Commuter Gamer: ‘Firefly Online Cortex’

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Commuter Gamer focuses on mobile games that can easily be played in bite-sized chunks. Please game responsibly and never while driving!

Like many of you I am dying in anticipation of the release of the Firefly Online game, hopefully in the next few months. In the meantime, we can get a taste of the world SparkPlug Games is creating with the Cortex, the official companion app for Firefly Online. The app is available on iOS, Android, and Windows and Mac via Steam.

Track your rank and view your account.
Track your rank and view your account.

The first thing to note is this is a companion app, not a game per se, and, in its basic free state, is simply an easy way to manage your profile, lock in your account name, and get news updates about Firefly Online. You can also earn a handful of Brownie Points (BP) by going through the app, referring friends, and clicking through to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube from the app. The BP will convert to in-game currency once the game goes live, but, overall, the free version of the app is probably just a once-and-done for most folks.

News about 'Firefly Online', including BDH exclusives.
News about ‘Firefly Online’, including BDH exclusives.

Where the app starts getting really good is when you pony up the $4.99 for the Big Damn Hero pack. The BDH pack gives you access to the Map of the Verse, Trade missions, collectible digital cards, unlockable badges, behind-the-scenes content, your name in the credits of Firefly Online, and the “Crappy Town Where You’re the Hero” DLC. Perhaps the biggest reward for buying the BDH pack is helping to support the Firefly Online game. SparkPlug Games has already used the money to hire more staff to help polish and deliver the game.

The Map of the Verse is the central feature of the companion app.
The Map of the Verse is the central feature of the companion app.

The Map of the Verse is where you will spend most of your time once you have the BDH upgrade. There are unlimited free routes that earn you 50 BP per run, a daily route that will earn you a mystery loot crate (all copper level crates in my experience), and a weekly route that will earn you a silver loot crate. You can also just explore the map without doing a route. Each trade route takes less than a minute, which makes them something you can easily do commuting or standing in line.

Captain Reynolds, looking dapper as ever.
Captain Reynolds, looking dapper as ever.

Selecting a mission drops you into the map where Mal welcomes you and, yes, he is actually voiced by Nathan Fillion! In fact, the entire original cast will be voicing their characters in Firefly Online, including Alan Tudyk as Wash, as the game takes place between the series and the film.

Fly around the 'Verse delivering cargo.
Fly around the ‘Verse delivering cargo.

While the unlimited free routes give you as much time as you like, the daily and weekly routes are timed. You have the time allotted, visible at the top of the screen, to make three cargo deliveries. The way the deliveries work is that a crew member gives you the info and then you have to quickly zoom in and out of systems in the galaxy to find the location. Once you find the right location, the next delivery is assigned.

Earn a loot crate for successfully completing a trade route.
Earn a loot crate for successfully completing a trade route.

Finding the right locations is much easier than it sounds. The crew member usually gives you enough information to drill right in to the location, though sometimes you’ll have to do a little guessing and hunting. Once you complete the entire route, you are rewarded and can head over to view your loot.

Earn loot from completing trade routes and increasing your rank.
Earn loot from completing trade routes and increasing your rank.

Your loot comes in three different flavors of crates–copper, silver, and gold. Copper crates grant three cards and 50 BP, silver crates grant 10 cards and 100 BP, and gold crates grant 25 cards and 500 BP.

Collect cards to form sets and earn more rewards.
Collect cards to form sets and earn more rewards.

The cards you earn go in to a digital gallery, and some of the cards form sets that then earn you even more loot crates. This set is my favorite because Morena Baccarin, of course. Each card gives you a little history of the show and tells you which episode the still is from. It’s quite nostalgic to relive a lot of these scenes.

Buy card packs at the Trading Post.
Buy card packs at the Trading Post.

If you really want to complete your card collection without grinding on the trade routes, you can also buy card packs. I haven’t tried buying them so not sure how worthwhile they are. I’m more than happy to grind away in the ‘Verse!

More Brownie Points means higher rank.
More Brownie Points means higher rank.

Brownie Points not only convert to in-game currency, but they also increase your rank. With the free version of the app, I was able to earn a couple hundred Brownie Points. Playing with the BDH upgrade, I’m currently at 13000 BP and Rank 132. Every 5 levels of rank, you earn a loot crate. Everything in the app is about getting BP and getting cards.

Badges?! We don't need no stinkin' badges!
Badges?! We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!

Completing routes and increasing your rank also earns you badges. You can select one of your badges to show up on your profile.

Firefly is a beautiful ship.
Serenity is a beautiful ship.

The final feature is the ship viewer. Once unlocked, the 3D models of the ships from Firefly Online can be viewed here along with some details about the ship.

The one downside to the game is that, like more and more games, a connection is required to play. This prevents me from playing while I’m underground during my commute. However, the game does sync your account to their servers, which means you can play on your iOS, Android, PC, and Mac all with a single account and always pick up where you left off.

Overall I think the companion app is well worth the BDH upgrade for any Firefly fan, especially if you have any desire to play the Firefly Online game when it comes out.

A major update to the game will be coming in the next couple weeks, so now is a great time to jump on. Version 2.10 will include a second series of cards to collect, so getting series 1 cards will be a little harder post update. A Shipworks tool will also be added for BDH which will allow for customizing the paint jobs on your ships.

Checkout for the latest news and updates on both the Cortex and Firefly Online.

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1 thought on “Commuter Gamer: ‘Firefly Online Cortex’

  1. Here is what I have learnt from Andy Gore, Executive Producer of FFO:

    Game’s similar to old school “Fallout”
    There’s three game modes:
    1/ Flight sim – like “Freelancer”
    2/ Economics/Logistical/Shipyard/Personnel – Like “Masters of Orion”
    3/ Main play will be “Encounter engine” – a 3D procedurally generated system, creates towns etc where you visit bars etc and this is where combat takes place – “X-Com” turn based style.
    Crew training, equipment, morale etc will be important.
    Isometric view but you can have a first person view if you want but game is more suited to isometric.
    They decided not to make a FPS game as Firefly is about more than pew pew pew.
    There is only one scenario where you cannot “talk your way” out of a battle if you want.
    Lots of humor in the game
    You’ll have a “GTA” type garage for your ships where you can swap them. And upgrade them.
    You can finish the story of the first release (where the original cast appear – the script was over 100 pages just for the cut scenes by the way) in about 20 hours if you really want to concentrate on it, or “120” hours (ie as much time as you want to take) if you just want to do parts of the main storyline slowly and just fly around doing jobs in the ‘Verse.
    You will have to do the first few parts of the main storyline first to get set up then it’s up to you.
    The game gets tougher as you progress. (naturally)
    In flight sim mode you can either fly yourself from planet to planet or system to system or you can “fast forward” if you like.
    If you fast forward you still can run into random events such as being boarded by pirates, attacked by reavers, the Alliance can stop you and search your ship etc.
    If you’re boarded the battle takes place within your ship (obviously).
    If you win a battle you loot the enemy. You can take their boots if you want.
    Any weapons you loot you can “dis-assemble” and remake into something better.
    You will need a “gunsmithing skill” to do that.
    You can craft weapons and equipment.
    Each part of the inside of your ship is fully customizable.
    The game has the “personality” of the show.
    Joss is happy with the game but doesn’t have any input as such.
    Voiceover complete for initial release with the exception of Wheaton. Very soon.
    Adam and Alan have more than their original characters voiced in game.
    Couldn’t get Gina as she was too busy but should be in Part Two of the game.
    Badger may be in Part Two.
    The Kelly Wu character is the “Badger” of the first release.
    You don’t have to use Courtney or Wil as your character’s voice if you don’t want to.
    They are approximately 90 days from release, aiming for end of May if possible.
    There may be an “early access” release.
    Release will be worldwide across all platforms.
    The are using the Cortex roll out as the template for actual game release. Ironing out bugs so release goes smoothly. Apple caused the first two week delay, Android the current two week delay due to change in download management software.
    You can play on your mobile device on the way home, for example, fire up your PC and start from where you left on your mobile device.
    Cortex and the full game use the same database so again using Cortex to “test” game code live before release.
    Premium game, may have a two day free start on Steam, for example, though.
    There will be 4 DLC’s (already done), new storylines etc, don’t need them if you don’t want them though.
    Premium price will be “dramatically low”. The reason is because you will need to buy it for each platform you want to use it on.
    QMX (developer) has made a lot of money on Firefly merchandise over the last 10 years and they decided to do the game as a “gift” to Browncoats as nobody else has successfully made a Firefly game. Another reason the price will be “dramatically low”.
    When you do trade routes on the Cortex your “ship” is being tracked by the actual game servers.
    There are “tens of thousands” of people doing trade routes at any given time.
    You can interact with other players, you can build a group of “friends” (other captains) who you can call on to assist you in jobs, you can see your friends (only) statues in the Crappy Little Town (that answers that question), you can give jobs to other players on the “Job Board”.
    You can end up fighting other captains if you run the same job, such as “salvaging the same derelict”.
    So there will be PVP, sort of, but when you fight the other crew they will be AI.
    Players at certain high levels can create storylines which will be on the Cortex.
    You can create “real social connections”.
    They want to, eventually, long term, enable players to crew a ship together.
    Guilds will come.
    They have enough upcoming content to last 1.5 years so far.
    They don’t want to make a profit, as such, but want the game to be self sustainable for new content etc.
    For that, they need 100,000 active players.
    The next big thing they have planned after the initial release is a “Independence War Module” where you can fight the Unification War. That’s after the 1.5 years.
    Shorter term they want players to be able to play a ‘Bounty Hunter” character instead of Ship’s Captain.
    They see the game is a platform to tell new Firefly stories, and to that end all of the original cast are extremely willing and able to come back and voice more content.

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