CCP's World of Darkness failure detailed in The Guardian

Andy Chalk

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It was disappointing (but not terribly surprising) when CCP pulled the plug on development of its World of Darkness MMO in April. The unique success of EVE Online led to some very high hopes for its take on White Wolf's dark RPG setting, but after nearly a decade of development with nothing to show for it, a bad ending felt almost inevitable. But perhaps even more disappointing than the cancellation of the game is reading about the extent of the managerial gong show that precipitated it.

According to an "inside story" on the game's cancellation at The Guardian , the World of Darkness project was beset almost from the beginning by a disorganized management structure that "blurred the lines" between EVE Online and World of Darkness, resulting in EVE "poaching" WoD staff for months at a time. This not only slowed development of the MMO but actually led to features repeatedly being partially completed and then cut, to the point that the game reached an alpha state three separate times, only to be scrapped each time.

A lack of any coherent vision for the finished game as well as a "blame culture" at the studio made things worse, as did the move into other EVE-related projects like Dust 514 and Valkyrie. The report states that despite CCP's statement that development would continue, the layoffs of October 2011 effectively ended the game. And with the writing on the wall, and CCP slowly shifting to a "culture of frugality," some staff began leaving voluntarily rather than waiting for the curtain to fall.

"The 2011 layoffs incited a lot of anger. A lot. I heard it was worse in the Atlanta office, and most of the folks I know down there have never forgiven CCP's management," a source said.

It's not a particularly happy thing to read, especially if you harbor an image of CCP as a studio that "gets it," and some of the details - like the claim that CEO Hilmar Pétursson had members of the EVE storyline team write his apology for the Incarna expansion because he couldn't handle it himself - are downright ugly. But as a behind-the-curtain look at how the sausage is made, it's well worth the effort.

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