At a distance, the combat is quite satisfying. I certainly could have used more accurate and more powerful guns, as only the head shots or chest shots seemed to take the mutants down. But up close, the fighting is tricky. There are some slight lags in the experience, and that makes it hard to hit the enemy when they are charging you. It is not nearly as polished as a shooter as titles such as Uncharted 3: Among Thieves, or Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The question is whether gamers will put up with something slightly less than that in exchange for the benefits of the MMO. I did see some rather strange bugs, like invisible obstacles that made my ATV get stuck, including once in mid-air.
The benefits include social play. Beliaeff said the game will feature thousands of players at once, often teaming up to deal with events where they have to take care of various alien threats. Sometimes, “arc falls,” or big pieces of the alien ship, crash down to Earth. This creates a battle for the resources in the wreckage. The more players play together, the better the loot when they achieve their goal. That encourages teamwork. The story sequences are also meant to hold your attention as you go out on directed missions.
I played a little bit of player-versus-player combat, which you can do in certain sections of the map. It was, of course, much harder to stay alive. But it was a reasonably good experience. The game is good, but it isn’t the most outstanding thing I’ve played. MMOs are typically a step down in quality from single-player games, and this one looks no different. I’ll have to reserve judgment until the final version actually comes out, but I’d have the same concern as I do about the TV show. There is so much competition for my game time now, and there is no smartphone or tablet version of this game (at least not yet).
The road ahead
The development process isn’t over yet. Beliaeff said the team had completed its first-day patch and the content update that happens at the start of the TV show. But the team is also heavily involved in creating the content to go with Season 2 of the show. Nankin said he believes that the second season will go a lot smoother since the first season was a complete experiment in collaboration.
The intricacies of the production were fairly terrifying. The game team had no qualms creating characters and content with green outfits. But the TV crew shoots scenes with green screens in the background, so that they can insert special effects or sets through a digital process. That means they can’t use green outfits, Nankin said. Little things like that had to be learned along the way. That meant a lot of compromising.
The whole leap of faith was result of a connection between Lars Buttler, chief executive of Trion Worlds in Redwood City, Calif., and Mark Stern, president of SyFy.
Stern said that the companies found each other while Trion, which was just a year old at the time, was raising a round of funding from media partners. NBC Universal invested in that round. The idea of doing a transmedia property with a game and TV show combined came up. Stern’s team sent a bunch of scripts, some of which became good TV shows later.
But Beliaeff said that the scripts for the TV shows were too thin. They could work for a half hour of entertainment, but Trion needed a deep and complex story that could last for hundreds of hours.
They came up with separate territories for the show and game. The show is set in St. Louis, where political intrigue is the norm. The game is set in San Francisco, where combat is the reality.
As the game reaches its launch, all of the resources at Trion are being directed at it. That’s more than 500 people.
The good thing about the collaboration is that everybody in the game and TV audiences will hear about this show, given the publicity plans. And that means everyone is going to be there to cheer its success or watch it go down in flames.
Check out the latest trailer for the game below.
Defiance demo trailer from VentureBeat on Vimeo.