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Interview Paradox's Fredrik Wester and Shams Jorjani on Tyranny 2 and Bloodlines 2

Infinitron

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Tags: Fredrik Wester; Obsidian Entertainment; Paradox Interactive; Shams Jorjani; Tyranny; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

Paradox Interactive held their annual PDXCON conference this weekend, where they announced a number of new strategy titles. While most of the world's attention was focused on these announcements, the guys from PCGamesN thoughtfully took the time to ask CEO Fredrik Wester and VP Shams Jorjani what Paradox is up to in our genre these days. Namely, regarding their relationship with Obsidian and the possibility of another Tyranny game. Despite what a certain former Obsidian owner may have revealed recently, it doesn't sound like there are any hard feelings between the two companies. I quote:

“Obsidian wanted to do Pillars of Eternity II on their own because they had ideas on business terms where we couldn’t agree,” Paradox CEO Fred Wester tells us. “It’s nothing more than that. I really like the Obsidian people and I’m a big fan of their games as well.”

At last year’s PDXCON, the publishers told us that Tyranny sold below their expectations; that “everyone was hoping that it would do better.” But Paradox and Obsidian never fell out according to Wester. In fact, their relationship is perfectly healthy.

“I’m going to have a beer with Feargus Urquhart at E3 this year as usual,” he says. “It’s more that, they want to be more independent and do their own things, and we want to publish things where we are in control. It’s not really compatible on a corporation level. On a personal level, there’s no problem.”

To understand that publisher demand for control, you need to look at the nature of Paradox’s recent success. Part of their explosive growth over the past half a decade has been down to patience - Crusader Kings, Cities, and Europa Universalis are all names that didn’t find a wider audience until two, three, or even four entries in. In order to repeat the trick, Paradox want to own what they work on.

“We always work super long-term,” VP of business development Shams Jorjani says. “If we have the choice of investing in our IP and ourselves, rather than Games Workshop or somebody else’s IP, we’d rather choose ourselves. Us owning IP ends up being just a direct result of us paying for everything. We’re taking all the financial risk, so we should see most of the financial upside as well.”

Reasonable though that might be, it means Obsidian aren’t steering the future of the world they made. If the developers never hash out another deal with Paradox, they’ll never work on Tyranny again. The publishers, meanwhile, don’t yet have any concrete plans to make a Tyranny 2, either internally or with another studio.

“We could do more in that world [but] we haven’t really decided what to do with that IP,” Wester says. “We’ll see where we end up.”

Tyranny might end up in another genre entirely. The game was set in the ugly aftermath of a war, and its opening Conquest Mode had you define the consequences of that conflict on an overworld map using miniatures. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine one of Paradox’s internal teams - the ones behind Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis - running with that premise as a fully-fledged game.

“Just the other day on Twitter, somebody was talking about setting a grand strategy game in the Tyranny universe,” Jorjani notes. “I think that would be cool. We’re absolutely interested in exploring grand fantasy in the strategy space.”

It’s especially intriguing that, without prompting, Wester mentions the same concept too: “If someone in the studio says, ‘I want to make a grand strategy game out of Tyranny’, I would approve that day one.”
In a separate article, PCGamesN posted Fredrik's thoughts about the prospects of a new Vampire: The Masquerade game. It doesn't sound any closer than it was last year:

The future of the Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 franchise will rely on the implementation of a “seven-to-ten year cycle,” according to Paradox Interactive’s CEO. In an interview with PCGamesN at PDXCon this weekend, Fred Wester said the company were considering ongoing possibilities for the franchise.

Wester says “we are experimenting with a couple of the White Wolf brands right now,” but are aware that a new franchise can’t be immediately started from scratch ("if you’re going to build a big franchise you need to think in a seven-to-ten year cycle”) and that if the Vampire IP was to receive that kind of attention, “we need to know what the next ten years are going to look like.”

A new Vampire game does seem to be something relatively high on Paradox’s list - Wester acknowledges that a second Vampire game “is an obvious choice” - but it’s not something they can begin yet - “it needs to feel right, it needs to be the right team [...] for the game.”

Wester also suggests it’s unlikely that a new Vampire game would be Bloodlines 2, but that it could be “something Vampire RPG.” However, he also states that “the first game [in the new franchise] is probably going to be the worst game from us that they ever see in this franchise, because the [second] one will improve on the first one.” If any of that sounds familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time Paradox have discussed the possibility of a new Vampire game - at last year’s PDXCon, they said they said they’ll make a Bloodlines sequel “when the time is right.” That’s definitely good news, even if there’s nothing to say when that time could possibly be just yet.
The PCGamesN guys also met Harebrained Schemes' Jordan Weissman at PDXCON. In addition to BattleTech, it looks like they may have spoken a bit about Shadowrun as well. Here's a preview - the full interview will be published later.
 

vonAchdorf

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At last year’s PDXCON, the publishers told us that Tyranny sold below their expectations; that “everyone was hoping that it would do better.” But Paradox and Obsidian never fell out according to Wester. In fact, their relationship is perfectly healthy.
“I’m going to have a beer with Feargus Urquhart at E3 this year as usual,” he says. “It’s more that, they want to be more independent and do their own things, and we want to publish things where we are in control. It’s not really compatible on a corporation level. On a personal level, there’s no problem.”
Wester can be magnanimous to Feargus in an interview. His company is worth 2 billion.
 
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Zanzoken

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It’s especially intriguing that, without prompting, Wester mentions the same concept too: “If someone in the studio says, ‘I want to make a grand strategy game out of Tyranny’, I would approve that day one.”

To me this statement indicates Paradox blames Obsidian for Tyranny's poor performance. He obviously doesn't think it's a weak IP.

And yeah I wouldn't expect them to trash Obsidian publicly. MCA made a lot of waves but he is still the exception, not the rule.
 

Bohr

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we want to publish things where we are in control. It’s not really compatible on a corporation level.

And just a year ago they were announcing the deal to publish something where they don't control the IP, Battletech, and it seemed they were trending towards doing more external publishing business in addition to their in-house titles.

“We couldn’t miss the chance to work with Harebrained Schemes given how big of fans we are of their work on the Shadowrun Returns series. The opportunity to reintroduce our strategy-minded players to the tactical roots of the BattleTech universe makes this partnership even sweeter,” said Johan Sjöberg, Chief Product Officer of Paradox Interactive. “We are as excited about BATTLETECH as the early backers are, and we can’t wait to do our part to bring the game to market.”

Who knows, their response in the interview is exactly the sort of bland statement one would expect. Hoped for... something on V:TM though :argh:
 

Ismaul

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Sounds like Paradox is really wary of giving either a Tyranny or Bloodlines sequel to Obsidian.

Yet, if things were good between them and their previous arrangements were mutually beneficial, it would've been a no brainer. It's like that thing MCA said.
 

set

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7 to 10 years???????? Whaaaaat? What??? Like, what?

We have some random studio coming out with fucking Vampyr in 2 weeks. It looks like god dammned Bloodlines 2. At least, the brief gameplay footage does. How hard is it to do this right? It's not! It's really not! You could make a moderately successful bloodlines sequel on a small/medium budget. Just cap the gameplay at 20 hours and make the initial offering $30. Do that to whet interest then build up momentum. "Taking 7 to 10 years" is not how you build up a franchise. It's how you push it into further obscurity. WoD is already becoming so incredibly niche as it ages. I hardly see people playing it these days (as a pnp game). Bloodlines itself is as old as Half Life 2.

I've been waiting for another WoD game for over 10 years now. We were cockteased with an MMO for 4 years by CCP. What is with publishers and dragging such a rich PnP legacy through the mud? What drives this nonsense? If they have no faith in Obsidian, fine. Give it to somebody else. It's just wasting away again in the hands of impotent overly cautious direction. Take a god damn risk. It's a simple franchise. Vampires. Werewolves. Spoopy shit.
 

Kyl Von Kull

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I'm pretty sure the 7-10 years thing did NOT mean it would take that long to make Bloodlines 2. Basically, he was saying something like, "we won't start investing in a new property like Bloodlines 2 unless we have plans for where to go with the franchise over the following 7-10 years."

Look at how Paradox does business: CK came out in 2004, followed by years and years of DLC, then CK2 came out eight years later followed by years and years of DLC. That's the model. They're not going to start something without a business plan to keep monetizing the franchise. Paradox doesn't make games, they make platforms.

Also, I would play the shit out of a Tyranny grand strategy game. Kyros Universalis?
 
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"We" are curious about Tyranny? Who's we? I for one can't give a damn to what comes out of Obsidian since Fallout New Vegas.

Obsidian feels like they're stuck in a quagmire to me, honestly. Too big to be indie, too small to be AAA, so they keep trying to peddle in watered-down RTwP generic bore and Skyrim clones. Its no wonder MCA left - that guy should be writing the next classic, the next Fallout, not Obsidian drek.
 

tsiforb

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Look at how Paradox does business: CK came out in 2004, followed by years and years of DLC, then CK2 came out eight years later followed by years and years of DLC. That's the model. They're not going to start something without a business plan to keep monetizing the franchise. Paradox doesn't make games, they make platforms.

Agree with your overall thrust, but CK only had one expansion iirc. I think it was around a decade ago with HoI iii that Paradox really started to get stupid with addons.
 
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Just the other day on Twitter, somebody was talking about setting a grand strategy game in the Tyranny universe

Twitter is a random game idea generator, and this is one of the stupider ones.

A grand strategy works when the player can invent a meaningful challenge for himself, e.g. rebuild the Roman Empire or conquer Spain as an Aztec kingdom. Conquering the world is usually not an interesting challenge, because the game gets too boring after a while. This is a big reason why Paradox only makes historical grand strategies. Any Portuguese or Armenian who believes their backwater country should rise to their former glory will buy this game and spend months achieving this goal.

Now, in a fantasy setting it's much more difficult to make challenges meaningful. Who cares if the empire of angry red dudes makes blue dudes their vassals. For a 4x game this kind of characterisation might be enough (see Stellaris, Age of Wonders or Endless Legend/Space), but in a grand strategy there has to be something that player's imagination can latch on to. Maybe well developed lore with interesting conflicts can succeed (Game of Thrones mod for Crusader Kings 2 is well liked), but Tyranny cannot boast it.
 

Flou

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So basically what Paradox is saying that they won't publish a Figstarter game, but publishing Kickstarter games is just fine.
 

aratuk

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Quick, someone tweet at them to make a world of darkness grand strategy game, so they can get started right away.

:hero:
 

Volrath

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Just the other day on Twitter, somebody was talking about setting a grand strategy game in the Tyranny universe

Twitter is a random game idea generator, and this is one of the stupider ones.

A grand strategy works when the player can invent a meaningful challenge for himself, e.g. rebuild the Roman Empire or conquer Spain as an Aztec kingdom. Conquering the world is usually not an interesting challenge, because the game gets too boring after a while. This is a big reason why Paradox only makes historical grand strategies. Any Portuguese or Armenian who believes their backwater country should rise to their former glory will buy this game and spend months achieving this goal.

Now, in a fantasy setting it's much more difficult to make challenges meaningful. Who cares if the empire of angry red dudes makes blue dudes their vassals. For a 4x game this kind of characterisation might be enough (see Stellaris, Age of Wonders or Endless Legend/Space), but in a grand strategy there has to be something that player's imagination can latch on to. Maybe well developed lore with interesting conflicts can succeed (Game of Thrones mod for Crusader Kings 2 is well liked), but Tyranny cannot boast it.
Uhm Stellaris?
 
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Uhm Stellaris?

Stellaris is a 4x, not a grand strategy. The difference may be subtle, but they're not the same. In Stellaris all races start in the same conditions, and have to Explore, Expand and Exploit before really getting into contact with each other. I would say that this is the best part of the game, because the Exterminate part is less fleshed out. I think Paradox understands it well, that's why they keep releasing story packs that add more fluff to the exploration part. The non-violent interactions between races, such as diplomacy and trade, are rudimentary compared to, for example, EU4.
 

Prime Junta

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Churning out grand strategy games with a different skin and different lore is a great business strategy no doubt.

I'd still like to see another Tyranny RPG. The setting had masses or promise; just let down by the gameplay. Maybe I'll even give it another whirl one of these days to see if the patches improved it.
 

Van-d-all

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Churning out grand strategy games with a different skin and different lore is a great business strategy no doubt..

More like dumbing down grand strategies, to broaden the audience with premise of elitism. Since the success of CK2, they noticed, just like Firaxis, that a game which represents politics as a web of interconnected sims overtakes the popularity of their most hardcore franchise, EU4, relying on a more classic and abstract representation of countries and states, because it attracts more casual players. Since then, all their new games are significantly less complex (HOI3 vs. HOI4) and relay heavily on fluff. This is mostly noticeable in DLCs, that transitioned from adding new mechanics to glorified graphomania. That approach gradually moved their audience from 40yo. sperging in excel over economy of Ulster to edgy fanboys thinking that recreating Reich Star in Stellaris makes them smart. As nowadays not many things sell as well as that warm little feeling of being the special snowflake, they're rolling in dough.

As for Bloodlines 2, I hope it won't be made by "modern" Obsidian. I loved VTMB, even despite the fact I hate vampires almost as much as zombies, and it took me over 3 years to convince myself to play that game. And I loved it, because unlike the vision of VTM I got from people playing p&p, it wasn't a shitty emo weltschmerz drama I expected it to be. That being said, after what I saw in POE Dumpsterfire I expect Obsidian would go for "goth" front and center making it cliche and cringy like a tumbler attention whore.
 
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Prime Junta

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Late capitalism in California has reached the stage where it's unlikely anything genuinely creative will come from there. At least not until someone with a genuinely fuck-you punk attitude shows up. I would hate to work in an environment where any misstep in any direction is likely to cause a giant meltdown of special snowflakes on every side of the political spectrum: put in a tranny and you get a full-on waffen-ss freakout, put in a street kid who calls somebody a faggot and you get the same thing from the libs, except with scolding and boycotts instead of death threats and broken windows. Nobody wants to deal with that.
 
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After all, the plebs wants nothing more than generic Medieval fantasty/Forgotten Realms rip-off where you play the Lawful Good Perfect Paragon.

I don't know about that, "the plebs" seem to be perfectly able to enjoy other settings in other genres. As for Tyranny, I think the problem with the setting is not that it lacks elves, but that it has this annoying infantile flavour of edginess. It is the punchable face of settings.
 

Van-d-all

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After all, the plebs wants nothing more than generic Medieval fantasty/Forgotten Realms rip-off where you play the Lawful Good Perfect Paragon.

I don't know about that, "the plebs" seem to be perfectly able to enjoy other settings in other genres. As for Tyranny, I think the problem with the setting is not that it lacks elves, but that it has this annoying infantile flavour of edginess. It is the punchable face of settings.
It's a half-assed Glen Cook's Black Company rip-off. Quite a popular setting actually.
 

Max Edge

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I just came from future. Status report:

1. New Tyranny looks prettier, smarter and not that linear like a first game. But in every review we can read: "It's nice, but Tyranny 2 could be much better with Obsidian genius. 7/10". Sales anyway drop to the floor and below. Tyranny is officially dead IP.

2. New Vampire game have many woman in power and all looks like Asari from Mass Effect: Andromeda.You can still pick up girls in bars, but only this ugly and this is strongly connected with romances subplot written by female Tumbrl users (just like whole plot). All vampires are slighty dark-skinned, so no more pale bloodsuckers. There is no more Toreador, because it's sexist class, but instead of this you can made trans-vampire. Reviews are positive: "Game is better than first Bloodlines, Arcanum and ToEE taken together. Vampire game for new era of gaming. 10/10 and I want more". In this same time there is war on RPG Codex between: anti-SJW and five true SJW on this forum allied with TINSYCFJEYTVLEEPDN (There-Is-No-SJW-You-Crazy-Fucks-Just-Enjoy-Your-Tranny-Vampires-Like-Everybody-Else-Paradox-Dindu-Nuffin).

Oh, I almost forgot - years 2010-2020 are officially called "Best decade for RPG gaming in history". Enjoy.

Edit: GarfunkeL and Infinitron, this part with TINSYCFJEYTVLEEPDN was inspired by you :happytrollboy:
 
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Bohr

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Late capitalism in California has reached the stage where it's unlikely anything genuinely creative will come from there. At least not until someone with a genuinely fuck-you punk attitude shows up. I would hate to work in an environment where any misstep in any direction is likely to cause a giant meltdown of special snowflakes on every side of the political spectrum: put in a tranny and you get a full-on waffen-ss freakout, put in a street kid who calls somebody a faggot and you get the same thing from the libs, except with scolding and boycotts instead of death threats and broken windows. Nobody wants to deal with that.

Agree in general, but as someone who doesn't follow the SJW megathreads - did anyone actually have windows broken over including a tranny? I guess I assumed both 'sides' indulged in similar blends of online antics and the occasional boycott.
 

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