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Bloodlines 2 Dev Diary #2: Pillars

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Bloodlines 2 Dev Diary #2: Pillars

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Sat 27 July 2019, 00:31:18

Tags: Hardsuit Labs; Ka'ai Cluney; Paradox Interactive; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2

Having spent all of May introducing the clans and unveiled gameplay footage at E3 in June, there was little reason for Paradox and Hardsuit to publish Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 dev diaries during those months. Now that things are quiet again, it looks like they're back. The new dev diary entry, penned by project director Ka’ai Cluney, is a description of the game's four main design pillars. I'll skip the introduction and get straight to the point:

Be a Vampire: This sounds simple to the point of ridiculousness, but it goes deeper than feeding on humans and avoiding the sun. From the player’s perspective, there should always be a sense of supernatural power – even for a fledgling, or relatively weak vampire. Features and systems should always be evaluated against this; dialogue and interactions should always reflect this. The relationship between the player and citizens of Seattle should always be evaluated as a relationship between a hunter and prey, be it through feeding systems, combat, or dialogue. This also pertains to what might threaten a vampire. How do you scare a monster?

In a practical sense, “Be a Vampire” – among other things – guides our approach to how the player moves through the world, both in terms of player systems such as traversal, how we support those systems through level design, and how we communicate all of that to the player through other devices, such as Lighting or User Interface. A player that moves through the world unconventionally needs to learn how to read that world unconventionally, and a lot of effort is made to make sure the player really does start to think like, and be, a vampire.

Show the World of Darkness: The world of Bloodlines should always be informed by the nature of the World of Darkness – the hidden world that lurks under what most people consider the Real World. This should be reflected not only in the look and design of the environment, but in the personalities of its inhabitants, and in the nature and presentation of missions and events in the game. No one in the World of Darkness is interested in clearing a cellar of rats, or in collecting Werewolf pelts. There should be a constant and deepening sense of discovering more, of digging deeper.

A big part of this is visual, which I’ll leave to a later entry from Luke (Dodge, our Art Director,) because, trust me, I’m no artist. “Show the World of Darkness” goes much deeper than that, however, in a lot of ways that affect our approach to design. The foundation of the World of Darkness is Storytelling. A world that hits the mark visually needs to be filled with the characters, history, and small environmental touches that bring the World of Darkness to life, and those all need to reinforce the tone. Our Narrative Team, led by Brian, is constantly assessing and reevaluating everything from Character Design and Dialogue, to Quest Design, to the smallest details like shop signs, to make sure that we’re not just telling players about the World of Darkness – we’re filling it with as much Darkness as possible, and dropping them right in the middle of it to discover it themselves.

Reactivity and Player Choice: Players should always be faced with choices. Sometimes, they should be confronted with choices where there is no “right” thing to do, or times where they’re forced to choose between two equally unsavory options. As players make decisions, the world and gameplay experience must reflect these choices, be it through reactive dialogue, reactive story events, or even how players decide to build and grow their character. Players should never get the sense that they’re making a choice that will lessen the game experience, even if they made a “wrong” choice. Choice should always be acknowledged by the game, even if only in minor ways.

This applies directly to our decision-making process as well. For example, we decided early in development that every player build must have access to – though not necessarily equal ability in – powers that have applications for combat, dialogue, and traversal. This means that players who prefer combat characters can certainly build to their preference, but always have options as to how and when to deviate from that archetype. They may not be smooth talkers, but they can certainly try – and sometimes fail. There are often consequences for certain choices, and it’s not always obvious.

Be a True Descendent of Bloodlines: Bloodlines had its own voice – even within the overall World of Darkness. Players should immediately get the sense that they are re-entering that world, though in a different place and time. The tone of the narrative and dialogue, the balance between the familiar and the otherworldly, and the treatment of disturbing and mature subject matter (and the conscious decision to occasionally wink and nod at that subject matter,) are all crucial to maintaining that feel. Creative and aesthetic decisions should all be weighed against the question: “Is this Bloodlines?” We are exploring new territory outside of the original Bloodlines, but it must feel like an expansion of the original world.

Part of being a true descendent is – ideally – learning from the past, building on strengths and improving wherever possible. For us, it’s not enough to “do it like Bloodlines”. In some cases, we need to understand why it was done, and what was great about it, so that we can extrapolate that out to other systems and elements of the game. For example, alignment with various factions, loyalty, and betrayal played heavily into the ending of the original game. We wanted to go further, and make sure that those elements are pulled as far forward as possible, so that they figure more heavily into the early game. We then make a point of challenging those loyalties, and providing opportunities for betrayal as often as possible, which has even wider implications at the end.
A solid set of principles. I think the most informative item here is the fourth pillar, which makes explicit the fact that Hardsuit intend to create a more faction-centric experience than the original Bloodlines.

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