The lights are on
Defiance is on the way to PS3, 360, and PC in early April. In advance of the game’s release, we talked with Trion Worlds’ senior producer Rob Hill about the game. In an extensive interview, he offered us a wealth of details about the game and the wider Defiance universe. Our interview is lengthy, so we’ve split it up into specific sections so you can jump to what you want to learn about. Hill discusses the background of the Defiance franchise (directly below), how it compares to other MMOs, storyline introduction, the experience of playing the game, various central game systems, and finally, details on the game's platforms and monetization. Enjoy!
Game Informer: Tell me about your role in the project. What’s your title on the project, and what are you working on day to day?
Hill: I’m the senior producer, and I’ve been with the project since the very beginning, one of the founders of the San Diego studio. I was also the chief liaison between the development team and Syfy in general, whether it be the network, or their production team. I was one of the people on our side that helped make sure that these things were moving in sync, particularly from the game development side, and also the chief guy to help educate Syfy on how games are made and what’s important for games, particularly the massive online games that we make, and also learn what their process is so I can, again, make sure that this stuff is moving together in sync and we’re doing things they can do, and they’re doing things that are important for us. So that has been my day to day for, oh, four and half, almost five years. I was also was in charge of managing the game team, particularly early on when we were much smaller, and then help make some of the creative decisions and drive those from the game side as well.
Has the hard and fast release date of April 2013 been a challenge for you all?
Absolutely. Particularly when we were at Comic-Con. I don’t know if you were there, and saw the gigantic Defiance thing on the Marriott, that was 10 stories tall and had our date on it. It was pretty clear that, ‘OK, yeah, we really got to do this.’ And we have to make sure that we’re in sync with Syfy while we do it. So yeah, it’s definitely unusual. You always try and set a date, and you always base decisions on a date that you set, but sometimes things don’t necessarily work out as you expected, but we’ve had a lot of success with making what we consider the correct decisions for this project and for the Syfy guys.
What are the major things that your team is working on right now?
Getting into Sony and Microsoft’s submission process is a major thing. Also continuing to refine the crossover events that we are having at various times during the television season. And also since we are a buy the box, play the game non-subscription based game, working on the various points that we want to release other content, even outside the series crossover stuff. So that’s kind of the point that we’re at right now.
I’d like to ask you about the origin of the Defiance franchise. Were you approached by Syfy after development of the game began?
Hill: We started work early on, but one of the things we were really looking at is that Trion has investors in NBC who own Syfy, and so we looked at NBC properties. We were really looking at doing something that had this core idea to it of working with a property back and forth. But what we discovered early on was the existing properties just weren’t big enough to support a massive online game because television shows are usually very focused.
So it came to a point where, apparently, I wasn’t there, but our CEO met with their CEO, and they started talking about, ‘Yeah, we’ve been looking at these properties, they aren’t really working for the scale of the game we want to make,’ and somewhere along the lines they come up with the idea of, ‘why don’t we just start a new one?’. Just start from scratch. They understood that when you’re making a game off an existing property, you have to make sacrifices to fit within that property because, as I said, television shows, and movies in particular tend to be very focused. So you have to fit within those rules, so we said, ‘OK, instead of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, let’s build that hole that fits both sides,’ and that’s really what the genesis of it was.
How long ago did those conversations start?
At the very beginning; well over four and a half years ago.
So at that point did you know that you were aiming to do kind of a more action oriented shooter?
Not right away. We thought, ‘OK, so it’s Syfy channel, they do Syfy shows.’ They currently had Battlestar Galactica going, which had a lot of space action, at least. And so we kind of moved along the lines of, ‘Okay, so if it’s going to be futuristic, we’re going to want to have guns, and guns in games we’ve played in the past, particularly massive online games, were typically, I’ll stand in front of you, you stand in front of me, we’ll use hot keys ‘til somebody falls over.’ And we just felt that that wasn’t necessarily compelling gunplay. It didn’t really sell the idea of gunplay. And that’s when we started looking at action games and shooter games.
[Next up: How does Defiance compare to other MMOs on the market?]
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.