GDC 2018: Hands-on with Trion’s ‘reimagined’ Defiance 2050

    
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Before my GDC interview with Producer Matt “Destromathe” Pettit last week, I was really frustrated with the news about Defiance 2050. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Defiancebut mostly out of lack of experience; I liked the transmedia idea, and when that died, so did my interest. When Trion announced 2050, I couldn’t join in the excitement. The details were scant and PR-y. I wasn’t even happy with the questions we got back. When I was told I’d get an interview with Pettit at a “party,” I was worried it might mean I’d need a stiff drink to accept what I was being invited to see. In short, I expected 2050 to be a cash grab.

But now I wish Trion had put in its announcement everything Pettit told me. I feel much better about what Trion’s doing now that I’ve seen the product, and I didn’t even drink anything beforehand!

Maybe just call it a comeback

One thing you might have noticed is that Trion’s not calling 2050 a sequel. Neither is Pettit. “It’s not quite a sequel,” he tells me. In fact, at one point, he calls it a “ground up reimagining.” In fact, Nolan from the SyFy series makes an appearance, and fans of the show should understand why that might be hard to do.

I can get behind a reimaging. Maybe it’s because I come from an Asheron’s Call background where the sequel was a dirty word, or maybe it’s because I was recently enjoying a more accessible reimaging of a JRPG with a complex original game, but reimagining feels a little better, especially because Pettit emphasizes that Trion’s using the past four-plus years to make the game its players really want. Again, I’m not in that audience, so I can’t judge, but I hope you fans will.

(Incidentally, if hearing Nolan’s around for a mission is make or break for you, know that Pettit says 2050 is going to stand alone at launch. Trion wants to talk to SyFy about at least maybe getting permission to use some of the actors or something else in the game, but the team needs to show that the game is strong enough on its own first.)

Throughout the announcement, Pettit said the 2050 systems were all different. The loot system’s different too. This is why they had to change it all, right? Except that Star Wars Galaxies had its New Game Enhancement that did exactly that without literally making a new game, so it’s not impossible. If Trion were to keep the original game running and 2050 as its own NGE, it’d make sense to have a second version of the game that’s pretty different from the original. Pettit wouldn’t say that Vanilla Defiance is completely safe, but he said Trion does not “have concrete plans in place to say Defiance is going awayWe plan to support both games at launch. Defiance is going to maintain the same support it’s at, which is the monthly updates, the events, rotating the X amount of stuff, and so on.”

However, Pettit did note that the console versions are on dying systems. Their day may come, and when that comes, Trion will have to make a choice. When pushed for comment on if they were just going to announce something for the console, Pettit said there wasn’t anything to announce right now, but if they were to shut down Defiance, Trion would be “as open and upfront with the playerbase as possible.” That being said, there’s a big push to “drive people to Defiance 2050.” And that makes it sound as if when enough people jump to the new game, the old one could feasibly fall.

When I ask why 2050 would be a good idea when so other sequels, reimaginings, and so forth seem to fail, Pettit stresses that Trion is using past experience with the IP to build what the fans want. That building something for itself would be a bad idea, and that Trion would fail without its fans. It’s something we hear a lot, but we want to believe. Fans should absolutely make sure they hit Trion’s forums to comment on what happens, as Linda “Brasse” Carlson had mentioned at one GDC panel just how much she pushes the forums to the top brass.

For those wondering about the game’s free-to-play system, especially in light of the ongoing industry lootbox drama, Pettit makes sense, specifically calling out EA’s inability to understand that monetizing a AAA title while putting in pay-to-win mechanics is monetization run amok. Pettit says that monetization in 2050 will be less about paying for direct power and more about pay-to-play-faster. You can’t buy fully leveled guns, but you can pay for boosts to play as a faster gain speed. It might still be pay to win if you’re big on PvP or wanting to clear content before anyone else, but I’ll leave that up to the community to judge. That being said, Pettit says, “Defiance 2050 is designed around customization,” so expect skins and classes to be in the game store (both real currency and in-game cash).

2050’s New Game Experience

So what’s changing exactly? First, like SWG’s NGE, the game’s getting real classes. But here, you’ll have not only several class/loadout options to choose from but also the ability to change classes, mid-fight. It takes all of two seconds to go from Assassin to Medic, and if the tank dies, switch up to Guardian without having to wipe first. In game, I’m not sure if I switched classes per se, but the weapons I switched did make me feel like my role changed. The combat was pretty fast-paced, and my Trion coach was urging me to get deep in the fight with my trusty shotgun, but in the moments my headspace was my own, I enjoyed myself.

I don’t say this a lot since I don’t do a lot of serious shooters, but the gunplay was visceral. The rocket launcher is cool, but less so when shields guard people, so someone needs to blast those away. The shotgun is knock-back blowing damage of bliss-inducing delight when in someone’s face, and laughable from a distance… and I loved it as someone who tends to dislike shotguns in FPS games.

You also don’t just level yourself now. You sacrifice parts of other weapons to help improve your weapon, which also levels. There’s not exactly a trade-off with powering up your weapons’ stats either, but you get more out of improving a variety of areas instead of just one. Not only that, but improving the weapon involves a dice roll, so two weapons of the same type improved in the same manner may have slightly different stats. You can reroll the stats too and choose between the new and old stats, but the end product should be mostly the same.

The basic movement and action felt comfortable. There didn’t seem to be much of a learning curve if you’ve played an FPS in the last five years. Our boss fight against one of the smaller bosses, Mother Load, who towered above us with glowing knees of “hit me to advance,” was easy enough to figure out how to kill, but what was more interesting was that we were able to skip the final phase by really unloading on the poor boss at the very end of his second stage. As in Monster Hunter World, we got ratings at the end, and with my coach’s help, I came out on top. That felt nice. I’m not sure if the game is exactly for me, but I feel much more confident this than I did when I walked in.

I’m not totally on board Defiance 2050 yet, but I enjoyed my demo well enough. If I knew nothing about Defiance, and my friends asked me today to download the game to play a few missions, I would. Co-op dungeons or possible overworld stuff only I think, since that felt interesting enough for the low cost of entry and to play with the new item system. I’m not sure how PvP would work out, but if vehicles come back and are involved, I’d give that a shot too.

However, for people who’ve already invested in the original Defiance, it’s a tough call. Pettit used to work in customer service for Trion, so maybe give the game a shot, and if you want, hit Trion’s forums and tell the team what you think. I’d expect Pettit to be waiting for some feedback from the fans.

Massively Overpowered is on the ground in San Francisco for GDC 2018, bringing you expert MMO coverage on everything (and everyone!) on display at the latest Game Developers Conference!

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Brother Maynard

specifically calling out EA’s inability to understand that monetizing a AAA title while putting in pay-to-win mechanics is monetization run amok.

Well, Trion would know everything about amok monetisation, wouldn’t they!

Everything mentioned by Pettit strongly points to another P2W cash grab.

You can’t buy fully leveled guns, but you can pay for boosts to play as a faster gain speed.

That wasn’t the case even in the original Defiance. You could buy legendary drops, though – they were introduced in gambleboxes (obviously), while the game itself kept throwing at you useless junk or greens.

You sacrifice parts of other weapons to help improve your weapon, which also levels.

…or you click this handy little “confirm purchase” button for an insta-weapon level canister?

improving the weapon involves a dice roll, so two weapons of the same type improved in the same manner may have slightly different stats.

Yup, exactly the way Korean P2W games are set up – put RNG in upgrading your weapon, so that you keep buying store stuff to slightly nudge the RNG in your favour. Make those suckers come back for more!

Pettit says that monetization in 2050 will be less about paying for direct power and more about pay-to-play-faster.

The key word being “less”… So it will be “less” P2W (than what? An average Chinese mobile P2W game?), but it will still be P2W.

The 500 people still playing this game will get a new opportunity to pay for their founder’s pack in a F2P game (because hey, why wouldn’t you sell the same thing twice to the same buyers?), and then will settle to the same old dying game as before, while presumably enjoying being nickle and dimed at every turn.

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Aymeric Bruzzo

@Chon Chan That is so wrong, it’sl ike saying every fps is a rip off of the first one, or every mmo is a rip off of everquest for the fantasy looking one ( didn’t play the one that came before, too young to even know about them)
Also Trion made some innovation in their game some new stuff, world of warcraft had nothing new in his game, everything already existed somewhere, you should check what you’re speaking about next time -.-
Also the only similarities between Trove and minecraft is that they are pretty much made out of voxel( I think, not sure what those block are called!)and have a destroyable world…
And Trion is one of the less paytowin company around,I can’t tell about defiance or Trove as I don’t play them anymore, I just know archeage ( which isn’t a Trion games, they justpublished it, which means limited controls about what’s added to it) had some and that really made a lot of people not trust trion anymore and they aren’t the best decision maker around ( played rift for seven years… it has a lots of problem mainly because it’s way understaffed)

Honestly, their game are worth playing when they are first released, they do loose their fun over time, if you’re looking for something new it’s probably worth playing before something else catches your attention =)

Veldara
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Veldara

I enjoyed the first game, but firing up a new character now(something I did last week after resinstalling) is tough going in terms of progressing due to the small amount of players in the game now, going into a story instance is rough because a lot of it is made for groups. With no one in the queues you end up soloing it and the sheer waves of hostiles just crush you in the end. You just end up in a brickwall at that point. I hope it’s something they address in the Def2 for sure.

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Chon Chan

Truly sad and pathetic Trion is trying to squeeze just a few more bucks out of a lost title. Trion, a developer who makes money off of ripping off other games already created. Trove a rip-off of Minecraft. Rift a rip-off of Wow. This is what people with zero creativity do. Steal ideas from others, alter them a tad, then profit. It should be illegal in my opinion. Regardless, if your even thinking about playing this defiance 2050 game without playing the original disaster that is Defiance your in for a long, buggy, shitty, pay to win road. Do yourselves a favor and play a quality shooter. From developers that don’t see it’s playerbase as a bunch of potential dollar signs. I’m speaking of Warframe. Which if I didn’t know better Trion is seeing the success Warframe and is trying to get a chunk of that action as well. There’s a huge difference though. Trion is shit on the bottom of Digital Extremes shoes. Flush Defiance down the toilet. Or let the sad half a dozen fanboys of the first Defiance keep the original on last gen consoles. What an obvious desperate, fucking lazy attempt to make money by doing as little work as possible. Trion in a nutshell. Pathetic.

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A Dad Supreme

Truly sad and pathetic Trion is trying to squeeze just a few more bucks out of a lost title.

I can’t fault a company for trying to make money. If I had a vested interest in Trion, I’d be upset if they didn’t do something to try and squeeze every nickel/dime out of customers while not spending new money and assets.

It’s kind of a win/win for Trion; they don’t have to spend real money and they get a somewhat loyal base to buy the same game. It’s the same thing that (formerly) cash-strapped Funcom did with SWL and Daybreak did with Everquest II (although in fairness Daybreak still puts money into expansions for that old game).

I think for most it’s going to be a ride down Nostalgia Lane. After a month, they’ll realize there are some improvements but not enough to make the game really relevant and leave. Especially since as you said, there are better shooters out already in a similar “MMO like” lane like Warframe and The Division that are worlds better with much larger players in the game.

The good news for Trion is the art assets are already long paid for so it doesn’t cost them anything to really push small bits going forward so again, win/win for them.

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Brother Maynard

I can’t fault a company for trying to make money. If I had a vested interest in Trion, I’d be upset if they didn’t do something to try and squeeze every nickel/dime out of customers while not spending new money and assets.

You can absolutely fault the company for HOW it tries to make money.

As for the second part, that really depends on the kind of people that are behind Trion. If they’re anything like the company itself (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), then you’re absolutely right.

But luckily, there are also investors who appreciate their money going to a decent company with good reputation and customer relations, instead of trying to screw over everybody around (or “nickel/dime customers while not spending new money” in your words).

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Zariarn

Salty much? Really, it’s just a game.

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Brother Maynard

Well, to be fair to them, this is Trion 2018. ‘Pathetic’ is all they have…

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A Dad Supreme

Let’s face it: the entire hook of the original game was the show’s social tie-ins. That was the critical reason most who were interested played it, or at least the promise of the tie-ins (which weren’t all there). People loved the idea of this huge community interacting all over the place through different mediums. It would be All Defiance, All The Time. But the actual game itself?

Buggy. Laggy. Horrible item progression. Cash shop P2W. Dated look upon release. Animations and graphics poor. Add to that customer support and forum representatives that were downright dishonest in statements and a Kremlin-like control over dissention. In short, it was a bad game for most people that had a social network appeal.
Now you no longer have that social network and overall trust in Trion as a company has proven to be severly eroded since then due to Defiance’s track record and later choices with other games in their stable.

Now, there is no longer a television show. There is no huge corporate sponsorship. There is no real buzz or enthusiasm except among those who are paid or it is their job to exhibit buzz or enthusiasm for the most part. In the end, more people were bummed at the actual cancelling of the show than the neglect and state of the game.

Will they get “some” customers? Sure.

There will be nostalgic people looking to play again to recapture that “launch day feel”, just like they are doing now in Rift. There will be brand new people who never heard of Defiance and simply want to try (what they think is) a new F2P game because… rebranding!
But long term, I can’t imagine anyone playing, old or new players, longer than a month or two simply because older players have seen it already and newer players will get tired of the dated look, feel and responsiveness of Trion and just get something newer or realize what they have been playing before Defiance was light years ahead.

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Dug From The Earth

From the dungeon run video I saw:

Animations were laughably horrible
Gameplay looked nearly 100% identical to the original
Graphics were absolutely enhanced, but no where near the standard tier of whats out today

I get the feeling that anyone who actually played the original for a few months, wont find any reason to play this version more than maybe a couple of days.

xpsync
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xpsync

My thoughts exactly about swl, almost word for word of how i felt as i roasted the f*ck out of SWL prelaunch, post launch though i was singing a completely different toon.

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Brother Maynard

Granted, but with SWL the major difference is that the game is focused on story, setting, atmosphere and such and the technicalities are very much secondary. So even if the visuals and gameplay looked pretty much the same as in TSW, they weren’t what made the game good, anyway. Which is definitely not the kind of luxury Defiance has ever had…

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Sushi Maru

Yea the big difference between this and the SWL re-launch was that TSW/SWL was a fantastic game in terms of story. It didn’t much matter that mechanically it was garbage, no one played it for it’s awesome combat system.

Defiance’s only draw is it’s FPS/MMO hybrid playstyle. If the combat and controls/netcode is are garbage, thats it, no one is sticking it out because Defiance’s story is so strong…

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Porcula salvania

I liked Defiance, but wish it had more… everything, especially world. I always thought they should have made a “town” in the game out of a stratocarrier. Driving in Defiance is some of the best in any MMO.

I’m looking forward to Defiance 2050, hopefully it will still be fun if you’re not a big spender.

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Matt R

“It might still be pay to win if you’re big on PvP”
lol at least they’re honest? *shrugs*

“classes to be in the game store”
i guess it’s not the worst system if the rest of the game is free, but i guess it depends on how expensive the extra classes are.

“Not only that, but improving the weapon involves a dice roll, so two weapons of the same type improved in the same manner may have slightly different stats.”
WHY? This is some eastern mmo sillyness. Seems like end-game will just be people re-rolling for maximum stats. *rolls eyes*

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Kickstarter Donor
squid

WHY? This is some eastern mmo sillyness. Seems like end-game will just be people re-rolling for maximum stats. *rolls eyes*

Because re-rolling requires a special currency that’s sold in the cash shop. You can get it as a drop (in the current game), but at an exceptionally slow pace and, iirc, with a daily cap on how much you’re allowed to earn.

In other words, $$$$$.

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Matt R

wow that sounds even more disgusting

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Weilan

Isn’t the CS:GO gambling system also a dice roll?

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John Mynard

It sounds like they are trying to monetize in a similar to how Digital Extremes does it with Warframe, which I applaud. I hope they’ve talked to, or at least had a look at, how much effort DE makes on keeping things fair.

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Thomas

I did not like Defiance the show, Defiance the game, or Rift either for that matter.

I do like Trion, however; they produce quality work.

So, I’m … conflicted … about Defiance 2050. I would be a lot more interested if Trion were introducing or developing some new game altogether.

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Dug From The Earth

So that basically means you think Trove. Atlas Reactor, and Archage are quality games….

Yeah… im just gonna take a few steps away….

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Thomas

Heh. I know nothing of those games, tbh. I did think Rift was well made, though it didn’t really grab me personally. Defiance also seemed well constructed, though, it, also, didn’t keep me very long.

Veldara
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Veldara

I liked Rift as well, could be a bit of bias because Hartsman got a lot of his old guildmates and friends into the betas when it was really new, but I did have a decent time with it. Sadly visually it isn’t very striking and generic looking to boot which didn’t help in making it a memorable product in people’s minds.

Defiance and frankly a lot of Trion’s titles suffer from this bland artstyle as well.

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Crowe

Er, what did you like about Trion then? You didn’t like the two games you mentioned and DFTE covered all of the rest and you were unfamiliar with them.