Defiance: An Experiment Doomed To Fail?
One of the more curious things on the scene at PAX Prime 2012 is an upcoming MMO by Rift-developer Trion Worlds called Defiance. A third person science fiction shooter with class-free character creation and a combat control system reminiscent of everything from Call of Duty to Gears of War, Defiance is, quite frankly, a lot like a million other games you’ve played before. The playable demo was enjoyable (more on that momentarily), but after 20 minutes I didn’t feel as though I’d played anything particularly original. However, what is NOT like a million other games is the fact that Defiance is also a largely unprecedented multimedia experience, part game, Part TV Series (to air on SyFy), both of which will affect events on the other.
I’ll come back to that completely insane and kind of awesome idea in a second, because it’s important to note how terrified Trion Worlds doesn’t appear to be, despite the fact that the show is being aired by SyFy, and said show is based on an MMO. Seriously, SyFy; MMO. But first, a bit about the game.
Set “around 35 years from now,” according to one Trion rep I spoke to, Defiance takes place in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco Bay Area. The apocalypse in this case is the sudden appearance of a consortium of alien races called the Votan, whose own star system went nova. At the beginning of the game’s backstory, they came calling on us Earthlings to see if we’d be willing to let them move into our spare bedroom or continent or whatever. Tense negotiations ensued until Earth told the Votan to get packing, at which point the Votan, desperate due to the lack of a planet to go home to, declared war. Both the game and the show take place after the war has ended and things on Earth have devolved into a kind of high tech anarchy centered around city-states instead of nation-states.
As expected for a civilization (there are an as-yet unspecified number of individual races) that mastered interstellar travel, the Votan brought some rather impressive technology with them, including biotech weaponry and ‘Arks’. Arks are what Defiance promotional literature insists on calling ‘terraforming equipment’, but should be called ‘Xenoforming’ because their function is to make Earth – you know, ‘Terra’ – habitable for the aliens. During the early phases of the war, a few of these ‘Arks’ were dropped on earth, radically altering the local environment and introducing some delightful hybrid creatures. By the end of the war, which lasted decades, the Votan’s fleet of ship remains in orbit, but is increasingly derelict. These ships, packed with a huge amount of still-unused alien technology, occasionally break apart and send their contents plummeting planetside; these events provide the skeleton for Defiance’s game portions.
A note about the game’s world. The demo took place in a shipping yard that resembled Oakland’s docks, but otherwise had no identifying features. I therefore can’t comment on how good or bad the persistent world will be. I was told by a Trion rep that while the presence of ‘Arks’ has significantly altered the landscape, residents of the Bay Area should recognize quite a bit. Things won’t be a 1:1 scale, but, I was also told, the goal is to ‘summarize’ the region fairly faithfully. Aside from the altered, quasi-alien stuff of course.
Whenever the main game missions aren’t operative, there will be (so I was told), will be a huge open world composed of most of San Francisco and parts of Marin County for players to inhabit. Side quests, as well as neutral areas and explorable places will be accessible at all times. What, specifically, these side quests and neutral missions will entail are currently unknown, as the game is still very much in development. However I was told, and take this with a grain of salt the size of the Golden Gate Bridge, that Trion is committed to providing ‘a high degree’ of content for players.