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CCI: Syfy Merges TV, Video Games With Futuristic Epic Defiance

Fans packed a ballroom at Comic-Con International in San Diego for a sneak peek at Syfy’s new transmedia project Defiance.

“We have video games and we have TV shows, and TV shows based on video games, and video games based on TV shows, but this is not that. It’s all those things,” moderator Geoff Boucher told the crowd.

The cast of the television portion of Defiance — Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Mia Kirshner and Stephanie Leonidas — then took the stage, along with several of the project’s masterminds.

Defiance is a television series as well as a massively multiplayer online video game. The separate parts of the project each other equally, creating a television experience that viewers cannot only interact with, but also influence and shape through their game play.

“We have really created something that’s big enough and broad enough that the show can be a hit and the game can be fun and not have to compromise,” said Mark Stern, Syfy’s president of original programming. Not since Battlestar [Galactica] have we done anything this ambitious. … The narrative and the story elements all work together.”

The trailer for Defiance then played to loud, rowdy applause. The clips focus heavily on the TV aspect of the project, although the game side was briefly highlighted. There was a large amount of action involving humanoid-like aliens; both the show and the game boast a Western-meets-science fiction vibe.

“This is a frontier drama,” said Executive Producer Kevin Murphy. “It’s a melting-pot drama. It’s about people coming together. It’s about aliens coming here looking for a home. It’s science fiction for people that want to feel good and want to be inspired.”

The cast then went through the characters they play in the TV series; some, like Bowler’s Nolan, will appear in both the game and the show.

“I have the privilege of kicking off the game,” he said. “I’m most excited about a real synergy. This is a genuine new media. You don’t have to play the game to watch the show and you don’t have to watch the show to play the game. But, if you do both, it enriches itself.”

“The game starts a little before the show,” said Nick Beliaeff, senior vice president of development of game developer Trion Worlds. He told the audience the game’s story passes off to the show, and from there the two would be intertwined. In the future, game players will be able to affect the events of the show. “We have this one great big universe, and there is two ways you can get it.”

The panelists then discussed some of the challenges in attempting to mesh video games and television. Senior Producer Rob Hill from Trion Worlds said it required both production teams to work together. “We learned what made the two work,” he said. “We came up with something that is really compelling.”

Mia Kirshner told the crowd that the show and game runner put in an extensive amount of time building the world of Defiance “You see it in the attention to the mythology, the attention to detail and the craft of the people that work on the show,” she said. “They really want to do something that’s never been done before.”

Entire alien races have been developed for Defiance, and several of the actors had to learn new dialogues and speech patterns. Murphy even showcased her language skills by speaking in the language of her character.

Given the scope of the project, the panelist said that entire new departments had to be created at Syfy. They joked that there has probably never been a “mythology coordinator” at TV network before, but now thanks to Defiance, that’s a job someone has.

The cast then pointed out that although the universe is unique and exciting, the characters will drive the television portion. “It’s about survival and evolution,” Murphy said.

“The men are great in the show, but the women really hold the power,” Benz added, saying she views the show’s diversity as one of its greatest strengths. “You don’t have the mother/wife victim here. It was very appealing to me.”

A line quickly formed at the microphone in the center of the room when the presentation was opened up to audience questions. One member asked if the game and show would be released at the same time worldwide or rolled out across different countries.

“Internationally, it’ll be released day and date,” Stern replied. “Lots of effort was put into making sure that it’s released internationally at the same time.”

Another audience member wondered if players could kill characters in the TV series. Although that’s not part of the plan, Benz begged, “Please do not kill me off, I think I’ve died enough.”

The next question dealt with how the potential cancellation of the TV series would affect the game. “We have always taken in to the consideration the possibility that the show won’t exist,” Baliaeff replied, explaining that the show and game were designed to exit without each other if necessary.

The cast was asked whether they would play the game, leading Murphy to reply,
“A chance to play with myself? Absolutely”

Defiance debuts in April 2013 in game stores and on Syfy.

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