Wireframe - #35 - 2020

(Joyce) #1
Cult classics aren’t supposed to get sequels, but here we are
with Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2. Time to suck it up



t’s still a surprise to remember
that, in fact, yes, Vampire: The
Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 is a
thing that exists and is releasing
in 2020. A sequel to 2004’s game
of the same name (minus that identifying
number) really does feel like the stuff
of impossible dreams, even now, mere
months ahead of its launch. And
with that self-imposed hype comes
pressure: Hardsuit Labs, developer of
Bloodlines 2, only has one launched
title under its belt, 2012’s free-to-play
FPS Blacklight: Retribution. Vampire: The
Masquerade has a committed fanbase.
Bloodlines, Troika’s original game, has
something of a rabid fanbase. If Hardsuit
gets it wrong, the community will –
somewhat fittingly – be out for blood.
So it is that we find ourselves in a
situation where there’s real trepidation
about a much-wanted sequel. When a
game releases, withers on the vine, but
lives on through community support and
intense fandom – as Bloodlines did – there’s
rarely a real hope of anything official
following it up. But that announcement,
those first looks at the sequel that does
exist, that release date offering an actual
time and place you’ll be able to play it. It’s
all a bit too much. Surely it’s a fever dream?
Surely it can’t go well? Surely something
has to go wrong? We spoke to Russell
Nelson, CTO and co-founder at Hardsuit
Labs, to find out why, actually, there’s a real
confidence this could be the impossible
sequel Bloodlines fans have been craving.

How long has Bloodlines 2 been
in development?
The moment we found out that Paradox
had acquired World of Darkness, Ka’ai
Cluney, our creative director, went to work.
He contacted Brian Mitsoda, who was
the lead writer on the original Bloodlines,
and who he had worked with previously,
and asked if he wanted to make another
Bloodlines game. Brian was in so the two of
them literally worked out the setting and
main story beats over a weekend and a
bottle of whiskey. Ka’ai then went to Andy
[Kipling], CEO of Hardsuit Labs, and asked
if he knew anyone at Paradox.
We pitched the game to the team at
Paradox in February 2016, much to their
surprise and delight. It’s extremely rare for
a small game studio to spend their own
time and capital on developing a pitch to a
single company. It’s high-risk, and Paradox
honestly didn’t quite know what to make of
the request. But after the pitch, they knew
everything they needed to – that we could
make this game.
Pre-preproduction began in March
2016, and we were officially green-lit in
October 2016.

What was the mood like in the studio
before revealing the game’s existence?
Our biggest fear was that we’d announce
the game and people would respond ‘So
what?’. But that genuinely wasn’t the case.
When we did closed-door playthroughs
before the announcement, people would
walk in, see the opening splash screen

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with the logo and respond with genuine
excitement. That was a huge indicator to
the team that Bloodlines 2 would be well
received. This is the first original game
made by Hardsuit Labs, and it is the follow-
up to a cult-classic. While in development,
you are so close to the game that all you
see are flaws – what you don’t see is the
reaction of a first-time player, especially
the reaction of a fan who loved the
original game.

Have things changed around the studio
much since beginning the project?
We have tripled in size since the start
of the project, and there are always
challenges associated with growing that
quickly. Each challenge has given us an
opportunity to learn, and the important
thing is that we keep moving forward. One
key learning was that we needed more
producers, so we have expanded a lot in
that regard. Production helps keep people
focused on important tasks and avoid
randomisation. Production can be a force
multiplier when it comes to focus.

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