It’s been a rough ride for Paradox Entertainment’s long-in-the-works RPG sequel Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, and now the publisher has admitted it almost cancelled the project after its original developer Hardsuit Labs was ditched earlier this year.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, a sequel to developer Troika Games’ much-loved 2004 cult-classic RPG, was announced back in 2019 with a PC and console release expected the following year. Sequel-starved fans were delights at the news, particularly after it was confirmed Troika’s Brian Mitsoda would assist with writing duties – but first hints of development troubles surfaced later that year when Hardsuit announced the first of several delays.
In June 2020, Paradox distanced itself from designer Chris Avellone’s work on the game following allegations of sexual assault, and a significant studio shake-up in August saw lead narrative designer Brian Mitsoda and creative director Ka’ai Cluney fired from their roles for reasons not shared. Then in October 2020, Paradox confirmed senior narrative designer Cara Ellison had left the project and was no longer working with Hardsuit.
Inevitably, all that upheaval had a significant impact on Bloodlines 2 development, and Paradox revised its release date again toward the end of 2020, pushing it into 2021. It was hardly a promising sequence of events, but then things went from bad to worse at the start of this year when Paradox announced it had removed Hardsuit from the project, delayed the game indefinitely, and cancelled new pre-orders. “In order to meet our goals,” the publisher said at the time, “we’ve come to the conclusion that a change is needed and, as a result, more development time is required”.
Skip forward to the present and it’s unsurprising to hear Paradox CEO Fredrik Wester admit the publisher almost scrapped the project completely after all that. “When we removed the game from the original developer,” Wester revealed to Swedish website Placera (in a translation obtained from Paradox by Rock Paper Shotgun), “we took a long look at whether we should cancel it or continue development”. Paradox says it was “prepared to stop production completely”, but with the axe ready to fall, it received another pitch “that was persuasive enough for us to continue”.
The publisher is yet to reveal the studio now handling the project following Hardsuit’s departure – Wester describes the new team as a “very reputable and talented developer” that has shipped a number of games previously in his interview – but Paradox is said to have “high hopes that this will be a good game that meets our players’ desires.”
As for whether Paradox will continue its investment in role-playing games after the turmoil of Bloodlines 2’s development, Wester says he’s adopting a wait-and-see approach. “I would like to see how Bloodlines is received before we bet the next big money in the genre,” he told Placera (this time via Google Translate). “There is a huge desire for good games in the role-playing game genre so I absolutely do not want to close any doors. But I would like to see what happens, what can we do and how Bloodlines is received”.
Of course, Paradox’s eventful year became more challenging still last month when the publisher faced accusations it had fostered a culture of bullying and gender discrimination after a union-led employee survey revealed almost half of the 133 participating staff had experienced “mistreatment”, with the issues said to be “worst for women”.
Although Paradox pledged to conduct a “thorough audit” of its processes following the report, eyebrows were raised a week later when Wester publicly admitted to an incident of “inappropriate behaviour” towards another employee during a company wide conference in 2018. “This was something I immediately and sincerely apologised for in-person the following Monday in a process reviewed by HR,” Wester wrote.
Further damning allegations aimed at the studio surfaced earlier this week, when Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet detailed a “culture of silence” within the company – a sentiment shared by Paradox employees Eurogamer has spoken to. In response to the report, Paradox said it had now hired an external and independent auditor to investigate its company culture, beginning with its employees based in Sweden.