Up Close with Vampire: The Masquerade

We take the pulse of Activision's upcoming gothic RPG to discover that it still warms up the chilly season.

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Gamers have been desperately awaiting the arrival of Activision's upcoming RPG, Vampire: The Masquerade - The Redemption since it made its debut at last year's E3. We decided to catch up with the game's producer at Activision, Chris Hewish, to find out how development of the game is coming along.

GameSpot News: We've been waiting a long time since Vampire was first shown at E3 in 1999. We were pretty amazed at what we saw then. What is the one feature (in your opinion) that you think will blow away gamers and make them need your game?Chris Hewish: That one feature would be the storyteller mode, which wasn't shown at E3 '99. Basically this feature allows one person to act as the storyteller (aka game/dungeon master), while the players control their individual characters. Basically we're using the Internet/LAN as a virtual tabletop, modeling the entire experience around the one you'd get when playing any pen-and-paper RPG around a real table with your friends. The storyteller will be able to control the gaming environment in real time as they choose. This could be anything from monitoring and altering an existing adventure or going freeform in an unscripted world. The really powerful thing about this feature is that it allows the storyteller to respond to his/her players' special needs while creating a gaming experience that is much more personalized/responsive than your standard prescripted/unalterable adventure.

GSN: Originally, we expected Vampire: The Masquerade to warm up our winter-chilled blood. And then, before the holidays began, it was announced that Vampire would miss 1999 and would release early in 2000. Well, its early 2000... any update on when we can expect to suck blood?CH: Well, technically winter isn't over until spring arrives in March. :)

GSN: During the extra time allotted for polishing the game, what has the team been adding or improving in Vampire?CH: Well, as you saw at E3 '99, the graphics engine was up and running wonderfully. Since then the team has been busy focusing on building the rest of the game (models, geometry, AI, etc.) and are now focused on balancing all those pieces so they work as a cohesive whole. The last few months have also seen a lot of work going into the storyteller mode, which we'll be testing fairly extensively in the near future.

GSN: We've heard a wild rumor that Ray Gresko (Nihilistic's president, CEO, designer, project leader, and programmer) was once a vampire - any truth to this rumor?CH: Hmmm, if I confirm this, then we'd face the possibility of some misguided Hunter tracking our boy down and staking him before the game was complete. But fortunately for us, there is no truth in that rumor - nope, none whatsoever, zip, nada. Ray just happens to have extremely light-sensitive eyes; and that high disappearance rate amongst take-out delivery drivers in his town is just pure coincidence.

GSN: Now the game is starting to wrap up... any plans for the future? We know that Activision has the rights to Vampire: The Dark Ages and Kindred of the East from White Wolf.... Any plans on pulling a sequel from one of these licenses?CH: Somewhere deep in the secret laboratory that is Nihilistic Software there are the seeds of a sequel to V:TM-Redemption. As of now, nothing is set in stone, but the Vampire universe is a rich and tempting treasure trove of material. Also, just to clarify: This current game is set in both the Dark Ages and the Modern Nights, with half the game occurring in each, chronologically.

GSN: With all the graphics power of the Nod engine, what would you recommend gamers have in their systems to maximize their playing experience?CH: The game will run fairly well on a Pentium 266 with 32MB RAM and a graphics accelerator. For the best performance (for example, all graphics features turned on), I'd recommend a Pentium 300 or better, with 32MB RAM and any generation hardware card.

GSN: Considering all the pen-and-paper role-playing aspects included in Vampire, does the development team play a lot of traditional RPGs? CH: The team has really gotten into the pen-and-paper game, devouring everything White Wolf can print. They've run several games for visitors and played quite a bit themselves (before crunch time set in, of course). Rumor has it that a few of the team have even gotten into the live-action side of things. Hey! Maybe that's where the rumor of Ray being a vampire came from. Yeah, that's it! So no worries if you see Ray running around in full frenzy, chasing some poor juicebag. That would all be part of a live action game, with everyone playing "in character" (wink, wink).

GSN: And finally, Dreamcast fever is here, and PlayStation2 fever is just beginning to heat up gamers' thermometers. With a game looking as good as this one does, can gamers expect to see Vampire in another form on one of the next-generation consoles?CH: Currently, there are no plans for any ports to these platforms, but Vampire is shaping up to be one of our key franchises. So if things go well, then we'd certainly explore those platforms for future Vampire games.

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