Ideas for the World of Darkness MMOG
October 01, 2010
We got rid of our World of Darkness (WoD) books a couple years ago; we stopped playing games in the WoD setting years before, and while we held onto our WoD library for sentimental reasons, the success of the revised (new) WoD pretty much made our library deprecated anyway. So when more and more rumours of a WoD-based massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) hit the blogosphere, we assumed (though hoped otherwise) that the game would be based on the new WoD setting. It wasn’t until we read developer Justin Achilli’s notes about what players wanted to see in the game that we were surprised; the WoD MMOG will be based on Vampire: the Masquerade (V:tM), which is a component of the old WoD (oWoD), rather on the new WoD’s Vampire: the Requiem setting.
At first thought, we’re disappointed that other WoD campaigns won’t be featured as player characters, but the scope of implementing that kind of game is extreme: just getting the scope for V:tM is more than enough for a developer to deal with. And it’s not like the game can’t feature werewolves, mages, wraiths, and changelings later.
Let’s focus a moment on what some players want, and that’s to capture the setting accurately. The one thing that would utterly ruin a V:tM-based game is if the server population were made up entirely of Kindred (vampires). In the oWoD, Kindred hide from humans for obvious reasons, despite manipulating them from behind the shadows. And there’s no reason this can’t be emulated online.
Visiting cities, and fealty to the Prince.
Let’s assume that every server represents a city and its surroundings. Going beyond that, you’d enter a different city, and thus connect to a different server. But straying away from your city should be risky, or at least not be obstacle-free. However the game decides it, be it via a particular system, developer-run characters, or simply sorted out by the players themselves, each city has a Prince, who rules the city and keeps tabs on all its supernatural denizens. When a player leaves their home city, they should feel like they’re in foreign territory; in the oWoD, Kindred laws require visitors to check in with their destination’s Prince, else are trespassing. An easy mechanic to handle this would be to require every Kindred character to check in with the Prince or his counsel. Only then will he be flagged as a guest (safe), and able to go about his business normally, whether that’s meeting with other characters or simply grinding through quests. If the visiting Kindred fails to check in, however, or his request to visit is denied, he is flagged as a trespasser, and everyone in the city is free to hunt him.
This does two things: one, it keeps Kindred populations down in most cities, and two, it introduces a controlled PvP atmosphere to the game, especially when you have to consider the masquerade.
Using minions, and not getting caught.
In the oWoD, Kindred don’t walk around in the sun because they’d burn. And they don’t walk around using their powers around regular people because they’d eventually get caught and… burn. The masquerade is basically the Kindred’s philosophy of fitting in: acting like a human around most people. If they don’t, they’re not only likely to be noticed by Hunters (humans who seek out and destroy the supernatural), but by other supernaturals as well.
So, we have a pretty contained system here: if the WoD MMOG has a day/night cycle, it means that free movement outside is impossible. Yes, Kindred can move around freely indoors, and maybe even get around the city via a subway, tunnels, et al. But either way, they’re limited in what they can do by day. So, limit players by how many Vampire characters they can play, but let them play several humans over time, maybe by letting them unlock human character slots as they progress through the game. These human characters would serve several purposes: ghouls, blood dolls, retainers, etc. Basically, characters that serve some purpose to the Kindred character, by supplying them with sustenance, or running daytime errands. And during the day, this can be useful; there’s no reason that these minions can’t grind quests on behalf of the Kindred character during the day, or, really, be the only ones who can do most daytime quests.
At night, when Kindred characters can roam city streets freely, there’s still the issue of the masquerade, and CCP merely needs to populate the streets, bars, clubs, et al with human non-player-characters (NPCs). Most such NPCs don’t need to be sophisticated: they’d walk around, dance, and do other banal activities. And if a Kindred character does something clearly supernatural around them, be it throwing a small car or turning into mist, then there should be repercussions. One, from other player characters in the vicinity (by immediately flagging the offending character), else by other NPCs in a Grand Theft Auto-style chase. This doesn’t have to be by lowly police officers who are called on scene, but by more supernatural peace-keepers: werewolves and mages, who themselves don’t want people stumbling upon the supernatural, and especially hate vampires.
These measures, too, will keep Kindred characters from becoming too comfortable out and about, making the WoD MMORPG a more elegant affair than the traditional hack’n slash MMORPG; Kindred characters need to be subtle around human characters, utilizing their minions effectively, and utilizing their powers only when desperately needed.
More EVE and less Warcraft.
Will CCP push elements of the irregular MMOG play-style associated with EVE, rather than focusing on “traditional” MMORPG elements embraced by games like World of Warcraft? We hope so, but in the end, it will likely be a blend of the two. Yet, a WoD MMOG has a lot of potential to break the mold, assuming it’s development team is willing to take the time to truly study the source material and understand what makes it different from typical hack’n slash roleplaying games. The end result probably won’t be a game that caters to the World of Warcraft crowd, but then again, neither is EVE, and only a fool would consider that to be unsuccessful.