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World of Darkness reportedly reached alpha three times

Investigation reveals mismanagement, lack of vision.

The vampire MMO by Eve Online studio CCP - World of Darkness - apparently reached an alpha state three separate times in nearly nine years of development before it was canned.

That's what former employees of World of Darkness studio CCP Atlanta told The Guardian in an investigation into the game's demise.

"I tested it myself, on two different occasions out of those three," said Nick Blood, an aptly named former World of Darkness developer. "With the first playtest, I was amazed at how little of the core game was there - at this point the game had been in development for over half a decade. I mean, there was just nothing, literally nothing, for someone like me, a complete outsider to the WOD IP, to appreciate.

"Other testers who were familiar with it thought it was great that they could finally see their avatars 'diablerise' - or consume - other player's corpses, for health, or something. I just kind of shook my head and wondered how this would ever draw in anything other than die-hard fans.

"On the second play test, quite some time later, I was struck by how much had changed - and yet remained unfinished. The flagship achievement was a new movement system, made after scrapping the old one, which was similar to the Assassin's Creed gameplay - with mantling walls, etc. But it was very basic in comparison. CCP was quite self-congratulatory on achieving this much, and the internal propaganda was that this kind of movement system would revolutionise MMO gaming."

CCP bought World of Darkness tabletop maker White Wolf in November 2006, flush with Eve Online's success, and immediately started work on the WOD MMO. The Icelandic company kept many staff at White Wolf on, but almost immediately started pooling their talents across projects at the company.

This was a trend that continued and ultimately killed the project.

The other trend was mismanagement, The Guardian heard. World of Darkness had no cogent vision, no glue, and the management responsible blamed staff.

"One email sent on the eve of the company's 2010 team-building trip stated that all teams had to work through the weekend," another source revealed, "and that this necessary overtime was the fault of the teams - it was their failure to plan and scope their project accordingly."

"One email sent on the eve of the company's 2010 team-building trip stated that all teams had to work through the weekend"

Meetings were loud and aggressive, and the CCP Atlanta team kept building stuff and throwing it away.

Meanwhile CCP, the wider company, had taken on free-to-play PS3 shooter Dust 514 - a game that would never take off - and was taking Eve Online in a direction the community didn't want, adding micro-transactions and insisting on a vision of players' avatars walking around space stations. The community revolted and the company changed tack, but at great expense - at World of Darkness' expense.

Quality of life deteriorated at CCP Atlanta as cuts were made. Salary-subsidised canteen meals plummeted in quality, apparently, and medical benefits dropped as well. And, ultimately, staff were let go.

Publicly, at Eve FanFest 2012, CCP backed World of Darkness. The message was, 'Hey we're still working on this!' But behind the scenes, morale had apparently gone.

Then exciting virtual reality project Eve: Valkyrie erupted, and CCP rapidly adjusted to turn a prototype into a full game. Finally, with too much on its plate, CCP made the decision - shortly before Fanfest this year, and after a final playtest - to pull the plug on World of Darkness.

CCP boss Hilmar Veigar Pétursson explained to me recently that the gap between what the company wanted World of Darkness to be, and what it was, was "frankly too much".

"When we looked at what we had and what we aimed to do, there was a discrepancy that would have taken still even more time to get it to a place where we and the team wanted it to be," he said when we sat down to talk. "And the gap was just, frankly, too much. And this was the point in time to stop it."

"This was a big decision for us and we're just getting through that," he added. "Now we're focusing on the Eve universe and we're not ready to comment about what's going to happen to the [White Wolf] licence. That will be for a later date."

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