With Vampire: The Masquerade celebrating twenty years of perpetual darkness, a second Grand Masquerade event quickly approaching, and the World of Darkness MMORPG making considerable progress behind tightly sealed doors, we felt it was the perfect time to check in with White Wolf's Shane DeFreest again to see where the Vampire 20th Anniversary Edition book stands and what sort of debauchery we're going to be participating in on the streets of New Orleans' French Quarter this year.
GB: It's hard to believe that it's already been 20 years since Vampire: The Masquerade was released. How would you define the last two decades for White Wolf, and in what ways has the company and its products changed over the years?
Shane: It is hard to believe if not somewhat unbelievable that it’s been twenty years. It does seem like a long time but to many of us it seems only yesterday that Vampire was just hitting the shelves. To try and define the last two decades for White Wolf is in many ways to try and define Vampire itself. In many, many ways a considerable amount of the common mythology we now culturally associate with the Vampire mythos were really things Vampire: The Masquerade pioneered. Over the years the company and how it has developed has evolved, but that’s part and parcel with any entertainment business I suspect. But to directly answer the question I can say that I would define the first two decades as an amazing success and a very wild ride. We’ve been playing in the dark now for quite a while, and at long last the world seems to be appreciating things that go bump in the night as much as we have all along. For as much as Vampire and the larger World of Darkness has gone through different iterations, revisions and reimagined versions the best thing about what we are doing right now is taking it all back to where it started with the Vampire: the Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition book. It’s really a homecoming of sorts for both our staff and the fans. But to really grasp the full scope of what the project is people should check out vampirethemasquerade.com because that’s where we are crowd sourcing the book as its being developed and where we are working on it together WITH the fans and that’s extremely exciting for both us and them.
GB: In what ways has Vampire's success inspired the direction White Wolf has taken with Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mage: The Ascension, Hunter: The Reckoning, and some of their other popular RPG titles?
Shane: Much like anything that’s an unexpected runaway hit Vampire sort of set the tone, feel and format of things to come after it. The ideas of “Clans” of vampires obviously inspired “Tribes” of Werewolves and things of that nature. Vampire also helped carve out the form and feel as to how the other different games would be in terms of style. Vampire was a very social game because Vampires are social creatures. By way of comparison Werewolf was a very physical and more action oriented game and Mage was more of an esoteric and meant to challenge the mind. Vampire was always the standard that everything was compared to and bounced off of first. It’s always been at the center of the World of Darkness and the other game lines have reflected that to varying degrees.
GB: The first twenty years of Vampire have obviously been very successful for White Wolf. Where do you anticipate taking the franchise in the future? Will there be any major releases or events that we'll be talking about at the 30-year anniversary?
Shane: It’s really hard to answer this question because if you had asked me ten years ago where we would be today I would have not had a clue what to tell you. But Vampire and the World of Darkness are in something of a time of transition and new entertainment mediums are coming to fruition every day. For example I think few people could have predicted how revolutionary the iPad and the whole tablet phenomenon would take hold. Between new emerging technologies like the ipad and the constantly evolving new electronic mediums in the MMO/virtual world area Vampires future is very bright even if the franchise itself is not.
GB: When did you first come up with the idea of doing a 20th anniversary edition of V:tM, and what sort of ideas did you kick around before making the decision to only release a limited number of "print-to-order" copies along with a Grand Masquerade-exclusive version of the book?
Shane: We have been wanting to do something special for the 20th Anniversary of Vampire for a while and it came down to the decision to either do an art book or a commemorative version of the original game. So instead of picking one over the other we basically decided to do both and do a very high end prestige book that’s one part coffee table book and one part ultimate gaming compendium. Initially we were going to do a book with just the 13 original clans and then we decided we wanted to do a version that included all the rare bloodlines and it just sort of grew at that point to be this massive volume with virtually everything in it. In regards to the print-to-order idea, we have been constantly evolving how we directly interact with our fans for some time so this seemed like a great time do something directly from us to them. But fans need to act quickly because if they don’t purchase it by July 1 then they won’t get it at all. That’s the cutoff date for us to send the order to the printer and when it's done, it's done.
GB: Over 400 pages of content are packed into the 20th anniversary edition. Do you feel that these pages encompass everything an enthusiast could ask for in a single book? Is there additional content that you would have liked to add to it, but chose not to in an effort to keep it from becoming unwieldy?
Shane: Actually at this point it looks to be over 500 pages. It keeps growing in leaps and bounds. This book will absolutely encompass everything a longtime fan who really wants all the most important and significant content or from the game line over the last two decades. We have included things from over 20 different books and it keeps growing. But like you say we need to cut it off somewhere and where we really decided to draw the line was probably with things of a historical nature. While we include all the clans and bloodlines that have ever been included in the Vampire franchise the book is distinctly the modern version. We have added some things here and there from the Victorian and Dark Ages versions of the game but those are few and far between. So untimely where we drew the line was the need to keep the game modern with rules and a setting for modern Vampires. Some of the other era’s that the game takes place in are briefly mentioned but they are not the focus.
GB: What does the 20th anniversary edition offer to someone who is completely new to the Vampire: The Masquerade RPG? Does the book cover the game's basics in their entirety, or will an understanding of its mechanics be required or at least beneficial prior to cracking open its cover?
Shane: Overall the Vampire 20th Anniversary Edition is tailored towards the experienced fan. Just so much as that we make certain assumptions in that most people understand at this day and age what a “story themed” RPG is. Back when Vampire was originally released, RPGs were very much designed under a different mindset. To say gaming was more along the lines of kill the ork, get the gold, go up a level, then repeat is fairly accurate. Vampire really changed the idea that the game was more about being part of an interactive storytelling experience than just something you “win”. We don’t believe that we need to educate people like we used to about things like that. Today’s gamers understand story and emotion and the desire to have depth to their games. So lots of the traditional long winded “let me tell you how to run a game” types of content has been removed in favor of adding in more setting material. For new people that might just be getting into Vampire with this book my recommendation would be to get online and find someone experienced to play it with you. Vampire has always been a game we believe people “graduate” to when they are ready for a more mature, intense, edgy adult experience and that’s definitely still the case with the 20th Anniversary Edition.
GB: The second annual Grand Masquerade approaches. What can fans expect from this year's event, and what steps are you taking to ensure that it surpasses last year's experience?
Shane: Well last year’s inaugural event was a HUGE success on all fronts so we definitely have our work cut out for us this year. Being the 20th anniversary, the most significant change from last year’s event is that this year we are dead in the center of The French Quarter where last year we were right outside of it. We have two of the most beautiful historical hotels New Orleans has to offer that will provide us the backdrop for our event. The French Quarter will be all around the event, so that alone will add a completely unique theme and feel to what we are doing. The Grand Masquerade convention is thematically similar in many ways to other “franchise” conventions like Star Wars Celebration, BlizzCon, or our own EVE Fanfest. The main difference is that sets us apart from other events of a similar ilk is our environment. The New Orleans French Quarter is arguably the most popular and iconic location associated with vampire pop culture in the world. In the modern age, it’s arguable to have even eclipsed Transylvania as the most traveled to vampire-related destination. That history and pop culture mystique really sets the perfect stage to give The Grand Masquerade and its attendees a sense of being part of an age old legacy. We know it’s going to be great! For further details on the convention and schedule of events fans should definitely check out thegrandmasquerade.com.
GB: For this year's Grand Masquerade, you've introduced four different ticket types: Ancilla, Elder, Methuselah, and Antediluvian. Can you give us a quick run-down on the differences, and why it would be a good idea for hardcore fans to spring for the $350 Antediluvian ticket?
Shane: We decided to have different ticket packages with the intent of catering to different individuals’ personal interest levels. We thought a novel way to do that would be to classify then in line with the different age brackets found in vampire society. Some people just want to come to the event, play the games and call it a day. For them we have the Ancilla membership. For individuals who are equally interested in the parties and offsite evening events we have the Elder tickets. Then we jump up to the higher end packages, the Methuselah comes with a copy of the 20th Anniversary Edition book, a commemorative T-shirt and a photo at our World of Darkness photo book. For the truly decadent we have a very scant few Antediluvian tickets left. As of this writing I think we’re at about 15. These come with all of the benefits below plus your book is signed and you get invited to a special 20th Anniversary dinner with CCP before our large Saturday night Succubus Club party at midnight. With that package you really get treated like vampire royalty. But regardless which ticket package people choose to purchase they are going to have a great time. We have a lot of fun down in the big easy and we hope to see as many of our fans as possible from all over the world.
GB: We were shown a short cinematic teaser trailer for World of Darkness at last year's Grand Masquerade, and while it set the stage perfectly, it didn't provide any actual gameplay details. Will World of Darkness have a larger presence at this year's event? If so, what exactly will you be showing us, and how much detail are you going to be willing to divulge about the game's core mechanics?
Shane: I can’t really talk too much about the World of Darkness MMO other than to say we will be pulling the proverbial veil back a little bit more at The Grand Masquerade 2011. I’m not going to go into how or what form that might take but we are known for our eccentricities at times. We’re quite certain that like last year our most loyal fans will come away feeling that they were part of a something special and unique.
GB: Beyond what you'll be showing at this year's Grand Masquerade, when do you anticipate being able to promote World of Darkness on a regular basis with screenshots, trailers, interviews, and that sort of thing?
Shane: Again, beyond what we have already spoken about I really don’t have answers for you here. When we do get to that point whenever that might be GameBanshee will absolutely be on our short list of sites to contact :).
GB: While World of Darkness definitely has our attention, we'd love to see another non-MMO cRPG from White Wolf, as well. What are the odds that we'll eventually see something similar to Redemption or Bloodlines again down the road?
Shane: As someone who worked with Activison a bit on Redemption and was the Community Manager on Bloodlines few people would love to see another cRPG game than myself. Redemption was really the game that got me into playing computer games. But at this time nothing is being planned and the focus in the digital medium is squarely on World of Darkness. So at this time I really can’t say, anything is possible down the line. But it’s not going to be happening anytime soon, that much I can tell you.
Thanks for talking with us about the Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary and we hope to see you in New Orleans!