SyFy's Defiance is coming

Posted by CB Droege

Release dates have finally been announced for the ambitious cross-media project.

The basic 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 affects the world of the video game, while player actions impact the plot of the television show.

We haven’t heard anything about the project since last summer, but now we have word that the project is still moving forward, and that we’ll see it sooner than we might have thought. The show and the game will both be dropping in April of this year. The video game is slated to go live approximately two weeks before the first episode of the show, so players will already be deep in the story before they see it on the screen.

One of the interesting aspects of Defiance is the way the characters will shift around between media. The two stories - the one on TV and the one in the video game - will be running parallel, but they are not the same story. They both play out in a world ravaged by an alien invasion, but they take place in two different cities.

The show follows the adventures of a small group of characters in the new boom-town of Defiance, settled among the ruins of St. Louis, while the game will cover the events of the major multi-xenotic  region of the former San Fransisco Bay area. Thus, non-player characters will be able to move between cities and appear in both.

As an example, given by one of the developers last year, "…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. 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.

The project resides 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, though the 2012 pilot season showed us a few great sci-fi shows which seem to, extraordinarily, be in for the long haul. 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.

Defiance, the game, is slated for April 2, 2013. Defiance, the show, will premiere with a double-length episode on April 15.