Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

How White Wolf Went Bye-Bye

Posted by Rampant Coyote on June 17, 2014

Man. I must be getting old. I remember when White Wolf Publishing was the hot new concept in the dice & paper gaming community. I had friends who playtested an early version of Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Vampire: The Masquerade was the hot new trend in gaming.  The rules were clever but imbalanced, the rulebook was so poorly organized you needed to memorize it to remember where everything was. But the text was full of flavory goodness. They sold a setting and a vibe. It was good.

Except for a bit of RPG snobbishness, at least. Which is kinda weird. I mean, seriously? We’re all RPG fans, but you are going to act like you are superior because you play a particularly trendy RPG? No thank you. (I kinda remember a story by Clark Peterson about how they were at GenCon one year playing a good ol’ fashioned D&D game, but it was so crowded they were in one of the halls. A bunch of people dressed goth-y walked by and made disparaging remarks about the kinds of gamers who were still playing Dungeons & Dragons. What said pretentious douches didn’t know is that the people playing D&D were largely White Wolf authors, the people who DESIGNED the game they were acting superior about).

I had high hopes for ’em when CCP bought them out. The potential of a World of Darkness MMO just sounded so frickin’ cool. When it was canceled, and White Wolf Publishing has pretty much ceased to exist as a functioning entity within CCP. I was really disappointed by the news, and wondered what had happened.

We may never know all the details. Having been in that situation myself a few times, I’d guess that no one employee knows all the details. But at least some of the mystery has been revealed:

The Guardian: World of Darkness – The inside story on the death of a game

It sounds like… in spite of years (and many complete rewrites) and some actual playability in some builds… they really weren’t that far along. Ever. So we didn’t miss out on much.

I’ve also noticed two behaviors that game companies tend to exhibit when they’ve managed to knock one out of the park (especially when they do so on their first major “try”): Hubris, or impostor syndrome. In the former case, the company assumes that if they pulled it off and managed the impossible, they must be specially gifted (with more than luck). They believe they can do no wrong, entitled to success, and can get away with poor practices because it will certainly be worth it in the end. In the latter case, the company management is haunted by the realization that they got lucky once, and that it will be very hard to top their mega-hit, and get paralyzed into never completing anything. Both behaviors can be extremely self-destructive.

Hopefully I’ll stay level when I finally hit the big time. How’s that for optimism? 🙂

Filed Under: Biz - Comments: 8 Comments to Read

  • Vatina said,

    If I ever managed something like that, I imagine suffering the imposter syndrome…

    Best case scenario it would just mean earning enough money to be able to go on making fun things.

  • Aaron Nowack said,

    Just in case you are unaware, the actual tabletop RPG side of White Wolf was more-or-less spun-off as “Onyx Path Publishing” a couple years ago and is still going strong, or at least as strong a tabletop RPG companies get nowadays.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I’d seen that – though I wasn’t sure how much it was “spun off,” though I knew it had some of the dice-and-paper licenses.

  • Maklak said,

    I had fond memories of VtM, but it is a combination of my GM being particularly good and me liking point-buy systems. I don’t like DnD, because it has a level system with enemies scaling to present a challenge to players, wealth by level and other bullshit. WoD may not be balanced, especially not for different kinds of reality deviants cooperating in one group, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. Balance issues are easy to fix to a competent GM, but blandness and built-in flaws of level based system, like DnD are unfixable.

    Sadly, most cRPGs take the DnD approach to character advancement and only gives so much character points to spend per level and excepts everyone to min-max. Point-buy systems with quadratic cost per “dot” penalize jacks of all trades less.

    Ugh, I’m not even sure, I’m making sense. Anyway, I don’t like DnD, Pathfinder and all that.

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    I’m not surprised, honestly. When I was going to school and working in Atlanta I had some dealings with CCP Atlanta, and it left me with a poor taste in my mouth. They’d ask for certain people to apply and then they would, and not hear anything back for weeks or months. When CCP requested the contact to begin with. As the article says, it appears CCP management was disorganized. I can back up the article – most of the people I knew or talked to in game development in Atlanta were sour on CCP.

    It’s a shame. I knew a couple of the White Wolf designers who worked on VtM. I got the privilege to actually have one as a professor for a class. They were extremely talented and hard-working. (And it suddenly makes sense why he was working a teaching position and not at CCP. He left for a while to work for them again, and then showed back up at the school again a year later. Not a good sign.)

    @ Maklak
    I like the point-buy systems best too. It seems much more realistic to me. People get better at DOING THINGS, they don’t become much more resilient to being bludgeoned to death. I liked that a werewolf in VtM stayed a terrifying foe to a vampire. Not being able to go toe-to-toe in a brawl with an enemy makes sense, and forced the player to act like a vampire instead. You had to beat them with cunning, trickery, and a good plan.

    How much more interesting would D&D be if you couldn’t engage a dragon head-on without being killed, no matter how high level you were? Because you are a person with a sword, and that is a primordial dragon god that breathes death. At no point should your human muscles become strong enough to poke the dragon to death with a metal stick, or shrug-off being bathed in liquid flame. As Maklak said, a level-based system creates a monster arms-race, where-as in a point-based system the same types of monsters can stay relevant and a challenge.

  • Daniel King said,

    I played both of those, I also bought Mage but as a teenager I found it far to complex and ended up swapping it for Earthdawn, which I spent many years DMing. 🙂

  • Skeh said,

    White Wolf’s spirit still lives through Onyx Path Publishing, which is a company funded by a former White Wolf employee, Richard “Rich” Thomas, who was there since the White Wolf Magazine was created in 1986, Onyx Path has the license for several White Wolf products and they have full rights of 3 of them.

    I suppose CCP won’t sell the WoD property and they’ll just use it to earn money with the Onyx Path products. They’re simply concentrated and their own game, EVE Online.

  • Erik_Malkavian said,

    Yeah it makes me totally sick the way CCP handled
    white wolf, inc., World of Darkness Online and the legacy of Vampire the Masquerade:bloodlines! I am hoping that they will sell of the IP for World of Darkness Online to a competent company or continue development.

    Here is a petition: