Defiance: Laying The Groundwork For A Revolution

Defiance, noun: 1) The act or an instance of defying, 2) Disposition to resist, Willingness to Contend or Fight

Defiance, game: 1) The act or an instance of defying all previous multiplayer online game tropes, 2) Disposition to resist the MMO gameplay standards

On April 2nd, 2013, Defiance was released for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. Best classified as a massively multiplayer online game, or MMO, Defiance is a third-person shooter where you will fight side-by-side with hundreds of your fellow comrades against your enemies. Defiance lives up to its name by defying the standard MMO formula: rather than using the same old tired World of Warcraft formula of tab-targeting and only moving to “get out of the fire,” as it were, Defiance makes you put your Uncharted and Gears of War skills to use. You'll be taking cover, rolling, switching weapons on the fly and employing careful aiming while under heavy fire if you want to pull victory from the jaws of defeat. While games of this genre have been made into MMOs in the past, they haven't been done on the same scale that Trion Worlds, developer and publisher of the hit MMO series Rift, has done with Defiance.

Defiance: Laying The Groundwork For A Revolution Defying Your Conceptions About MMO Gaming

Even though it's designed as an MMO, Defiance takes its cues from a wide range of games and other media in a variety of genres. There's a sprinkle of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic with the way that the game features a large amount of voice acting, including fully voiced cutscenes for the game's major moments. There's a dash of Fallout with the setting, a post apocalyptic setting taking place some 35 years in the future. There's a pinch of Firefly in the Wild West type atmosphere. To complete this concoction, there's a dollop of Borderlands with the weapon randomization and customization. Have you ever wanted a sniper rifle that shoots lightning bolts? Or a shotgun that shoots toxic tar? That's just a small taste of what Defiance will offer you. Not to mention you'll be riding around in style with vehicles based off of real-world counterparts, such as a Dodge Charger.

The frosting on this delicious blended genre cake is the multiplayer mode, taking its inspiration from Battlefield 3 with the Shadow War multiplayer type. Two teams of players will fight to control nodes on the map, with the catch being that the Shadow War erupts in the same area as the rest of the game. While it's never mandatory to take part in the Shadow War, watching players fight around you as you attempt to complete a quest objective makes the world feel alive.

While Defiance offers something for everyone, many of its ideas have been seen before. Luckily, it does offer one thing that will change not only MMOs but the entire way we view and play our games.

Defying Traditional Tie-In Media

These days, it seems every major franchise has tie-in media, such as animated movies, books, action figures and even board games. For example, the Gears of War franchise has a series of books as does the Mass Effect series while franchises like Dead Space and Dante's Inferno have animated tie-ins to help flesh out the in-game universe. The problem is that most tie-in media isn't necessary and is never tied into a game's plot in a meaningful way. While games do often add in small nods to people that read the accompanying novels (Mass Effect did this well) or watched the movie, the events in tie-in media never have a direct impact on a game and, in the rare event it does like in the World of Warcraft novel The Shattering, the events are explained are shown in the game itself. Most likely this is because the vast majority of a game's audience doesn't pay attention to the tie-in media available; while hardcore fans can seek out additional avenues to have a greater understanding of their favorite franchise, people who do not are not missing out.

This all changes with Defiance.

For starters, Defiance's tie-in media is not your standard novel or movie released with little to no fanfare: it's a big budget television show set to air tonight, 4/15/2013 at 9:00 PM EST, on the SyFy channel. Non-player characters from the game, such as Joshua Nolan and Irisa Nyira, will have starring roles in the television show, immediately enabling fans to connect to the show. But Defiance's tie-in media won't just be used to flesh the universe out but to move the universe forward.

Defiance the game exists in a 1:1 space with Defiance the television show: the events in the game build up to the premier of the television show and the television show will directly effect the game: certain events in the game will affect the outcome of the television show and vice versa. Executive producer Kevin Murphy, in an interview with USA Today, talks about a plague ravaging a city in Defiance:

“That triggers a mission where a player has to go about figuring out how to get the cure all the way to San Francisco and they only have a week to do it, because we follow up the story line the next week. There are a lot of hand-offs back and forth."

Senior Vice President at Trion, Nick Beliaeff, wants to take this concept one step further:

“One of things we've talked about and we hope to be able to do is have one of the player's avatars have a walk-on role in the second season.”

Players who only play Defiance the game without consuming Defiance the television show will be severely missing out. Defiance forges a brand new path in social interaction and, looking to the future, no system does social interaction better than the PlayStation 4.

Defying Preconceived Notions About What the Future Of Gaming Brings

While Defiance is only for the PlayStation 3, we can infer a great deal about what it might mean to future games on the PlayStation 4. We know the PlayStation 4 will be able to handle MMO gaming, as its predecessor, the PlayStation 3, has a number of games in this genre already in its library: DC Universe Online and Final Fantasy XIV, for starters.

We know the PlayStation 4 has an emphasis on social networking, as Sony wants its players connected at all times, sharing information, screen shots and videos with each other on a regular basis. What happens when you combine the Defiance concept with the PlayStation 4? A match made in social networking heaven.

One such future entails removing the cable television aspect of the premise altogether and having Sony host its own show using the PlayStation 4's own built-in media abilities. These days, game consoles double as media centers in addition to gaming devices, providing portals to consume media whether its paid services such as Netflix or Hulu or Sony's own online video store, where the company has hosted television shows before, such as The Tester, with decent results. Imagine logging onto the PlayStation 4, having the console automatically queue up the next episode of your online game at which point you could watch it with your online friends. At the end of the show, your group immediately jumps into the game to solve that week's quest in a seamless transition from show to game. Defiance will undoubtedly have viewers of the show without the hardware to run the game and players of the game that don't have access to the SyFy network; by hosting all content directly from the PlayStation 4, you truly create a living, breathing world where all players have access to all content.

But why confine ourselves to strictly MMOs? Imagine a first-person shooter tied with a television show, where that week's battlefield became a real map in the game. Or multiple games in the same franchise impacting one another in real time.

These days, synergy between different aspects of a franchise is growing, whether it's Defiance combining a television show and a game or EVE Online utilizing two different games with two very different genres, space combat and on-the-ground FPS, to create one virtual world. The age of media tie-ins being nothing more than a wink or a nod to a hardcore player is on the cusp of being extinct. Whether Defiance succeeds or fails, the concept behind it will live on because the developer, publisher or even console maker who can get this formula right will change not only gaming, but social interaction, forever. Expect these ideas to take prevalence on the PlayStation 4, a console seemingly built with these ideas in mind with its huge focus on social gaming. For years, journalists and gamers felt that the PlayStation 4 would only bring about a graphical change, but they were wrong: it will bring a revolution.

Article by - Joshua Phillips
Insert Date: 4/15/2013

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