Farewell WoD, though we hardly knew thee

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the cancellation of World of Darkness.

wodSad news has broken today, CCP have announced the cancellation of their long-delayed Vampire MMO World of Darkness.

Along with development on the game being officially halted, 56 employees from the Atlanta office have lost their jobs, although CCP hopes to offer some of them work elsewhere within the company.  Which probably means that the majority are now out of work.  I am gathering from a bit of social media that the staff were informed back on Friday, which suggests that the decision to pull the plug was made in the last week.  I’m sure we can all get behind wishing everyone affected well and hope they get back on their feet soon.

As a gamer, this is of course disappointing news.  WoD was first announced back at Fanfest 2006 which was my first Fanfest and a very long time ago.  I wish I could say that WoD’s cancellation is surprising, but frankly the game has been skirting the edges of development hell for a long time now.  Each time it has looked like development was about to take a stride forward there has been an announcement following it of further delays or ‘refocusing’.  Or just prolonged periods of no news at all.  I got to see the presentation at Fanfest last year which I thought looked promising, but it was clear that the game was still far from ready.  I wouldn’t have expected even a closed beta for another year yet.

Maybe its that ‘first fanfest’ thing, but I’ve always had a soft spot for WoD even though we knew damned little about it.  Actually it is probably because Vampire The Masquerade – Bloodlines was a brilliant if unfinished game that I really got into back in the day.  So I’m disappointed that WoD the MMO is no more.  I suppose the positive in this would have to be looked for in this part of Hilmar’s statement.

The remaining team in Atlanta will focus on games in the EVE Universe, which will mark the first time since 2006 that the entirety of CCP will be working on a single universe.

One less game in development does mean that CCP don’t need to think about anything but how to push the EVE Universe forwards and now have the entirety of their development resources to bring to bear on achieving that lofty goal.  I can think of three directions they might go from here.

1) Put the remaining Atlanta team to work on either one of EVE-Online, Dust514 or EVE Valkyrie to speed up development or perhaps more likely divide them up into teams working across all three.

2) Put the resources into a fourth project within the EVE Universe.  I actually hope they don’t do this yet, as their existing commitments could all surely do with the extra manpower.  Particularly on things like fleshing out Dust514 (its supposed to have PVE content and meaningful links to EVE), a Starbase revamp for EVE or just getting Valkyrie launched on time and in good shape.

3) This feels like a long shot, but they could re-task the people who have already been working on an avatar-based MMO to take another shot at making Incarna into an actual thing.  I have long felt that the failure of Incarna in 2011 set EVE’s future prospects back by years, but going back to try again is a risk given the scale of the failure last time.

I think any of that could turn actually out pretty well for the EVE Universe (if the additional manpower is put to good use, ofc) and Hilmar is likely right that this move will help to consolidate the company and place CCP in a stronger position for the time being.  But I still don’t feel like it is a win long-term.

CCP will remain for the foreseeable future a company entirely reliant upon one intellectual property – the EVE Universe.  WoD at least offered the chance to diversify and expand further.  It also offered the chance to battle-test new ideas and technologies such as CCP’s avatar tech in a separate live product that could have fed back into their EVE products.  Now that is off the table, and CCP must rely upon the EVE Universe for everything including the future of the company.  Will that make CCP more determined to forge ahead, or more wary lest they slay the golden goose?

Time will be the judge I suppose.

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