We may never get another live-action Firefly movie or TV show. So every bit of Firefly media that we do get is precious—and that explains why Browncoats became so excited about Firefly Online, the online role-playing game. But what’s become of this project?
We first heard about Firefly Online at Comic-Con 2013, and there was a cool teaser trailer. Later that year, we saw some pretty amazing concept art and models. And a year after the first announcement, at Comic-Con 2014, we learned the entire cast of the original TV show would reunite for the game. At that time, the game was supposed to launch in spring 2015.
So what’s been going on with Firefly Online? We caught up with John O’Neill, the CEO of Spark Plug Games, which is leading development of the game, and he told us the game is still in Alpha testing, where “we are balancing the remaining features with community feedback and users’ experience.”
So what’s the reason for the delay? Basically, they had done a ton of development work on the game, and then they suddenly got all the original Firefly actors on board, O’Neill says. This was an awesome addition to the game, because “who wouldn’t want to be around Malcolm Reynolds [and] get on his bad side?” But, adds O’Neill, it also meant that most of the work they had done up until that point had to be thrown out because they had planned a game that didn’t include any of the original characters from the TV show and movie. “We’re having to change everything,” O’Neill says.
Spark Plug has also taken on more of a primary role as developer on the game, working with Quantum Mechanix and Fox. Right now, they’re at a point of “looking at how we get the product to a launch state,” O’Neill explains. This includes deciding when to start sharing more of the features of the game—some of which you already glimpsed in the art and teasers that were released in 2013-2014, but many of which have changed completely as a result of the original cast joining the game in the summer of 2014.
O’Neill adds that they’re deliberately keeping quiet about the status of Firefly Online for now, because “we don’t want to let the fans down by saying something that’s wrong again.” From his perspective, he can see how things have “changed for the better,” but he knows that looking at it from the outside, “it’s frustrating.” He adds, “We feel a very strong responsibility to make sure that any information going forward is accurate and doesn’t change.”
In general, when you’re working on a big property like the Firefly game, you don’t want to reveal the major features until it’s close to release, O’Neill adds. But he’s also been impressed with how supportive the show’s fans have been.
Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All The Birds in the Sky, coming Jan 26 from Tor Books. Follow her on Twitter, and email her.