World of Darkness MMO detailed: permadeath, player-controlled cities, and human blood as a resource
“It all begins when you die,” the video shown at the beginning of the World of Darkness panel told attendees. The developers working on the game can relate; CCP laid off 20 percent of its workforce in 2011, with many developers let go from the Atlanta office, where World of Darkness was being developed. We haven’t seen much from the World of Darkness MMO since, but that’s about to change. The presentation was shown in one of the smaller theaters at CCP’s Fanfest in Iceland, but fans packed the seats, with many standing near the walls without being able to see the screen. They just wanted to hear news about the game. Interest in White Wolf’s long-running table-top world of vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures remains strong.
“Our project is still very much in active development,” World of Darkness Senior Producer Chris McDonough said. “Part of the reason we’ve been keeping it such a secret is that I don’t want to release any information until we’re ready to show something that really makes you go nuts. I don’t want to feed a marketing machine for years and years.”
I had spoken to CCP CEO Hilmar Pétursson earlier that day, and he also noted the company’s dedication to the game. “We have about 60 people working on it, and they have made amazing progress now that they’ve been given clearer direction and priorities. They’ve put it upon themselves to do that,” he said. “Everyone at CCP wants to see World of Darkness made real.”
What vampires and space ships have in common
The team has learned from the success of EVE Online; every World of Darkness player will be on the same shard, interacting with each other in the same virtual world. This won’t be a “fruity, care bear game,” we’re told during the presentation. There will be nothing that resembles Twilight. The play of World of Darkness will be based around politics, deceit, and violence. The game world is made up of stylized versions of real-world cities and, while there is some danger of players migrating to the more popular cities, it will be a self-correcting issue: If too many characters are trying to control New York, it will create a power vacuum in other areas of the game. If the battle for control of one area becomes too bloody, players can use that opportunity to gain power elsewhere.
Each city in the game will be controlled by a Prince, and those Princes will be player characters, not NPCs. You’ll have to gain support among other players and fight your way to power, but the rewards will be many. As a Prince, you can call a blood hunt on other players, a sort of declaration of war on individuals that calls every vampire to destroy the selected character. This can even lead to permadeath. In other words, don’t piss off the guy in charge, as he has the ability to potentially remove your character from the game entirely. Or course, using power recklessly may lead to player revolt, and the Prince can be overthrown. “Just because you’re undead doesn’t mean you can’t be destroyed,” we’re told.
There will be a focus on vampires in the early days of the game, but other creatures from the World of Darkness may be added in future expansions. Their interactions are described as animals leaving territorial markings, and we’re assured that vampires and werewolves won’t be competing for the same resources. What resources matter in the game? As a vampire you need blood to survive, which makes human society the ultimate resource. Whoever controls the cities controls the blood supply. The game will be a competition for territory and power, just like EVE Online.
Small parts of the game are already playable. “We actually built something called World of Darkness Year One, which was a full vertical slice of all the features we intended the have in the game,” McDonough said. They ran a global playtest between all the CPP offices for about two weeks, and the feedback was rolled back into the game. We’re shown a brief technology demo of what the environments may look like, and the graphics are impressive. The artwork that is shown on the screen during the panel is dark and twisted, and is reminiscent of the tone and feel of the early Vampire: The Masquerade source books.
Right now the team is focusing on hiring more staff, building up development tools and creating game play. After this presentation they expect to fade back into the shadows, although more details will be coming by the end of the year. There is no release date, but the few details given during the presentation were more than enough to re-energize the CCP and White Wolf faithful who traveled to Iceland for Fanfest.
The World of Darkness, and particularly Vampire: The Masquerade has always been about power, politics, and subterfuge. CCP may be the perfect company to recreate that environment in an online game; EVE Online already excels at allowing players to make their own rules and fight for power and control. This is a detail that CEO Hilmar Pétursson understands. “If EVE was this, oh my god, what will World of Darkness become?” Pétursson told the Penny Arcade Report. “What if we take all this learning and all this understanding, and put it into that world? Mankind will not be the same.”