Tag Archives: Trion Worlds

The future of online gaming | Feature | Gaming

DestinyOnline gaming today has more players and costs more money than ever before, so what happens next?

OK, so we can’t predict the future, and we don’t pretend to know any more than you, so don’t read on expecting undeniable facts.

What you can expect (read right to the end, we’re watching you), is our thoughts on where the online side of gaming is going, and what experiences we can expect to encounter.

A digital future

Players of GTA Online have been given half a million in-game dollars to apologise for the shaky start.
Players of GTA Online have been given half a million in-game dollars to apologise for the shaky start.

The two next-gen consoles stand primed to clash in the greatest technological showdown of our generation, but what about the games?

One thing is clear – offline-only games are going to be few and far between. The rise of online-only games was felt more this year than ever before, in both successes and catastrophes.

The latest Sim City gave players cause for concern when it’s online requirement backfired spectacularly, but the highest profile casualty has to be Grand Theft Auto Online.

While the game is, if nothing else, incredibly ambitious, Rockstar fell under pressure quickly when there were countless problems with the game – a free addition for players of Grand Theft Auto V.

Weeks after launch, and after several title update patches to try to iron out the issues, GTA Online still feels creaky and glitchy. Not to mention the race to level up has left many players behind, particularly in races where no amount of money can buy car upgrades which they haven’t unlocked yet.

With so much seemingly against online games then, why do publishers and developers keep pushing for more?

It’s not about the money, money, money

Defiance always had a mountain to climb in setting up its infrastructure from scratch.
Defiance always had a mountain to climb in setting up its infrastructure from scratch.

Building an online platform, especially from scratch, is a massive undertaking which requires a lot of initial investment and on-going maintenance.

For big publishers like EA and Activision, these sorts of technologies are already on hand and so often can be adapted or acquired more easily, but for many games there isn’t so much backing on tap.

The title which really stands out in this regard is Defiance, whose developer Trion Worlds reportedly invested $70million to get the game up and running for multiplatform release earlier this year.

Despite a shaky start, the game performed well and lived up to nay-sayers who suspected it would never work. Unfortunately it has struggled more recently as the player numbers have began to fall.

Thinking inside the box

Stars of the TV series were available in the game ahead of the events of the TV show and the player got an extra insight into how they got to where they are at the beginning of the show.
Stars of the TV series were available in the game ahead of the events of the TV show and the player got an extra insight into how they got to where they are at the beginning of the show.

Where Defiance has an opportunity to remain relevant is the fact that first and foremost it is a multimedia enterprise, married up with TV network SyFy who have created the companion TV series alongside it.

Could multimedia hold the key to a sustainable future for online gaming?

Microsoft is very well placed for a multimedia revolution and the likes of Netflix (available on all consoles bar the Nintendo ones…) are announcing exclusives and special shows on an increasingly regular basis. Will we see games which tie-in to these net-based shows?

Then there’s the game spin-off TV shows themselves. Halo is working with the well-respected director Steven Spielberg and there is also a live action Need for Speed film in the works starring Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad fame.

Of course tie-ins of the latter sort are nothing new, indeed there have been plenty of embarrassing crossovers in the past, but with the opportunities of distribution through this new round of the consoles all the more smooth can we expect more?

It’s in the game

Created by coders formerly of Infinity Ward, Titanfall is one of the hottest games due next year.
Created by coders formerly of Infinity Ward, Titanfall is one of the hottest games due next year.

The way we play has also affected the games themselves, not just driving titles to being always-online (to get those coveted ‘living, breathing worlds’), but in terms of how they are structured and how they play.

Hotly anticipated next gen title Titanfall foregoes a traditional singleplayer campaign, opting instead for a skirmish-based cooperative campaign. The cooperative part is key, since the game wants you to play with others and grow with your characters and your team.

The risk here is that without a singleplayer campaign, players won’t get sucked into the story elements or the lore of the title and end up merely taking it at face value.

Bungie has high hopes for its new IP, Destiny
Bungie has high hopes for its new IP, Destiny

In a similar boat is Bungie’s Destiny. Responsible for establishing the Xbox with the original Halo, the company clearly know what they are doing when it comes to gaming.

Bungie simply describes Destiny as an ‘action’ game, suggesting that players will enjoy “a compelling storyline, competitive multiplayer, cooperative gameplay choices, wide open public combat destinations, and third-person community spaces where you can repair and rearm before going out on your next adventure.”

Once again, despite also offering player vs player modes, the main focus is cooperative, one of exploration and creation. It remains to be seen whether players will lose themselves in Bungie’s new world, or if they will just spend their time grinding for new items to use in team deathmatch.

Stormy weather

Forza developer Turn 10 claimed the time saved in development from having the cloud ready to deal with online multiplayer meant higher-quality visuals.
Forza developer Turn 10 claimed the time saved in development from having the cloud ready to deal with online multiplayer meant higher-quality visuals.

The power needed to keep all of these games afloat is potentially limitless, as countless players around the world all interact, much as they have for years, except with bigger, richer and more dense worlds to explore.

That computing power has to come from somewhere, and it’s likely that cloud-based processing power will become increasingly important, especially as the games grow and change to adapt to their developing environment.

It’s unclear how effective or how close gaming will realistically get to the potential of the technology. The biggest stumbling block, and criticism, particularly in the UK is that internet speeds simply aren’t quick enough yet.

The cloud can take over processing power for things which might be able to be sent back through the web without the player seeing a lag, but for things like fighting games where split-second timing is key it’s unlikely the cloud would ever be able to ‘take over’.

The end game

Companion apps and integration are undoubtedly going to be a big part of online gaming in the future.
Companion apps and integration are undoubtedly going to be a big part of online gaming in the future.

The opportunities and possibilities of the continuing trend of converging media have the potential to make gaming more mainstream than ever before.

Ubisoft’s The Division sees players fighting in teams over a sprawling, dystopian world map. This game will use multimedia to link into players real-world lives and draw them back in by sending messages straight to their phone or allowing players using tablets to interact directly with players on the console through a meta-game function generally known as ‘commander mode’.

What is key to the success of these sorts of big ideas though, is whether players actually make use of them, and that gaming companies actually make money out of them.

Micro-transactions, DLC and in-game advertising are a whole other side to the funding debate entirely, but what will be the proof of the sorts of innovations above is if they substantially lengthens the lifespan of the game.

What to expect from next gen online gaming then? In a nutshell more of some of the things we know already and plenty more coming besides that. Better warm up the router now…it’s not going to get a lot of rest soon.

James Michael Parry

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What is Defiance? – Gaming and television combined | Feature | Entertainment

DefianceThe ‘movie tie-in’ game is one of the most disrespected of genres in the computer games industry, and yet SyFy and Trion Worlds have come together to create an experience which straddles both television and gaming media. The question is will does succeed?

In short, the cop-out answer is that really it’s too early to tell. Series one of the TV show is still only just underway (as of April 2013) and the games following is swelling slowly.

On the silver screen

The action kicks of pretty quickly with Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) making it clear she's not to be trifled with
The action kicks of pretty quickly with Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) making it clear she’s not to be trifled with

As pilot episodes go, the first episode of Defiance sets itself up well, but you can’t help but shake the feeling that is trying hard to be ‘the new Firefly’. Of course it will want to avoid the destructive fate of Joss Wheedon’s famously cancelled series, but the setup is undeniably strongly influenced.

You have a slightly gruff, reluctant hero and war-veteran with the heart of gold – Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler) – accompanied by his young female companion who may well have one or two screws loose – Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas).

The similarities don’t end with the characters either. There’s a definite post-apocolypse Western feel to Defiance, with a real feeling that people just want to get by and go their own way.

What is different to the world of Serenity though, is that this is Earth, a place called Defiance to be precise, the city which used to be called St. Louis before the trouble began, which now stands in the midst of mini wars taking places throughout the wastelands which surround it. The landscape has been partially terraformed by the arrival of the Voltan, a race of alien refugees who’s own planet has been destroyed, and the splintering of humanity following their inevitable clash with the Voltan has left a number of different factions, all out for themselves.

Being part of the story

The gritty, brown environments actually have more variety than first glance might suggest.
The gritty, brown environments actually have more variety than first glance might suggest.

The TV show serves to set up the story for the game in many ways. Despite being in different locations (the game takes place in San Francisco), the lore of this world puts it’s own twist on the issues of politics, race and deception, much as Star Trek once did.

In the game you take the role of an Arc Hunter, a scavenger who travels the wastelands searching for the best salvage and ‘scrip’, the universe’s currency.

As the game is Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO), your journey through the world is accompanied by others from across the globe, who jump in and out of missions at leisure.

Though based around social interaction, the gameplay doesn’t push it on you. There is area chat, which can be switched off, and you can make a group or go it alone as you please.

There are some areas specifically designed for multiplayer, such as specific cooperative missions and some player vs player modes, including the savage Shadow War, a 64 player battle to control an area in the vein of Battlefield’s Conquest mode.

Bringing it all together

The mo-cap on the TV show actors is reasonably good, but the visuals in general are standard rather than jaw-dropping.Where the two feed together is the unique selling point of both the game and the TV show though, with grand promises that down the line the characters from the game (even top-ranking players) could find themselves appearing on the show and vice versa.

The latter has already been teased with a handful of episode missions set ahead of the TV show, which show its protagonists in search of a crystal which then appears in the pilot.

It’s a delicate balance to keep both a game and TV audience happy when they aren’t necessarily bought into both perspectives.

Undoubtedly the two combined are greater than the sum of their parts, and seeing familiar elements recur is a genuine thrill, but with a project with such a long-term focus, is it better to wait until things are a bit more built up?

Patch yourself up

The 'EGO' rating denotes your power or level in the game, and can be topped up by entering Arkfall codes found outside the game. Good thing, as the game has a mandatory 10GB install and you need something to do to pass the time (you COULD watch the TV show, if you had another TV).
The ‘EGO’ rating denotes your power or level in the game, and can be topped up by entering Arkfall codes found outside the game. Good thing, as the game has a mandatory 10GB install and you need something to do to pass the time (you COULD watch the TV show, if you had another TV).

The first in-game update has already fixed a long list of bugs and issues with the game, though some reviewers’ concerns such as the lacklustre visuals and limited weapon options remain.

To topple the giant that is World of Warcraft, the world’s most popular MMORPG, would take some serious doing, but the team here have made an MMO, something altogether more straightforward to engage with.

Character customisation is basic, think Mass Effect levels of detail customisation, and equally the weapons take some time and a lot of luck to get interesting. Weapon modding is perhaps the most complex sub-system, with certain weapons having ‘synergy’ mods, which work together for an overall more combined effect.

The game does warm up quickly though, granting a vehicle to zip around the surprisingly diverse landscape, filled with mini-encounters and secondary missions to keep things interesting. The whole thing has a strong Red Faction Guerilla feel, which is no bad thing.

Early days

Defiance
The badlands have a number of different enemy factions in which tend to want to shoot, hurt or run you over.

The reason that this isn’t a review is because this is a game/TV series which is an investment of time as much as it is an entertainment experience in its own right. The ultimate decider as to whether the joint venture has worked will be whether they both last more then two seasons.

The potential for expansion is exciting though, and there are some good ideas and characters here begging to be developed further. Imagine teaming up with an army for a battle which spanned both the game and the TV show and your actions contributed to the outcome of both worlds. To see some real interaction and commitment to the vision both teams have set out towards could yet make the game one of the defining moments of this generation – a real trend-setter.

Hopefully these sorts of mutually beneficial collaborations are something which will become more and more common, with the one-sided affairs of old, which only sought to squeeze a few extra pounds out of a franchise, confined to the history books.

James Michael Parry