Due Diligence: Vampyre With A Why
Leigh Harrison had but one choice.
From: Lt. J. Abrams
To: Det. P. Willis
Subject: Missing person case CR 17-31587-PHX-DJH
I’m wondering if you can cast your eye over a case for me? Missing person by the name of Tommy Johnson. Video game designer out in the new development off the I17. Reported missing by colleagues 23 Sept after failing to show for a meeting.
He was working late at the office the night of 22 Sept and was last seen at his desk circa 11:50. We’re placing the disappearance somewhere between then and the janitor getting in at 05:58. Locked office, no sign of a struggle, car still in the lot. We swept the place and came up with nothing but an encrypted drive. Tech have finally got it back to me and it’s slim pickings.
Only thing on there is a Slack chat log between Tommy and studio intern Veronica “Nic” Miller, previously unconnected to the case. It’s some pretty bizarre stuff so I’ve attached the full transcript below for you to take a look at. My thoughts are it’s just some office banter, but I’d like your opinion before I rule it out. Given your history with this sort of thing, Detective, I’d appreciate your opinion.
Nic Miller 15/05/17 10:03 AM
Hey boss – are you free?
Tommy J 15/05/17 10:05 AM
Come into my office
The doors always open!
We’re still doing the office thing, huh?
Am I stll the boss?
I think you called me boss
*scrolls up a teensy bit*
Yep yiu did :)
Did you have a good weekend…boss?
Yeah good one thx
You got the splash screen text?
Yeah, just a sec.
Okay. How about:
Choose your decisions wisely. This game uses an autosave system.
Please do not close the game when this symbol is displayed.
Yeah erm I think we’re missing a bit here
Like disn’t you get hte note?
We’re pushing hardo n the decisions/consequence stuff???
Yeah, doesn’t that cover it?
I mean itdoes but not HARD enough you know dude
We really need to be hitting players harder with the warning
Like VAMPYR is going to be a fucjing BRUTALl RPG
You make a decision and it could come bite you 20 hours later k?
Okay, okay. Sorry, didn’t realize we were going for such an overt tone.
Its not overt my guy just honest
Vampyr is a hardcore game that’s all
We’re doing the Bloodborne combat
And we need the convo wheel stuff to be as TOUGH
Cool. I get you.
In Vampyr, your actions have consequences.
Choose your decisions wisely.
[Then the autosave stuff]
Yeah still not really driving it home
And not really enough caps for my liking
And I also think auto save is two words
I’ll just write it myself don’t worry
In VAMPYR, every action you take can have consequences.
THIS GAME USES AN AUTO SAVE SYSTEM.
[Then the auto save stuff]
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS
You know i liked the accountability thing you did
So I added it to the end in all caps
Sweet. I…love it…?
Nic Miller 06/08/17 06:31 PM
Are you still at the office?
BIG JOHNSON (Tommy) 06/08/17 06:32 PM
Still in my office…which is always open ;)
You played the thing yet?
Yeah, right up to the first really big choice.
It’s a little harsh, no?
Haha you picked the CHARM option rite
Yep, because it seemed like the best one!
HAHA YOU GOT PWNED!!!
Fujking great isnt it dog?
Not really if I’m being honest. Felt a bit cheap.
Okay, so I’d sunk my teeth pretty deep in the game, about 12–15 hours up to that point.
So the stakes were pretty high.
Love your work bro
Sunk your TEETH… High STAKES
I see what your doin & I leik it
Yeah, I was pretty far in the game.
High stakes…in our game about vampires called Vampyr.
Totally unintentional but there you go.
Maybe I’m wasted doing random copywriting and QA for “exposure”?
Not at all ur the best
& & & stick this through and once we ships therll be a job for you bro
That’s what you keep saying.
Cos it will def happn id the metacritic hits 85
So yeah, I’d played for a while and was really enjoying the conversation system.
I got flourishes of L.A. Noire from how asking the wrong thing can close off questions.
And how it subverts the Mass Effect dialogue wheel by moving options around.
Like, the good one isn’t always top left and whatnot.
So I had to actually pay attention to what I was saying, not just pick the paragon/renegade.
Glad you likrd it
I pretty much designed the ehole thing myself
*With a little help from my friends*
You’re such a dork.
You’re one of my friends tho aren’t you?
My good good friend???
Even though you’re a jerk a lot of the time, I suppose so.
So you were sayin
So I’d spoken to everyone and learned all about the nurse’s motivations.
That she was a Romanian émigré with links to the resistance back home.
And that she was only blackmailing Lady Ashbury to fund her underground clinic.
Which was the only thing keeping the poor of Whitechapel safe from Spanish Flu.
All great stuff. Really impactful.
I wrote most of that
No friends necessary
I get to the point where I confront her about the blackmail.
And my options are:
[SPARE] – She resigns from the hospital but keeps running the clinic.
[CHARM] – She’ll forget the whole sorry affair
[EMBRACE] – I eat her because I am a vampire
[CHARM] is written in blue, like earlier conversation options I’d unlocked by gathering clues.
It’s even got a little symbol of an unlocked padlock next to it.
As if to say that this is a special option I’ve *unlocked* by being thorough.
Playing well, you could say.
That’s definitely true
But when I choose it, I…
I melt her brain and she goes insane.
IN THE MEMBRANE
INSANE IN THE BRAAAAAAIN
It doesn’t really make sense.
Well what we
What I was going for here is ot subvert a player’s expectations
You’re told that CHARM is a way of getting what yu want up to now
So this just fufks with that by making it backfire
You know to make players more careful
But the choice is pretty clear that she’ll just forget the blackmail.
Then I turn her brain to bologna.
The txt is actually more ambiguous
YOU WILL FORGET ALL ABOUT THIS
But the dialogue right before it explicitly says she’ll forget the blackmail.
Yeah but that’s not what the text says
Nic Miller 22/09/17 11:40 PM
This fucling game!
TOMMY “THE SOCK” JOHNSON 22/09/17 11:45 PM
Second big decision???
Yeah. Honestly, fuvk you.
Come in2 my office
I got a few minuts
What even is [TURN]? It’s literally not even a thing up until this very moment.
Spare, yes. Embrace, yes. Turn? What IS that?
It’s where you give a lesser VAMPYR some of your blood
It basically stops them from turning into a murderous Skals
You know Father Sean Hampton is already a Skal but he *could* turn murderous
A Skal – like the ones I’d met in the sewers right before this choice?
The entire village of Skals that had subsisted on only rotting flesh for centuries?
And had consciously avoided draining the blood of the living like conventional vampires?
The Skals the game had presumably taken me to for a reason?
Perhaps to reinforce Sean’s claim that, as a pious man, he could control “the hunger”?
Yeah but like earlier I’m subverting expectations
Show don’t tell
But you showed me one thing and then did another.
I [SPARED] him and he went on a fugking blood drive immediately.
I showed you somtehing and didnt tell you the consequences
You want to kno the outcome before the answer
That’d be bad design brah
But you set me up!
Can’t you see that?
None of these choices make any logical sense.
Not compared to how the rest of the game works.
And not how the narrative presents itself.
Look you knew when we took you on as an intern that this was a real game
We’re making it for the hardcore not casuals
If you can’t play it properly I’m not sure we’ve much use for you in QA
You’re letting me go?
You just don’t seem to grasp the complexities of rping a VAMPYR
In the opaque world of choice and consequence we’ve made
I wrote that, didn’t I?
Are you using my own press release to fire me?
Look its nothing personal
But not everyone can *get* games like this
We’re flipping the switch
This is some grimdark shif and it might just be too serios for you
Look out your window.
Look to your right, out the window.
What the fudk are you doin out there
Were on te 6 floor
I heard my contract had been terminated.
But I’m thinking it might just have been my employer.
That stake joke was deliberate, by the way.
Woah you cant come in here
I havnt invited you in
I BANISH YOU BACK TO YOUR CRYPT VAMPYR
But you invited me into your office.
But ony in slack
Is tht al it takes?
Look, we did rght by yu
U dont hve to do ths
I’ve worked here a year for free.
No pay, no bonus, no healthcare. Nothing.
You didn’t even invite me to the Christmas party.
We gave u plshies…
I’m coming in.
And it’s VAMPIRE.
Leigh Harrison lives in London, and works in communications for a medical charity. He likes canals and rivers a great deal, and spends a lot of his time walking. He occasionally says things about videogames on the Internet, and other things on The Twitter.