E3 2012: ‘Defiance’ Connects Online Game Universe to 2013 Syfy TV Series
LOS ANGELES – There’s been talk for years of the convergence between Hollywood and games. Come April 2013, the original science fiction IP Defiance will make that a reality. Conceived as both a massively multiplayer online (MMO) video game as well as a television series from inception, game maker Trion Worlds and Syfy have been developing one world that will bridge linear and interactive entertainment.
Scott Stewart has shot the Syfy “Defiance” pilot in Toronto, which stars Julie Benz (A Gifted Man), Mia Kirshner (The Vampire Diaries), Jaime Murray (Ringer), Tony Curran (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3) and Grant Bowler (Killer Elite). The series was written/executive produced by Rockne O’Bannon (Farscape), Kevin Murphy (Caprica, Hellcats) & Michael Taylor (Battlestar Galactica). The series will begin filming later this summer with an April 2013 debut planned for both the TV show and the online game that shares the same name, as well as the same characters. The actors will portray their roles in both the TV series and the online game world, which marks the first time anything like this has been accomplished.
Lars Butler, CEO at Trion Worlds, talks about this unique gaming experience and what’s in store for fans of this cross-media franchise in this exclusive interview.
The Hollywood Reporter: What’s the current status on the “Defiance” TV series?
Lars Butler: It’s coming out in April 2013. They shot the first two hours, the pilot, and it’s currently in post production. They’re polishing it and figuring out what works, which actors pop and all of those types of things before they start shooting the season. They’re scripting the whole season now and the sets are still in Toronto. The actors are retained for the entire season, and the rest of the season will be shot after post production on the pilot is done.
THR: What’s the set like?
Butler:They have more than a football field size soundstage with a tremendous amount of green screen, where we share assets from the game. They also have built the town of Defiance, Missouri in Toronto.
THR: How will the TV pilot connect to the Defiance game?
Butler: The show and the game take place in the same universe. The game takes place mainly in the San Francisco Bay area. It’s very futuristic so the city has been terra formed, but you still have the Golden Gate Bridge, it just looks slightly different. The show takes place in a very similar futuristic, yet familiar St. Louis, where you still have after all this destruction after all the war. You still have the famous Gateway Arch, but the new town of Defiance is built on the ruins above the downtown of St. Louis. All of the skyscrapers and the entire old city are underneath the ground, which also makes for incredible adventure there. In this new terra formed environment, it’s almost like a frontier town. It’s where seven alien races that came to Earth and humanity have to live together and rebuild from the ground up.
THR: Can you talk about the story that drives the TV series?
Butler: There’s a fantastic story of hope and courage on the new frontier. There’s this immigrant drama as well, where you have alien families that are rich and powerful. There’s a love affair between the daughter of the aliens and son of the most powerful human, where the parents are at war but the kids are in love. There’s this incredibly epic storytelling within the boundaries of the town of Defiance, and when you leave it you are in this wild world of the shooter game, where it’s not about peaceful co-existence, but it’s about fighting it out. There’s constant interaction between these two worlds because the town of Defiance is situated in the broader world. There are attempted invasions on the town.
THR: How does the game world connect to the TV show?
Butler: In the game you start out playing with the lead character of the show and get to know him before he disappears. I would love to tell you the whole twist there because it is amazing, but I am not allowed to. The next time you see that lead character he is driving away from you and on the TV show you see him driving into the main action. There will be these constant direct crossovers in virtually every episode.
THR: Will all the actors actually appear in the video game?
Butler: The actors appear as their digital avatars in the video game and at certain points you can interact with them and get to know them and even play alongside them at certain points. They are like celebrities in the real world. They can appear in the game world and give a speech and then go back to the show. We really see this as one world, one IP, with different gateways.
THR: Is it safe to say that if an actor is in the TV series they’ll also appear in the game?
Butler: Maybe not all of them. Some will have local roles and they’ll never leave Defiance, but the main characters, the exciting ones, will definitely appear in the game.
THR: How will the events that go on in the virtual world as people play impact what is going on in the TV show and vice versa?
Butler: There’s a lot of stuff that we want to talk about closer to launch because there are some really amazing things, but there are also some simple things. There is a big battle in the game and it has a certain outcome, it won’t influence the town of Defiance immediately, because it’s a little bit away from the Bay Area. But the impact will come and reach the TV show and directly impact the writing of the next season. Players who are very heroic and save the day in the game can literally be called out by the extras in the show, so we have crossovers that are short-term, very short term, some medium-term, and some that are really long-term in terms of the world-changing events.