EXCLUSIVE: Interview with ‘Defiance’ Game Producer Nathan Richardsson

Defiance Video Game

Trion Worlds’ Nathan Richardsson.

Console and PC gamers seem to always be up for a good round of online multiplayer in massive worlds. What makes such an experience even more rewarding is the addition of other human players cooperating (or competing) with one another as the game dynamically alters our digital landscape.

Defiance, the latest MMO to come from the talented developers at Trion Worlds, sets out to mix the joy of third-person shooters and the ever-changing playtime of massive multiplayer games. Nathan Richardsson, the vice president of development at Trion Worlds and the producer for the game, took some time away from his busy development schedule for an exclusive interview.

Nathan gave us some background information on the game, the creation process behind it, and the new TV show of the same name, set to debut April 15 on SyFy and Canada’s Showcase channel at 10 p.m.

Defiance Video Game

Elton Jones: Can you give me a brief summary of Defiance, the video game?

Nathan Richardsson: Defiance the video game is set in the same universe as the show itself as a large meta-universe in the San Francisco area. It’s more of the Wild West or the new frontier of this future world, which has been terraformed and is a pretty harsh and brutal universe. What you’re doing there is you’re an Ark Hunter and you’re actually scavenging and looking for technology and resources from the debris of the Arkfalls. The Arks are what the Votan alien species actually came to Earth in. So what you have there are people combating over those Arks and looking for more resources and tech. They use it for themselves or, of course, they sell them to somebody else for their own benefit.

So what you have there is essentially a third-person shooter that we applied to that concept. It’s in an open world, so everybody’s there. You think about games like Skyrim or Borderlands in which it’s that kind of open world, except that there are a couple hundred thousand people in there with you. So there’s the main difference. By having all those people there, we leveraged them as a part of your experience.

When you’re going through the game, you might be on a mission with three or four of your friends doing co-op stuff. Then when you encounter one of these Arkfalls, all of you can jump right into that event and battle other people for those resources. Like, 40, 50, or 60 other people are around you actually. As you move on through the main mission sequences, you may accidentally come up on “Shadow Wars,” which is competitive multiplayer. This is where groups of players battle over different parts of territory. You can jump into this also, as it’s a seamless part of the world you’re going through. That’s kind of the short version of Defiance. *laughs*

EJ: Nice! So what are some beginner tips you would offer to players just getting into the game?

NR: The first thing to know is that this is a classless game. There aren’t classes or character levels. You create your own persona in the game and what’s next is trying to identify what kind of play style you have. You can also determine that by just looking at the games you’ve played before. And then you can customize your character towards that kind of play style. So if you prefer being a sniper or you like using rocket launchers, you can always customize towards those styles. You can do all of this early on, so that would be my first recommendation.

EJ: I know Trion and SyFy collaborated together on the video game and the show. What were some of the efforts done by both entities during the development of this game?

NR: Quite a lot, actually, since this was all a mutual venture. The thing is that we have daily communications with the writer’s team and the designers so that we’re making sure our background of the world is all in sync consistently. We also make sure the characters of the show and the game are using the same voices and act the same way. Just maintaining that kind of consistency and that kind of story across two massive mediums has been quite the challenge. That’s how most of our time has been spent together.

But there are also the visuals. Defining the visuals of the species and all the vehicles has been something that’s gone on between both teams as well. We’re contributing to each other when we’re creating new stuff. We’re also making sure that when we’re actually using known elements from the show, they don’t look wildly different when you look at them in the game. From the beginning, this was done as a…well, nobody was the parent of this project, so to speak.

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Defiance Video Game

EJ: This was a massive partnership and undertaking, am I right?

NR: *laughs* Yes. Massive is probably an understatement, but yes.

EJ: How will the game reflect what’s happening on the TV show and vice versa?

NR: So, without giving away any spoilers, what you essentially see are what we call “Crossover Events.” There’s an overall story arc within the world of San Francisco and Defiance, the video game. And then you have the TV show happening in St. Louis. San Francisco is where all the crazy stuff is happening, so it’s a dangerous place to be. What essentially happens when you have the game and TV show crossing over is that you have some events occurring on the TV show. Those events may have characters crossing back and forth between the two locations of the game and the show. Or you’ll have “World Events,” which actually start on the TV show. The entire game will reflect what’s happening in the universe of the TV show. Those are some of the events you will see.

EJ: I follow a lot of MMO’s and see that games like World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic have massive online communities. Do you hope to see Defiance adopt a huge community like those games?

NR: Yes, absolutely. The difference there is that the games that you’ve mentioned are far more like the traditional type of MMO’s. Defiance is much more in the category of open world shooters, just with a hundred thousand people in it. We already have huge and massive communities in the game and they’re quite vocal, in fact. The nature of our game is much different from, for example, Star Wars: The Old Republic and World of Warcraft.

EJ: Does the team at Trion Worlds have any future DLC plan’s for Defiance?

NR: We have a pretty aggressive DLC schedule. There are actually five first DLC packages planned just for this year in between seasons of the show. Some of the DLC will be free and some of them will have to be paid for. There’s always plenty of content for everybody. But in some cases, like if you wanted to use a new species, you’d pay for access to use them. But a lot the DLC features eventually become available to everyone.

EJ: Nice. I know you’ve worked on several MMO games in the past (EVE Online, World of Darkness, and Dust 514). Describe your experience working on the development of Defiance.

NR: Well, I think the massive challenge me and team faced is that we’re making this game at the same time on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. That has been a huge challenge because on top of that, we’ve had to connect the game to the TV show. At the same time, we’ve had to look at the game experience and how to translate this massive world into it. It’s tough being consistent over all three video game platforms. We faced the challenge of the PS3 and Xbox 360 not having a lot of MMO’s before, yet the PC is already quite used to it. That consolidation of vision and experience and making it all work has been quite the challenge.

EJ: Thank you for the interview, Nathan. I’m enjoying my time with the game and I’d like to give you guys props for everything you’ve all created.

NR: Thank you, man.

EJ: Thanks again, Nathan.

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