The World of Darkness will be brutal, social, and player-driven, but it’s also years away

The World of Darkness will be brutal, social, and player-driven, but it’s also years away

CCP gave fans an idea of what was going on with the upcoming World of Darkness MMO, but it was a low-key affair. The presentation consisted mostly of dry technical videos about the tools made to create the game. During a brief in-game video, featuring many effects that were added in post-production, CCP officials prowled the crowd looking for cameras to confiscate. The press was given no images, assets, or logos to use in our coverage.

I sat with Chris McDonough, the executive producer of the game, and he claimed part of his job was to minimize this sort of coverage. He seemed a little annoyed to be talking with me at all, although he warmed up once we began discussing the game.

“My role is to minimize the PR. I don’t want to support it. I wasn’t kidding when I said I didn’t want that video up, and we’ll try to get it taken down and if pops up anywhere,” he said, indicating the short tech demo we had seen. So why show anything?

“I think because it’s the tenth anniversary Hilmar [Veiger, CEO of CCP] wanted us to show some of it, because it’s been a long time and people lose faith. I specifically, as the producer, said I want to lay low. I don’t want to do press for three years, I don’t want to be Duke Nukem. I don’t want to be that product. That’s not us, it’s a different process.”

Creating technology to create a World… of Darkness

The World of Darkness team has worked on multiple projects at CCP, and is sharing technology with the company’s other titles and teams. Right now there are 70 people working on the tools and technology that will be used to build the World of Darkness, and it was stressed that the game is in pre-production. Don’t expect it this year, or even in 2014. The game has a long way to go.

“What we’re doing is building a lot of tools, and we’re trying to do it in a smart way… we have to be able to use the tools to make up the ground for the number of guys we have,” McDonough said. 70 people, even in pre-production, is a small crew. “Now, we’ll ramp the team up when it comes time to go into actual production but, for sure, we’re making phenomenal progress.”

Like EVE Online, World of Darkness is going to take place in a single shard; everyone who plays the game will be playing together. Unlike EVE, the action happens at a fast pace, and the team is re-writing much of the EVE Online technology to make that possible.

“We’re making sure this is a next-generation MMO. It’s very focused on movement and motion and capturing what it’s like to be a vampire,” McDonough explained. “People ask about our high level designs for World of Darkness, and we’ve called this a vampire simulator. What’s it like to be a vampire. Not a super hero, but a super-powered individual. The way the characters move around the city feels very vampiric.”

The short tech demo we saw during the presentation proved this out. A female character ran along the city, climbing up walls, walking through what looked to be a club. I saw hints of the Disciplines I remember from the tabletop game, such as Celerity and Obfuscation. The woman takes down a single male vampire, before others join the fight. The screen fades to black. 

Hints and teases and beautiful things lurking in the night

We know so very little about the game, but a few details have slipped through. You’ll have to respect The Masquerade, the set of rules that require vampires to remain unknown to human. The original clans will be in the game, and you’ll begin your character as a mortal who is then embraced and turned. The game will focus on vampires, although other White Wolf properties may be brought in, such as Werewolf, Mage, or Changeling. [Correction: this story originally stated the original 13 clans will be in the game, while the quote from 2012 Fanfest simply said the original clans, which could simply mean the 7 Camarilla clans.]

McDonough refused to give me any details about the combat, other than to say it will feel very “active.” The combat and social systems are important, as World of Darkness won’t have much in the way of a story. Not that there won’t be stories, but the stories will be created by the players, not the developers. You won’t have a group of vampires crowding around quest givers, and just like EVE there will be places where it isn’t safe to go unless you’re rolling with a crew.

“We’re not focused on story-driven content right now. The story is driven by the players, maximizing the interaction between the players, and having them drive the story,” McDonough told the Report. “Who is going to be the Prince of the city is about politics, and interactions, it’s not about finding a box that makes you Prince. That’s something we’re focused on; it’s very much player-to-player stories. It’s very much an emergent world.”

Territory, and the groups of players who control that territory, will be a large part of the game. Expect politics, back-stabbing, and a brutal world. During a playtest in January with a limited number of participants there were 3,360 kills between players. Life as a vampire is often nasty, brutish, and short.

Everything he says about the game has me crawling up the walls in anticipation. EVE Online produces wonderful drama simply by sitting back and allowing the players to fight over territory and resources.

Imagine what can happen when groups of Brujah invade a city and try to overthrow the Prince. Imagine Nosferatu controlling the sewers and dark places of the city, charging the hunted cash in exchange for sanctuary. Imagine a Prince sanctioning a kill, and that player being hunted or driven out of the city. All of these things could be possible, and they’ll be controlled by the players.

On the other hand, we’ll have a wait of two or more years before we get a chance to play any of this. Although McDonough began the interview not wanted to say much of anything, he’s clearly happy with the work being done and the direction of the game.

“We’ve made fantastic progress in the last year,” he told me, leaning forward. “It’s amazing, I wish I could show you the game in action.”