Defiance Interview with Rob Hill – Part 1
Whilst getting our hands dirty previewing Defiance, the brand new MMO shooter coming to consoles this April, we also got the chance to sit down for a chat with Senior Producer, Rob Hill.
In part one, we discuss the idea process behind merging a game with a TV series, how the second season might pan out, and a bit of background on Defiance’s story.
For more information, head over to the Defiance website.
What was it that prompted the idea of creating an MMO that coincided with a television show?
It really started with the fact that NBC Universal is an investor in Trion and they also own Syfy. When we first got into this we started looking at NBC Universal and Syfy properties to say “hey, we want to make this mass-online game – what properties exist in our investor that we can take advantage of?” What we discovered was that television shows and movies tend to be kind of small, because they have to tell a drama, or a comedy or whatever and they don’t think about a huge science-fiction universe. We explained this to our CEO – we showed him the list and we’re like “see, with all these we can’t really make a massive online game based around them”, so he went to dinner with the president of the Syfy channel, Dave Howe.
He told him that “we’re looking for some properties, and we looked through your stuff – it’s just not big enough.” Howe then said “why don’t we forget looking at existing properties and start one from scratch and since we’re starting it from scratch, from both sides (for a TV show and a game), why don’t we figure out how they can kind of influence each other; have things happen in one that happen in the other?” We then started talking with Syfy, even before the deal was completed, to learn about what’s required to have a good show and what’s required to have a good game, educating both sides, because I had no idea how to make a TV show, they had didn’t know how to make a game – to make sure that one didn’t have to sacrifice for the other. We really needed to build the universe around the fact that we had to excel at both. That’s really the story of how it started.
Although the TV series and the game are intertwined, can you for example just pick up the game and play that, or just watch the TV show all the way through?
Absolutely – what you get is a deeper insight into what’s going on with the ideas that transition back and forth. You’ll get a deeper understanding of hell-bugs for example, the creatures that you fight, in the game simply because you’re dealing with them a lot longer than in a single episode. You don’t have to have that knowledge when you’re watching the episode with the hell-bugs, but you’ll get a much more in-depth knowledge and understanding of what’s going on – “Oh, I know how these hell-bugs are going to act as soon as I see them because I’ve been dealing with them in the game.” But yeah, you don’t have to have that knowledge to watch the episode and still have a great time with it.
What happens if, for example, you watch a bit too much of the show, and then go back to your game – are there elements in the episodes that will spoil the storyline within your game and vice versa if you progress too far too soon?
No, for the most part you shouldn’t. Again, what you do get is a lot more understanding of the individual aliens that occur maybe more in the show than they do in the game, but no, that shouldn’t happen.
How have the characters and actors in the TV series worked with the game?
The actors that we’ve used so far, especially the main characters, are doing voice acting and motion capture for their characters in the game as well.
In theory the idea of a TV series running with a game sounds great. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it works together.
We have a whole plan for the first season, and how it’s going to go back and forth, and it’s really cool.
So if there’s a second season more game content will be released?
There will be much more game content, and we’ve even convinced them to allow the gamers to dictate some of what happens in the second season. We couldn’t do that necessarily in the first season because they’d already finished filming, so nobody’s doing anything right now, but we’ll have players doing stuff that, once we start writing the show, can be worked into the story.
For those who don’t know, could you give us a brief breakdown of the history of the world before we enter the game/series?
Essentially there were seven alien races that existed in a single solar system, and they discovered through a natural process that their star-system was going to be destroyed. They figured it out in enough time to be able to build these giant ships, called Arks, where they could put representatives of their species, and their flora and fauna, and the only place they found to go was Earth – not realising that we were already here. They show up and they’re not conquerors – they just wanted a new place to live, and they try to negotiate rights with the governments (because the governments want their technology) to set aside places for colonisation. The people who would have to be moved to make way for the colonisations weren’t too happy about it, so tensions really grew.
To make a long story short the Arks that were still in orbit were sabotaged and they came raining down on earth. All their terraforming machines fell too, so governments are destroyed, communication breaks down, while these terraformers are all over the place changing the planet. The game and the show take place roughly 40 years after that event, the Earth’s gone through this mass crazy process and now’s a period of regrowth; the old governments are gone, and everyone is trying to deal with that situation. Instead of being aliens versus humans, because of the new harsh environment, the aliens and the humans and trying to figure out how to work together. The aliens themselves though don’t necessarily get along with each other – there’s seven different types roaming around with different cultures – they have to learn to live together too and that’s really what the story behind the show and the game is.