Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines II

Yeah, I can’t think of a time when a development was moved from one team entirely and the game didn’t suffer for it. Maybe the Splatterhosue reboot? Usually it would only work if the project gets rebooted and begins development from the ground up again.

A Seattle-based developer on Resetera shared these thoughts on the current situation:

I’m going to take a radical different perspective. The game that Mitsoda and Cluney were pushing for and wanted to make just wasn’t marketable in 2020, which led to their removal. Paradox and HSL attempted to pivot and salvage, but the task was just too great.

The game was in a weird spot. A $30 million budget RPG that was probably too niche and a team that had never made anything of comparable scale before. The developer, which is partially owned by Paradox, is surrounded by massive studios that can offer staff better salaries which could go some way to explaining why recently their website had quite a few senior positions vacant for long stretches of time.

To me the big question is who could have Paradox brought in to salvage the project? What independent mid-tier studios are left? Yager, Sumo Digital, Spiders?

Based solely on my admittedly limited time spent with Greedfall, Spiders doesn’t seem like a terrible choice to pick up this game. Good call.

It’s interesting that Paradox didn’t actually name the studio getting this hot potato. Leads me to believe they’re not even done negotiating the contract.

Wow, if this White Wolf brand and community person tweets are anything to go by the new team’s mandate is a broad one! If it wasn’t for sunk cost fallacy I would say there’s a good chance the game would be cancelled by now.

Maybe Harebrained Schemes have taken over the project? I believe they’re owned by Paradox.

This makes me sad. VTM:BL is an enduring classic. Dead State was a rough indie title, but Mitsoda knows his dialogue trees.

At first I was like: :O
And then I was like: you know, they did 3 dialogue-tree RPGs before MW. Maybe they can scale up…

Never let Marketing decide if your game is marketable.

I wonder what this means? That it was too old fashioned? Or that it was too forward thinking and we’re not ready for that yet?

Count me in as very interested in reading the inevitable post-mortem for this.

I earlier hypothesized that some executive at Paradox must have finally played the thing and hated it when they fired all the lead creatives some time back.

Is 2022 even a realistic release date with a studio change? Depending on the size and complexity of the game getting an entire new team of people working with unfamiliar code could be… a real nightmare.

Maybe the lead designer or something decided to completely change the direction of the game, and wanted to “streamline” it into Doom-like shooting or platforming, or something. You know, like VTM: Pagan

The developer suggested people look at Mitsoda’s last released game, Dead State, as indicative of his approach. He was more of a writer than a designer, and his conception of gameplay wasn’t necessarily aligned with the mechanics and desires of modern players. The creative director Cluney was a level designer on FEAR and the cancelled version of Doom 4 before leading Special Forces Team X, so Bloodlines 2 was a massive escalation in terms of responsibilities.

So is this whole thing just a bigger scale iteration of the tension in the original VTM:Bloodlines design between RPG/stealth/dialogue/non-combat gameplay versus shooter-O-rama? I still remember the vast disappointment that many RPG types like myself and Angie G felt back in the day when we got deeper into the original Bloodlines and encountered the transition from dialogue-centric gameplay to Shooter Shooter Shooter (Hollywood sewers, I’m looking at you).

That could explain things if so.

Could be that. Vampires do kind of lend themselves to the shooter genre with super speed, strength and various magic stuff. The persuasive, charming and manipulative side of vampires is definitely more challenging to portray in a first person game. To my knowledge Bloodlines 1 is the closest anyone got but it wasn’t flawless by any means.

My guess is HardSuit Games way over-promised what they could deliver, came back and said they’d need more money, and Paradox said you’re out. I thought the game was in serious trouble last year when they released their promo video for the game. It was ripped straight out of the Joker and a few other movies and was not the ambience or style one expected (and didn’t want) for the title.

My theory is that Paradox’ internal tolerance for “close enough” went way down after observing the Cyberpunk launch.

The moment they promised verticality with climbing and flying around I thought that sounded insanely ambitious. To create any meaningful number of locations you can reach with this mechanic without making 99.99% of the cities windows inexplicably inaccessible would be a huge challenge.

I would probably go for a Dead State 2 over a VTM Bloodline 2 at this point. Designers are pretty much writers. I mean there is a lot of transferable skills there.

Although I really couldn’t care less about the general mechanics and desires of modern players…whatever the hell that means. When Demon’s Souls came out, I can imagine Sony US rejecting to publish it on similar grounds.

This Paradox rep all but confirms what you were thinking. The shift could’ve been quite abrupt. I can’t wait to read the inevitable behind the scenes scoop on this game.

“Bloodlines 2 is going to be fully transferred to another team. Hardsuit Labs isn’t going to be responsible for development anymore. There’s going to be a new team onboarded on that. What kind of a team has not been announced yet because of the legal reasons. Everything needs to be on paper before Paradox can legally announce this is happening and who it is.”

When I was at Sierra we took SWAT 4 away from our internal studio and gave it to Irrational.

Whoa, I never knew it was once an internal project. Did Irrational use any of the stuff you guys had done?

That was the plan, but I’m not sure if they actually did. It was supposed to be a 3-4 month project but ended up being much longer. You can’t just hand someone else’s code to a new developer and assume they’ll get up to speed immediately.

Edit: I think they also ended up switching to the Unreal Engine, which took additional time.