‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2’ publisher removes Seattle’s Hardsuit Labs as developer

(Bloodlines 2 Image)

The Swedish publisher of the upcoming Seattle-set horror RPG, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, has opted to remove Seattle’s Hardsuit Labs as the project’s lead developer.

While Bloodlines 2 has not been canceled, work on it will be continued by an unspecified new third-party studio, and it’s no longer planned to launch this year. This marks the second major delay for Bloodlines 2, which was postponed to 2021 last August.

The news comes from Paradox Interactive’s year-end report for 2020, which was released Tuesday morning.

Paradox, the publisher for Bloodlines 2, has owned the licensing rights to the Vampire: The Masquerade tabletop game since 2015, as well as a 33% stake in Hardsuit Labs. It’s also well-known to gaming enthusiasts for its lineup of notoriously complex “grand strategy” games, such as last year’s Crusader Kings III and Empire of Sin.

Like several other big gaming companies in the last few weeks, Paradox’s year-end report tells a familiar story. It calls 2020 the “best year in Paradox’s history,” with record revenue and a huge influx of new players, but a year later, it’s turned out to be a double-edged sword.

The same pandemic lockdowns that created a huge pool of bored new customers for Paradox have also affected its studio management structure, which has now forced it to rearrange its production schedule. Internally, Paradox has opted to cancel at least one unannounced project, as well as postpone several of its “planned but not communicated” upcoming releases.

“We have also decided that Hardsuit Labs will no longer be leading the development of Bloodlines 2,” wrote Ebba Ljungerud, Paradox CEO, in the report, “and we have started a collaboration with a new studio partner to finish work on the game.”

Paradox later confirmed the announcement via the official Bloodlines 2 Twitter account, with a promise of more details following “as soon as we can.” Hardsuit Labs itself has yet to comment.

Formed in 2015 as Builder Box Games, by veterans of the closed Zombie Studios, Hardsuit’s previous project was the cyberpunk FPS Blacklight: Retribution.

Vampire: The Masquerade was originally a tabletop game, first published in 1991 by the Atlanta-based company White Wolf. Vampire was the flagship game in a shared universe called the World of Darkness, a bleak Gothic spin on the real world where many supernatural monsters were very real and barely hidden from ordinary humanity.

While several video games got made out of the World of Darkness over the years, the most popular turned out to be 2004’s Bloodlines, an open-ended RPG set in a particularly grimy version of Los Angeles. While Bloodlines shipped in an unfinished state and was up against unbeatable competition when it launched, it slowly acquired fans over the years until it turned into a genuine cult favorite.

Bloodlines 2 was announced back in March 2019, with several of the original Bloodlines‘s writers returning to work on it alongside Hardsuit Labs. It immediately hit the top of many enthusiasts’ most-anticipated lists, though rumors have persisted since last year of behind-the-scenes problems with its development.

Paradox acquired White Wolf from its previous owners, Eve Online developer CCP, in 2015, and gained the rights to all the games in the World of Darkness along with it. After a notoriously botched 2018 attempt by White Wolf to revive the original tabletop setting, Paradox has instead opted to commission several video games based on the World of Darkness, including the recent release Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood. For some reason, both Earthblood and Bloodlines 2 are explicitly set in Washington state.

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