E3: 'Defiance' TV Show, Online Game Unveiled Next Week (Exclusive)
Three years ago, online game publisher Trion Worlds partnered with Syfy to develop the world's first massively multiplayer online (MMO) game and scripted live action television series. The science fiction MMO action game from this collaboration, Defiance, will make its cross-platform debut at E3 2011 in Los Angeles next week. The open world shooter game will be demonstrated live for the first time ever on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 at Trion's booth.
"No one's attempted this before," said Dave Howe, president of Syfy. "It's a groundbreaking coming together of a TV development team and a game development team to create the first truly immersive, 24/7 interactive story that bridges online gaming and the TV world in a unique way."
Set on a future Earth, Defiance introduces players and Syfy viewers to a world ravaged by decades of conflict, where humans and aliens live together in a world the likes of which no one has seen. The game combines the frenetic action of a top-tier console shooter with the persistence, scale, and customization of an MMO, while its TV counterpart exudes the scope, story, and drama of a classic sci-fi epic. The game's story will take place in the San Francisco bay area, while the TV series will be set just outside of St. Louis, MO. Because they exist in a single universe, the show and the game will influence and evolve each other over time, with actions in both mediums driving the overall story of Defiance.
The release date for the TV series and MMO game has yet to be announced, but the game has been in development for three years. A typical Trion World MMO title like the fantasy role-playing game Rift and the upcoming science fiction real-time strategy game End of Nations takes four to five years to develop.
Syfy writer Rockne O'Bannon (Farscape, The Triangle) has worked with both game developer Trion and the creative team behind the new television series. Howe said Defiance has been designed and built from the ground up with a joined-at-the-hip team that's been meeting every week for the last two or three years to co-conceive, co-create, and co-develop a bunch of characters and a storyline and mythology that will work across both the TV series and MMO game.
Lars Buttler, CEO of Trion Worlds, said this project breaks the traditional mold of a game being licensed by Hollywood creators or a Hollywood-based property being turned into a game.
"This is essentially the convergence of the television and gaming industry into one fully-developed cohesive property," said Buttler. "Syfy is creating a television show that takes place in the fictional universe that the game is set in. The game and the show will constantly influence each other from the moment that they simultaneously launch."
While traditional television series have offered casual online game experiences, comic books, novels and other ways for fans to interact with characters; Defiance changes the game. Buttler said fans can create their own characters and then take part in the persistent online game experience that includes interacting with virtual versions of characters from the show. In addition, some in-game actions by the players will end up influencing the actions in the scripted TV series.
"If you watch the show and you like this fictional universe, you can create your own character and jump into the world and live there and see how it evolves," said Buttler. "You can go much deeper than you could ever go as a fan of any kind of TV property before."
Howe said Syfy can experiment with projects like Defiance because its audience is made up of gamers and technophiles. He said this demographic is at the forefront of exploiting new technologies and non-linear platforms.
"As avid consumers of storytelling, our audience has always really wanted to experience what I call the Holy Grail of interactivity – the ability to live 24/7 with the characters in the stories and experience the mythology first-hand," said Howe. "Being able to tap into the game world and create something that lives along side and complements the TV series will allow us to do immersive storytelling in a way that we've never been able to do before."
Howe has steered Syfy into the video game space with recent partnerships like Trion and THQ. The network will debut the first project from its THQ collaboration on June 4 with the TV movie Red Faction: Origins starring Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgment Day), Kate Vernon (Battlestar Galactica), Gareth David-Lloyd (Torchwood) and Devon Graye (Dexter). The movie tells the back story for THQ's new Red Faction: Armageddon game, which just launched on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Syfy has also seen success with its partnership with German free-to-play online game publisher Bigpoint. Battlestar Galactica Online has surpassed 2 million registered users in its first three months. The browser-based PC online space combat game has been attracting 20,000 new players from across the globe each day.
Syfy recently announced that it's entering the video game publishing business with Syfy Games. The first six titles under this banner will launch later this year as Facebook games before expanding to other outlets. The company will focus on genre titles that align with the content seen on its television network.