Syfy’s Defiance returns tonight for a second season, with Linda Hamilton (Terminator) set to guest star this year as “Pilar McCawley,” estranged wife of Rafe (Graham Greene) and, according to showrunner Kevin Murphy, a character who will “simultaneously make you cry and scare the crap out of you.” Of course, one of the unique things about Defiance when it premiered last year was the way it was supposed to be crossing over with the MMO from Trion Worlds. Those plans — and the game itself — didn’t necessarily live up to those ambitions, but Murphy says they’re approaching the new season with a much clearer plan of how the game and show will interact.
During a Syfy conference call, Murphy blamed scheduling differences between the game and show for why that planned intermedia crossover didn’t work out as well as they hoped. This year they’re trying to learn from those missteps. Here’s how they’re approaching the new season:
So what we did this year is every — the second page of every script after the title page has a list of proposed crossovers that were generated in a big meeting that we had with Trion and the writers.
And then when we actually got the scripts written and we go through our process, we put which — and it’s like a Chinese menu of ten options that Trion can access. And they can use it or not use it if they wish to.
And then as they go on the process of figuring out what they’re going to be doing in the game and what their crossovers are, they decide okay, we like number two and we like number four. Those are the ones that we’re going to pursue.
Can you give us one of your actors so we can bring them digitally? We’re going to bring this character in; can we have her voice. We’re going to do a clue that’s going to put in this thing that you suggested back in Episode 7.
So it becomes sort of like a game of improvisation where the TV show makes a whole bunch of suggestions to Trion, and then Trion decides the ones that they can implement effectively.
I tried out the Defiance game last year (the Xbox 360 version, for the record), but it didn’t hold my interest long. Admittedly, I didn’t get very far into it, but the reason I didn’t is that it just seemed very generic and forgettable. It sounds like it might be time to dip back in for a while, at least long enough to see what they’re doing as the new season of the TV series unfolds.
While the Defiance TV series is set in the titular city-state, built on the radically altered ruins of St. Louis, Missouri, the game is set in the San Francisco Bay area. Players take on the role of ark hunters, scavengers who raid alien tech from “arkfalls” — periodic events where wreckage left over from the human vs. alien “Pale Wars” rains down out of orbit onto the Earth’s surface. Unlike many games, the MMO doesn’t use traditional classes, instead allowing players to choose from various backgrounds, which don’t limit the skills or weapons they can use.
While the game hasn’t been the runaway success I’m sure Syfy and Trion would have liked it to be, it’s still alive and kicking, having released three DLC expansion packs since last summer, with another two planned for this year. If Defiance the show hooks more viewers this season, that can only help the game. Now it’s just a matter of whether the game has improved enough to keep any newcomers coming back. That’s a tall order given how many options you’ve got out there in the world of MMOs, many of which have gone “free to play” in recent years, including BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic and Cryptic Studios’ Star Trek Online. Even if you like Defiance the show, do you like it enough to spend huge amounts of your free time in it when there are so many other options? Time will tell.
Defiance’s second season premieres tonight at 8/7c on Syfy. You can find out more about the game on the official website.