Find out about all of the new information presented at the Fanfest 2012 panel, in addition to an interview with Senior Producer Chris McDonough on the finer details of creating a sandbox character-based MMORPG.
Last week marked the end of EVE Fanfest 2012, and while much of my focus was on EVE's Spring Expansion, "Inferno," and everything DUST 514, I was also looking forward to one unique event slated for Saturday afternoon: the World of Darkness Presentation. I'll admit here: despite the plain title, simply seeing that World of Darkness had not been forgotten for Fanfest 2012 was enough to get me excited.
Back in October, CCP announced that it had laid off around 20% of its global staff - many from its World of Darkness team in Atlanta, GA - to "refocus" efforts on EVE Online and DUST 514. This sad event, combined with the fact that there was only one World of Darkness presentation scheduled within the entire three-day festival, meant that this panel would be a simple reminder of the team's presence, with slim hope for any significant game feature reveals.
Still, the cult popularity of the World of Darkness franchise was enough to pack the theater to capacity (with dozens more waiting in the wings), all eager to hear something from Chris McDonough, Senior Producer for World of Darkness. Chris kicked off the presentation by deferring attention to CCP's marquee title, DUST 514, before captivating the crowd with a closer reveal of their 2010 trailer, this time without the bald head and distorted screen in the way.
Following this, Chris moved to dispel rumors of World of Darkness's struggles, saying that, "reports of our undeath have been greatly exaggerated," and that the team was "very much" in active development. He did, however, acknowledge the cutbacks from late 2011, saying that they had underestimated the amount of effort it would take to modify the EVE engine to create a character-based game. Chris later clarified the issue for me, explaining that, while the EVE Engine has a great underlying network structure, there was a host of new technology the team needed to adapt, including landscape environments, proper character collision, character animations, hand-to-hand combat and more.
The team then moved on to some of CCP's key focuses for World of Darkness, including implementing "intense" hand-to-hand combat, vicious politics, a plethora of fashion choices, stunning visuals and full sandbox control of cities. It all sounds very ambitious and, coming from any other developer, it could be dismissed as uncontrollable hyperbole, but Chris was quick to note that the team has "a lot to live up to," acknowledging both the deep heritage of White Wolf's World of Darkness, as well as EVE Online's own stellar reputation as a sandbox MMORPG (minus all of the Incarna controversies).
After this, the panel opened up for a live Q&A session with CCP Co-Founder / Creative Director Reynir Harðarson and CCP's Chief Marketing Officer David Reid joining Chris McDonough to field audience inquiries. The most interesting fact to come from this session was the confirmation that World of Darkness would be hosted on a single shard, similar to EVE Online. Additionally, the game would be based on the original Vampire: The Masquerade pen and paper RPG, with Reynir covertly confirming that all of the original clans would be available for release. Permanent death will also be a feature within the World of Darkness, with City Princes being able to call "blood hunts" for players to be permanently killed. Finally, one interesting reveal was that all players will start out as mortals and will need to be "turned" in order to become vampires. This has some incredible implications regarding the immersive sandbox qualities of the game, although Reynir couldn't confirm much else beyond that.
Before we left, Chris McDonough had one last gift for the crowd, treating us to some very rough in-game environmental footage of World of Darkness, and man does it look good.