Trion World's upcoming massively-multiplayer online shooter, Defiance, can stand on its own and be enjoyed by players regardless of whether they tune into the Syfy episodic series of the same name, according to Defiance's creative lead Bill Trost.
In an interview with Polygon, Trost addressed concerns expressed by the gaming community that Defiance (the video game) may not be a solid standalone experience due to it being part of a transmedia tie-in with a science fiction series to be aired on the Syfy channel.
"From the beginning, we knew in order for it to really work and satisfy both our individual audiences, each thing had to stand on its own as well as work together," Trost told Polygon. "The game of Defiance had to function as a game first and satisfy what gamers want, and if they never watch the television show, they can have a fully rewarding experience just playing the game."
"The game can achieve much more production values than we can."
Directing producer of the Defiance Syfy series, Michael Nankin told Polygon that in addition to both forms of media standing on their own, they also bring something different to the table to further enrich the Defiance experience.
"We deal in human emotion," Nankin says of the television series. "We have real people who look each other in the eyes, and they're really speaking and really feeling. We take the time to tell the stories of loyalty and love and hatred and betrayal. That's what we do well.
"The game can achieve much more production values than we can. They can blow up cities and there are the elements of size, spectacle and adrenaline. It's just the difference between gameplay and televisions — there's engagement, and there's watching passively. The very nature of them gives them different strengths and weaknesses."
Aside from the game's transmedia tie-in, Trost tells Polygon that there are other ways in which Trion Worlds has made Defiance a unique shooter. He calls it a "true shooter" set in a massive online world where elements of MMOs are brought on board to complement the shooter experience.
The game has an open world that can support thousands of players. It has dynamic events — similar to most MMOs —where unique events will take place, giant bosses will appear and players will have to team up with others to go into combat if they want a chance at survival.
The game world is also ever-changing, with the world organically evolving even when the player isn't logged on. If a player leaves the game for some time, when they return it won't be the same as when they left. In addition to this, content from the television series will feed back into the game and vice versa. Story arcs, characters and items will move between the two, and both the game and television series will have opportunities to inform each other.
Creating a game that ties into an original series presents its own unique challenges. According to Trost, the idea for Defiance first emerged four and a half years ago, and both sides in television production and game development have been in constant communication since to ensure that both are in sync and everyone delivers on what they promise.
"When we originally pitched a bunch of ideas to them, some of them were space operas or these giant things where players are giant robots, and Syfy immediately said, 'We could never afford to build a show like that!'"
"So very early on we said, 'Please, Syfy, don't have everybody riding horses!"
Both sides settled on the Defiance series being character-based. They decided it would be set on earth. In exchange, Trion Worlds asked Syfy not to populate the series with horses.
"On the game side, we knew we'd have a real problem with quadrupeds, because we know the investment it takes to deliver those types of creatures well and to meet players expectations," Trost says. "We knew in the time frame we had we wouldn't be able to deliver on that, so very early on we said, 'Please, Syfy, don't have everybody riding horses! Don't have the town full of horses because we won't be able to deliver on that for the player!"
Trost understands that both gamers and viewers are going to be skeptical of Defiance, "I would be totally skeptical of it too if I wasn't involved with it," he says, but he believes in the project and the skepticism doesn't dishearten him.
"It's a huge risk, but we think it's cool and everybody who's seen it and been involved with it thinks it's cool, or this much wouldn't have been invested in it," he says. "We're just hoping the viewing audience and gamers think it's as cool as we do."
The Defiance television series will premier on the Syfy channel on April 15. The video game will release April 2 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC.