One guarantee I can give to anyone about to embark on a new MMO journey is that at some point, that game’s developer is going to do something you don’t like. It’s just the nature of the beast – you might not like a change, while someone else digs it. Then there are those times where it seems the vast majority of the playerbase is with you in disliking a change. And another change. And yet another. Take Trion’s Defiance, for example.
Defiance is an MMO that had a rough start. Because the game ties into a television series, it was clear from the get-go that the game release was expedited. I covered this in my review of the game. At that time, I felt that the game still had many good qualities, and as long as you were able to look past the niggles, Defiance was a game that could be thoroughly enjoyed. When the game launched, there was a promise of 5 DLCs to be released in the following year. It took forever and a day for the first one to come out, and then the rest came out in rapid succession. Given the somewhat slim contents of each, it seemed like the DLC was just as rushed as the main game.
In May, Trion announced the inevitable: Defiance was going free-to-play. As someone who had put a couple of hundred hours into the game at that point, it was a moment of slight fear. But after evaluating the big picture, and the enthusiasm from the developer team, I decided in my mind that the game would have a bright future.
Since free-to-play has dropped, however, I’m not sure that’s still the case.
A major Arkfall in Defiance
There are many issues I could raise here that wouldn’t make an ounce of sense to those who’ve never played the game, so I’ll keep this as simple as possible (and yes, I planned on this being less than 1,500 words when I started it).
To say that Defiance‘s free-to-play transition was rough would be a huge understatement. Out-of-the-gate, lag was a major issue, with things like this happening, people getting booted en masse, and other typical lag-related issues you’d imagine an MMO could have. Patch after patch, the issue never really went away. It only got better by a small margin. Today, many players still suffer bad lag issues (more so on the console side at this point, I believe).
Lag is a somewhat understandable issue, however. Sure, an established MMO developer such as Trion should have foreseen such issues with the free-to-play transition, but as a whole, it seems like Defiance never had the best networking capabilities to begin with, that the developers were always working against the grain to fix things. Unfortunately, lag isn’t the only issue that’s arisen since the free-to-play transition.
The game’s developers, and especially its creative lead, seem to have a total disconnect with the game’s veteran players. Earlier this month, a major change was made to the game’s most advanced raid that catered more towards newer players (and potential trolls) than to the veteran players. Making matters worse, the creative director effectively insulted those who understand the game the best… the veterans, and had to edit the patch’s coinciding letter to help mend things. That didn’t quite happen.
Defiance’s biggest raid, Warmaster
The dust has just about settled from that escapade, but we couldn’t finish the month without another move that upsets a lot of players. The game has always had a fairly free weapon system where customization is concerned, especially since the free-to-play transition. Going forward, finding a good weapon, and especially upgrading it, is being made a lot harder. Overall, the new system really isn’t that bad, but the article talking about the update once again shows a huge disconnect with what the game really needs.
Our priority is to make Defiance the best game possible, and after reviewing the data we see fewer players purchasing lockboxes with both our in-game currency and Bits.
At least the developers didn’t sugarcoat anything there. For Defiance to survive, people need to spend Bits, purchased with real money. But ever since the game’s launch, lockboxes, as referenced in the quote, have had very little value – even the top-tier ones. A high-level player can earn one of these “Tier 4″ lockboxes in about an hour via normal progression; or, someone who needs one now (which is no one) can shell out $3 or $4. These lockboxes give you a handful of weapons – the same kind of randomly-generated weapons you can get by simply doing regular content. The value isn’t there, at all, and Trion seems oblivious to it. To coincide with this, I must quote Defiance forum user Cavadus, because he hits the nail on the head:
We don’t buy arkforge because the price is insane and lockboxes have no guarantee of supplying anything worthwhile. A [tier four] lockbox is the same as burning money.
Yet, somehow, Trion thinks that nerfing weapons is going to increase the Bit flow. What will actually happen is nothing, because players can earn lockboxes via regular progression quite easily. That’s unless Trion wants to nerf that, as well. What I think it should do is increase the value… but “value” is a concept Trion has never seemed to grasp, at least where Defiance is concerned.
Killing the Minions of Lacking Value
At the end of my review last May, I said this:
One last thing: I implore anyone thinking about picking up Defiance for the PC to ignore the Deluxe Edition. While the Deluxe Editions for the consoles include a bunch of cool merchandise along with digital goods, the PC version only includes the digital goods – yet retains the same $40 premium. You could take that $40 and spend it in-game and come out much further ahead than with what the Deluxe Edition offers. The fact that Trion offers a Deluxe Edition for the PC in this state is appalling.
If that doesn’t prove that Trion’s ignorant of the value proposition, its just-launched “Packs” sure will.
At Steam, and on Trion’s own website, there are three Defiance packs to choose from – and each one should be priced at about half of what they are. Let’s take the $100 VBI Ultimate Pack, for example. Any long-time player will quickly recognize what kind of gross rip-off this pack is. Compared to pre-F2P accounts, users will gain additional keycode capacity, inventory slots, and character slots. There are also some XP boosts, a Patron Pass subscription (which holds virtually no value for high-level players), and some exclusive vehicles.
What this $100 pack doesn’t include is any of the game’s DLC. For that, you’ll need to cough up another $40, or about $10 per if you only want a couple. Also not included are Bits, the currency to use in the in-game store. That’s mind-boggling to me. Anyone who buys any one of these packs today get genuinely ripped-off compared to what people got with the game before it went free-to-play. No DLC in a $100 pack? And no Bits?!
Packs for Trion’s Rift are a slightly better value than Defiance’s
I guess we could compare this to Firefall‘s $100 offering, as it just came out. Unlike Defiance‘s pack, this one unlocks all of the game’s DLC in the form of Battleframes, and also gives you some in-game currency, Red Beans, to spend. These are things that require real money to buy in the game, whereas Defiance‘s pack is mostly loaded with items easily earned by simply playing the game. Take for example the “50 Arkforge” that the $100 pack includes; for the free-to-play launch, previous owners of the game were awarded with 1,000 Arkforge. In a three-hour play session, I can earn about 200 Arkforge without focusing on it.
Again, where on earth is Trion’s brain when it comes to giving players a reason to want to spend money?
One thing I find interesting is that another Trion MMO, Rift, has slightly more attractive packs, but to unlock all of the game’s DLC (this time in the form of eight extra roles/classes), you’ll need to shell out $150. Like Defiance, none of these packs include in-game currency, which to me is bizarre given their high cost. Yet another Trion MMO, ArcheAge, actually does include in-game currency with its $150 pack. There, the fact that the game has no DLC yet can be argued with, but that game’s pack is still far more attractive overall – Trion is giving people things that can be purchased inside of the game with real $$$, not just in-game items that can be had via regular progression.
Trion, or at least its Defiance team, needs to clean the Schtako out of their ears and listen to the player base. It’s that simple.
As I end this, I should mention that Defiance‘s community team is truly awesome, and I feel bad they have to endure all of the hate from players while the people who make the actual decisions linger in the background.
TL;DR Trion needs to start giving players real value for their money if they want them to use Bits in Defiance, and the entire game could be improved overall if it starts listening to its playerbase.