One of this year's less-sung, more fascinating releases is Trion Worlds' Defiance, a massively multiplayer action title joined at the hip to an upcoming Syfy TV show of the same name. As our most recent preview notes, the gameplay has a shade of Borderlands to it, offering brisk colourful combat and an immense array of weapons and abilities.
It's the game's handling of notoriously console-averse MMO staples, however, coupled with the extent to which community actions pay into the aforesaid TV show's narrative, that could make this a breakout hit - though there's a long way to fall if Trion fumbles the execution. Executive producer Nathan Richardson entertains no delusions as to the dangers that accompany the project's ambition.
"There is no denying that doing MMOs on consoles is difficult," he told OXM in an interview. "When they were envisioned, the massive online model with aggressive evolution of the game and dynamic universes wasn't part of their core purpose. This has discouraged a lot of developers, going the paths of less resistance and sticking to other platforms."
That's as much a problem of interpretation as it is a problem of underlying incompatibilities, however. "The word "MMO" has a lot of connotations," Richardson went on. "Even the most known games of the genre are experiences which would be really poor on consoles. So yes [it's difficult] - but I think everyone is also just waiting for the answer to the question: 'what is a massive online game on console?'"
Defiance isn't a "men-in-tights deep-and-wide subscription type of game", as Richardson puts it. It's a free-to-play, action-oriented affair supported by micro-transactions, where you can easily bounce into instanced, localised combat while exploring the world. "We wanted it to be one large contiguous experience instead of waiting around in different lobbies," Richardson goes on. He gives the example of a player leaping into a 16 vs 16 round of team deathmatch with vehicles, exploring some more, joining a 4-player co-op mission and finishing up in a 70-player bossfight. It all sounds rather maniac, I'm sure you'll agree.
And the TV show? It'll launch on 15th April, a couple of weeks behind the MMO, and will incorporate noteworthy events in unconfirmed ways. If you're not keen on it, there's no penalty for ignoring it. "That's the key, you don't have to play the game to watch the show, or watch the show to play the game," Richardson explained. "They stand on their own but together they are an additive experience."
Trion's dream is that Defiance will spark a wave of similar massively multiplayer experiences on forthcoming hardware. "There are certain benefits to being later in a console lifecycle," Richardson said of the decision to release in spring 2013, dangerously close to the announcement of the next generation Xbox. "The platform and infrastructure is more mature, there are more consoles connected and there is more freedom to try new things.
"It's also that at the end of one, it's the start of the next and you can try to influence what the next generation will look at as part of their value proposition," he continued. "If massive online games are compelling on the current generation, perhaps it gets a bigger role in the next generation. One can always hope."
What do you think? Thanks to Dan Griliopoulos for the Q&A and transcript.