out of their way to create a ‘Verse that’s not only engaging, but dynamic. Taking a page from Sid Meier’s Civilization, Firefly Online will implement a system called the LivingVerse™. Using advanced algorithms and calculations, FFO will not only respond to player’s interactions, but generate universal conditions based on the way that players as a population are playing the game. The image above gives one example of the game responding to increased cargo runs by generating more pirate attacks, and the possible chain of outcomes from that increase, but the devs have stated that the LivingVerse™ system will be present in smaller ways as well.
4. The Music
Any gamer can tell you that the music and sound design of a game can make or break it for the player. Beautifully crafted games have been brought down by bad soundtracks, while some games have been lifted out of mediocrity by their amazing scores. In the original Firefly TV series, the music was instrumental (haha) in creating an atmosphere that was both familiar and distinct. No other music on television or in games sounds quite like Firefly, and FFO composer David Joseph Wesley has stated that his vision for the game music was to stay true to the original series score while still creating something unique to FFO. Get a listen to a hint of what’s in store while getting a sneak peak of future gameplay in the video below.
5. The Cortex
While Firefly Online doesn’t have a release date yet, you can still participate in the game world right now. Quantum Mechanix and Spark Plug Games recently released an official companion app available on Steam, Android, and iOS that allows you to start earning “brownie points” collect trading cards and earn badges/gear/ships that they say will be transferable into the game once it’s released.
The app is called The Cortex after the main means of disseminating information in the original series, and you can pick it up for free here. A small one-time $5 dollar purchase earns you the title of Big Damn Hero and a place on the Thank You list of the credits in the game if you want it, though it’s not necessary to pay in order to play and enjoy. It also automatically updates with news about the game, keeping you in the development loop as well. Added bonus for Firefly fans: The Cortex includes a working map of the ‘Verse with every known planet, moon, and system that you can explore at your fingertips. Check out the tour video below for more information:
So there you have it! My top five reasons why I’m excited about Firefly Online, and why you might be, too. If you want more information, you can find it on FFO’s official website at keepflying.com. They also have an official Facebook group as well as an unofficial fan forum and the Serenity Valley Smugglers Association Facebook group, too.
Just as a last note: I should say that I was neither asked nor paid to do this, and I am in no way affiliated with the Firefly Online team beyond being a very excited fan. This is simply written out of the heartfelt wish to bring attention to the project and, hopefully, a few new fans to the ‘Verse. Thanks for reading, and stay shiny!