The news that Paradox Interactive had purchased World of Darkness creator and publisher White Wolf a couple of weeks ago came as something of a surprise. It also raised a lot of questions: what would become of existing third-party relationships? What are the plans for digital spin-offs of White Wolf properties? Can we expect another Vampire: The Masquerade CRPG at any point in the near future?
We contacted new White Wolf CEO Tobias Sjögren to discover the answers to those questions and many more.
RPS: You've mentioned a desire to "unite the community under one flag from day one". Does that relate to the third-party agreements already in place for tabletop publishing and some IPs?
Sjögren: As owners we want our game lines to be tightly interconnected and we want to communicate directly with our brilliant community of players. I don’t think that always been the case from the IP owner side of things. The community support from our different partners has been fantastic and remains so. We want to help and support our user groups in the best way we can, not be a distant parent company.
RPS: Can you tell us what will be happening with the Exalted IP and White Wolf's relationship with Onyx Path? What difference, if any, will this make to the book publishing side of the business?
Sjögren: Currently we are talking to all of our partners, including Onyx Path and By Night Entertainment, something we couldn’t do before the actual closing and announcement of the Paradox-CCP deal. We're deeply involved in the process of discussing with and learning about the minute details of our partners business while we establish a solid plan for the years to come. As I'm sure everyone understands we won't comment on any specific questions about partners, projects or products before this process is all done. But we intend to get through it as swiftly as possible.
RPS: I've seen concerns that White Wolf is a tabletop company with videogame spin-offs, and that being in the hands of a videogame developer and publisher may tip the balance toward digital releases. Is that something you've considered?
Sjögren: It has been very important for Paradox to make White Wolf Publishing a separate company with its own agenda and goals. We are taking a broad transmedia approach to the World of Darkness and the other properties. Tabletop, live-action and card games are a vital part of White Wolf's heritage and will remain so. But the IP is way too powerful to be limited to the relatively small market of physical gaming. There is a lot of room to create more video games based on these properties. Just look at how popular Bloodlines still is with a community that still patch and play the game eleven years after it was released!
I've been working at Paradox for two years before becoming the CEO of White Wolf and I have witnessed the huge passion for tabletop games here. Don’t forget that one of Paradox most popular games Europa Universalis was a tabletop game before it became a PC game and that the entire company has it's root in Äventyrsspel and Target games, creators of Mutant, Kult and Drakar och Demoner (the Swedish answer to Dungeons and Dragons). In the 80's and 90's they were basically the TSR of Sweden.
RPS: CCP had been working on a World of Darkness MMO. Is that something you'd consider pursuing? Is it correct that Martin Ericsson, formerly working on the MMO, is now 'lead-storyteller' at White Wolf?
Sjögren: It is too early in the process and we currently don’t comment on any product strategies. But, yes, we are very excited to have Martin as our Lead Storyteller. He's a key person in the company and his job is to nail down and guard the creative vision and overarching storyline for the World of Darkness. He has some pretty extreme ideas, and that's perfect for the IP.
Martin's credentials stretch much further than just having previously worked as the Senior Content Developer over at White Wolf/CCP. He's a created two major participatory EU TV-series (one of them he swears was designed to be unofficially compatible with WoD) and run larps for Nokia in central London with Tim Kring of Heroes fame. He's been a prominent games researcher and keynote lecturer on the power of participatory culture.
He's one of the most influential players on the European larp scene and is known as the bad boy of Nordic larp, running adult games in Shakespeare's Elsinore Castle, in abandoned nuclear reactors and decommissioned military ships. Google him and you'll dig up some pretty wild stuff. He's probably going to be using his pen name "Elricsson" in his new position. Pretty suitable considering the origins of the White Wolf name. He's a massive fan of all incarnations of WoD but not an uncritical one.
I appreciate that Martin has a lot of ideas on how to make the IP as connected to 21st century culture as it was to the scene of the 90's. And yeah, he's been the official WoD model for Vlad Tepes and the Tzimisce clan.
RPS: How long have you been working toward this deal and is it part of any wider strategy to expand your third-party publishing? You're not going to announce that you've secured Game of Thrones next week, right?
Sjögren: So that is more of a question for Paradox and the CEO Fredrik Wester. But I can definitely say that the acquisition of White Wolf was the result of a lot of passion, long work-hours and smart planning. It's a great fit for the whole group as the people at Paradox and White Wolf complements each other really well.
RPS: As I understand it, White Wolf is a 'daughter company' to Paradox rather than a fully incorporated part of your Paradox holdings. Does that mean you will be free to work with other publishers with your guidance?
Sjögren: Yes! The logics behind that is simple. Like most publishers out there Paradox is specialised and does certain types of games better than anyone else.
But if there is a publisher that is a better fit than Paradox for a product that White Wolf would like to license, we are definitely set to do the deal with that publisher. White Wolf is here to do what is best for Exalted and World of Darkness and the fans who love these properties.
RPS: What do you think you can offer to White Wolf and their fans that hadn't been there before?
Sjögren: That is a hard question considering this is a brand with 25 years of great products and amazing individuals that have created some pretty solid and mind bending products. However we would not have done this acquisition if we didn’t think there are things that we can add to the ecosystem of products and to support our great partners. Products wise we’ll talk about what we can do when we have concrete things to show. On the more general level we will roll out a powerful and provocative contemporary storyline, making sure there is a singular World of Darkness story that is easy to get into for neonates but builds on and deepens the universe that elder fans love. And yeah, there have not been enough video games set in the World of Darkness. That's a huge thing we can offer right there.
RPS: Presumably there are people at Paradox who are fans of White Wolf's creations? Is there anything in particular you enjoy and look forward to working with?
Sjögren: There are many fans at the company for sure, the response from Paradox employees have been just as great as from the community out there.
Personally I look forward to see how the metaplot will connect all the great IPs from Vampire to Werewolf, Mages and Changelings and see that evolve over time without diluting the individual strengths of the very different games. But I'm actually most excited about learning more about the live action aspect of the IP which, even though I am well aware of the phenomena (it's a pretty big deal in Sweden right now) have never before fully participated in.
I know Martin is a huge Wraith and Promethean fan, but it will be a while before we let him loose on those more obscure game lines.
RPS: We've seen the grand strategy game move into science fiction, so is dark fantasy next? The Crusader Kings II model of strategic dynasty management seems like it'd suit some World of Darkness properties to an extent. Have you discussed in-house Paradox Development Studio use of the licenses?
Sjögren: Sorry about the no comment again here but it is just too early to speak of any specifics. But I got to say myself and Martin have really appreciated all the ideas and comments that have been coming in from the community out there, some great and inspiring ideas!
RPS: Away from strategy, there has been an immediate and enormous online reaction. A lot of that revolves around Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines and the desire for a new singleplayer RPG? Is that something you've considered and would you most likely work with third-party developers? Obsidian have been mentioned, partly because a relationship already exists but also because they seem like a natural fit in many ways.
Sjögren: It's great to see that Bloodlines by Troika Games and published by Activision still has such a vital following out there. Throughout history there are a couple of such games that just won’t leave people's mind and it is fantastic to be able to work on a possible continuation of such a appreciated experience. But (again) we can’t comment on specifics here so I can only say rest assured we will look at any opportunity out there to make something great with all these amazing properties we now have access to.
RPS: Further to that, any comment on these tweets?
Sjögren: Again, it is absolutely fantastic to see the excitement out there and it inspires us even more to do our very best.
First week at work I have had a lot of phone calls with all kinds of potential partners out there that want to learn more about the opportunities ahead and we’ll keep on working for getting awesome products rolling out.
RPS: Would you consider a re-release of Bloodlines? A HD version? Are you aware of Project Vaulderie?
Sjögren: The original Bloodlines is handled by our partner Activision. I am aware of Vaulderie but as it was before my time I prefer not to comment on any details in that story because I simply don’t know more than anyone else that read about it online.
RPS: Does this mean we can expect World of Darkness LARPing at the next Paradox Convention?
Sjögren: Haha, that would be awesome, if so I will for sure bring my custom made fangs and be one in the crowd. I’m keen to find out what tastes the sweetest, journalist or YouTuber blood...
Jokes aside, like I mentioned before Paradox and White Wolf will operate separately but when and if it makes sense to co-operate on the event side would be something we'd tackle later in our planning. The plan right now is trying to participate in as many World of Darkness community events as possible to be able to meet and talk to the fans out there.
RPS: And a final question for those fans who I know are still out there: Any plans to revive Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, the card game?
Sjögren: One of many great products we have the pleasure to now be able to work with for sure and we got a lot of requests and ideas from the community about VtES. Regarding plans we’ll get back on that when we have something concrete.
RPS: Thanks for your time!