Hardsuit Labs, the studio currently developing the highly anticipated Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, have announced the firing of both Martin Ka’ai Cluney and Brian Mitsoda from the project.
Cluney had been employed as the game’s Creative Director while Mitsoda, who wrote the original Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, had been serving as the sequel’s Creative Director.
On August 19th, the Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 development team published a statement to the game’s official website which provided players with “An Update on the Organizational Changes for Bloodlines 2.”
The core of this update was the revelation that “Lead Narrative Designer Brian Mitsoda and Creative Director Martin Ka’ai Cluney are no longer part of the team at Hardsuit Labs” as the result of “a joint decision made by the leadership of Hardsuit Labs and Paradox Interactive.”
In their stead, it was announced that “Alexandre Mandryka has come aboard as Creative Consultant, filling the Creative Director role for Bloodlines.”
Mandryka has previously served as the Creative Consultant for titles such as Assassin’s Creed, Rainbow Six: Vegas, and Warhammer 40k: Space Marine.
Mitsoda would later comment on his firing in a statement provided to Rock Paper Shotgun, wherein he confirmed that “After almost five years involvement with the studio, I was suddenly terminated on 7/16/20.”
“That this came as a shock to me is underselling it,” Mitsoda added.
He would proceed to describe how “the pride in the work, the fan expectations, and the support from co-workers who started out as fans kept me going through this long five years,” but also explained how “I’m incredibly disappointed and frustrated to say that this is where it ends for me on the project.”
The statement would conclude with an assurance from Mitsoda that, “I was not part of the conversations that led to the decision to delay production, and to my knowledge, there were no delays caused by the Bloodlines 2 narrative development” and that he was “confident and proud of the work that I and my team put forward”.
Ultimately, Mitsoda noted that “When that work will be seen and what form it will take is unknown to me.”
As Mitsoda notes Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 was recently delayed with a joint announcement from Hardsuit Labs’ Andy Kipling and Paradox Interactive’s Jakob Munthe.
The statement, which was posted to Twitter declared, “We are moving the launch of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 to 2021.”
It went to state, “Our goal has always been to deliver the best game possible, to immerse you into a Seattle re-imagined in the World of Darkness, and deliver a worthy successor to the original Bloodlines game. Due to the quality bar and ambitions we have set for ourselves, we have made the difficult decision that we need more time.”
“This means that our goal to release in 2020 is no longer possible. Moving launch is one of the changes we are making to ensure the best player experience posssible,” it continued.
They add, “This is not a decision taken lightly nor is it the first option we considered. We will share more information in the coming months on launch time and other organizational changes that will help us achieve this goal.”
Finally, their statement concludes, “We understand that this will be a disappointment to many of you, but we also appreciate how our ambition is echoed through many parts of the community. We hope you understand that, while difficult, this is the right call.”
As YouTuber Arch notes the development on Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 has been riddled with controversy. He first points out that the “various gameplay that we have seen from Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 has been less than impressive.”
Arch also points out an article from One Angry Gamer that details that Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 has been censoring and banning people who have dared criticize them on Steam for the elements like a pronoun selector as well as the main story being grounded in the current day politics of Seattle.
Ka’ai Cluney had revealed that information to VG 24/7 in March. He told them, “The world is a very different place. One of the reasons we went to Seattle for Bloodlines 2 is there’s a lot of conflict in Seattle that is a microcosm of a lot of conflict that’s going on all over the place.”
He continued, ” It just felt like a good place to start to ground it; the conflict between tradition and progress, conflict between money and artistic endeavours. A lot of those conflicts are happening right now and they’re very real.”
He then made it perfectly clear it was grounded in 2020 politics in Seattle, “It seems like the perfect place to dig into something that feels very modern in terms of the conflict and also very timeless; grounding it in 2020 but also very much a descendent of what the original game was.”
Cluney would make it clear they were trying to send a political message in the game, “One of the reasons why that particular conflict attracted us so much was because it’s an inherently political conversation but it’s one of the few ones where it’s hard to… there are valid approaches. The world has to move forward, right?”
He added, “It is a political game but I think it’s one of those few opportunities that gives us the chance to let people make their own political statement in a way that’s not cheap.”
“I don’t believe you can look at both sides of a political argument without understanding both sides. It’s easy to say this is good and this is bad. But it’s definitely taking some political stances on what we think are right and wrong. In terms of the main conflict what is interesting is it’s one of those truly balanced issues,” he elaborated.
Mitsoda’s full statement regarding his sudden firing can be read below:
“Until recently, I was the Narrative Lead on a videogame called Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 for Hardsuit Labs, Inc being published by Paradox Interactive (which owns 30% of Hardsuit Labs). After almost five years involvement with the studio, I was suddenly terminated on 7/16/20.
That this came as a shock to me is underselling it. I’ve worked on Bloodlines 2 for almost five years. The story and main cast was initially conceived in my living room. I helped develop the pitch for Hardsuit Labs and helped pitch the project to Paradox in Las Vegas. I’ve been in charge of the narrative since the beginning, working long days and sometimes weekends to deliver a successor to Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, and I’ve never been led to believe that I hadn’t succeeded. Very obviously, I have also been involved in the PR and marketing side of things, even though it was one of the most difficult parts for me. I’m a pretty private person – press and crowds tend to heavily trigger my social anxiety (which, if you’ve ever wondered about the gloves, they are “armor” that make me feel less exposed in situations that trigger my anxiety).
Bloodlines and the fandom of the game mean the world to me. So I lent my legacy with the franchise, my name, and my participation in marketing efforts for the game, even when it was intensely difficult and took a mental and physical toll. This is all because I wanted to do what was best for the game and the team.
The pride in the work, the fan expectations, and the support from co-workers who started out as fans kept me going through this long five years. And I’m incredibly disappointed and frustrated to say that this is where it ends for me on the project.
I was not part of the conversations that led to the decision to delay production, and to my knowledge, there were no delays caused by the Bloodlines 2 narrative development. I am confident and proud of the work that I and my team put forward. When that work will be seen and what form it will take is unknown to me.
It was a pleasure to work on this game and with many people at Hardsuit Labs and Paradox and I’m sorry I won’t be able to see it to the end. I spent years on some of the best characters and dialogue that I ever wrote. It’s meant a lot to hear from the Bloodlines community and I do hope that what’s finally delivered is as satisfying as I intended it to be. Thanks to all of you who supported me throughout the project.”
What do you make of Hardsuit Labs firing Martin Ka’ai Cluney and Brian Mitsoda? What do you make of Mitsoda’s statement in response to his firing?