The MMO Geek: You got your TV show in my MMO!
The first time I read that Star Wars was being made into an MMO, I was giddy. The same went for Lord of the Rings and Age of Conan. All of these were IP’s that were popular outside of the online gaming genre, despite the fact that they most definitely influenced many game creators. For these worlds to be suddenly available for mass consumption in the form of MMOs made me so excited, as I could not wait to run around in R.E. Howard’s Hyboria, destroy filthy orcses in Middle Earth, or sample some of Tatooine’s blue milk- which, by the way, still sounds delicious to me. All these games have an established mythos, and I’ve invested time either watching or reading about all of them. It’s the dream of every little kid: experience the world (virtually, that is) that you grew up loving.
That said, when I heard SyFy was developing a TV series that would run hand-in-hand with an MMO ala Defiance, my first reaction was an eye-roll so intense that I was forced to stare at the ceiling for two days. Part of this may be my bias in regards to movies that premiere on SyFy- I’m still shocked I made it through their rendition of Children of the Corn, and I refuse to watch any movie that features a Sharktopus, Mega Shark, or Dinocroc. Even the fantasy movies I would have found cool at 13 seem so cheesy and painful now. Nowadays I like my fantasy high, dark, and with a heavy helping of Sean Bean wielding a bastard sword. If this new Defiance show features the same quality of acting and direction that those old SyFy originals did, I’ll be pretty disappointed.
I should take this moment to acknowledge that yes, there are some cool shows on SyFy, and if they can do it right, I’ll definitely check out Defiance. I enjoy me some Warehouse 13 and Eureka when it was on, and I should state that I’ve heard nothing but awesome things about Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, and Mystery Science Theater. But bottom line, I’ve never been a big fan of SyFy originals, and so I am quite apprehensive when it comes to Defiance.
This past weekend, Defiance hosted a beta event wherein PC, Xbox, and PS3 gamers got a chance to hop on and see what this game is all about. To sum it up, Defiance is an MMO shooter that takes place in a futuristic world where a hodgepodge of aliens have landed on Earth, shacked up, and now coexist with humans. It takes elements of an FPS and puts them firmly in an MMO framework. The biggest draw seemed to be dynamic events wherein huge supply drops would fall from the sky, and players would battle either the environment or others in order to secure rare items. Sounds kinda cool.
However, I’m still unsure about the idea of a game running alongside a TV show. The skeptic in me says the show will be corny and cheap, and eventually canceled due to budgeting issues, which will in turn cause the game to become confused and eventually go free-to-play, where it will experience niche success. However, the kid in me wants super hard to believe; the studio has talked up a variety of DLCs that will presumably launch during key moments during the show. In that way, the game seems awesome. If the show can affect the game, and perhaps the game could affect the show, then you could create some really dynamic and interesting storylines that are driven by players.
This is such an interesting experiment. Should it succeed, perhaps we’ll see other tie-ins or other companies try to replicate such a feat. If it fails miserably, it’ll be a big discouragement for any studious who thought this idea was a good one. Personally, I hope it succeeds; I always hope games succeed, as it means nothing but good things for the genre as a whole. Innovations are so rare, any developers willing to take a chance deserve some props. All that said, it is still important that both facets of the concept be well-done. If the game is clunky and unappealing, the idea fails. If the show is corny and poorly directed, the idea fails. It’s a high-risk, high-reward sort of project, and I for one am super anxious to see how it turns out. Hell, if it goes great then maybe I’ll finally get The Office Online game I’ve been waiting for!
Or maybe not.