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Opinion Business Game Dev "What the Fuck Happened to (Vampire: The Masquerade) Bloodlines 2?" - Chris Avellone gives his version of events

CGiRanger

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This is a super long read and I'm still parsing it. But it sounds like a lot of things went down, and I'm actually very surprised how in-depth he goes into how the project got started from his perspective. Also it sounds like, at least from what he can tell, that no one left at either the developer or publisher is anyone that was working there when he was. He also heaps tons of praise upon Brian Mitsoda, even though apparently they don't quite get along well together.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
 
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CitizenZ

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Who would have ever guessed that Vampires, once a scary and interesting goth world and story, are irrelevant to what is living in the real, well its debatable, things living among us today.
 

R6Rider

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Seems like a lot is gong wrong with the development of this game.

That sucks.


rimshot GIF
 

Saint Boot

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Weren't the two leads who were working on it recently fired for some political stupidity? Metoo or something? Wasn't woke enough?
 
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Maybe I've been following this game too closely, but I feel like I learned less by reading this.

Ed: Although the bits about the pitch are new, and I did assume Avellone was off this in 2020, so I guess I learned something. I still don't understand what DICE is.
 
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element

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Was he drunk when he wrote this? It is a bunch of random thoughts.

I also find it strange that he says he was at the pitch, but doesn't mention the other people. No mention of Brian. No mention of Ka'ai. No mention of anyone else from Hardsuit including their CEO or Studio VP.

This one is really strange "We, being schleps, went there without going to D.I.C.E. because we are not executives.". DICE is like GDC in that there are many different events within the event and all at different prices for tickets with the "big" event being the awards, but smaller events like the Opening Night Party, Workshops and After Party. Hell, there is even a Magic and Poker Tournament. In the end it is a lot of drinking at the ARIA. You don't need to be an exec to attend anything, and like GDC sometimes all you need to do is be in the city to have meetings and not actually attend any "official" events.

HSL former creative director Ka'ai and Brian have been friends for years. If you live in Seattle or know the area, if you walked into Über Tavern on any evening you likely would have ran into Ka'ai or Brian or both, and Bloodlines was always a common conversation, but an unreachable project because of the license. I'm 100% certain that some of the framework of the game was thought up while drinking at Über Tavern as it was added into the game.

Real Uber Tavern


Uber Tavern in VTM2


In October 2015 when Paradox bought White Wolf, Ka'ai jumped into action because the unreachable sequel to VTM was now a real possibility. From the bits I've heard, Ka'ai dove in head first with HSL bringing Brian as a contractor to work on a pitch, with the idea if the game is signed to convert to full time. Pitch happened in Feb 2016 as Ka'ai and Brian wanted to attempt to pitch their version of VTM2 even though Paradox wasn't even looking yet. This was "their" chance for a Hail Mary to work on the game they both dreamed about for years and from HSL like any independent developer you need to be always looking for work.

LOI was signed. After that it gets foggy.

I'm a little suspicious that Chris makes it sound like he was the broker that got the meeting between HSL and Paradox, but he didn't start working with HSL until April 2016 (based on his LinkedIn). Paradox bought White Wolf in October 2015 the HSL pitch happened in Feb 2016 at DICE. Perhaps there was other meetings he was involved, but why would HSL invite someone who isn't a contractor or employee to a high profile pitch?
 
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Sorcerer

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Maybe its better off not coming out at all under Paradox. There will be at least $500 worth of DLC for the game in the first 2 years.
 
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Deleted member 17706

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Was he drunk when he wrote this? It is a bunch of random thoughts.

I also find it strange that he says he was at the pitch, but doesn't mention the other people. No mention of Brian. No mention of Ka'ai. No mention of anyone else from Hardsuit including their CEO or Studio VP.

This one is really strange "We, being schleps, went there without going to D.I.C.E. because we are not executives.". DICE is like GDC in that there are many different events within the event and all at different prices for tickets with the "big" event being the awards, but smaller events like the Opening Night Party, Workshops and After Party. Hell, there is even a Magic and Poker Tournament. In the end it is a lot of drinking at the ARIA. You don't need to be an exec to attend anything, and like GDC sometimes all you need to do is be in the city to have meetings and not actually attend any "official" events.

HSL former creative director Ka'ai and Brian have been friends for years. If you live in Seattle or know the area, if you walked into Über Tavern on any evening you likely would have ran into Ka'ai or Brian or both, and Bloodlines was always a common conversation, but an unreachable project because of the license. I'm 100% certain that some of the framework of the game was thought up while drinking at Über Tavern as it was added into the game.

Real Uber Tavern


Uber Tavern in VTM2


In October 2015 when Paradox bought White Wolf, Ka'ai jumped into action because the unreachable sequel to VTM was not a real possibility. From the bits I've heard, Ka'ai dove in head first with HSL bringing Brian as a contractor to work on a pitch, with the idea if the game is signed to convert to full time. Pitch happened in Feb 2016 as Ka'ai and Brian wanted to attempt to pitch their version of VTM2 even though Paradox wasn't even looking yet. This was "their" chance for a Hail Mary to work on the game they both dreamed about for years and from HSL like any independent developer you need to be always looking for work.

LOI was signed. After that it gets foggy.

I'm a little suspicious that Chris makes it sound like he was the broker that got the meeting between HSL and Paradox, but he didn't start working with HSL until April 2016 (based on his LinkedIn). Paradox bought White Wolf in October 2015 the HSL pitch happened in Feb 2016 at DICE. Perhaps there was other meetings he was involved, but why would HSL invite someone who isn't a contractor or employee to a high profile pitch?

Wow, did not expect to see Uber tavern on GAF. I used to go there fairly often with friends about a decade ago.
 

GymWolf

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What a sad destiny for such a great brand.

The sequel was one of my most hyped game for the entire gen.
 
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ShadowNate

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I also find it strange that he says he was at the pitch, but doesn't mention the other people. No mention of Brian. No mention of Ka'ai. No mention of anyone else from Hardsuit including their CEO or Studio VP.
There's not much info in the post, not enough to justify its length anyway, but he does mention why he was at the pitch meeting (he wanted this to happen and someone to make it happen, he wanted to help out and contribute any way he could, he knew well and had worked with people from both parties), and he does admit he may or may not have helped "selling the pitch". Why did *they* want him there? Is that a serious question?
He also (more than) implies Brian was there, and that he was "instrumental in the pitch."
 
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Julius Ibidus

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We are talking about the people who write shit like this, so their incompetence is no surprise.

uhh, erm, hmm, what? well i guess it would have been nice to play as a vampire and 'level the establishment'. i wonder if they planned a sidequest were i could have established a 501C nonprofit to help spread the message of equality for immortals. meh.
 

Braag

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I was beyond hyped when I heard about a sequel to Bloodlines. It was painful hearing every few months how the project is spiraling more and more out of hand until it got put on hold.
 

lh032

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We are talking about the people who write shit like this, so their incompetence is no surprise.

lol anyone can write better than this, where they hire these people
 
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SCB3

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The thing not helping this is that there are so many Vampire the Masquerade games on Steam right now, I thought they were prequels or something, its becoming almost as convoluted as Kingdom Hearts
 

Nickolaidas

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We are talking about the people who write shit like this, so their incompetence is no surprise.

OH GOSH, GEE, FOR THE LIFE OF ME I CANNOT FIND A HIDDEN MEANING IN THIS CHARACTER'S STORY - WHAT IS IT ABOUT? AN ALLEGORY OF SORTS? I NEED TO DIG DEEP TO FIND ANY MESSAGES CONCERNING REAL-LIFE ISSUES. THIS IS BRILLIANT WRITING AND I CANNOT PERCEIVE ANY SORT OF AGENDA OR POLITICAL MESSAGE BEING SHOVED DOWN MY THROAT JUST BY READING THIS.
 

Umbasaborne

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Yeah, i get the feeling this game is super cancelled. Same with dead island 2. They just wont admit it for whatever reason. I also suspect that dead island 2 will be a mess when it actually comes out. Man wtf happened to these games?
 

In Your Vase

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I'm a little suspicious that Chris makes it sound like he was the broker that got the meeting between HSL and Paradox, but he didn't start working with HSL until April 2016 (based on his LinkedIn). Paradox bought White Wolf in October 2015 the HSL pitch happened in Feb 2016 at DICE. Perhaps there was other meetings he was involved, but why would HSL invite someone who isn't a contractor or employee to a high profile pitch?

...can you actually be employed for a game that isn't signed at all?

I guess so, but that's probably a question for the Hardsuit executives, who do sound like they aren't the best managers.

If it takes 2 months to actually sign a game, starting in "April" would make sense, but I don't know how long it takes to secure a contract.

If you know Brian and Cluney (it sounds like you do), you could probably ask them if Avellone was at the pitch, and if he's lying about that (it seems easy to check), then I would definitely debunk his whole rant.

In the post (although it is all over the place) it does mention Brian was there, though, and was instrumental but nothing about the Creative Director, which would be weird for the CD not to be there. I do notice that Cluney is barely mentioned in just about anything related to this whole mess, which is really strange.

I do know you've been very anti-Brian in other posts and very pro-Hardsuit, but this whole situation doesn't really make Hardsuit look very good. I do admit it's possible Brian was responsible for his own firing, but that doesn't explain why they wouldn't get rid of Brian and Cluney earlier?
 

element

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...can you actually be employed for a game that isn't signed at all?
Sure, though the developer is taking a huge amount of risk as they are covering that salary with no deal. It happens as sometimes developers are willing to take the risk. Which is why Brian full-time employment was contingent on the game being signed.

Think of it as hiring an architect to design you a house before you have the land, permits or even the funds to actually build it.

If it takes 2 months to actually sign a game, starting in "April" would make sense, but I don't know how long it takes to secure a contract.
LOI (Letter of Intent) can come pretty quick, which would allow for a limited budget to start aligning the developer as the legal and finance teams on both sides work on a more detailed long term contract.

I do know you've been very anti-Brian in other posts and very pro-Hardsuit, but this whole situation doesn't really make Hardsuit look very good. I do admit it's possible Brian was responsible for his own firing, but that doesn't explain why they wouldn't get rid of Brian and Cluney earlier?
I wouldn't say I'm anti-Brian or pro-Hardsuit in that believe there is a lot of fault on all sides, including Paradox as well. I might come across as pro-Hardsuit because I am sympathetic to ALL the people that worked on it, not just Brian.
 
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In Your Vase

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LOI (Letter of Intent) can come pretty quick, which would allow for a limited budget to start aligning the developer as the legal and finance teams on both sides work on a more detailed long term contract.
Is that what happened? Can you ask Brian and the Creative Director?

Can you also ask them if Avellone was there for the pitch or was he lying?

I don't want to debate this, I'd rather just get the truth than trade speculation.
I wouldn't say I'm anti-Brian or pro-Hardsuit in that believe there is a lot of fault on all sides, including Paradox as well. I might come across as pro-Hardsuit because I am sympathetic to ALL the people that worked on it, not just Brian.
I don't think anyone didn't blame Paradox. :)

If you believe Brian was wronged in all this (it sure seems like it), that's good to know.
 
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Ha ha - lying about being a pitch meeting feels pretty stupid, that feels like it would have been easy to check, especially if a bunch of people were there. Also that shit about Vegas feels weirdly specific.

This whole situation seems bad for everyone - I almost hate to see who the new developer is, but I hope it's someone good, or they're going to get dragged hard by the toxic "fans" of this game.
 

element

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Is that what happened? Can you ask Brian and the Creative Director? Can you also ask them if Avellone was there for the pitch or was he lying? I don't want to debate this, I'd rather just get the truth than trade speculation.
someday I'll have drinks and hear more of the story.

I don't know all the details, but my GUESS is that there was a conflict over making the game 'fun' and the story. Brian is known for writing and narrative, but he really isn't a game designer. The core mechanics and making a 'game' was Ka'ai responsibility and blending the two of them together in a compelling, cohesive, and sellable is VERY difficult. It's been a long time since VTM1 and Dead State, Brian's personal project pushed dialogue over 'fun'. You can have great characters and dialogue, but if the actions the player needs to take to actually experience them aren't fun, then you have a bigger problem. Totally speculating, but given the investment that Paradox made in the title, they needed something that would sell, not a cult classic.
 
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In Your Vase

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someday I'll have drinks and hear more of the story.
:( Looking forward to it, I guess. My point was more it seems bad to speculate that something is false if you could actually get the truth, which you seemed to have far better access to than anyone else.

Usually most teams leave room for both in discrete chunks - talk talk | fight fight/explore | talk (like, uh, in BL1) but maybe that wasn't the case here. It seems pretty easy to do if you use even BL1 "out dated" approach as a model.

There are times where it's even more interesting to break that pattern (like Ocean House Hotel, which was something I hadn't seen before in an RPG) but I imagine moments like that can be expensive, budget wise. That hotel level was great, though.
 
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someday I'll have drinks and hear more of the story.

I don't know all the details, but my GUESS
If you don't actually know anything, then this is a lot like Avellone's blog, except that you could have chosen to shut up immediately.

Man, cannot stand dummies who feign insider information and but don't know shit, but they do it to make themselves feel important. If you do that, then go to Reset Era and GTFO.

If you can find the facts like you say, "insider," then say something factual, otherwise you're just a shitposter, and that's my job, not yours.
 
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Virt McPolygon

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Another great franchise sacrificed for what? Money?

Frustrated The Office GIF by myHQ
You mean like what happened with another classic RPG franchise Cyberpunk? That's capitalism, baby! Higher ups don't respect or may not even be aware of the elements that make a smaller IP beloved.

And anyone even remotely interested in the BR -- skip it! Boring as fuck and there's not much masquerading.
 
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