Defiance: Can an MMO/TV show hybrid really work?

The Defiance TV show is a revolutionary weekly drama that impacts the game and gives you the chance to change the show,” reads the simplified summary of Trion’s and the Syfy channel’s ambitious experiment to interconnect the two worlds of an FPS MMO and science fiction TV series.

This is certainly a bold statement and after reading it on the official site I was curious as to just how Trion and Syfy would make good on such a promise. Can they actually create a gaming world where my actions will really impact a TV show?


So, keen to learn more I pointed my browser at the Defiance official website and began to read. My first impression was that Trion has done a great job at introducing you to the Defiance game and there are already some interesting pages set-up on the characters, lore and in-game events. I was especially intrigued by the page on the Environmental Guardian Online or EGO, an in-game implant that provides players with hints, missions and also allows them to level-up in what is described as a fully customisable classless system.

But an answer to the bold promise made in that initial statement still eluded me so I began to trawl the internet for answers. I hadn’t been searching for long when I found an interesting interview on IGN with the TV show’s executive producer Kevin Murphy.

I’ll let him explain in this excerpt how the TV and game will affect each other.

When some huge catastrophic weather event happens in the TV show, if you’ve been playing along in the game, something the player has done actually put those events into motion…..I don’t want to give away too many specifics, but some of those are huge and at the centrepiece for the entire episode and some of those are awesome little details,” explains Murphy.

Like you meet a particular kind of alien human hybrid creature and you don’t fully explain who or where they came from. But when you’re playing the video game, you get some extra piece of back-story that tells you little things that you didn’t know were actually going on behind the scenes that give you a richer experience.”


So I can be certain when I play Defiance that the TV show may be affected in some way, but as I read Kevin Murphy’s quote again I found I still had far more questions than answers.

The first question that came to my mind was: will the in-game actions that affect the TV show be repeatable or will they be one-off events?

I personally hope these events are not one-offs as MMO players who miss them will probably get annoyed. This annoyance could turn to anger because the impact of missing an in-game event means that not only do players miss something that changes their game, but one that changes their new favourite TV show. And don’t get me started on what time these one-off events occur: should it be GMT, PST or split the difference? I don’t envy the team who have to decide.

The next question I found myself pondering was: what if the in-game content that leads to a TV event is bugged so it doesn’t happen but the TV show indicates it does?

I know designers take a lot of time to check and recheck their product but bugs do slip through and events in games do fall over and have to be patched, or even worse, withdrawn. I can imagine if the game fails to deliver through unseen technical problems that one of two scenarios might occur. The first time there will be either a heartfelt groan from the community that their in-game experience has been ruined, or a collective “meh” as people continue to play the bits of the game that work. However, if events continue to fall over and continuity between the TV show and game becomes fractured then that’s when Trion and Syfy might see player numbers plummet.

But the biggest question that came to mind was: what will happen to the game if the TV series is cancelled? Now I can’t imagine that Defiance the game will instantly vanish if the TV series does but – as the game’s unique selling point is this interconnection – then Trion is going to have to do some quick and creative thinking to make sure player’s interest in the game is maintained. This is where the game is going to live or die on the strength and variety of its gameplay, frequency of updates and endgame content, because if too much reliance on player interest has been placed on TV interaction and not keeping players engaged, then the game will die.

So at the end of it all playing Defiance the game will certainly affect Defiance the TV show but these affects it seems will come in many forms – not all of them as exciting as the promise that Trion and the Syfy channel are promoting them both with.

With all this in mind are you going to give Defiance a try ? If so, do you think Trion and the Syfy channel can live up to their promise ?