Though relatively undersung, Trion Worlds' Defiance is one of this year's most interesting - and risky - releases. Not content with merely being a massively multiplayer action title on console, it will coincide with a new Syfy TV series - events in the show will have an impact on the game's world, and vice versa. It's an unprecedented move.
None of that would matter much if Defiance wasn't entertaining by itself, of course, and thankfully, what we've seen of it is quietly promising - frantic on-foot and vehicle combat married to a sizeable assortment of unlockable skills and gear options. OXM spoke to Nathan Richardsson, vice-president of development and executive producer, for more.
Do you see Bungie's Destiny project as a threat or a sign of a trend towards SF MMOs?
I don't think it's a threat at all, I think it'll broaden the audience and introduce people to massive collaborative experiences as well as make online gaming more approachable. It's at the point where "MMO" is very much associated - and even stigmatised - with a certain men-in-tights deep-and-wide subscription type of game.
There is a place for massive online experience which doesn't have that learning cliff and is more a transmedia experience. I believe both Destiny and Defiance will be examples of where we're trying that out, breaking new ground and there is more than enough room for us, and others.
Is the word MMO something of an albatross for console development?
There is no denying that doing MMOs on consoles is difficult. 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 being said, what's commonly associated with the word "MMO" has a lot of connotations on consoles and even the most known games of the genre are experiences which would be a really poor experience on consoles. So yes but I think everyone is also just waiting for the answer to the question, "what is a massive online game on console?"
What's your current thinking on cross-platform play?
There is great opportunity in cross-platform play, as in some cases, more people in the same universe increases the value of the universe to a player. It's Metcalfe's law essentially, the same that applies to the fundamentals of the internet.
There is also the notion that cross-platform play has to be the same experience. This isn't true. You can have different platforms, which are entirely different gameplay experiences but are still all contributing and participating in the same world. It doesn't have to be a direct "port". And that doesn't even cover transmedia, such as a TV show and game created from the bottom up to be intertwined.
So yes, ample opportunities, as long as people stop thinking that the same world on two different devices doesn't have to be identical - just interlinked.
Is the end of the console lifecycle really the best time to launch an MMO?
There are certain benefits from being later in a console lifecycle than in the beginning. 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 take look at as part of their value proposition. If massive online games are compelling on the current generation, perhaps it gets a bigger role in the next generation. One can always hope.