Comparing To Other MMOs

What makes Defiance different from other MMOs? 

I think the moment-to-moment game mechanics are one of the big things. Typically, massive online games have you standing there, you target something, and you hit hot keys until one of you falls over. This one requires you to actually aim, and aim well, and movement is also very important. Keeping things between you and the enemy, constantly trying to be on the move – that is something that we’ve been getting a lot of great response with, was, ‘ wow, this actually feels like a real shooter, not like any of the MMOs I played before.’ So that’s what we really started, and really focused a lot of attention on, because if that wasn’t going to work it was going to be very difficult to sell people on the rest of it. 

What makes it like other MMOs? What are the MMO staples that you’ve opted to keep in place that you think are important for the genre?

I just think the scale, the fact that you’re in this world with a lot of other people around you. That sense that I don’t know that person but that guy is kicking butt. I really want to get in a group with that guy so that we can go off and kick butt together. Okay, now we’ve played a lot together, we’re going to join a persistent clan on the server and build those social bonds that you don’t necessarily do within games in shooters as they currently are. There’s a lot of out of game tools that you can use to maintain those kind of social relationships, but really, having that mass scale, coming across strangers and giving them tools to, within the game, keep those relationships going are what is really strongest with the massive online games. That’s what makes them so successful, I believe, and maybe not paying off as much on their end with the moment-to-moment combat that we’re trying to do. 

Whether in the MMO space or elsewhere, I’m curious if there are games on the market that your team has looked to for inspiration. 

Well, at the time, not really. I mean, we’ve looked at all sorts of games that had some shooting mechanics, Global Agenda, and those things, early PlanetSide, but the difference with those, particularly when we initially looked at them, was PlanetSide was originally just player-versus-player. It still is with the sequel. And Global Agenda was a very instanced space. We really wanted to reinforce the large scale of the world and the people in it, so we didn’t want to go as instance spaced as that. We wanted you constantly stumbling across people within the world so that you can really have an opportunity to start grouping with them, sticking with them, and put them on your friends list and get a clan going – all the things I said before we felt was really important to have in an open, persistent world with tons of people, and that really wasn’t there. 

But we did look a lot at different shooter games. How do these things move, what weapons feel good, what enemy AI does. The tricky part was those don’t do the mass scale stuff we were talking about, so that was a heavy learning process, to figure out how you build a world like this with shooting mechanics like we have, where you can kill things at pretty extended ranges if you want to if you’re equipped properly. And how do we make it so that if they decide to converge 30 people on a single space that they’re not just wiping it out; or being way overpowered if you don’t have that group of people. The core was really looking at the shooter games that existed. Honestly, we looked at a ton of stuff: anything from Red Dead [Redemption], to Borderlands, to even Gears [of War], or Call of Duty. We looked at a ton of stuff. We looked at a ton of different stuff, and really tried to focus on what we thought each of them did well to kind of try and make something new, not just direct copies of all that.

[Next up: The storyline behind this new science fiction game world]