Friday, March 1, 2024
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Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 is back with a diverse new developer

During Saturday’s PAX West keynote, Paradox Interactive delighted fans by announcing that Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 is still in the works under the supervision of new developer The Chinese Room (Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Dear Esther, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs). The team are bringing their award-winning game design philosophy to the World of Darkness property as an action RPG, and are planning to showoff gameplay in January of next year, with the full release following in the autumn of 2024.

Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 has been on a bit of a roller coaster when it comes to development, having been announced in 2019 as a highly-anticipated sequel to the 2004 original, with a 2020 release date. That obviously didn’t come to fruition, with the game hitting another delay, and Paradox announced that it was changing the development team in February of 2021. As it turns out, that new team is The Chinese Room, who have had their heads down on the game since then.

We were lucky enough to speak with The Chinese Room about Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 in person at their PAX West booth ahead of the trailer reveal. Though principal narrative designer Arone Le Bray and lead character artist Keiko Kasai weren’t able to give us too many details about the upcoming project, it definitely promises to follow in other World of Darkness video games’ footsteps when it comes to diversity and authentic representation.

“Going in, we wanted to make sure that we were being as diverse as Seattle is itself,” Le Bray told Gayming in our interview.

“We’re very diverse, not only in cultures but also in orientations and such,” Kasai added about the team at The Chinese Room itself. ” So it kind of reflects as well how everyone is inside the game, because everyone has different ethnicities…we can say there’s genderfluid [characters] in there as well. And at the same time, there’s so much more to know about these characters. So hopefully everyone is as excited as we are.”

Beyond representing diversity that reflects their own studio, The Chinese Room have gone out of their way to ensure that these characters have been given the love and attention they deserve to feel like fully fleshed out people in their own right. That has included consulting with sensitivity readers for identities and experiences that their admittedly small team may not encompass, as well as finding voice actors that match the identities they are portraying.

“Our voice actors as well, we wanted to make sure that they were representing the people who they are representing in the game,” Le Bray told us. “So that was very important and very fun for us to do a lot of casting there.”

When we got to the ever-important question of romances, both developers got a bit cagey, not wanting to reveal too much. Though they would not confirm if there will be romances/dateable characters in Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2, they did note that there will be “character connections” in the game.

“Like everyone on the narrative team, and actually everyone in the studio in general, we want these characters to feel like people,” Le Bray said. “They all have their own drives their own objectives, their own goals. So they might as well play off the player character and try to feel them out.”

Part of this process entails a creative back and forth between the narrative and character design teams. The story team provided the artists with backstories and ideas, which allowed them to create concept art in turn. At times, if there was a cool element of the concept art the writers hadn’t previously thought about, they put in the work to see about adding it into the dialogue and other narrative elements.

Another part is playing within the World of Darkness setting. While it may seem somewhat restrictive to have to play by the rules of someone else’s world, the success of Baldur’s Gate 3 has shown just how much fun it can be when executed well. For their part, Le Bray and Kasai feel World of Darkness has given them a good balance of support and freedom.

World of Darkness is super fantastic, to be honest, because they also give us opportunity,” Kasai said. “I mean, of course, we kind of like to stay true in terms of source materials and such, but World of Darkness is super fantastic in terms of like, they gave us opportunity to explore under-explored parts in the narrative, because it’s such a big world.”

Ultimately, The Chinese Room want you to feel like you’re inhabiting the character you play in Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2. That means choices should feel impactful and difficult to make at times. These developers are definitely aiming for a game that operates in shades of gray, and they’re not at all shy about saying so.

“[We want people to] think about their choices and their journey as well,” Kasai said. “You know, how they explore not only all the beautiful settings, but also how the beautiful stories are unravelling as well. So it’s really their adventure.”

“It should feel like your character,” Le Bray added. “When we say we want you to feel like your kind of Kindred, your kind of vampire, that’s been one of our pillars since the very beginning.”

We’ll get to see more of how this philosophy actually plays out gameplay-wise this coming January. For now we’ll have to survive on these little tidbits the developers at The Chinese Room were able to give us about Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2.

Ty Galiz-Rowe

Ty is Gayming Magazine's deputy editor and esports expert.