Interview – Rich Barnes from Trion Worlds on Defiance’s Aftermath DLC
The ‘MMO-shooter-based-on-a-TV-show’- Defiance– has seen steady and regular updates since its original release on PC/Xbox 360/PS3 last year. The show on NBC in the US and SyFy in the UK has also been receiving lots of love in that time, giving the folks at Trion Worlds lots of goodies to work with in developing the game further.
With this in mind, Trion Worlds recently released Aftermath, the latest in the DLC programme for the game. Earlier I spoked with Rich Barnes, Senior Producer for the game, to find out more about the upcoming goodies and what it’s been like making a game in line with a TV show.
Here’s a transcript of that interview:
SP: Thanks very much for taking the time to chat, Rich! Defiance has been on the go for some time now, what’s all been happening since it came out last year?
RB: No problem! I’m always happy to talk about Defiance, which is good because there’s lots to talk about; the team has been hard at work since last year’s release.
We’ve shipped 5 DLC’s, expanded the game world – the Bay Area – south into Silicon Valley with a free world expansion this past summer, had months worth of crossover events between the game and both the 1st and 2nd season of the SyFy TV series, and even managed to sneak in some pumpkins and turkeys for seasonal events!
And then we went free to play, welcoming thousands of new ark hunters on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
SP: Defiance is pretty unique in that it follows an ongoing TV show. The game of course is drawn from the lore and story of the TV show, but has anything fed its way back from the game to the show?
RB: Interestingly, the show is based on a pitch from Trion called “Occupied Earth” that was developed early during our partnership with NBC. While we do draw from the same lore, the it is a disservice to the Defiance universe to treat it as something that is drawn from exclusively or even primarily from one particular medium to another.
Crossover from game to show has been visible from the very first episode. Two weeks before the show aired, Nolan and Irisa, the show’s protagonists, appeared in the game and pulled a heist alongside our players. The ramifications of this theft were seen throughout the first and second season of the show. Additionally, the Volge were one of the earliest enemies developed for the game, and they featured heavily during the pilot episode of the show. Similarly, hellbugs, another game enemy, have been an important member of the show ecology. (They’re useful for disposing of bodies, for example.)
We’ve also had a series of more direct hand-offs throughout the series. Nolan, Irisa, Rynn, and Stahma Tarr have all appeared in the game though they are primarily show characters. Similarly, Varus Soleptor has made a brief appearance on the show after being introduced in the game. Players in the game even directly impacted the show by inadvertently sending a Gulanee troop transport crashing down on the outskirts of St. Louis.
Our major season 2 collaboration was deeply tied to the lore of the Defiance universe. Together, game and show explored the impacts of a particular Votan technology: Ark Brains. These advanced AIs are capable of infecting humanoids and bending them to their will. In the show, they experienced this process through the eyes of Irisa, while, in the game, players experienced this process through the exploration of a new area, Silicon Valley, and the cult that had sprung up there.
SP: Your latest DLC pack is called ‘Aftermath’. What’s included in this one?
RB: The last question was a great leadup to this one, since our latest free update, Aftermath, is just that – a further example of the collaboration between the game and show. Aftermath acts as both a wrap up and epilogue for the 2nd Season of the TV Show.
Ark hunters play through 7 new missions throughout the Bay Area, which is now under siege from the Grid, Pilgrims, Hellbugs, and four new enemy types – including The Inquisitor – a 10 foot monstrosity of a mobile artillery platform. To keep to completionists busy, there are new Pursuits and Contracts. And Aftermath isn’t just new content – we continue to improve the game, fixing bugs and adding new quality of life features for players.
SP: What’s the plan looking like for future content in the game, both in the short-term and long-term?
RB: We’ve got the next two years of Defiance already mapped out.
In the short term, we have season events coming up celebrating the
Holidays and beyond. The Volge, another of the games enemies, are rallying for a Solstice Strike – and all new event for players to experience. With this event comes new rewards – holiday themed headgear, custom weapons and more.
Longer term, we have already started working with SyFy to plan the crossover events between the game and TV Show for Season 3.
SP: Any plans for a PS4/Xbox One release?
While we haven’t ruled out the PS4/XB1, at this point our plans are focused on our existing platforms. We’ve got a great player base on three great platforms, and with the game now free to download for everyone we know there are many more players out there who can now enter the world of Defiance!
SP: Finally, a little bit of a fun one! If you could pick another TV show, film or known fictional universe and turn it into an MMO, which would you pick and why?
RB: Wow, great question! How about I take off my design hat for this one and instead just focus on a fictional universe that I’d love to explore as an MMO: I’ve always been fascinated by Stephen King’s All-World. I love fantasy and post-apocalyptic westerns alike (notice any of this in Defiance?). King’s books within the All-World universe – Eyes of the Dragon, The Stand and Dark Tower, etc – all tie into this universe. I find the concept of an MMO that spans genres like this to be very intriguing…. :)
We thought it might be fun to get a second take on this question from another team member, so here is a response from Trick Dempsey, the Creative Lead on Defiance:
“I’d love to romp through the world of Outlaw Star. Space battles, spell pistols, and sorcery in a massive universe where the only law is the law you make. Anything with planetary travel creates incredible opportunities for player-authored adventures and worlds. There is no sense of ownership like when you can create a trade empire of your very own.”
That wraps it up, folks!
I hope you enjoyed hearing more about Defiance straight from the Senior Producer on the game. So what do you think? Reckon Stephen King’s novels would make a great MMO? Let us know in the comments!