The Trickster's Hand

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Tag: Defiance

Tipping the Hand: Rosa and the Presumption of Rape

I’d like to pull back the curtain a bit on one of the more secretive aspects of development. When I am feeling pompous, I call it “Narrative Engineering”; most people just call it “storytelling.”

Rosa’s Revenge

Back in Defiance, we had a tough-talking badass by the name of Rosa. Rosa Rodriguez was her full name, and she was originally modeled after Rosie the Riveter. She had a tragic history. She was raised during our pre-apocalyptic conflict, The Pale Wars, but she and her father, Amelio, had survived that conflict and the Arkfall to become members of The Defiant Few: the toughest champions of inter-species unity ever to grace Earth.

Life after Arkfall wasn’t just joy in the land of milk and honey. Rosa fell in with a bad bunch. She made friends with a up-and-coming gangster by the name of “Jackleg” Joe Teach. Despite being scolded by her father, Rosa maintained the relationship.

One day, Amelio discovered Rosa socializing with Joe Teach and decided to put an end to it. In the altercation that followed, Joe Teach murdered Amelio. This crime resulted in Joe’s apprehension by Jon Cooper and subsequent incarceration in Vegas Prison. That was many years prior to the events of the game – when Rosa was a teenager – and Jackleg Joe’s return to Paradise Territory eventually drives Rosa into a revenge-fueled conflict with Joe himself.

While working on the final scene for “A Bullet for a Badman”, something strange happened. One of the developers really wanted Rosa to kick Jackleg savagely. They wanted her to get really angry. We reasoned that she’d had time to come to terms with her father’s death, that she’d played out this murder fantasy enough times in her own head that it only carried disappointment to actually execute on it. Pulling the Ark-Cell out of Jackleg Joe was the final act in the discovery that fantasy does not always match reality.

Then the developer exclaimed: “This is the guy who raped her!”

I stood, mouth agape, as I tried to figure out what had brought this man to believe that. Then I saw people around the room nodding in agreement.

Something needed to be done.

The Rape Threat

We’d purposefully avoided even implying Rosa had been raped by Jackleg Joe. Any suggestion of it was expressly expunged from the game. Jackleg, who we specifically say was Rosa’s friend, murdered Amelio Rodriguez, Rosa’s father, and that was enough revenge motivation for the action of the game. However, the impression remained. Many of our own developers believed she’d been raped, when we asked why, they all answered the same thing: she’d been alone with Jackleg Joe when Amelio arrived on the day of his murder. “Alone” was the key word, and being alone with a man was enough to create the presumption of rape.

So, much to my chagrin, we had to add the following line to the data recorder “Case # 44WKE – Teach, Joseph“:

“It was a sight. Wish I had a chance to drive something else into his lovely daughter.”

Defiance had fallen back on one of the most prevalent tropes in Western culture, and we did it in order to confirm that Rosa had not been raped. Without that line, we would have had no way to disprove what would have been a common assumption. As that scene progresses, Cooper decides to beat up Jackleg in response to the rape comment. This is the closest we ever come to “damseling” Rosa; this is the only time that a man is called on to fight on Rosa’s behalf. I would prefer that never happened.

The sad fact was that many of the men and even some of the women on the development team assumed that a lone woman in the company of a villain could expect to be raped. The San Diego office was not populated by rape-obsessed lunatics. Even with the contents of “Case # 44WKE – Teach, Joseph“, many of our players still assumed that Rosa had been violated. We even had to explicitly clarify this with our partners at NBC.

Defiance is a world of fiction. While we can only do a very little to make our world a better place, we can make our worlds of fiction healthier one bad assumption at a time. If we are very lucky, those bad assumptions – those of malice and of weakness – will wither away in the light of the fictions we create.

The Women of Paradise

We had only a relatively small number of “cinematic characters” in Defiance. These were the men and women that could be featured in cutscenes and have animated faces.  When we decided on who these characters would be, we did actively spread them as evenly as we could among the different races and sexes available. They still lean a little male, but I’m proud of the women we chose to represent the New Frontier.

We’ve jeopardized Cass a few times, but she holds her own against the worst the frontier has to offer. The same can be said of Rosa. Defiance continued to find new ways to put Eren in jeopardy without making her helpless; it’s essentially a running gag that she manages to save herself. Rynn neither needs nor wants your help. Irisa, despite a whole line of missions dedicated to locating her, is much closer to an antagonist than anything else. EGO applies bizarre exuberance to her callouts in comments. Even Ara Shondu, our only female non-combatant, is a woman leading a people through the most dangerous time in Human or Votan history.

In the New Frontier, only the strong survive. This wisdom applies as much to women as it does to the men.


The following is a reprinting of one of my Defiance updates. Read the original here:



Alcatraz Preview: Expeditions

Expeditions are new, evolving co-op matches that pit players against increasingly tough enemies for ever-increasing rewards. Our first three expeditions – The War Below, Stolen Purpose, and Hellbug Hunt – will debut with the launch of the Alcatraz update!

Read on to learn more about Expedition challenges and mechanics, and stay tuned for in-depth coverage of their rewards in our upcoming Alcatraz Preview: Cyber Rigs post.

Expedition Tiers and Rounds

When you start an Expedition, you’ll be placed into a series of matches based on your EGO rating. These matches are broken up into difficulty “Tiers” to best challenge all ark hunters who participate. For example, a rating 700 hunter might enter a Tier 3 Expedition while a rating 5000 hunter would enter at Tier 19.

Expedition Tier rating determines the power level and rank of the enemies you will face, as well as the quality of the gear you will discover in Expedition reward rooms (higher Tiers lead to greater potential rewards). The Tier you will start with is determined by the EGO rating of your group leader, so be mindful of the challenge you will face before entering. A word of warning: ark hunters are not boosted up in power to match the dangers presented in Expeditions, but high-powered ark hunters will be scaled down to face the challenges of lower Tiers!

In addition to Tiers, a new “Round” tracker shows how many Expeditions you’ve completed in a row. After completing an Expedition, you will be transported back to Alcatraz to rearm, regroup, and purchase gear. But don’t dawdle! Once returned to Alcatraz, you only have five minutes to resume your Expedition run and continue your streak. Defeating your current Tier gives you access to the next while incrementing the rewards you’ll receive. The best gear in Expeditions can only be found on the third Round or higher, so be sure to return to the Expedition quickly or you will miss out!

Hunter Requisitions

Expeditions are not to be undertaken lightly. Joining an Expedition costs a Hunter Requisition – or “Hunter Req” for short – which are available both for Bits and as login rewards.

If you’ve fallen in combat without an available revive, you can spend a Hunter Req to refresh your cooldown and continue the fight. Choosing to Extract, on the other hand, returns you to Alcatraz and ends your Expedition (though you can spend another Req to start a new run).

Note: In Expeditions, reviving your fellow players now requires – and consumes – your own self-revive, which dramatically increases the risk, tension, and mounting difficulty of each encounter!

Mutant Captains and Commanders

Mutant battalions roaming the Badlands have seized valuable technology and deployed it to the field. You’ll need a mixture of resistances and shield-breaking attacks to face the Captains of their horde – terrifying variants equipped with an array advanced weaponry:

– Scorcher: A specialized Cleaver armed with flaming knives and a deadly flamethrower attack. This is, by far, the deadliest melee enemy in the Badlands; equip fire-resistant gear to survive.

– Fireteam Leader: These advanced riflemen use damage spikes to boost the offensive power of the mutants around them.

– Engineer: As deadly as they are cautious, engineers deploy special shield spikes to boost defenses around their fellow mutants.

– Incinerator: Some units operate with subtlety, but not the Incinerators – they are Bioman grenadiers who have traded their usual fragmentation munitions for incendiary rounds.

– Battle Master: The most dangerous of the mutant Captains, these units specialize in defensive techniques much like Engineers, though they prefer shield boosters to spikes.

In addition to these Captains, two new Mutant Commanders have arrived in the Badlands. Will your team of have what it takes to outwit the wily Engineer Marshal and defeat the indomitable soldiers of Jackson’s Chosen?

Raider Captains and Commanders

The Raiders have been learning new tricks, too. Unlike the mutants, Raiders take no pains to defend themselves, so focus on damage bonuses and kill or be killed!

– Pyromaniac: A Blitzer got ahold of a plethora of incendiary grenades and now all hell is breaking loose.

– Plagueblaster: Armed with infector rockets, Plagueblasters unleash hordes of infector bugs to savage their enemies.

– Electrocutioner: Tankers armed with Votan rocket technology can not only blanket areas with cascading explosives, they can destroy shields with a powerful underground attack.

– Anarchist: Rioters armed with Couriers blast bombs onto unsuspecting opponents.

The Raiders have also promoted deadly Commanders from their ranks. The Badlands now suffer under the boot of Dekuso’s Offspring – younger descendants of their dreaded Gulanee crimelord – and riotous, adreno-laden Raging Hulkers.

Hellbug Advanced Mutations and Bosses

Badlands hellbugs have continued their process of rapid evolution and metamorphosis. In the latest hive expansions, horrific new hellbug warriors – Irradiated and Electrified Conquerors – and intimidating new archer breeds – Incendiary and Plaguebringer Artillery – have been spotted accompanying colonization hordes to their destinations. Even worse, Burrowing Hellions and Monarch Hivelords have destroyed settlements previously thought to be impenetrable!

Join the Expedition

Expeditions provide an opportunity to gain power never before seen in the Bay Area. Keep an eye on the Defiance blog for more details on Cyber Rigs, the exciting new technology ark hunters will find in Expeditions. It’s survival of the fittest out in the Badlands, and it’s time to see who makes the cut!

Good hunting,

Trick Dempsey
Creative Lead, Defiance


The following is a reprinting of one of my Defiance updates. Read the original here:



Producer Letter: Defiance Season 2 Kickoff

My fellow ark hunters,

It’s been an exciting year in Paradise. The Tarr family has expanded its operations into the Bay Area, Dark Matter operations in Tranquility have been thwarted, and now the thief, Josh Nolan, has been involved in the downfall of a Votan trafficking ring. Interesting times.

But there are more interesting times ahead.

Starting with the Gunslinger Trials, we began to drop hints of the dire events occurring in Silicon Valley. Von Bach Industries has research labs in the valley, but communication with these remote facilities has been disrupted for months now. It won’t be long before the troubles there come spilling out into the rest of the bay.

To give you an idea, here’s the state of one of the labs.

So, yeah. That can’t be good.

Now that the stage is set, our Season 2 storyline can begin in earnest. We’ve got a lot of content coming out over the next three months: new missions, new gear, a new vehicle, and a new landmass. The New Frontier will never be the same!

Season 2 Preview: The Grid

New enemy factions are coming to the Bay Area. When the Grid first appear, they’ll seem to be just another deadly curiosity on the New Frontier. In short order, however, they will become the focus of events that will embroil the bay in violence. You see, something bad is happening in the ark belt … and on our quiet planet below. As events in St. Louis and in San Francisco reveal startling similarities, you’ll realize no one will escape the conflict to come without sacrificing something they hold dear.

It’s a good thing that we’ve got a lot of fresh blood coming to the bay to face off against these new enemies. The NSFW update brought a horde of new ark hunters to Von Bach Industries’ Bay Area expedition. They may be a little green, but they are still hunting shoulder to shoulder with the best talent the bay has to offer.

If Paradise is to survive, it will need all the fresh blood the New Frontier can offer. Silicon Valley is overrun by the Grid, and a strange new cult has begun to take root in the bay. New missions, new battles, and new technology beckon brave souls to gamble with their lives. Whether for righteousness, fortune, or glory, it’s time to suit up, ark hunters, and battle your way into Season 2!

Good hunting!

Trick Dempsey
Creative Lead, Defiance


The following is a reprinting of one of my Defiance updates. Read the original here:———————————-


One Year on the New Frontier

Greetings, ark hunters!

It has been an exciting year for Defiance. We’ve launched the first massive co-op shooter. We’ve launched a television series. We’ve provided more updates than you can shake a stick at. (Likely the incorporeal nature of updates greatly hampers your ability to shake a stick at them. Just sayin’.)

We’re wrapping up our fifth DLC, Arktech Revolution, and it transforms the face of the game. We’re adding fifteen perks, raising the EGO cap, adding new pursuits and gear. It has been a titanic undertaking that has altered the way every single fight in the game plays out.

Now ark hunters must balance damage types with armor with spikes, stims, and grenades. Top-tier enemies require teamwork to take down, and enemies all over the game world have learned all sorts of new attacks and strategies.

Welcome to the revolution.

The Power of Promise

Defiance has a lot of expectations to live up to. It’s the first game ever to be tied so closely to a co-developed television show. The promise of two windows into one world really resonates with people and conjures images both amazing and conflicting.

A year ago, we promised to bring players massive co-op gameplay in a living world that was both familiar and alien.

The Day of Reckoning

Much like the apocalypse that destroyed future Earth, thousands of players from diverse platforms and countries descended upon our little world like a horde of ravenous hellbugs. They devoured content at a scale and speed that had to be seen to be believed. And, of course, billions of virtual bullets being fired at literally millions of virtual enemies nearly made our poor servers spit blood.

The Double Launch

We knew we’d soon face a second wave. Two weeks later, the Defiance show would premiere on Syfy, and we had to prepare for a second horde of launch players. Working round the clock and round the globe, our team savaged issues as they arose. Some solutions required hardware, some networking software, and some simply optimizing endless pages code deep in the bowels of our systems. Each day, new issues were fixed and new ones rose. As the game stabilized, we had even more promises to keep.

As the show took off, viewers and players were drawn in by the story of the post-Arkfall world. Players wanted to experience more of this for themselves, and they tore through our story content like bookworms with the munchies. Each week we gave more story and more content. New enemies with improved AI came in with Hellbug Season and the Volge Invasion. Hidden knowledge resided in data recorders which cropped up all around the world. A whole new gameplay mode, sieges, rolled in with a plague which threatened both St. Louis and San Francisco. Players worked with and against characters which crossed over between show and game: Nolan, Irisa, Rynn, and Doc Yewll.

We even launched a mini-expansion during the season which we internally named “Module 0″. It introduced a slew of new features including the main mission replay. Each week brought more stability, more updates, and more content. And it was all free with the price of admission.

Rise of the Castithans

Our first DLC, the Castithan Charge Pack, rolled out shortly after the finale of the first season of the Defiance TV series. We’d all been fascinated by the Castithans and with the culture we’d developed for them alongside David Peterson, the language and culture expert for Defiance. We wanted to offer more than just pale skins to our ark hunters, so the Castithan Charge pack was paired with a series of missions, a new weapon type, and a new gameplay mode and environment.

Meanwhile, as we promised, all DLC is accompanied by content for all of our players. Volge sieges began as the Thorn Liro bared its fangs in Paradise. This brought updated scoring and mechanics to our sieges and to our Volge enemies. The Volge had learned some new tricks. Some, but they were about to learn more.

Raiders of the Fallen Ark

Our second DLC, Arkbreaker, was focused on bringing forth an experience that players had demanded since the premier of the show: climbing into arkfalls. After seeing Nolan and Irisa climb into the arkfall to retrieve the terrasphere, players wanted to do the same.

Building off of the art style from the ark module beneath Presidio Bunker, the Trion team built a series of maps for players to climb into, fight, and pillage. More than that, though, we introduced the Volge Warmaster, Huntmaster, and drones. These all played integral parts in the Arkbreaker content, and, to this day, the Warmaster remains the hardest and most complicated boss in the game.

Like all of our DLCs, we promised to provide content updates for all our players and not just the owners of the DLC. For this, we allowed anyone to participate in events triggered by Arkbreaker owners. Any time an arkbreak starts, any ark hunter can participate. This is massive co-op.

Canadian Space Samurai?

The New Frontier is a weird place. A really weird place. Defiance has long had a Western motif, and nothing borrows with the Western genre as much as the Samurai genre. The biggest example of that were the Seven Samurai and Magnificent Seven films. We wanted to capture that spirit in a DLC, and thus the 7th Legion was born.

7th Legion brought new outfits, new synergies, and new challenges. Our first three part gear synergy cropped up with the 7th Legion, as did a number of uniquely modified guns. These came in handy when facing our new open-world content.

With 7th Legion, the enemies of Paradise began to act on a scale not seen before. Incursions began cropping up in every region, and even Mt. Tam, our beginning region, fell under attack. To handle these massive co-op events, we drastically revamped the voice and text chat systems. Immediately after launch, we could see the results. People were chatting, constantly, and the coordination between our players improved drastically.

Cyberpunk Western

Our players longed for more and more challenging co-op content, and that came in spades with our Gunslinger Trials DLC. The Gunslinger Trials came in with three new mission lines, a slew of new world lore, and a series of grueling co-op arenas. Gunslingers faced these new challenges with a variety of unique new weapons and snazzy new outfits.

Our free content also changed the face of the game. Not only could anybody group up with DLC owners for the Gunslinger arenas, but players were also free to engage with our new scoring system throughout the game world. Finally, all weapons and strategies had something to offer for an ark hunter’s progression. Rewards were not just limited to the players who had the highest DPS or kill rate, but healers and support players could prosper as well.

Children of the Revolution

Our next DLC, Arktech Revolution is our most ambitious to date. By the time you read this, it will be live on our Alpha public test server. For the longest time, we called this update “Hard Mode” and with good reason. Our first arkfall playtest got renamed “Welcome to Murdertown, USA.” We added progression and scaling, and well, we may have tuned it a touch high.

We’ve added the ability to purchase legendary weapons in game, advanced and expert instances, and we’ve nearly drastically increased the number of enemies throughout the game. Many of them have even learned brand new attacks. Let me tell you, they have some game changers in there.

On top of that, Arktech Revolution layers much more value onto damage types and a new mechanic called “Ablative Armor.” With these two mechanics combined, players can finally make real and significant tactical decisions with their gear and loadout customizations.

The Future of Defiance

The Earth Republic and Votanis Collective are gearing up for war. Irisa’s developed inexplicable powers. Karl Von Bach is missing and presumed dead, but there are rumblings that he’s been seen beyond the bounds of Paradise.

There’s more than just story coming ahead. We’ve got a whole slew of updates coming out before and during the second season. We’re getting new enemies, new perks, new features, and the inevitable land expansion. The location has already been telegraphed to those who have been paying careful attention, but I won’t spoil that for you here.

2046 was a hard year for Earth, and 2047 is going to make it look like a cakewalk.

Good hunting.

Trick Dempsey
Creative Lead, Defiance


The following is a reprinting of one of my Defiance updates. Read the original here:



At first, we only helped Humans. Soon, though, we took all kinds. We kept marching, like a city with feet, toward Calgary and Winnipeg. Both were gone. Finally, as we neared Chicago, we found her signal. Funny – we probably would have stopped there, settled down … and missed Azumi. Left her holed up with the staff at VBI, transmitting into the dark, hoping that her father would come.

Now and again she’ll laugh about bushido, the code, the “samurai” nickname (something the troops first used, for all things, to mock my pride). But it stuck – not just for me or the others with roots in Japan. It’s a way of life that fits this world. It got us through the wastes, after all. It will carry us to the New Frontier.

– Yoshida Hiro, New Frontier Radio “Hiro’s March Retrospective”


The launch of 7th Legion is coming up fast. Prepare with our behind-the-scenes Q&A with Creative Lead Trick Dempsey, who walks us through the background and inspiration for the latest Defiance DLC.

How’d you choose the 7th Legion, and where did they come from?

The 7th Legion dates back to the Arkfall – to the disastrous period following the destruction of the Votan colony ships in orbit. As an event, the Arkfall is both incredibly important to Defiance and one that’s hard to imagine (together with our partners at Syfy, we’ve crunched the numbers on just how catastrophic the Arkfall was, and it’s pretty grim).

Envisioning the death of billions of people and the reshaping of a whole planet is still a little beyond comprehension. But it’s one that we want to publically explore, and the 7th Legion provides us with a window into that time – a look at one of the organizations that rose from the ashes of global catastrophe.

As far as where they came from: the group of frontiersmen who became the 7th Legion were camped in the Yukon when the arks exploded. They watched as the Votan ships fell to Earth, thinking all was lost, hoping for a last chance to see their families. Of course, it was a chance that would never come.

What did they do after Arkfall?

The entire group rallied around Yoshida Hiro and the code of bushido. At first, it was an easy way for members to relate to Hiro’s ancestry, but as they moved south and east, inland from the irradiated coast, survivors flocked to the group and legend of a new “7th Legion” spread.

What sets the Legion apart from other survivors?

It’s a group that’s distanced from other factions like the Earth Republic, the Votanis Collective, and Von Bach Industries. Sure, they’ll use VBI weapons and Votan tech like when it benefits them, but their culture and beliefs diverged after Arkfall. You’ll see that in their weapons and gear, their unique synergy set, in current/future plotlines, and so on.

Talking bigger picture, the Legion reminds us that this world is “post-post-apocalyptic”: enough years have passed since the Arkfall that factions are more worried about emerging alliances, identities, and politics than basic survival. And, you know, more so than any other faction, they embrace the “Cyberpunk Western” character of Defiance (one of my favorites!).

What’s next for the Legion?

They’ve come to Paradise, and Hiro himself is on the coast to recruit ark hunters to carry on their mission. His connection with the Earth Republic and VBI allows him to bring in new weapons and defenses augmented with some of the Legion’s mythic flair. Of course, he won’t trust just anyone with 7th tech. Ark hunters hoping to join the Legion will have to prove themselves worthy!


The following is a reprinting of one of my Defiance updates. Read the original here:



Ark Hunters!

It’s been quite a journey since the launch of Defiance earlier this year, and the recent release of the Castithan Charge pack. With the team’s move to Trion Redwood Shores just about complete, we have the opportunity to make Defiance into the gameplay beast that it always promised to be. Shooting, driving, and chasing down arkfalls are each entertaining as hell, and that’s a great foundation to build upon. Defiance has incredible potential, and it is going to reach that potential come hell or waters that are high.

I’m Trick Dempsey, the Creative Lead for Defiance, and I’m presently packing for my own move up to the Redwood Shores studio. We have a fantastic team working there to improve the quality of the game, and bring new dynamic content to the world.

Right now, we’re making the game better in phases and fixing our weapons is first on the list. We’re tuning our weapons so that each one is a viable and attractive choice. Weapons are a fun and exciting part of the shooter experience, and we’re going to make certain that all of them have their own special breed of fun. Not only will we be working on the core balance of the base weapons, but we’ll be assuring that our rarity and mastery bonuses apply to each weapon they can appear on. Higher rarity weapons will always be accompanied with celebration and never disappointment.

Parallel with weapons improvements we’ll also be addressing our shields so that each of them has a valid tactical advantage. The Respark Regenerator feels great, and we like that too. We’ll be improving the other shields to make them competitive and desirable as well. For example, the Ironclad and its ilk are going to see a significant buff in order to make them into a valid tactical option. We think that games are the most fun when there’s more than one “right” strategy.

Our inventory interface needs serious improvement. Our current interface has a large number of loadouts and limited inventory space that makes it difficult to make decisions quickly and leap right back into the game. We’re making incremental improvements to this interface as we improve the significance of gear resulting in a much smoother process.

Defiance is an online game and that means it’s supposed to be a social experience. but, we think things are too quiet. Frankly, chat (both voice and text) operate with less-than-stellar reliability. We’re also updating a variety of systems to create a far better social experience throughout the game. We’re going to clean up that experience considerably, both from a convenience and a reliability standpoint.

Objectives and UI
A solid, intuitive UI and clear, identifiable objectives are crucial to a good experience in game. We’re going to update the objectives and UI elements surrounding contracts so that they will serve to better pull ark hunters into the same locations. Defiance is a blast when other players spice up the action, and we’re going to improve the flow to cooperate and compete with other players. You’ll know where to go, what to do, and why the objectives are updating.

And Beyond
That will bring us to our second DLC, which you saw a sneak peek of during PAX. It’s going to be an exciting expansion with arkfall interiors, new boss encounters, and useful power-ups called spikes and stims. It’s a big update and I look forward to sharing more details soon.

After that, we’re putting a major focus on the chase. EGO, gear, and weapon improvements as those are needed to be a core part of the ark hunter experience. Not only will ark hunters improve over time, but their loadout and gear decisions will matter. Choosing to specialize in spitting out flaming death will obliterate flesh and blood opponents, yes, but that may not be the best way to handle a two-ton mechanical juggernaut. The New Frontier is a dangerous and unpredictable place, and only the most adaptable ark hunters survive.

Good Hunting.

Trick Dempsey, Creative Lead

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