World of Darkness Interview

If Troika's Bloodlines and Nihilistic's Redemption taught us anything, it's that White Wolf's Vampire: The Masquerade setting and rule system adapts well to the video game medium. The company obviously knows this, as they merged with EVE Online developers CCP Games in 2006 and are currently hard at work on bringing the entire World of Darkness universe to the MMO space. All signs point to next month's Grand Masquerade event for the game's official unveiling, but in the meantime, I thought I'd fire over some preliminary questions to White Wolf community developer Shane DeFreest. The company obviously doesn't want to spoil any announcements they intend to make there, but here are the questions they were willing to provide answers to:

GB: The last time I chatted with you, you were over at Maverick PR. When did you make the transition to White Wolf and what was it about the tabletop RPG company that compelled you to join their team?

Shane: Maverick was something my former business partner Brandon Smith and I formed to work on multiple projects. Before that I had always worked pretty much on a single project to project basis. I've worked with Vampire and the White Wolf properties now on and off for fifteen years. (laugh) It's like an old girlfriend that I keep coming back to over and over again. In regards to working at CCP, I've always stayed close friends with everyone at White Wolf and the people at CCP I had met I really liked and respected (irony has it the night they decided to merge their companies was at my house back in 2006 after a long night of post E3 karaoke) so the short answer is a little bit of it is fate but alot of it is that I really just love Vampire and this is easily the most exciting time in the franchise's history and I just could not miss out on being part of that.

GB: Prior to your time at Maverick, you worked with us as the Vampire: Bloodlines community manager at Activision. What was the general mood at Activision and what sort of a relationship did you have with Troika prior to Bloodlines shipping versus post-release?

Shane: It's interesting because Bloodlines is what got me back into working in the video game business. I had moved to LA from San Francisco to work in Hollywood and had not done anything in the gaming industry for close to three years. Again irony strikes and it was my buddy Grant Collier whom I was rooming with at the time and he was just getting his new studio (Infinity Ward) off the ground at Activision and he said they needed a community person for Bloodlines and because of my history with Vampire it seemed like a good work from home gig. Well that was it and back down the rabbit hole I went. As for the mood at Activision at the time, I like to say Bloodlines was a game well before its time. If you look at games like Oblivion or Fallout 3 the idea of a first person RPG seems normal these days but back then I think people did not know what to make of it. Don't get me wrong, the people there who were passionate about the project were very passionate and to their credit did the best they could given the circumstances. Hiring Tim Bradstreet, engaging the White Wolf community all of those things were the right things to do I just think that the game as great as it was just was a little too much ahead of its time for a publisher that really excels in more mainstream products. As for Troika, my experience with Leonard, Tim and their team was always very good. They are all very talented guys and from what I understand most of them have gone on to find good work at other companies.

GB: Unfortunately, Troika Games had to shut its doors not long after the release of Bloodlines. Was Activision displeased with the sales numbers they reached with Bloodlines during its first few months? Was there ever any talk about doing an expansion or anything else that might have helped keep Troika in business?

Shane: I can't really speak for Activision as I didn't have anything to do with the sales figures and as for theorizing about what it would take to keep Troika in business I honestly can't say. The complex relationship between developers and publishers is very similar to the classic Hollywood romance. Some of those relationships are meant to last forever and others are just meant to be a one night stand. They made a great game together that still holds up today. So regardless of what could have, should have, or might have been I just like to celebrate the success of what was done.

GB: Bloodlines has become something of a cult classic to many of us, but Redemption has certainly carved its own niche, too. How does White Wolf regard their first foray into CRPG territory ten years later?

Shane: We're very proud of both of those games, both were trend setting titles that won awards and really put our franchise on the map in terms of a bigger audience. Like I said earlier Bloodlines was a game before its time and Redemption was too. Titles like Neverwinter Nights and Oblivion very much benefitted from the path both of those games paved. The communities for those games are still loyal and strong after all of these years and I feel we are very lucky to have that base of support from the video game audience going forward for things to come. We would not have that if those titles were not great. I was just looking at some of the new Bloodlines mods at Planet Vampire and they are mind blowing. It's amazing what people are still doing with this game.

GB: Does White Wolf know how many copies of Redemption and Bloodlines have been sold to date? Do you still see any royalties from digital sales?

Shane: We know there are a robust amount of fans out there who have enjoyed our Vampire: The Masquerade franchise in the digital video game medium. We're very happy with the amount of people who have and continue to play these games. In all of my time working with gaming communities I've still not found any as loyal and dedicated as the one that came from these games.

GB: When White Wolf merged with Iceland-based MMO developer CCP in 2006, we learned that a massively multiplayer title based on the World of Darkness universe was in development. Almost four years have passed and we still haven't heard or seen anything about the title, save for a couple pieces of concept art on CCP's website. Is there anything you can tell us about the World of Darkness MMO at this point? Or are you holding off until The Grand Masquerade event that you're hosting in New Orleans in September?

Shane: There is no such thing as Vampires. (grin)

GB: How about a Werewolf or Mage title? Have you ever considered developing a video game based on either of those properties?

Shane: We really love that quote you hear politicians use. (We reserve the right to keep all options on the table).

GB: Aside from potential video game announcements, what else do you have planned for The Grand Masquerade? What should we be excited about on the tabletop front, what is Tim Bradstreet going to be showcasing, and how many pints of blood should an attendee have in their possession at all times?

Shane: Like I stated in a previous interview this will be an exciting event for anyone who has ever been interested in the World of Darkness in any of its forms. It's an amazing location, that's beautifully decorated with tons of activities that range from Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (our card game), to table top and a plethora of LARP's from our fan clubs. It's going to be very exciting, I just got the new Tim Bradstreet Grand Masquerade poster piece in today and it's awesome. What's got me the most excited is how many different elements of our community are uniting for the first time. I'm very proud of our fan clubs and the work that they have done to come together and help partner with us on this event. When you have a community that's two decades old it can be challenging to break beyond what's familiar and what's comfortable and that's what the Grand Masquerade event really is for us. It's both a celebration of the past and at the same time a great show of unity where our entire community gets to participate in the first moment of the future of our franchise together. I won't go into all of the details here but we have posted a complete convention schedule up at for those people who are curious. As for pints of blood, I recommend being well rested and having a strong liver, it's going to be a long wild weekend in New Orleans come September.

We look forward to seeing everyone there!

Thanks for your time, Shane!