The protagonists of Defiance will not be relegated to either the game or the show. Indeed, some will be in both, and this is apparently a big part of how the story moves.
The idea of Syfy and Trion World’s Defiance is an online RPG which features a television counterpart, but is not just simply a tie-in. To be sure, the story of the show will affect the world of the video game, while player actions will influence the plot of the television show.
Recently, the showrunners/developers revealed that the two stories would be taking place in two different cities hundreds of miles apart - making it seem like the plots might be more separate than first believed. Now, however, the creators have confirmed just how the integration will work.
The stories will be far apart, yes, but it’s the characters who will make them flow together. Major characters are expected to move between the two cities. When they arrive in the game world will be determined by when they leave the show, and when they return to the show, how they arrive, and what condition they are in (and perhaps what stories they have to tell) will be determined by the events of the game.
"Two weeks before the show premieres, the videogame will go online," says Kevin Murphy, giving an example. "For that period, if you play the game right away, you get to hang out with Nolan [Grant Bowler] and Irisa [Stephanie Leonidas] as non-player characters. When they leave the game, they are gone into our [TV] world… In the pilot, there is a very small role of Ryn, who is a spirit-rider. She becomes very important in episodes four and five, and then she leaves the show in episode five to go into the videogame. If you are watching/playing both, she comes into the game in a very big way, then returns to the show at the end of the season.”
This kind of integration sounds very exciting, but also very complicated. The idea is likely to turn away lots of people who are not so comfortable with video games, and might even make long-time players feel out of their element, but Murphy says that they’ve tried hard to make a game that anyone can get into.
"It's a genre show for people who may not necessarily like genre shows," he said. "It's got points of access for many different people. Julie [Benz]'s character says in the two-hour premiere that 'we are stronger together,' and that's the whole theme that comes together from the videogame to the television show. There are two amazing creative teams who are trying to one-up each other in terms of how cool things look and how great the stories can be. But the eight races, including human beings, are stronger together."
As cool as Defiance sounds, I’m personally worried about its ability to succeed. I would like it to succeed, as it would be great to see more projects like this in the future, and if it fails, we’ll be unlikely to see more attempts. This is the grand experiment which will tell others whether or not to bother trying.
Essentially, the project will reside in two very difficult spaces. Making an online role-playing game that can take any market share away from the big dogs is incredibly difficult, and almost all-comers end up closed – or heavily niched - within a year, and very few make any money. Further, genre television is also notoriously difficult, with even some of the best shows getting too low of an audience share to remain viable. I’m afraid that if either the show or the game fails, it will bring the other down with it, making it twice as likely to become quickly irrelevant.
Here’s the official synopsis of the show:
Set in the near future, Defiance introduces a world where humans and aliens must learn to live together on an exotic new Earth that has been transformed by alien terra-forming machines.
Bowler plays Jeb Nolan, the law keeper in a bustling frontier boomtown that is one of the new world’s few oasis of civility and inclusion. Nolan is a former Marine who fought in the alien conflict and suffered the loss of his wife and child in the war. The trauma transformed him into a lone wanderer in the wilds of this new and dangerous world, bringing him to the town where his peacekeeping skills make him a valuable addition this new community.
The dramatic tapestry of the series and the intense action of the game will exist in a single universe, evolving together over time to tell an overall story that is more powerful together.
And here is a trailer for the project (mostly footage from the game):
Defiance, the show and the game, are currently planned for a Spring 2013 debut.