Fox announced at San Diego Comic Con that the cult sci-fi series Firefly will finally be making it’s video game debut next year on iOS and Android devices, titled Firefly Online. What many don’t know is just how many gorram times we’ve been close to getting a game since the series aired in 2002.
Firefly Online is a multi-user, social online role-playing game that will initially be available for smartphones and tablets, including those based on iOS and Android operating systems. Players will take on the role as captain of their own created and customised ships and head out on missions with their hired crew. The online element comes in the form of meeting and trading with various other players across the galaxy, and will function cross-platform.
The upcoming game is being developed by Quantum Mechanix and Spark Plug Games in partnership with Fox Digital, but this trio aren’t the first to take a stab at bringing the Firefly universe to the digital world of video games. Back in December 2006, free MMO-creation platform designers Multiverse announced that they would be providing the tools for a Firefly MMO.
The Firefly MMO was going to step away from the cult series iconic characters and, much like Firefly Online, have players be their own captains and experience their own unique adventure. Whilst Multiverse and Fox Licensing were going to lay the foundation, the actual forging of the game was to be done by a separate developer. At one point, it was even rumoured that Google were going to associated with the title after partnering with Multiverse on a series of virtual-world projects.
“We see virtual worlds as an extraordinarily promising new entertainment medium,” said Adam Kline, who was at the time Fox Licensing’s vice president of media enterprises. He later went on to be the president of 505 Games, a Senior Strategic Consultant for Bigworld Technology, Koch Media and GamersGate before becoming the current president of the Rubicon Organization. “We believe Multiverse can deliver an experience that will remain true to the original series, while enabling a whole new level of personal involvement for fans.”
All was relatively quiet on the Multiverse Firefly Online newsfront until September, 2008 when the studio announced that it would become the driving force behind a video game adaptation of another Joss Whedon creation and confirmed the development of a Buffy The Vampire Slayer MMO. The “ground-breaking MMOG” was aiming to offer players the option to play the title either as a fully immersive 3D environment or as a Flash-based 2D game, where both types of players can interact. The game was also targeted be launched within “Multiverse Places,” a new social virtual world from Multiverse.
Direction from the heads at Fox to focus on the new Buffy 2D/3D game left the Firefly MMO adrift and it was confirmed shortly after the announcement of the Buffy MMO that development of the Firefly title would be delayed. Little did fans know that this delay would be a lot longer than originally anticipated.
Unfortunately, Kline was wrong about Multiverse being able to “deliver an experience that will remain true to the original series” and the studio announced it’s closure in January, 2012 after struggling to “achieve a profitable business model”, taking the Firefly and Buffy The Vampire Slayer MMO with it. It was then that the shiny baton was passed to DarkCryo Entertainment who were working on a title called Firefly Universe Online.
Development of Firefly Universe Online began in 2009 by a handful of professional developers primarily based in Canada who united under the banner of DarkCryo Entertainment. Following the disappointment behind the failed Multiverse project, the team aimed to secure the rights from Fox and bring fans the Firefly MMO that they craved.
Firefly Universe Online aimed to offer four factions at launch for players to choose from (Browncoats, Reavers, Megacorp and the Alliance) and a departure from the typical tedious grinding and questing of titles like World of Warcraft, instead introducing AI gunplay and fast-paced action. The game was set to be developed for both PC and Mac and would not only offer an interactive PvE environment where players can explore the galaxy via spaceship, but would also feature an “intense” PvP model.
The factions weren’t the only nod to Firefly to be included in the game and special cast appearances from the shows popular characters and canonical planetary environments were also being developed at the forefront of the game. In fact, a lot of what DarkCryo Entertainment were promising with the release of Firefly Universe Online sounded almost too good to be true.
In an interview with Indie Game HQ, DarkCryo’s Craig Redl described the game as “nowhere even close to a conventional storyline MMORPG.” He went on to talk about the Alpha Sandbox release and how “each PC will act as a self-contained RPG. They each write their own backstory, storyline, and evolution into gameplay. Should they want to be captured by the Feds, experimented upon, turned into a Psychic and live out their lives as fugitives; the A.I. will foster (or hinder) almost any PC storyline conceivable.”
Each character boasted an astounding 40 slots for armour, weapons and clothing but DarkCryo had no intention of creating any of the assets themselves; leaving the design and creation up to the community. “As an indie Crew, we don’t have the resources to model thousands of pants, or even begin to fathom keeping up with the demands of old school endgame content,” Ridl stated. “Instead, we’ve implemented in-game crafting tools that you can shape, texture, bump, animate, trigger, particle and prefab.” DarkCryo were to act as “the patent office” and would “determine what resources must be salvaged to craft your invention, add PC interactive capability, and check off a series of NPC triggers in order to recognize the item.”
Despite not being officially licensed by Fox and Mutant Enemy Inc, DarkCryo continued to develop the title under “fair use” and originally aimed to release the game on December 26th, 2012. However in February, 2013, DarkCryo announced that they were to announce a fixed funding Kickstarter campaign to help fund the further development of the title. The target was $200,000 and according to Redl if the total was reached, the project “couldn’t continue at our current development pipeline.”
Despite some drama stirred up by Kotaku calling the Firefly Universe Online project a hoax, and a Kickstarter that ended up being an IndieGoGo campaign being shut down due to a policy against Angel Investor Perks, the game looked like it was still going to come to fruition. With the recent announcement of an official Firefly game backed by Fox now once again in production, DarkCryo appear to have decided to halt progress on their own title.
“For years the DarkCryo family have been campaigning for a licensed Firefly interactive title, and are most excited that the fine VPs of FOX Entertainment Group have finally decided to stand up and take notice of its amazing potential,” reads a statement on the developers website. “Acting in good faith to our original promise not to cause unfair competition should this day ever come, we shall now pass the baton to the QMx team in support of their shiny new venture, as we focus our flagship release onto greater heights.”
And so we arrive back to the present day, once again looking at an announcement for another officially sanctioned Firefly game. With the often requested Bioware not at the helm and the game being developed solely for mobile devices, will Firefly Online meet fan expectations born out of 7 years of anticipation? All we can do is hope and know that not even Fox can take the sky from us.
Are you looking forward to Firefly Online? Do you wish DarkCryo would have been able to finish what they started? Will we actually get to play a Firefly game? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter and Facebook.