Defiance Comic-Con 2012 Preview -- Crafting a Believable, Playable WorldBy Kevin Kelly - Posted Jul 23, 2012
Defiance is the ambitious project from Syfy and Trion Worlds that looks to marry a hit science-fiction television show with a AAA game. But the game won’t just be an adaptation of the series. Instead it will serve as a prequel of sorts, and continue to be a living, breathing MMO shooter. The levels we saw from the game definitely look Halo influenced with Warthog-esque vehicles and weapons, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
At it’s heart, Defiance is an immigration story, where the eight known races are coming together in Defiance. According to writer/producer Kevin Murphy, “It's an allegory. It's not black and white, or bad guys vs. good guys, human vs. aliens.” The project has been in development for four years, and they are trying to take the Hollywood/Video Games relationship to the next level without compromising.
They’ve also put a lot of research into creating alien races that feel real, and they hired the man behind the Dothraki language in HBO’s Game of Thrones, David J. Peterson, to work on the dialects. Murphy compares keeping the continuity of the television show in-line with the game with trying to keep the continuous retcons and reboots in comic books. “This is the first show I've worked on where we've had a mythology coordinator position!” he said.
The game takes place before the show, and is set in San Francisco. Our main characters, Nolan and Irisa, have picked up a sort of “alien tchotchke” that is actually a skeleton key that lets them access a downed ark, which are the vessels that the Votan race came to Earth in. While the Votans leave death and destruction in their wake, this key allows Nolan and Irisa to access a piece of Votan terraforming technology, which everyone happens to want.
Eventually they make their way to Defiance, which is where the show begins. While you don’t have to play the game to understand the show or vice versa, Murphy says “These are independent experiences that people can dive deep into. You can read Batman and never have to read Superman. But if you read them both, you get a richer experience.”
We had a chance to meet the cast recently, and while your inner geek will be extremely tickled by the fact that Julie Benz and Jaime Murray will be reuniting onscreen (Benz played wife Rita on Dexter, while Jaime played Dexter’s psychotic girlfriend), be assured that they still won’t be best friends. Benz told us that while they became instant best friends on the set of Dexter, "We're not best friends in the show”
Benz plays Amanda Rosewater, the newly appointed mayor of Defiance, where she quickly finds herself in over her head. She is committed to maintaining peace, which is difficult to do in a frontier town built on the ruins of St. Louis. She has a lot to learn and has ex-mayor Nicky (Fionnula Flanagan) to lean on, but this new job will toughen her hide and make her stronger in the process. Benz says, "The men in this show are great, but I think the power is really with the women."
Murray plays Stahma, a high-born member of the Castithan alien race. But while she comes from the highest caste in her society, the women don’t have a lot of power. She’s married to Datak Tarr, played by Tony Curran, who comes from the lowest caste among the Castithans. Together, they make a strong team with Stahma providing the words and Datak providing the action. “They are both survivors,” claims Murray, “And they work together very well. Everybody needs each other in this show.”
Grant Bowler plays Joshua Nolan, a scoundrel with a heart of gold who is cut from the same cloth as Han Solo. While on the run with his adopted alien daughter Irisa, he finds himself the newly appointed law in Defiance. Think Mal Reynolds with a bit of a dark side. "I play a victim of all the women in the show,” according to Bowler. “My objective is to kiss all the girls in town in order to steal all of the money.”
Playing Bowler’s daughter is Stephanie Leonidas, who you might recognize from Neil Gaiman’s MirrorMask. Leonidas commented on her relationship with her father figure Joshua, saying, “They are fiercely loyal to each other, but as with any father/daughter relationship, they have their ups and downs. It's similar to any father/daughter relationship, except with knives.” Irisa isn't happy about being in Defiance, and she tends to be a rebellious and passionate character.
Mia Kirshner plays Kenya, a madam or “pleasure ambassador” in the town of Defiance at the Need Want Club, where every fantasy you can have resides within. According to Kirshner, Kenya inhabits a world where she can cross over between the different species, and “She's a pretty naughty character, although she is also grounded in a strong reality.”
The game and the television series intersect in many places. For instance, the concept vehicles that are in the game, when the team tried to build practical versions, they found that they would fall over or not climb a hill. The practical designers would talk to the game designer, changes would be made and then sent back to the set. Game designers would see what the television crews were working on, and vice verse, and that would affect the design process, and eventually became a constant flow.
Syfy is putting a lot of work into this series, and they’ve arranged a stellar cast. By starting players in this world and introducing this to the conflict at large, gamers stand a chance to hit the ground running when Defiance premieres in April 2013.