Nestled away in from the hustle and bustle of the crowds of the Koelnmesse at this year's Gamescom in Cologne, Trion Worlds, the creators of recent MMORPG Rift, were showing off their next big project to groups of games industry journalist. Dealspwn were lucky enough to be invited along, and I was sent to get the scoop at the Q&A session.
Defiance is a science fiction story that takes place in a future where aliens have unexpectedly arrived at Earth, expecting an empty planet on which to colonize. While negotiations are taking place with the governments of the world over settlement plans, their Ark ships unexpectedly start falling from the sky, crashing onto the Earth and terraforming the planet into a mix of human and alien ecology. This begins a fight for survival by both humans and alien, giving us the setting for the game.
As stated by their PR rep, Defiance will be the world’s first persistent MMO third person shooter, born from the partnership between Trion Worlds and the SyFy Channel. This will interconnect with a television series which will run alongside the MMO, but if that wasn’t impressive enough, Defiance will also be a multiplatform game, allowing PS3, Xbox 360, and PC players to all experience the game together simultaneously.
To prove that they were not joking around with that fact, Trion Worlds showed us a live demonstration of the multiplatform connectivity in action.
At the front of the presentation were two giant screens with a PS3 set up on one side and an Xbox 360 on the other. Both players logged in to the characters and joined the server that was already being used by several players using PCs at the Trion World’s studios back in San Diego and Texas. It was at this point we got to see the in-game world; a slightly recognisable but incredibly different San Francisco. In the demonstration we were watching, the players were tasked to eliminating an infestation of “hellbugs.”
The gameplay appeared to be very similar many of the other third person action games on the market, with Trion stating that those who had played Halo, CoD or Borderlands would find the controls familiar and accessible. Truth be told, had they not told us already that the PC players were back in US I would have thought the game was being player completely locally, but whether this will translate to the final product remains to be seen. We were informed about how players will have access to a variety of weapons and armour, with several abilities such as movement, cloaking, and damage increase being at the player’s disposal. These abilities can be evolved into more powerful versions with increased effects, and upgradeable equipment is on the cards as well.
While the action appeared to be very familiar we were reminded about how this was a persistent, seamless world that would not have any loading screens as you traversed the land, and that exploring was as big a part of the game as the combat, with an “epic story campaign” to help guide the player. However, with it being a persistent world, when players log out they could log back in at a later time to find things very different. The example we were given was that a location that was previously there may not be there later on, and the inclusion of dynamic event aims to further build the illusion of an evolving world.
Mission quests can be giving on the fly via a communicator, allowing for players to be on the move and still have content available to them in an instant. It doesn’t just limit itself to quests however, as dynamic events in the local area are also alerted to the player. We were given an example of one such event called an ‘Ark fall’, where parts of the alien Arks fall to the planet with powerful and valuable technology inside them. However, players will not be the only ones after the goodies inside, as other alien species will attempt to take it from themselves. This forms the basis of the event itself, with players fighting off waves of enemies for a small period of time until the huge crystal in the middle of the Ark fall shatters. This released a huge creature that began to attack the nearby players, forming a boss battle in what appeared like a public raid encounter. We never got to see the resolution of the battle, as the live demonstration was cut at that point.
One of the major ways the two forms of media will connect is the storyline. While each one will take place in separate locations, they will be able to affect each other in both large and small ways. For example, the characters on the show may create a new weapon which will become available to players in the game, or a main character may decide to take a trip to San Francisco which will allow players to go on quests with them. Alternatively, players who accomplish big things in-game will be mentioned on the show, or perhaps even featured as extras. The idea is to create an immersive bond with the audience by offering them an added way to invest and explore the world of Defiance, but at the same time allow them to be separate enough to be able to function on their own merit.
Sci-fi fans may be interested to know that Rockne S. O’Bannon, a television writer and producer who has been involved in Farscape, Alien Nation, and the rebooted V to name a few of his credited works, will be heading up the writing for the SyFy series for Defiance.
That brought the Q&A session to a close. From what was shown during the presentation this looks be an ambitious and unique entertainment experience, and if Trion Worlds are able to provide the level of immersion and connectivity they are saying they can, this will definitely be one to keep an eye on as development progresses.