My name is Michael Brower and I am a journalist student at Indiana University. I'm sitting here today with my personal friend Zer0Morph; the founder and lead project designer for The Final Nights expansion to Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. I would like to thank him for taking the time to talk to us for this interview.
Michael: Thanks for talking to us Zer0. Word has it your team is releasing patch 1.4 for The Final Nights, in late December.
Zer0: That’s right! Team Camarilla International is releasing update 1.4 on Thursday, December 31st 2015.
Michael: What made you decide to choose that day?
Zer0: A year ago, I was a single man living in an empty apartment all by myself on New Year’s Eve, and it was a bit depressing. I figure there may be another young man out there with the same situation for this New Year’s Eve, and so I want to give him something fun to do and something to look forward to this year.
Michael: Aww, aren’t you sweet. Let’s talk about TFN 1.4 and some of the new features it brings. What stands out in your mind as the biggest change with this patch?
Zer0: The biggest change in 1.4 was done to the Inspection feat which was almost a pointless feat to invest in with prior versions. In early versions of TFN, we placed many new items in all of the main hubs but then hid them from plain sight. This required the player to invest in Inspection in order to see them. We took this same concept in TFN 1.4 but expanded it to every map in the game so now EVERY item has been hidden in the same way.
Michael: What about quest items, are those also hidden?
Zer0: Essential quest items that are required to further the main quest are not hidden because that wouldn’t be fair, but side quest items like Pisha’s occult items or Bertram’s CD are hidden, yes.
Michael: So this makes Inspection a very important feat to invest in, much like Haggle?
Zer0: Correct, you will want to get your Inspection to at least 3 or 4 on any character if you want to see most quest related items.
Michael: What about a player who doesn’t want to invest in Inspection at all and wants to invest in other things? Is that viable?
Zer0: Absolutely! You’ll just miss out on some side quest experience and items to sell or use, however, you’ll make up for this by having stronger combat attributes or feats.
Michael: What kind of items can you find with higher levels of Inspection, like 9 or 10?
Zer0: That’s a great question! For players who want to completely invest in Inspection and take it to the maximum level will find stuff like armor, occult items, and very expensive sellable loot including plain cash. Inspection has become a new way to make money, an alternative to Haggle, Lockpicking, or Hacking.
Michael: Wow! It sounds like there are many avenues for the player to make money and grow powerful now.
Zer0: That’s right! Players no longer HAVE to invest in Haggle to make money. In prior versions, many players said that Haggle had gone from unneeded to absolutely essential and we didn’t like forcing the player to play a certain way. Haggle, Lockpicking, Hacking, or Inspection are 4 completely different ways to get money and power now.
Michael: I saw some videos back in February showcasing 2 completely reworked disciplines; Auspex and Presence. These 2 disciplines are known to be weaker than the others, how have you changed that?
Zer0: Let’s talk about Auspex first because it relates to the Inspection system. In the past, Auspex was used to increase your Ranged combat feat and to see through walls, but did little else. Most players found it to be the weakest discipline in the game, however, Auspex does temporarily increase your Inspection feat and so we programmed it so all of the game’s hidden items will appear in real-time to the player to pick up, when Auspex is activated. In addition to this, Auspex also temporarily increases the player’s Intelligence allowing them to hack higher level computers, kind of in the same way Blood Buff increases your Dexterity so you can lockpick better.
Michael: Wow! It sounds like Auspex now has many uses, not just increasing your Ranged combat feat.
Zer0: That’s right! Auspex carries with it a lot of utility in addition to combat attributes. And because now it’s wise to walk around with Auspex activated at all times so you can see hidden items, we reworked the sound effect by lowering the volume as to not annoy the player. We also reworked the visual effects to make it look nicer.
Michael: Sounds like I’ll be specializing in Auspex as my next character. So what have you done different to Presence?
Zer0: In the pen and paper game, Presence can be used to influence an NPC’s emotions which is obviously very handy when socializing. Unfortunately, Troika made Presence a passive debuff combat feat and nothing more, so we went ahead and coded a passive buff to all social feats in dialogue at higher levels of Presence.
Michael: What do you mean a passive buff in dialogue?
Zer0: At Presence level 3, whenever a player speaks to an NPC, Presence is activated giving the player a +1 to Seduction and Intimidate. At Presence level 4, the player influences NPCs with a +2 to Seduction and Intimidate and a +1 to Persuasion, and at Presence level 5, the player influences NPCs with a +3 to Seduction and Intimidate and a +2 to Persuasion.
Michael: That’s awesome!! Does it cost additional blood to use this buff, like when charming someone using Serpentis?
Zer0: No, this is an innate reaction to vampires who practice their Presence often, their charm and ability to influence those around them is always on.
Michael: What about the combat debuff that Presence had in the past? Did you make changes to that?
Zer0: No, that has remained the same meaning Presence is still useful in combat situations. We did reduce the duration of Presence a little to balance the new changes in dialogue. We also added the sound and visual effect when entering dialogue so it’s very professionally done, however you can turn off the visuals if you find them distracting.
Michael: Can you influence every NPC in the game with Presence?
Zer0: Actually no, only kine and weaker kindred can be influenced. Older more powerful vampires are aware of your charismatic charm and will know how to ignore it when speaking with you. However, they know that it’s a part of who you are so they won’t be upset about it.
Michael: Amazing! Now I can’t decide if I want to play a Presence kindred or an Auspex one. Great job! Let’s talk about the Followers of Set clan, I see you’ve made some changes there.
Zer0: Correct, we removed the Followers of Set clan from TFN and replaced them with the Warriors of Set, a subtype of the Followers.
Michael: What’s the different between a Follower and a Warrior?
Zer0: The Followers of Set specialize in charms and sneaky backstabbing to further the cause of their god, Set. The Warriors of Set are the holy fist of Set that when physical enforcement is required, they are called upon. Because of this, the Warriors unlearn Obfuscate at a young age in replace of Potence. They can still charm people like a puppet master but when social influences fail, they have the grit to physically enforce their will.
Michael: They sound exciting! What made you decide to change this?
Zer0: We had 3 clans with Obfuscate and 1 clan with Potence, so it made sense to balance it out with 2 clans with Obfuscate and 2 clans with Potence.
Michael: How many clans have either Auspex and/or Presence?
Zer0: Every clan has either Auspex or Presence, but not both. The exception are the Samedi who don’t possess either discipline.
Michael: Good to know. What about game rebalancing? I heard something about this in earlier posts.
Zer0: I’m happy you brought that up. Experience and money have been completely rebalanced in TFN. In short, mid and late game experience and money both have been reduced. We found that over time as we added more quests and ways to earn experience and money, the player had more than enough opportunities to be swimming in experience and money at the end of the game. This will help that out a lot!
Michael: When you say “rebalanced”, you really mean nerfed, right? Will that make TFN 1.4 harder?
Zer0: Yes and yes! We didn’t touch early game experience and money because we felt it was already hard enough as it was, however, in the mid game you began to snowball and by the end game you actually had too much of both. While the player can still be all powerful at the end of the game, it won’t be absurd like it has been in previous versions of TFN.
Michael: That’s good to know. Which version of TFN would you say was the most unbalanced?
Zer0: Definitely version 1.3! TFN was meant for players who had already beaten the vanilla game and unofficial patches, and wanted a new challenge, and in TFN 1.0 we gave players a new challenge. Unfortunately, as subsequent releases were published the amount of experience and money grew drastically and was left unchecked, almost to the point that TFN became as easy as the vanilla game.
Michael: I look forward to the new challenge of TFN. Let’s talk about additional quests. Did you make any?
Zer0: We sure did! The TFN NPC named Silvia Black now gives a new quest via email called “For the Greater Good”. When the player breaks the masquerade they receive an email asking to visit her in the tattoo parlor. After speaking with her, she will send another email about a newspaper reporter who plans on publishing a picture of a Nosferatu in the morning paper. This is a timed quest so it must be completed before the reporter publishes it. If the player gets the photo in time, they will be rewarded by Silvia. On top of that, the player can use the photo to blackmail Gary Golden later in the game for a new powerful occult item.
Michael: Okay so that sounds freaking awesome!! Any other additional quests or changes?
Zer0: Actually yes. When speaking with Gimble over the phone in the basement of the tattoo parlor, if the player has an Inspection of 4 or higher, he or she can uncover the plot right then and there which grants the player additional experience and opens new dialogue lines from Gimble.
Michael: Now that is exciting! What kind of bug fixes have you implemented with 1.4?
Zer0: A lot! We finally got the “No Hands Bug” fixed, FINALLY! When starting a new game, sometimes the player would spawn without fists which basically broke the game. Wesp and Childe of Malkav helped get this fixed. We have also fixed many other bugs left over from 1.3 and can be found in the Bug Fixes list.
Michael: Cool. Let’s talk about Windows 10 and the DRM changes breaking everyone’s game.
Zer0: Yeah, that’s been a real bummer for a lot of people. It seems Microsoft decided to update Windows 7, 8, and 10 so Bloodlines wouldn’t run with DRM. Once again, Wesp came to the rescue and found a DRM Free version of the vampire.exe file that fixes this. He implemented it with the unofficial patches and allowed us to use it too.
Michael: Awesome, one less headache to worry about! I also heard something about .dll files goofing up people’s games too.
Zer0: Yeah, when the bugs come they come in waves. Client.dll and vampire.dll somehow are no longer compatible with certain people’s games, mainly Steam users. We will be packaging alternate .dll files for these users so they can simply rename them and use the new ones which should fix the issue.
Michael: Wonderful, I’m sure they’ll appreciate that! Will there be instructions on how to do this?
Zer0: Yes! Actually this brings me to my next subject and I’m very excited to announce. TCI has finally published an official game manual for The Final Nights!! This official game manual will contain everything a player needs to know to play TFN including Installation Instructions, Frequently Asked Questions, Feats, Clans, Disciplines, Game Mechanics including the Bloodloss Timer, Masquerade Violations, Humanity/Frenzy, a complete Weapon Breakdown, Prostitutes, and even all of the music used in TFN. We’re super excited to finally give players all of the answers to their most common questions in one central manual.
Michael: Amazing! I think players will really appreciate this because it’s so confusing to know what a mod changes and how.
Zer0: Exactly! This is long overdue and we really appreciate all of the years people hung in there, confused, and remained loyal to the mod. This is for them especially!
Michael: That’s so awesome! So what are your plans on the weeks leading up to the release of TFN? Do you have anything planned?
Zer0: You already know we do, HAHA! TCI has been working with a well-known Twitter broadcaster and Internet Personality named ToddEVF. He’s been a long standing fan of Bloodlines and strong supporter of TCI mods for a while now and has graciously agreed to run a TFN pre-release party stream of 1.4 in the weeks leading up to its release!
Michael: Wait, so you’re saying we can watch TFN 1.4 being played LIVE on Twitch, before it’s even released?
Zer0: Yup! He’ll be broadcasting every Wednesday and Thursday night from 11pm – 3am Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5). He will be playing TFN 1.4 and showcasing all of the new features and those who login to Twitch and watch, will be able to talk to him about the game as he plays it. The first broadcast will take place Wednesday night on November 25th at 11pm and the last broadcast will end on Thursday December 17th at 3am in the morning. You can watch and participate in the party at www.twitch.tv/toddevf and visit his Twitter page at Twitter.com.
Michael: Awesome! I can’t wait to be there and join in. Will you be there?
Zer0: Uhh, yeah? LOL, of course man, I love hanging out with Todd and the vampire community! J
Michael: Fantastic! Well thank you for taking the time to talk to me and I’m very excited about the upcoming TFN 1.4 mod update!
Zer0: Thank you Michael and it’s always a pleasure speaking with you. Take care!