So since I made a statement about what happened last year, I’ve been getting a lot of questions that have nothing to do with it. Thanks for the empathy, assholes. But I’ll help you anyway.
One of the common questions is:
“What happened with Bloodlines 2?”
I’m paraphrasing, since they’re not usually that polite or brief. It’s also usually the only question. (Well, beyond who would win in a fight between Darth Revan and Darth Nihilus — Spoiler: Revan always wins.)
For those not in the know, Bloodlines 2 is a sequel to a Vampire: Bloodlines developed by Troika Games and published by Activision in 2004. It has a big cult following, and mods are still being developed for it to this day (Wesp5, especially, bless his modding soul).
I know a lot of the developers who worked on the original, and they have their own stories to share, but those stories won’t surprise anyone in the industry.
Still, they did an incredible job, it’s one of those games you remember. In our industry, you can’t ask for much more than that, it’s the highest compliment to have your game talked about years, if not decades, later. Bloodlines was one of those games.
Now — Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 was the sequel ~16 years later. Paradox Interactive was the publisher. They haven’t done any RPG games themselves to my knowledge (yet, I guess).
However, what some people may be unaware of, Paradox did not approach the actual developer, Hardsuit Labs… Hardsuit Labs (who also haven’t done RPGs to my knowledge) were the ones who pitched the project to Paradox.
The whole pitch went so dandy, the two of them went into business together, and Paradox even went so far as to acquire a significant % of Hardsuit Labs. This is public knowledge.
A little about Hardsuit Labs, I’ll let their website speak for itself:
So the Bloodlines 2 pitch. I know all about this process, not just because it’s public knowledge, but because I was there for the pitch meeting.
The pitch meeting happened in Las Vegas. I almost forgot why it was in Vegas, but then I remembered it’s also where the D.I.C.E convention happens every year when there isn’t a pandemic.
If you’re not familiar with D.I.C.E., you’re not missing much. As one described it, it’s where game executives go to jerk each other off, pretend to facilitate contracts, give awards to themselves, and compliment each other on the hard work the developers at their studios do. The Biz Dev guys go there to feed on these same executives and devour them slowly from within like humanoid parasites from the movie The Bay. It’s all part of the vampiric theme.
So Paradox and Hardsuit were in Las Vegas for D.I.C.E. We, being schleps, went there without going to D.I.C.E. because we are not executives. I went because I wanted to help Hardsuit with the pitch, I had been working with Hardsuit for some time prior on the title, and to encourage the Paradox folks the pitch was a good idea because I knew the Paradox folks from years before. This “encouragement” was very selfish of me and in retrospect of all that was going to happen, probably kind of shitty.
Yes, selfish. Yes, shitty. Still, it wasn’t hard to rationalize. It had been so many years since the original, I wanted someone to do it, and I thought Bloodlines fans (including me) had waited long enough. I was mostly thinking of myself, though, because (surprise) I wanted to work on it in any capacity. Now that Paradox had secured the Vampire license, it seemed like it could finally happen… if we could just convince them to do it. Interestingly, Hardsuit didn’t even get 1/3 of the way through the Power Point pitch before we stopped it and just started to chat with Paradox about the project more informally to get them more engaged in the idea (Power Points are easy to zone out to). Paradox did get engaged. They agreed, put pen to paper, blah blah blah.
To fill you in on what I did on the project, since most people think I was booted from it last year (?) along with everyone else. This “news” is attributed to some poorly worded public statements from the usual round of idiots that got passed through a filter held by an idiot and poured into an idiot glass and then passed out to the public and marketed as a refreshing new mineral water that will ultimately pass through your bladder and into your toilet. Thanks for that, idiots. You could have just said, “contract was over.”
To explain my contract: I worked on Bloodlines 2 for almost 2 and a half years, from 2016 to mid-2018, then my contract came to an end. They didn’t use anything I wrote during that time, which was a number of major characters and side missions, check my LinkedIn. This made me sad, but it’s not my choice. The whole experience was like the last five minutes of Barton Fink (not the beach scene, the scene before it, know-it-all), but stretched out over 2 and a half years. Even if I had known all that work was useless, I’d have written anyway, even though its part of your life you don’t get back, so you can’t really dwell on it too much. I’ve been on projects where a LOT more got thrown away… as Bloodlines 2 proved for almost everyone on it in the end, apparently.
So what happened after? Why did the staff change? Why did it move to another developer? Did it actually move to a developer or is that bullshit?
To all of you asking: I have no fucking idea.
I’m still catching up myself, as I’ve been out of the loop so long on social outlets, but here’s what I can say:
- Nobody I worked with in the trenches is still there, and I have never asked them what happened. It all sounded painful. Not only did I not know why they were fired, were let go, quit, or whatever, but I respect their right to speak for themselves and they have, although in a limited capacity. I do think they were classy and respectful in their responses.
- It’s also litigious and unpleasant for those who get the boot if you’re not classy, respectful, and brief to the point of non-explaining, so don’t blame them if you think they should have said more. They can’t. And if they did, none of you would go to bat for them against the howling mob of lawyers bursting through the walls.
- Also, even if you know the reasons why someone else was fired, you can’t really say them. But what most people don’t know is even the company won’t say why they are really firing you, which may surprise you… unless you’re in management, and then you’re probably whispering to yourself right now, going, “oh yeah, that’s the way to do it.” That’s because managers know that saying next to nothing while you’re firing someone is the best policy. Why? I’m glad you asked.
- The reason why a company won’t say why they are firing X or Y person, because (1) they’ve often written their employment contracts so they don’t ever have to give a reason (called a firing “at will” contract) and (2) giving the poor schlep more information on why they’re getting fired puts them (the company) at risk, and most contracts are set up so the company does not have to give diddly squat when it comes to reasons before showing these people the door. It sucks, but it’s the reality. Gotta protect the good ol’ Executive Row from being too clear as to why they’re giving out pink slips.
- Was I disappointed at the news of the project getting shut down? Fuck yes. It was the sequel to one of the best RPGs of all time with one of the original writers for the first game. The first game is a cult classic. It’s awesome. The characters and voice acting (which Brian Mitsoda had a large part in, and so did Womb Music’s directors and audio) are first rate.
- To be clear, me and Brian Mitsoda don’t get along. This is because he is way too tall, and I hate his fingerless gloves. He probably hates me because I am short and I do not wear gloves that aren’t made from human skin. Despite our height differences and choice of gloves, however, I have a lot of respect for him. He is the first person to use “filth maven” to describe a monster on the unreleased Torn RPG all the way back at Black Isle Studios (yes, he worked there, too, do your research), and I still can’t get that fucking description out of my head. Thanks, Brian, you filth maven.
- When I finally found out Brian Mitsoda was fired (quite suddenly it seems), my reaction was “what the everlasting fuck?!” One of the best, if not the best, qualities of Bloodlines 1 was the writing. It’s not even up for debate. If you want to debate it, good luck to you in your future endeavors but be prepared to lose. A lot.
- Then I read deeper and got to the part about Mitsoda being used for marketing and how that takes a physical and mental toll — boy, did I understand. See, this may come as a shock, but writers don’t usually get into writing and especially writing for games because gee, they like being in front of the public and mouthing marketing catchphrases. It fucking sucks.
- It also fucking sucks to prop someone up, have them advertise your game is the real deal, and then yank the rug out at the end — it’s not just shitty to the person you’re doing it to, it’s shitty to the players who have been listening to the hype all this time. It makes it seem like you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing — but that’s just my opinion.
- I have no insights on the project I can share. No one I worked with in the trenches still works at Hardsuit Labs. Even more interestingly, the Paradox producers I used to work with aren’t at Paradox anymore, either. I haven’t asked them what happened, but if they ever reach out, boy am I listening, but it’s probably telling people on both sides of the ocean quit or were let go or were “whatever”’d.
- I suspect Brian was brought on to give more validity to the project’s success and perception (Rik puts it better by using the word “soul,” below). Brian was instrumental in the pitch.
- To be clear, Brian was brought on before I was, and both he and the creative director reached out to me (the director in his own words, was triggered by a quote in my Twitter timeline that made him think it was a possibility — I now have no idea if that ended up being good or bad). I always advocated that if you did a sequel, you should try and bring on the original staff, especially the writers, because keeping the tone of the first game is good and it’s reeeeeal easy to mess up with brand new staff or brand new developers.
- That’s my suspicions about Brian. Me? I suspect I was brought on because I gave the project RPG validity (which the critics who hate me most should have a field day with and I agree — even I’m laughing as I write this), since Hardsuit Labs hadn’t done an RPG before — they’re mostly known for shooters (which isn’t the best fit for a game like Bloodlines, since, well, the franchise isn’t really about guns). I’d like to think I helped during the pitch, but that’s for others to judge. Paradox certainly signed the damn thing, and I didn’t even have to blow anyone. This time.
- After the signing, it was like a chorus of angels. Or a distant howling of a werewolf pack during their monthly moonlit night of fuckening. I thought it was a dream come true to be able to work on it. Who wouldn’t? I’m still happy I got the chance, even if the project seems to be… somewhere now, I’m not sure where. Don’t take that as a negative, like most, I genuinely have no idea what’s going on with it, where it is, or if it’s still breathing. Vampire-inspired projects probably don’t breathe anyway.
- I should mention: a lot of people aren’t aware of this, but aside from the hard work of the original team, the modding community (yes, Wesp5, you again), it’s also important to recognize that a good part of what made the characters in Bloodlines 1 great wasn’t just the art, writing, and animation — it’s also the voice casting and voice director. A lot of people don’t see or appreciate what a good voice director does, but trust me, they are a big part of what makes crappy dialogue (I’m referring to mine, especially) sing and suddenly, huh, those lines you wrote hopped up on coffee don’t seem so bad.
- That means I was also very excited about the fact that Womb Music was brought on board to do the music and voice direction for Bloodlines 2, and they’re excellent at what they do. Not everyone knows this, but Rik Schaffer from Womb did an AMA on Reddit where he talks about Bloodlines 2, and there’s quotes you don’t want to miss. I agree with a lot of them, but if I were to sum up one of the most important posts related to what I’ve jabbering on about, it’s this:
If you can take the time, pop in, check out the thread, and if you feel the same, give some upvotes. The thread is worth reading. Note that I have never met Rik in person, and we don’t work together, and we don’t have a romantic relationship, which probably comes as a relief to his wife.
No idea what’s next for Bloodlines 2, but if they’re not using Mitsoda’s work, I don’t really know what to expect.
It feels like a huge waste, frankly. It sucks for the people who worked on it. It sucks for Hardsuit. It sucks for Paradox.
SO: What’s happening with Bloodlines 2?
Answer: I have no fucking idea.
Thank you, Bloodlines fans. I hope that useless answer serves to answer all your useless questions from now until the end of time. My Bloodlines 2 “work” was one of the many work perspectives and insights I didn’t include in my original post on events from last year and the subsequent truth of the events in the accuser’s own words, but wanted to put this particular bloodsucker to bed. Or coffin. Whatever.
Thanks for reading. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting for Bloodlines 2 like the rest of you.