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The World of Darkness likes the shadows. I mean, it’s a tabletop role-playing game universe (one that’s becoming increasingly digital) about vampires, werewolves, and other monsters. Yet the Paradox Interactive-owned franchise is shedding some light on how it’s approaching development going forward, including how this influences actual play livestreams such as “L.A. By Night” and the development on Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines II and other video games.
A few years after buying original IP holder White Wolf, Paradox Interactive is bringing all core World of Darkness IP development in-house, and it’s now working with Renegade Game Studios on supplemental material (this means products that aren’t the main books). The idea here is to better focus on the world-building of games such as Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse, which already have a good reputation for their narrative bones. And all of this work includes World of Darkness’ growing presence in video games and actual play shows on Twitch and YouTube.
And as that presence grows, the World of Darkness has been expanding its reach in video games. One of its partners recently released Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Heart of the Forest, a fantastic “Choose Your Adventure”-style text adventure for PC. It’s even getting a VR game with Wraith: The Oblivion — Afterlife.
Curious about what all of this means, I had a short email chat with Paradox’s Justin Achili. He’s the brand creative lead for World of Darkness, and he gave me a little look at what this means for the brand and the games (both analog and digital) that so love the shadows.
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This is an edited transcript of the interview.
GamesBeat: What does bringing all development on World of Darkness in-house mean?
Justin Achili: Development for the World of Darkness happens in two tiers. The first of this is the core IP development, setting the foundations and pillars for each of the WoD sub-brands, the overall worldbuilding. From this, Paradox creates a TTRPG that represents the experience, and any dependent materials, such as the sect books for Vampire.
The second tier is supplementary material, which we work directly with our creative partner, Renegade Game Studios, to create. These are things like regional sourcebooks, chronicles, guides to factions, and the like that support the Paradox-developed TTRPG.
GamesBeat: Does this mean that all video game stories will be developed either in-house or start in-house?
Achili: Paradox works directly with creative partners to help determine the best creative fit for the stories they want to tell. This can mean that they come to us with a story idea for a game and we help them deliver an authentic WoD experience, or it can mean the creative partner comes to us with an interesting game system or mechanic and we suggest a good IP match for it. It gives creative partners a huge amount of leeway to propose what they want to make and we help shape it into something that, based on our development of the IP, we want to offer and we think the audience will enjoy, all while remaining true to the World of Darkness.
GamesBeat: So for your partners, will all actual-play shows start their creation in-house? Or will you still be giving them lots of latitude?
Achili: As with video game partners, “official” actual-play shows will enjoy the same wide latitude. Producers of these shows propose story arcs, characters, or featured elements to us and we help realize those in a way that shows how players can make their own stories like these, or just let the players enjoy watching them on their own merits. And beyond that, of course, players can create their own actual-plays from the parts of the WoD that are most compelling to them.
GamesBeat: Does this mean Paradox may make a World of Darkness video games in-house?
GamesBeat: Why make this change now?
Achili: There are a lot of really cool World of Darkness projects in the works right now, and bringing IP development in-house helps us be a better partner to those creatives, and makes the World of Darkness brand more valuable to them through greater consistency and authenticity. For example, we’re working with Fast Travel Games on Wraith: The Oblivion — Afterlife and the World of Darkness has never had a virtual reality title before, so our firsthand IP development lets them deliver a more authentic World of Darkness experience. This is great for keeping consistency among traditional media titles as well as ventures into new expressions of the WoD, such as the interactive audio story developed by Earplay, The Orpheus Device.
GamesBeat: D&D has experienced amazing growth in 5E. How has World of Darkness‘s growth been?
Achili: World of Darkness has seen explosive growth over the last few years that has been driven by a combination of high-quality products and expanding beyond our core TTRPG books. In addition to TTRPGs, we’ve had video games, web shows, comics, audio books, and more. People want quality stories and we’ve shown that World of Darkness can deliver — millions of people have watched the “L.A. By Night” web series, Vault’s Vampire: The Masquerade comic topped sales charts, Vampire: The Masquerade – Walk Among Us audio book was recommended by The New York Times, and the list goes on. There are now more ways than ever before to experience a World of Darkness story which has had a positive effect on our TTRPG community with Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition becoming our most successful core book to-date.
GamesBeat: How has the pandemic affected this? Or does working online really not affect how you work on World of Darkness?
Achili: In some cases, working from home is actually more convenient for IP development, because when I need to get a chunk of writing done, I can just do it. But developing IP is collaborative work, so we have a lot of shared documentation for review, we have daily meetings to discuss developments, we have a lot of venues where we can assess what’s important to bring new people into WoD and satisfying the audience that’s already with us. As well, we work with freelancers for things like writing, editing, art, and diversity reading, and it doesn’t matter to them whether I check my email from home or from the office. It’s a team effort that brings a lot of perspectives to the table.
The virtual table.
GamesBeat: Does being at home make it more difficult to evaluate art, as different members of the team may be looking at it on screens of differing qualities?
Achili: Oh, this is a great question! This came up this very week, in fact, as we’ve been working on the Vampire: The Masquerade Companion. I think it’s actually been more fruitful recently, because we’re able to get more eyes on the art and quick turnaround, and artists are often working similarly. Earlier this week, we had a piece of art for which we requested a change, and within 15 minutes, the art director, Tomas Arfert, not only had the change back, he had it updated in the proof. In general, each person is looking at the art for different things. I’m looking for specific, fine-grained bits of content, while others are looking for composition, image quality, color curve, and other visual- and layout-specific elements that I don’t even have the vocabulary for.
Update, 10:40 a.m. Friday, November 13 with more answers from Justin Achili and correcting that Paradox didn’t buy White Wolf last year.
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