After 15 years of being away, the team behind Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 talked to us about what they’re excited about with the long-awaited sequel.
Of all the games set to currently release in 2020, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 is one of the more intriguing titles. As a sequel to a beloved 15-year-old RPG, Bloodlines 2’s reemergence has been met with praise by many fans of the previous installment while others, like myself, who were maybe too young when the first game came out have been left asking, “Wait, what is this game again?”
During E3 2019, we were able to talk to some of the team behind Bloodlines 2 to ask them about how they’re approaching this sequel so far after the first game. We spoke to Hardsuit Labs’ lead UI/UX designer Rachel Leiker and Paradox’s producer Nikhat Ali about the return of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines and what it is that has them excited about the franchise’s return in 2020.
Logan Moore: While Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is beloved by many, I’d say the first game is more of a cult classic where those who played it really loved it, but it never reached a vast, mainstream audience. With this in mind, how are you bringing the series back with Bloodlines 2 not only to appease old fans but also grab the attention of potential new players as well?
Rachel Leiker: There are a lot of things in Vampire: The Masquerade that are sort of universal across all vampire lore that I think people, excuse the pun, are hungry for right now. We’re seeing kind of a resurgence in vampire media at the moment which is very cool and very good for us. The legacy of the first one is such that there’s a reason why people are still playing it and it’s due to sort of the narrative of it. It’s the story, it’s the conflict, it’s the overarching themes of the first game that people really are drawn to. It’s a cult classic for a reason.
So when our creative director Ka’ai Cluney had heard that Paradox had purchased the World of Darkness IP, he immediately got on the phone with Brian Mitsoda, who was the writer of the first game. They’ve been friends for years. He said, “Hey man, do you want to do a Bloodlines 2?” Brian was like, “I hadn’t actually been thinking about it, but yeah, absolutely.” So they literally hashed out the story for this game over like a weekend and a bottle of whiskey. It was something, that while it hadn’t been at the forefront of their minds, was something that was a story that they wanted to continue and could easily continue. For our game, hearkening back to the first game, it’s actually been fairly easy for us because a lot of the things now are very similar thematically that we can represent in our game.
As far as bringing in new people, as I mentioned earlier, the whole resurgence of vampire media is happening now. We have something going for us that a lot of other vampire media doesn’t have which is a modern setting. You don’t see that a whole lot — recently, anyway. It’s all very dated. But it’s a modern story, a modern setting, it just happens to deal with vampires which has always been appealing for us as developers because we get to tell a cool story in modern-day Seattle which is a complicated city so it’s a complicated story.
Nikhat Ali: What I really like is that our version of a vampire story is mature. If you look at a lot of the vampire media that you have currently, it’s very much aimed for teens. The people that grew up with vampires, they’re now kind of yearning more something more mature. As we grew up, we wanted to see the same thing happen in the media. If you look at it from that perspective, Bloodlines will really cater to people who aren’t so familiar with the franchise.
LM: Nowadays, the original game feels a bit dated in some aspects. What area of the first Bloodlines do you think you’ve most improved here in the sequel?
RL: It was definitely a product of its time. We’ve obviously improved the look of it. We’re using Unreal Engine 4 which is very, very cool for us. We’ve spent a great deal of time sort of maturing the content if that makes sense. Brian and Cara have done an excellent job of bringing more modern sensibilities into the game.
As you know, Malkavians were announced for the game as a playable clan. Malkavians were very complicated in the original game and were used a lot for comedic effect. The idea around Malkavians has sort of shifted in recent times and they have done a great job to be more sensitive and respectful of representing that in this game.
I also like to think that our systems have matured quite a bit from the first game. We worked in parallel with the World of Darkness, both the pen and paper Vampire: The Masquerade and our game, to make the systems very cohesive. If you’re playing the pen and paper, a lot of that will translate into our game as opposed to these two wildly different systems for the same IP. That brings a lot more cohesion to both the gameplay and the game as a whole.
DS: Once you pick a clan in Bloodlines 2, are you locked into it for the rest of the game?
RL: Yes. We do encourage replayability, of course, through the clan choice. That was a big aspect of the first game. You are able to get through your initial gameplay and then come back and play as a different clan.
DS: Going back to around the start of development, did you happen to pick the brains of any of the notable key members who worked on the first game before you dove into working on Bloodlines 2?
RL: We really had an excellent resource in Brian Mitsoda. He was, like, the guy on the first one. He was just kind of our go-to guy. He’s both really knowledgable about the first game but also very knowledgeable about the IP. He’s deeply, deeply invested in Vampire: The Masquerade just as a whole.
LM: I know you’ve mentioned clans and such will have different routes in the game, but will Seattle as a whole change based on your choices throughout?
RL: Not exactly based on your clan choice. We have some other things that will change the complexion of Seattle. Masquerade is one of those things. If you are a very good vampire and you don’t break masquerade at all, Seattle is a very safe, healthy place for you. If you are a very crazy vampire and you go around willy-nilly murdering people left and right, Seattle will change accordingly. Basically, if you break masquerade one too many times, it’s not just the human forces that are going to come after you. I’ll just say that.
LM: It seems like many players have been starved for a new, first-person RPG for awhile and there haven’t been many in recent years. All of a sudden, in early 2020, there seems to be a whole lot of those games coming out. What would you say makes Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 stand out compared to the competition?
RL: It has actually been really encouraging to us because, for the longest time, people were like, “Single-player is dead. First-person immersive is dead.” But, the three biggest games of last year were single-player experiences. We’ve been seeing here [at E3] that single-player is exploding again and we’re really excited to be in that field with everybody else.
We have a very good story to tell. And it’s not just because we’re Bloodlines and the game has that legacy component of it. We have a very interesting, very compelling, very modern, very mature story to tell. That I think is going to be a huge draw for a lot of people.
NA: I think what’s hugely in the favor of Bloodlines is how Brian, in Bloodlines 1 and now also in Bloodlines 2, keeps it so very local. It’s about Seattle. It’s about the story of the vampires in Seattle and how they deal with the contemporary issues that plague Seattle at the moment. You, as a vampire, start to interact with that and choose different sides. It’s very intimate. That’s how I think we set ourselves apart from the other first-person narrative-drive games.
DS: There have been a few other Vampire: The Masquerade games that have been announced in recent months along with Bloodlines 2. Will those games potentially cross over whatsoever with what you’re working on or is Bloodlines 2 going to be totally separate?
RL: Bloodlines 2 is its own thing, basically. We’re only focused on doing our story for Bloodlines. We’re not really aware, I guess, of the other stuff. We’re just hyper-focused on what we’re doing for Bloodlines.
DS: I’m sure you’re not talking openly about post-launch content right now, but is continuing to support the game after release in your plans?
RL: Yes. Absolutely. If you know anything about Paradox games, we love post-launch. [laughs]
NA: Obviously this is an RPG so we won’t have the same type of way that we will handle this one because it’s not a systems-driven game. We can’t give it the same treatment that we did for all of our other games. But there will definitely be post-launch.
DS: Are there any other major features or elements of Bloodlines 2 you’d like to let our readers know about?
RL: We’re just really excited to bring this story and this IP back. This has been a labor of love both for us and for Paradox. We’re so excited to finally tell the story that we want to tell and bring this back to audiences.