Following a massive presence at the San Diego Comic-Con, we put our questions to Rob Hill, Senior Producer for Defiance. Find out more about the partnership with Syfy and developing a cross-platform MMO!
Every MMO is an ambitious project. To get as far as launching a game takes hundreds of developers several years. What makes Defiance, Trion Worlds’ latest MMO, even more daunting is that it is being built as a skill-based third-person shooter that can be experienced on both PCs and consoles. A project this extensive sounds almost unfathomable.
But Defiance is about more than just making a game, as senior producer Rob Hill explained to us. When it comes to how we experience entertainment, Trion is looking further ahead than just the next couple of years. By facing the challenge of building virtual worlds that work on TV, PC and beyond, and by working out how to mesh multiple ways of creating content, this ambitious developer is striving to get ahead of the curve.
By announcing their release date - April 2013 - on a giant Skyscraper-sized poster overlooking San Diego Comic-Con, the two partners have literally nailed their colors to the mast. How does Rob Hill, Senior Producer at Trion Worlds, hope to navigate his team to that final destination? Find out more about their plans below.
ZAM: We’ve heard that the game’s set in a near-future version of San Francisco. Was there a reason behind the choice?
Rob Hill: Yes, the Bay Area is where players will find themselves adventuring, and we had a number of reasons for starting there. It has a number of internationally recognizable landmarks that we hope will help you connect with this being here on earth in the near future, it has a very varied landscape and, of course, it’s really close to us. Being a massive online game, this is just the start. The entire world of Defiance is one cohesive setting and story; there are things happening everywhere, which both the game and the show will touch on over time.
ZAM: So how does the partnership between you and Syfy actually work?
Rob: It’s like most relationships: very intimate. Someone is always late to dinner, and we don’t say “I love you” enough, but when we wake up in the morning we couldn’t be happier together. The big challenge, however, is synchronizing two very different approaches to creating entertainment.
We have a television series which is a more linear experience and we have an open world game which is almost the exact opposite. We started out sharing our creation process, identifying the stuff both had in common, and developing those aspects in both mediums to make an even greater experience.
It also helps that Trion and Syfy are both moving toward a new future, where it’s about foreseeing how people will consume entertainment over the next several years, not just figuring out how we can work together tomorrow to “make it work.” That’s the real fun part. Kind of like … bacon in the morning.
ZAM: So far we’ve seen Humans versus Aliens, but are we going to see different human factions vying for survival?
Rob: In Defiance humans and the Votan (the collective alien races) are finally trying to work together, after decades of conflict, to battle a greater threat. Of course this is a tenuous relationship, so everyone mistrusts everyone else, which makes some kind of conflict inevitable and constant. In the game, the Bay Area is a frontier – wild and untamed – so players will face constant threat from aliens, the environment and other players.
ZAM: Developing an MMO is tricky at the best of times, but Defiance is being released on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 as well. Does the MMO travel well from PC to console, or is it that they “just don’t work”?
Rob: We’re already running on three major platforms so we’re pretty pleased with where we are. The danger is very much that someone tries to make the traditional “PC MMO” and then tries to shove it onto a console and adapt the experience. Defiance isn’t quite like that, this is more thinking “how would a transmedia massive world work?” Today, that certainly has its limitations due to the variety of mediums, but we strongly believe that it’s possible and our playtests confirm that. Besides, it wouldn’t be any fun if it was easy to do.
ZAM: How closely are the game and TV show intertwined? Are there events that happen in game that also happen in the show?
Rob: We have things happening before, during and after the episodes air and vice versa, in addition to the general schedule of global events within the game world. Our enthusiasm is perhaps our most dangerous enemy because we do have to launch Defiance someday, and we want to incorporate all of our awesome ideas. The luxury we have is that this is a massively multiplayer universe that is constantly evolving, so what we have at launch is only the beginning of the player and story driven universe of Defiance.
ZAM: Apart from the tie-in with Syfy, what do you think makes Defiance unique as an MMOTPS?
Rob: We believe the joining of elements from an open world environment with massively multiplayer and third-person shooter elements is what makes Defiance unique. It lends itself well to storytelling and provides a setting for emergent behavior, all while letting you experience that universe with your friends.
ZAM: You’ve got a rough date of April 2013 put in place. Will there be a beta, considering the launch is tied in with the show?
Rob: Yes, we put that date onto an entire building above Comic Con in San Diego as a reminder just in case we forget. There will be Alpha and Beta testing before the launch as we feel it’s crucial for achieving that fun factor and quality level, while gaining valuable feedback that will be applied into our continuous development cycle. We don’t stop at launch, we go on, making the world a better place.
Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer, Staff Writer