Playing the Game

I wanted to go into a little bit more detail about the ways that you’re hoping to see those interactions between the show and the game play out once they’re both kind of started. Can you give me an example of like, what you’d maybe try to do there? 

We knew the show couldn’t constantly change from week to week in a dramatic sense. We knew that it would be difficult to try and build a game that did that; it might just confuse the players, because one of the things that’s important to know is that you’re not required to watch the show and play the game to get a good experience on either side. 

So we didn’t want to do that much in depth. We just felt that we’d confuse one audience or the other. We do have larger events that appear at various times, that if you are doing both, you will get a greater understanding of what the heck’s really going on, and then we have more subtle things that would appear more often that players will be able to go, ‘OK, I know who that character is, because I’ve experienced them within the game.’ Me, I play the game, I know what’s going on. The rest of these guys on the couch who don’t, I’ve got this kind of inner understanding of what’s going on. So that’s really how we approached those kind of tie-ins. But you will be seeing some situations where a character leaves the show and comes to the game, leaving the show as a person that’s not to be trusted, and comes into the game, gets redemption, goes back into the show, and is redeemed. They’re actually a different character when they come back than when they left, but still make it understandable for the people in the show that, ‘OK, yeah, that person must have had an experience somewhere,’ and even have him talk about it a bit. That changed their character, and now this is who this character is. 

How are you approaching server populations and playing with friends? Is there concern about players clogging up story missions and everybody being together?

You may have noticed that there was no server select screen. That’s important. The other thing is we do break up some of the more important story places into a phase. This could be a smaller phase or larger phases depending on what the event is, or what the story mission there is. But this doesn’t mean that I run into one and it’s just me because I just ran into it and I don’t have a group. We actually let strangers pop into these things until it reaches its cap. So we do maintain that, ‘Oh, I don’t know who this guy is, but he’s helping me out within this area,’ without having to worry that 50 people are going to converge on this and it’s going to be a half a second encounter. 

But a majority of the world does not do that. So I don’t know if you saw one of the random events of the arc falls, the things that fall from the sky? Those are completely open, so if 100 people decide they want to converge on it, they can do it. And I don’t know how many you got to play with, but, for example, we just did a stress test, and I was in one with 40, I believe. And we scale those based on the amount of people there, but we also scale the reward so you want other people there. While we scale the difficulty to support a population of that size, you really want that size because you’re going to get much more out of it. So it’s a mixture of those two types of things that really allow us to let people continue the storyline without getting completely interrupted, but at the same time having these larger things that players can really experience on a larger scale. 

How transparent is that? Let’s say I’m playing with a buddy who I want to be able to play with. Am I going to have the choice to kind of freely hop over into his phase if I want to, or is it more just the game takes you where it’s going to take you?  

If somebody’s on your friend list they have priority. If somebody’s on your group they automatically come in. If they’re in your clan there is another similar rule set. So it’s transparent for you. If you’re by yourself and you run in, other people can come in, right? They just show up. But if you’re in a group in particular, you’re going to pop in, and your group’s going to as well. And it’s all seamless, by the way. There’s not loading or any of that kind of stuff; it all just happens. 

Can you explain a little bit more about your approach to dynamic events? Would you say the main approach to those are arc falls? 

The arc falls tend to be the larger group conversion sort of things. Essentially what an arc fall is, just to give you some context here is I mentioned that the arcs rained down, they got sabotaged, exploded, and rained down. 

They’re still pieces of this thing in orbit, and they contain valuable minerals and technology and that kind of stuff, and periodically they fall down. They fall down onto the entire planet, actually. It’s not just the Bay Area or Missouri, St. Louis, and that’s what you experience. So, hellbugs, for example, they don’t come from the arc falls. They’re actually showing up there – they’re subterranean – they’re actually showing up there to try and consume the minerals. That’s what they use for their breeding, but you want that stuff. So they’re trying to stop you, you’re trying to stop them from consuming the thing, and that’s where the conflict really comes in. 

Beyond that we also have what we call emergencies which are essentially things that are just smaller events. For example, you could roll up on mutants attacking a merchant, and the emergency is rescue the merchant and you’ll be rewarded. 

Those are always there. They’re there sometimes and not other times. Another one could be this convoy got ambushed and they’re being held down by mutants. Take out the mutants, rescue the convoy drivers and you get rewarded, and that event isn’t always there either. 

So we have the larger ones which are like the arc falls, then we have the smaller ones which are really scattered out all over the place. So we have a little of both of the dynamic content. 

Do you have a limit to how many players you allow into a dynamic event? 

Not for that type of content. They can stack it up as much as they want. There’s another aspect that’s large scale like that too, and it’s called the Shadow War. It’s competitive multiplayer essentially. It happens in the open world, so you decide if you want to compete in the Shadow War; it’s completely voluntary. And you get placed on one team or another, and we start spawning capture points on the existing map, and the idea being you want to capture the points until you fill your tickets. And then you win and then obviously you can get rewarded, but the unique thing is as more and more people go into the Shadow War, we spawn more and more of these capture points, and we scale it up to 100 people. The other part is that you’ll see vehicles spawn that don’t normally spawn unless there’s a Shadow War going, so it’s like three-man vehicles, one with a rocket launcher in the passenger seat, one in the back with the minigun, and so those aspects are also new to this kind of event. 

The interesting thing is, is that we don’t put you in a separate phase or anything like that. The base population of NPCs are still there, so you’ll be competing with them as you’re fighting each other, as well as other players running around watching you do this so they can decide, “Ooh, well why are those guys shooting at each other? It must be a Shadow War.’ And then decide they want to join and compete as well. 

So it’s not like a PVP arena – it’s literally just a part of the game world? 

Yup. It’s layered on top of the content that’s already there. 

Do those move around or are they consistently particular locations in the world that will have those conflicts happening? 

There are particular places in the world because we wanted to make sure that we were picking areas that were fun to fight in, but we picked a lot of areas. No matter where you are, if somebody is starting a Shadow War, you will probably find it. You will see it on the map so you can actually decide to go to it if you want to. 

And you just opt in or you don’t? So you could be running around and not have to worry about getting shot, it that’s not what you wanted to do?

Exactly. The real focus early on is there are a lot of competitive multiplayer shooters. We really wanted to stress the cooperative nature. And that’s the part I think that really makes Defiance unique is that there really isn’t a cooperative shooter on this scale. All of our stress tests, and beta tests, and alpha tests, have been on PC right now, so they get it. They understand what a massive online game is. I think once the console players really start to get their hands on it, it’s going to be an experience where they’re just like, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know you could do this. I’m just used to shooting other people, and maybe having a four-player co-op experience.’ This is hundreds of player co-op. I think they’ll really be surprised and impressed. 

[Next up: What fundamental game systems drive Defiance?]