Extra Credits Explains FireFall's Staged Content

I’m giving you all fair warning: I’m about to nerd out hardcore.

So we’re all gamers here, right? I don’t mean the new trendy definition of the term, I just mean people love playing and talking about games. With varying degrees of enthusiasm, I’m willing to bet a fair number of you have had design talks with your friends. What you really hope to see in an upcoming title. What you _think_ the next big RPG or FPS should incorporate that would make it totally awesome. Have you ever had those wishes actual come true? Well sirs and madams, I just have.

I have been playing MMOs since I was 12. Back in 1999, I bought EverQuest the day it dropped, played it for 2 years and haven’t put down MMOs since. So what has got me all up in a tizzy? Red 5 and their beautiful, beautiful FireFall. What really set me off today though was this video about their concept of Staged Content.

This design scheme was discussed by the guys at Extra Credits (whom I love, you guys are awesome), and they really point out what it means. I fully believe everyone secretly loves the idea of staged content, but not everyone has a name for it, or may not even be able to properly articulate what they like. They just know it when they see it.

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I don’t need to reiterate what they say up there. They’re really smart, articulate guys, just go watch the video. Seriously, it’s awesome, and it’s worded in a way that really conveys what the design is hoping to achieve.

One thing I’d like to add though, is that in the above video Daniel, the primary speaker, states that this is a new concept, and it may not work. While innovations are entirely prone to failure, I’d like to express my confidence that it will not. While Staged Content has never been done to the degree that Red 5 is attempting, the notion that players need to come together to change the world is not altogether a new one. While this was done to a very small degree in World of Warcraft with the “Gates of Ahn’qiraj”, where access to a dungeon was disallowed until the entire server completed a tremendously long and grueling series of tasks, that’s not the example I’d best use to relate to FireFall’s Staged Concept.

In FFXI, specifically the 3rd expansion: Treasures of Aht Urhgan, we saw something very similar to what Red 5 is doing, but on a much smaller scale. The expansion’s primary new city would be subject to assaults by enemy armies and functional NPCs could be stolen after the battles subsided. NPCs like auction house curators, vendors, quest givers and so on. Players had to band together to venture into the enemy strongholds and actively rescue these NPCs or they would never be returned.

We’re talking about locking players out of content if they fail to take certain actions, and only re-allowing them access to that content if they take an active role in reclaiming it.

And people loved it. It was a smaller scale back then, a single city that was isolated from the rest of the game world, but the exact notion of ownership over a gamescape that was mentioned in the video was what connected people to the world they were in.

It’s been years since we’ve seen someone focus on this sort of agency in an MMO. The sort of agency that role playing games were built on. It’s going to work, and it’s going to be freaking awesome.

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