Tue. May 30th, 2023
You can see that guy on the ATV practicing for his close-up on the TV show...

You can see that guy on the ATV practicing for his close-up on the TV show…

Trion worlds

Building a massively multiplayer game on top of an existing sci-fi universe is nothing new, as everyone who has played The Matrix online, Star Wars Galaxiesor Battlestar Galactica online can you tell. But with defianceMMO developer Trion Worlds is trying to create a new dynamic where events that take place in the game directly affect the plot and storylines in a concurrently running Syfy network TV show, and vice versa.

More than four years in the making, the team behind it defiance finally reveals details about both the game (which will be available on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360) and the show ahead of a planned launch in April 2013. Set in the near future, the world of defiance is built on the premise of a group of alien ships crash-landing on Earth and terraforming the planet in significant and somewhat destructive ways.

At a press event, the show’s creators emphasized the human scale of what is essentially an immigrant drama, in which the citizens of this new world try to rebuild and “not just survive, but really live.” The game, on the other hand, will mainly focus on shooting stuff. A short hands-on demo had groups of players riding ATVs through a beautiful desolate landscape and coming together to fight against increasingly powerful groups of beetle-like “hellbugs” dropping from the sky.

It may sound difficult to connect those two very different experiences in a meaningful way, but there are some ways that participation in one side of the “transmedia experience” can contribute to the other. The creators gave an example of an in-game quest where players work with non-player characters to save a gem from a group of aliens. Those characters eventually steal the gem for themselves and drive away from the San Francisco game setting. In the opening sequence of the show’s first episode, those same two characters are seen driving into the show’s setting of St. Louis, stolen gems in tow.

The idea is that playing the game isn’t absolutely necessary to understand the show, but it can help make the experience richer. “If you think about it from the perspective of someone who just watched the pilot, two characters who obviously stole something, are driving at breakneck speed, they’re clearly being chased – it really sets the start of the show really well,” Trion Nick Beliaeff, head of world development, told Ars Technica. “But if you’ve played the game, you know Why.”

But the integration can also go deeper. The show could introduce a new storyline about a mysterious plague ravaging the entire continent, Beliaeff said. Players in the game could then work towards finding a cure. If the cure is found, the specific player who dredged it up could be named on the show, or even become a walk-on character in a future season, events Beliaeff likened to “winning the lottery.”

But what happens if players don’t find the cure in time for the next episode? “Watch the show to find out,” Beliaeff teases.

Protecting what he called the “secret sauce” of how to control for highly interactive event results while producing a non-interactive, long-running TV show, Beliaeff said the creators have developed a “well-oiled machine” based on coordinating pivots. within the defiance universe. “I can’t stress enough how much planning we have to do to make the interconnectivity work,” he said, noting that 20 to 30 people at Trion work with their counterparts at Syfy through daily meetings and regular summits.

“We started the project in a more traditional ‘games-and-Hollywood’ way. They sent us scripts asking ‘does this work’ – and it didn’t work,” he said. “They’re about characters and all that stuff, and for us… we care, but we don’t start with that. What’s the art, what’s the technology, what’s the gameplay style? When we realized that once realised, we took a step back and taught each other – this is how you make a game, this is how you make a show, this is what we should do first, this is what they should do first.

It remains to be seen whether Trion and Syfy can meaningfully realize this ambitious integration. Still, it’s nice to see someone trying to thread the cross-media licensing needle with something more substantial than characters and setting from an established movie or TV universe.

By akfire1

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