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Defiance: A Good Idea Ahead of Its Time
- Updated: March 19, 2013
Innovative ideas on multiple platforms being developed by a good company…at the wrong time.
If you’ve even bothered to go to any gaming related site or showed up at one of the major conventions last year (E3, Comic-Con or PAX), chances are you ran straight into some sort of Defiance ad and were mesmerized by the outstanding display before you with promises of a bright new future where modern television is closing the gap with gaming fanatics. Unfortunately as time goes on and the release date to Defiance gets closer, I now understand what I foresaw was nothing but a blurred vision where Defiance will have no barrings in the coming tides.
Bare in mind that I hold no ill feelings for Defiance because I believe the concept is amazing and what they are doing has a lot of potential; but it’s very clear to me that there are some triggers that were pulled by Syfy and Trion Worlds that won’t play out the way they hope it will. It took me a little while to write this because I wasn’t sure how to necessarily approach it but this kind of project (along with it’s impending release date) deserves my utmost care and attention without procrastination. So without further ado, how about I start explaining my sad perspective on what could have been.
Now I’m not talking about them not exposing the game enough because they did a great job having this game stamped in various corners of the internet world and gave it enough eyes for the general public to see. The problem is, execution was not placed in the correct avenues of the entertainment industry. The thing about Defiance is that it is an MMOFPS set to correlate with the show where characters will find themselves to play a role in either the video game or the show as it progresses effectively changing certain moments of the game. One of the main problems of attempting this kind of cross-media project is that there hasn’t been enough exposure to cause any sort of real interest to make up for how much the game and show cost. If I’m watching a show on television, what makes me want to correlate my time and effort to the game even though it effects the worlds simultaneously? Each promotion that I have seen shows me what I already know but it’s not attempting to pull me in because it’s not showing what potential the game has. There is no personality to the ads and there has been no collaboration in the commercials that shows how both can truly decide certain factors for the story.
How they could have done better
Working with what they currently have, they should have started airing commercials showing the connection between both and how it affects things for both the TV series and the game. This would mean having to spoil certain things to whet consumer appetites or they could have even made it something more generic like..a bridge blowing up in the show which is then reflected back onto the game the next time you log in. They could have also taken a page from the Blizzard cinematic team and thrown themselves a theatrical trailer that also had a TV edited version to compensate then a Release trailer to enrich what material they have shown to include an enriching story. Their trailers have been shown to mimic off what MMOs have done instead of trying to market out their new idea with new concepts. I don’t need to see raid footage, show me something seldom seen like PvP from the eyes of the MMOFPS. No one is enjoying the fact that the same exact Defiance commercial keeps popping up on various sites such as Twitch.TV, Youtube for starters and I’m barely scratching that surface.
I’m all for going off and creating new sorts of video games because who doesn’t like a fresh new idea rather than just a sequel of a different game? Watch Dogs, Remember Me and Injustice: Gods Among Us are a few I can name that give us a sample of where gaming can truly take us in terms of innovated gameplay mixed with creativity. The problem with Defiance however is the ambition can not match the creativity; meaning one of them is doomed to fail and might even bring the other down. This can be taken in various ways depending on how you want to look at Defiance, the show and the game alike. According to various sources all over the internet, everyone agrees this is one of the largest TV projects to be ever conceived, the budget racking up from $100 to $150 million which can not bode well for the future of the game. Everyone remembers the last project that happened to have an absolutely large budget and fail right? Well that’s not specific at all but I was referring to Star Wars: The Old Republic which racked up $200 million only to end up being sub-par in terms of providing that MMO experience. That’s not to say Trion Worlds is going to offer a bad experience; actually I assume they will give me a great game that will stay intriguing enough and engaging. The problem with my statement there is that I’m one player, do you really think they can pull in enough players to make up for the $150 million alone (not including the maintenance required and post-release DLC). I’ve barely touched on the subject of it being too ambitious but this is food for thought, take from it what you will.
How they could have done better
First off, get rid of that $60 tag; the gameplay is not different enough to warrant a full price tag where players can get similar enough standards from other games like Planetside 2 or Borderlands 2 which already have a more defined following. While we’re on the concept of the price tag, issuing four different editions of the game that go all the way up to $149 (a Gamestop exclusive) is not attractive enough to pull players in. What they should have done in maximized on the correlation with the show and game. This can easily be done with microtransactions that can go off of what I expect of the game. Players can pay for an opportunity to participate in an event that will dictate events in the show and vice-versa if they haven’t met the proper requirements (sort of like being leveled up to match players in the PvP of SWTOR and GW2). If that price tag is nice enough, trust me when I say that looks appealing if I happen to be short on reaching the next event and I get to help create the new atmosphere? Sign me up. Another option could be giving players to connect to Syfy’s online episode player through the game where they can pay a small fee to get early access to this week’s episode. The description of the episode can include information on how it will affect the game so player’s get early insight on the next potential collaboration between both entities. Looking at those four editions, there’s nothing appealing enough that makes me think that the connection between the show and the game is close; rather it just looks like a game version of a TV show which some games (The Walking Dead by Telltale Games for example) already do a great job at.
Timing of Release
One of the more unfortunate cases and what could make it seem like a rush release is the relatively close release date of the game to the ramping up of ads (which are excessive and repetitive to say the least). March has had a very nice line up of game releases so understandable to look at April but let’s not forget that this is a multi-platform game on a dying console generation with the reveal of the PS4 and I’m assuming the new Xbox at some point. You’re looking at an absolutely colossal project with the hopes that the gaming community will respond to the TV industry’s bait which sad to say it won’t. As a young modern gamer, one of my first reactions after seeing the new PS4 and the amount of ads to Defiance is: why didn’t they just make this a release title for the new consoles? With the ambition behind it, I see no reason as to trying to optimize the game on older engines when the new ones are literally around the corner.
How they could have done better
We’ll start with the obvious one here and that’s the fact it’s being released on older consoles. Like mentioned earlier, the ambition doesn’t match the creativity and this is part of that problem; they should have showed off the game to corroborate the potential power of the new consoles and excite people with the prospects of this grand idea. Trion Worlds is no pushover company and they’ve managed to hold onto a pretty large following for Rift but even that game can’t make up for the budget behind Defiance, what makes you think that this can be a separate case? While I’m on the idea of what it’s being released on, let’s think about that budget and figure out what they could have removed to save money and explore more appropriate content: the console aspect. An entity of this magnitude deserves fine tuning in the utmost care especially with the size of MMO’s, the amount of lines of code can spell disaster when you’re plagued with bugs. They should have focused on a platform, hell they could have went off into the iOS or Android market especially with the advancement of phones, you’re starting to get games that look better than some indie games. Creativity should have matched the budget concerns if not higher, but they are focusing on innovation within a time window that is looking to the future and Defiance is currently not a part of that.
I want the readers to understand here that I don’t mean bad for the project, and out of principle I plan to buy the game and watch the show in hopes that I’m horribly wrong. The thing is, I’m looking away from the past and focusing on what’s to come. I will get it for PC but I’m going to be sad that a portion of the community will be locked into the Xbox 360 and then another community inside the PS3 both of which are reaching their end. I’m going to look into that microtransaction shop and hope to find some innovative idea that will pull me closer to the show and into the world only to realize, these are two companies that are essentially new kids on the block compared to some with more MMO experience. The starting price is not attractive and I don’t think I’m pushing anyone’s buttons by saying there probably is no real connection to the show and video game (especially now that they are working on Season 2 without the game release? Sketchy.) but I’ll enjoy what Defiance can give me for a small period of time and shake my head at what could have been great potential. With all that said, I could have said much much more but I get sad thinking about this so time to take a nap.