VtM: Bloodlines - Retrospective @ GamingLives
GamingLives takes a look back at Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines in this new retrospective.
In 2004, Activision seemed to want the project over. They brought the game out as soon as was legally possible and, in the process, took the sales-killing decision to release it on the same day as Half-Life 2 (due to a contract with Valve not to release it before theirs). The original plan had been to release Bloodlines in the spring in 2005 to avoid competition with Half-Life 2, Halo 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3, yet Bloodlines was condemned to be out-competed and rushed in a release that lead writer Brian Mitsoda said “felt one step up from being sold at a yard sale.”
The notoriously-overambitious developer was left without an assigned producer from Activision for over a year, meaning that the project went off on tangents and was allowed to bloat. The resulting crunch to meet the new release date must have been like receiving a thousand sit-ups via electrical stimulation in a single minute; a kill or cure remedy. David Mullich, the producer, described it as “a very gruelling project,” while Brian Mitsoda said that the “the worst” part of the game had been its “scope [...] burning me out for a couple of months after the project was over.” Although he did add that, as bad as that was, it was on par with “realizing that, for the rest of your career, you probably won’t get to write anything like Bloodlines.”
With all these problems, the question becomes not ‘how did Bloodlines fail?’ but ‘how did it become so popular in the first instance?’ How did a game so unfinished and so overambitious secure its place in the hearts and minds of so many gamers? Because it was everything other than finished. It may not have had polish, but it had soul; an atmospheric world with great characters and voicing created the perfect feel for the game. While clearly an early commercial failure, I cannot help but feel that commercial success could have come with time as, in all these years, the reviews and popularity has not waned. Even with such glaring flaws, Bloodlines is a success. No doubt the business side of Troika Games had some faults (as Leonard Boyarsky admitted) but the decision of Activision to release Bloodlines some six months earlier than planned was brave at best.
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