'Defiance' merges video game, TV worlds

Video games are frequent bedfellows with TV shows and movies, but Syfy and Trion Worlds' new joint project, "Defiance," is a completely different kind of pop-culture beast.

Instead of spinning off the sci-fi Western into a video game or vice-versa, the TV show and video game will be linked in an ongoing way so that characters and events in the series tie into those in Trion's third-person shooter.

Nick Beliaeff, Trion Worlds senior vice president of development, calls it a "transmedia experience."

"Usually a game or show comes first and the other comes second and whoever comes second is saddled with a lot of compromises and it's an inferior experience," Beliaeff said. "We started this project together, and we've made the universe big and broad enough so both the game and the TV show are quality."

The setting of Defiance is a post-apocalyptic Earth, specifically what was St. Louis and is now called Defiance, where humans and seven different alien species, stranded on Earth by a low-flying asteroid field, attempt to peacefully coexist.

The game, a massively multiplayer online shooter, takes place in San Francisco during a "second gold rush," as players build their own personas and chase fragments of a mineral called Gulonite and alien technology in a quest to create their own fortune. The plot-based game, which debuted April 2, is made for Sony's PlayStation 3, Microsoft's Xbox360 and PC.

It introduces the main character, Nolan, and his alien step-daughter, Irisa. The characters, played by Grant Bowler and Stephanie Leonidas, respectively, move to Defiance in Monday night's series premiere of the Syfy show.

"Your character starts a series of missions with [Nolan and Irisa] and help them steal something from an underworld figure--they're both scoundrels," Beliaeff said. "The last the players see of them, they leave in a car from San Francisco to St. Louis ... If you played the game, you get this huge backstory on them."

Players of the game won't actually control characters from the show, but instead, interact with them on their own journeys.

"They'll be key touchpoints," Beliaeff said. "If you're a fan of a character, you can see them in the show to game and back again. The actors from the show speak dialogue in the game and might give you missions or clues that will help you interact with the story."

Syfy spent about $100 million to develop the game and show, and the network expects about 20 percent of viewers and players to cross over between the two platforms. Season 1 of the TV show and the first year of the game have been mapped out, but beyond that, Beliaeff said, the future depends on how much viewers and gamers latch on to the universe of "Defiance."

"This represents five years of work--blood, sweat and tears--and we just hope fans fall in love with this idea as much as we have," he said.

Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
2 stars out of 4
It may be interconnected with Syfy's TV series, but you'll be disappointed if you pick up the "Defiance" video game for the story. Playing as one of many "arc-hunters" in this massively multiplayer shooter, it's fun to interact with the two main characters from the television pilot--Joshua Nolan and his adopted alien daughter, Irisa-- but there's little plot or character development. It's mostly just shooting more bad guys. Instead, "Defiance" succeeds at blending solo, group and competitive play online--especially during "Arkfalls," when giant bosses randomly drops and dozens of players from all over the world gather to take up arms together against waves of enemies. Or at least it would if the network problems and bugs that have plagued it since it launched would go away. Sadly, the execution of "Defiance" doesn't quite measure up to its ambition. Ryan Smith for RedEye

Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor

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