Kindred and Computers, Revisited
As a followup to the other day’s technology and Kindred post, in the context of a video game, the relationship of vampires to technology can affect not only your gameplay, but also its presentation. While Vampire: The Masquerade has typically eschewed what Swede and I call “science vampires,” the vampires in the source material themselves have never actively shied away from science and technology, except when doing do has served as a thematic element. (And by “science vampires,” we mean vampires whose origins can be explained scientifically, as with the vampires from the BBC Ultraviolet series or the we-don’t-really-drink-blood-we-drink-this-chemical-fluid-so-there’s-no-moral-ambiguity-to-liking-us vampires from Underworld. The Kindred of the Masquerade have always traced their origins, at least in the West, to the Biblical Caine, who murdered his brother Abel as an offering to God and was cast into the Land of Nod by way of punishment.)
That digression aside, gameplay using technology as set dressing is really a slider — how much is just right and how much takes the attention away from the vampires and puts it on the gadgetry. Weirdly, even using technology that’s available now can skew that feel a little much toward a “science vampires” or even cyberpunk feel. Vampires using social media? Sure, no problem. Everyone has a computer. Vampires using firearms? Sure, no problem. Vampires using Large Hadron Colliders or controlling his prey’s mind with biopharmaceuticals? Now you’re starting to get a bit squirrelly. A vampire firing a railgun with a fragmenting ogive warhead? Get out of here.
Even here, part of the slider is the scale. Maybe a Ventrue is the controlling owner of a multinational that’s developing biopharmaceuticals or manufacturing railguns. That’s fine — most of that stuff is happening offstage, and gives the vampire an explanation for why he’s crazy rich. But when the focus shifts to that technology, that’s where the “vampire” part becomes tangential to the tech specs.
Beyond gameplay, once you’ve got vampires, that dictates a certain amount of look and feel for your game as well as the content. Naturally, you’re going to be overcoming challenges appropriate to vampires, whether that means your challenges are other vampires, werewolves, zombies, mortal monster hunters, whatever, in a modern setting. In sophisticated parlance, you want your vampires doing vampire shit in a vampire setting, otherwise why would you have bothered making your game about vampires?
That look and feel also extends to UI, too, which is often taken for granted during the gameplay experience. But the technological aspect is appropriate here, too. You wouldn’t want the same, equally “modern” UI that the espionage technothriller Splinter Cell games have, even though they both take place “now.” As we’ve said before, implicit to vampires is a sense of history, but too much historical affectation can push the UI into a more “fantasy” look, as if everything is on a wizard’s scrolls. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, because you want that implied sense of vampires being timeless in addition to the idea that their timelessness culminates in the here and now.
And then there’s the part you can’t account for, the question of taste. In the previous technology topic, check out the responses from Valamyr, Russell, Lyte, and Peter. Personal preference is also a slider, but it’s the only one in this context that the designer can’t control.
I’m also leaving out a key element of UI and gameplay visuals in a game like this. What is it?