Interview Without A Vampire: Bloodlines’ B Mitsoda

By Jim Rossignol on April 6th, 2009 at 7:30 am.


A while back I posted about the tragedy of games like Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. Following that one of the original Troika team, writer Brian Mitsoda, got in touch to talk about the project. A veteran of Troika and RPG-devs Obsidian, he’s had plenty of experience in the words that make up videogames. What follows is a discussion of Bloodlines, Troika, dialogue, character design, and inaccurate porn geographies.

RPS: Let’s start with a quick breakdown of your professional career: what have you worked on, and what did you contribute to those games?

Mitsoda: Real quick-like and to the best of my memory, I started in QA at Interplay way, way back, testing a couple of games that no one remembers and a couple they do, like Icewind Dale. Then I got promoted to designer/writer at Black Isle and worked with a bunch of great people on a game called Black Isle’s TORN (yes, it was all caps – thanks, marketing) which was never released due to some good ideas being married to bad tech. ONE YEAR LATER… joined Troika on Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. I then spent three years working at Obsidian on one fantastic cancelled project and a version of Alpha Protocol.

RPS: Let’s talk about Troika: how did you become involved in the Bloodlines project?

Mitsoda: Bloodlines was already into production when I joined Troika. The Half-Life 2 engine wasn’t finished. There was some preliminary design and some levels built, but most of the work that was there was revamped and, for the most part, the design was started from scratch. Quite a few people were new to the company. This basically meant we had to hit the floor sprinting and juggling plates. It was all very exciting, fueled in some part by equal parts enthusiasm/naiveté on my part.

RPS: Did the scope of the game just seem too big to you?

Mitsoda: Yes. It made me coin the phrase “kitchen sink design” – which isn’t that an impressive phrase I know, but I was too busy turning out stuff for the game. Kitchen sink design just means your game has everything AND the kitchen sink, and we literally did have kitchen sinks in that game. When a game tries to do everything, it will most likely fail at most of them.

A lot of this is due to designers (including myself) shooting too high within the scope. Sometimes overpromising features to the publisher causes it. Adapting one type of gameplay for a different interface – like sneaking and melee, for instance, which pose a lot different animation, design, and AI challenges in an FPS – and not realizing how long it takes to prototype and refine those systems, can cause problems. A simple refusal to cut or lock content generation is also a culprit in bloated scope. I think Bloodlines suffered from all of these, but despite its flaws, I think we managed to do some things exceedingly well.

Nowadays, if I have any say over it, I eliminate anything that I think can’t be finished in the estimated time to completion. Designers should cut not only to spend time on polish, but because it ends up creating a lot of work for everyone else on the team too. Unfortunately, it is my experience that too many people in the game industry cannot learn this lesson. It’s especially bad on RPGs since publishers and fans have this expectation that the game should be fifty to a million hours long, which is almost impossible to polish.

RPS: How did you go about creating the plot and dialog? Can you describe the overall process? There’s a number of writers credited, plus the design team, what influence did you have in that wider creative circle?

Mitsoda: The basic plot was kind of there – there’s a new prince in town, there’s a group of anarchs that are pissed, ties to Gehenna event, and Jack and the sarcophagus being a major story point. The designers (about five people) discussed some ways to tie everything into the hubs and levels. With the broader elements agreed upon, we had a lot of control over our sections of the game. Keep in mind, it was a small team doing everything – two writer/designers, one modeler/senior designer, and two owners/producers/designers. With just a few people overseeing every aspect, it doesn’t take as long to reach a consensus or keep plot straight.

Over time, I became primarily tasked with writing the majority of the characters and dialogue, and that helped with consistency. I probably had to argue points a few times, but because of time constraints or faith in my abilities, I was given a lot of freedom with characters and their quests.

RPS: What were the best and worst things about that game from a writing standpoint?

Mitsoda: The Best – Freedom to do what I wanted with the writing. Not having to sanitize the language or content, which meant I got to work with some more mature elements outside of casually slipping f-bombs into the script. Working with Margaret Tang, an amazing voice director who did us solids left and right to get the right voices for the parts. Writing comedy, tragedy, drama, and a Frankenstein bit all in the same game. Getting to rewrite a few characters (like Damsel) after I felt my first draft was weak. The radio script. Some of the insignificant bits like computer text or spam emails, which were great fun after spending a day setting up cameras or tracking down a scripting bug.

The Worst – Scope. Pushing myself too hard to do too much, burning me out for a couple of months after the project was over. Writing a project like Bloodlines and realizing that, for the rest of your career, you probably won’t get to write anything like Bloodlines.

RPS: How comfortable was the team with the adult themes in the game?

Mitsoda: I don’t think there were any problems. Most game developers aren’t terribly sensitive to “salty” language or mature subject matter. If anything, you have to watch out or it quickly develops into immature.

RPS: Was there ever a moment when you thought that porn dungeons might have been too risky?

Mitsoda: Not really. Wasn’t there a zebra in there? If anything, it was inaccurate – porn is shot in the Valley, not Hollywood.

RPS: Any research needed in that area?

Mitsoda: Not really, but I did run around in a cape for a few weeks to get the vampire thing down.

RPS: The character design in Bloodlines is what really stands out for me, can you elucidate the process of creating some of these characters a little?

Mitsoda: Sure. A lot of times they’re born out of necessity. You need a character to pose a problem or give out a quest or be a barrier of some kind. I don’t like to make the NPC outright say “I need you to do X, then I’ll give you Y” because I see it all the time in games and it shows the writer’s hand – it makes the character into an automated quest kiosk. I like the characters to come off like people actually do – they don’t say “hi” when strangers come knocking, they say “who the hell are you?” or they’re expecting you and know more then they let on, or they don’t care. I don’t like my NPCs to be standing around as if their lives begin when the character starts talking to them and end when the player leaves. Characters are the protagonists of their own game, from their perspective.

Major characters that the player speaks to multiple times need to show progression based on your previous interactions or actions you’ve taken in the world. One-off characters that you talk to once, need to have hooks or personality traits that make them immediately fascinating, or they feel like just another quest item depository. It’s nothing but putting a little extra effort into it – thinking about who the character is, what they want, what they think of the player, why they’re standing around, and how they’re sizing up or trying to take advantage of the player. I generally find the character’s voice out loud to get an understanding of their speech pattern and tone. If I’ve got it, then the dialogue just comes naturally after that.

RPS: Did the malkavian player character pose any special problems for you?

Mitsoda: I generally did it last, when there wasn’t a whole lot of time left. So between lack of sleep, being overworked, and possessing an unhealthy state-of-mind, the conditions were ideal for writing the Malkavians. The one thing I wanted to do with them is illustrate madness without it being completely Looney Tunes. It’s too easy to play crazy for laughs.

RPS: Do you feel that good writing in games gets overlooked, while bad writing gets trashed?

Mitsoda: I feel like bad writing is tolerated, while mediocre writing gets spooned. I don’t think good games necessarily need good writing, but I would really enjoy it if games that sell their story first and foremost did a better job of delivering. Certain studios and writers, I think, get a pass (and work) no matter what they turn out, while a few veterans (like Tim Schafer) continue to turn out excellent work. I think if critics are going to focus on a game’s writing, they should analyze not only the marriage of the narrative to the gameplay, but set some higher standards for what they expect from characters, plot, and dialogue.

A good scene, a good line, and/or a decent character do not make a game’s story great. Bad writing is bad writing – it might not matter if the game is fun, but don’t score the story higher because the game mechanics were tight or the setting was novel. Ultimately, the writing really isn’t that key to a fantastic game, but for those that do make it a crucial part of their game and hype it as such, those are the games the gaming press should be a lot more critical of. And for those that identify themselves as game writers, critics and fans should absolutely hold feet to flames ad infinitum, myself included.

RPS: Why do games journalists always seem to end up complaining about voice acting in games?

Mitsoda: It generally tends to be sub-SciFi Channel original, intrusive, or comfortably mundane.

RPS: So is it overlooked by developers, or is it just too hard to do well?

Mitsoda: It’s not difficult, I don’t think, but it requires the right people and a bit of forethought. I’ve always found it easier to put together, because I’ve got some screenwriting and acting background. Essentially, what you need is:

-A writer that knows how to write spoken dialogue for actors, and knows how they want the voice and character mannerisms to sound before the script goes to the studio.
-A voice director that wants to work with the writers in getting them the voices and direction they want.
-The right actors for the parts, given enough context and direction to bring the character to life without telling them “say it like this” after every take.
Too often dialogue writers have long, unwieldy, cluttered dialogue that would sound fine if it was being read, but sounds preposterous and maybe even stupid if being read dramatically. I know for a fact that a lot of actors can’t stand doing games because most of the stuff they have to read is:

“[Urgent and relieved]Lo, it is very fortuitous that you have arrived in Gremalkenvale [Gray-molk-in-vail], in the most dire time of our cataclysmic confrontation with the Shadoouins [Shadoo-we-ins]! [Surprised, chewing on waffles]I see you are bearing the sword of Icthmhaloaxen [Bos-ton], the Moss Knight of the Fsxirtuinox [Fsxirtuinox] Caverns, which means that [ominous and loud and a little obsequious with a hint of Gary Coleman] you are the chosen hero prophesized to defeat the evil demon king, [Swahili accent, as Grendar is learned in the ways of the Bark people] Gflxxx4mrazormkkxzzz!sss and his grim followers with your trusty friends, [need a version of this line to cover all the companions].”

That’s how one line of some game dialogue (not mine) looks – you try doing ten pages of that, three takes apiece, with a roomful of producers and writers all adding their own clever notes on how it could be read better. That is if the writer is there or the actor has been given anything in advance. It all comes down to the people involved, but a good writing lead should be able to get the dialogue up to snuff, get a competent director and actors, and be sure the recording process goes smoothly.

RPS: How did you feel about the game after launch?

Mitsoda: Well, I was proud of the work that the team and I did. On the other hand, I knew it could have used a few more weeks of polish. Couple the state of the release with the fact that we were launching against Halo, Metal Gear Solid, and Half-Life sequels, it felt one step up from being sold at a yard sale.

RPS: Were you still at Troika for the closure?

Mitsoda: Yup, and then some. We tried to get some other projects going, including creating a prototype that was fun and put together in almost no time.

RPS: How did you feel about that?

Mitsoda: The game industry constantly gives you reasons to rethink your career decisions. That said, I’m still glad I worked on Bloodlines.

RPS: How do you feel about the community patches that followed to fix Vampire up?

Mitsoda: I’m always surprised when I see new patches or content for the game, but I’m glad there’s still interest in it.

RPS: Do you have any residual bitterness about the game shipping unfinished?

Mitsoda: Whether you’re creating books, films, movies, anything, there’s probably something the creators want to change about it. The technical problems should have been fixed, no question. I suppose if I’m bitter about anything, it’s that even if our initial sales numbers weren’t that solid, I know the game has sold well over the years through digital distribution, and it illustrates just how short-sighted this industry can be. I’d love to know what the numbers are these days to find out just how successful the game was over time. Some residuals would be nice too.

RPS: Yes, that would be interesting. Thanks.

Bloodlines is quite a few hours of excellence, once patched up. You can get it for cheap in boxed versions all over the place, or on Steam for £15/$20. And yeah, the money from your purchase won’t get back to the original team.

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115 Comments »

  1. Turin Turambar says:

    “and it illustrates just how short-sighted this industry can be”

    Activision can go to hell. They should have delay the game by four months, and with only that they could release a much better game, both in bugs and in overall polish. But no, they had to rush the game out the door, just in the release day of HalfLife 2, when they could release the game legally, not one day later.

    • jseph1234 says:

      I agree, Activision can go to H*ll for they way they forced Troika to release this Jewel too quickly and killing an AMAZING game developer. Thank you Brian and Troika for The Greatest CRPG ever,
      Vampire the Masquerade:Bloodlines

  2. unclelou says:

    A great read. I especially like what he says about NPC design and “quest kiosks”. This is what all the big RPG devs like Bioware and Bethesda never seem to get right. It’s really just (at least partly) the Gothic series and Vampire that solve this more elegantly.

    One question, what does this mean:

    “I then spent three years working at Obsidian on one fantastic cancelled project and a version of Alpha Protocol. ”

    “A version” of Alpha Protocol? So he is not a writer for AP?

  3. Stromko says:

    I rather enjoyed Bloodlines anyway, mainly for the first half of the game. Really quite incredible stuff, immersive, a lot of excellent characters that really stick in your mind. The rough edges and lack of mastery over the UI / engine were clear throughout, the second half really wasn’t worth playing at all (things started to fly off the rails entirely mid-Chinatown, and the sewers before that were bulls**t third-rate FPSing for way too long), but I still must say that the first half of Bloodlines makes it a true classic for me.

    I actually liked Bloodlines better than Deus Ex. I know that’s got to be an unpopular opinion, but I really mean it. No accounting for taste I suppose.

  4. Jonathanstrange says:

    Extremely interesting interview. I’ve always thought one of the biggest gaming ‘tragedies’ for lack of better words, was Troika’s closure. They only made three games, and to be fair all three were buggy as hell upon release, but all three also were spectacular and ambitious in ways most other developers can’t even dream of, and for that I salute them.

    By the by, wonder if this is the prototype he was talking about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X8Z14ExYxo

  5. Subject 706 says:

    I’d say that few (if any) games have had as interesting and complex characters as those found in VtMB. Not to mention that they managed to do proper facial expressions on their NPCs too, something which is rather lacking even these days.

    Makes me hope for the demise of all large publishers…

  6. Jazmeister says:

    This is great. This is the article I’ve always wanted to read. This is an interesting person talking to an interesting person about an interesting process behind an interesting game. I hereby score this article eleven bananas.

  7. Levictus says:

    Thanks you for releasing this wonderful game. I’ve never really played a game that immersed you into the gaming world to such a high degree. I also loved the RPG/FPS combo, it was so well executed. Very few RPGs manage to do this most, most of them tend to hack and slash or Oblivion style games. I wish we could have another sequel to Vampire: Masquerade, set in Barcelona. I guess it never hurts to dream!

  8. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    He wins the Bestest Friend of the Malkavians Award in my book.

  9. Hümmelgümpf says:

    @unclelou:
    Alpha Protocol got an overhaul somewhere along the road. I think some writers wanted to make a realistic game, others wanted to do camp. I don’t know who ultimately won, but Mitsoda decided to leave the company. Chris “Let’s put KotOR 2 instead of Torment here for a change” Avellone is the lead writer now.

  10. Schmung says:

    His comments RE voice direction etc should be required reading. Take note bethesda

  11. Whelp says:

    Man I love Bloodlines. I replayed it just 2 weeks ago, awesome game (although a bit buggy, I should try the unofficial patch next time).

  12. Garg says:

    “I then spent three years working at Obsidian on one fantastic cancelled project and a version of Alpha Protocol”

    Anyone know what the cancelled project was?

  13. Hümmelgümpf says:

    @Garg:
    Only the codename is known: Project New Jersey.

  14. Pavel says:

    Garg – Aliens, maybe?

    Anyway, Bloodlines is exactly the fourth best game of all time (after Fallout1, 2 and Deus Ex) and in no small part thanks to Brian.I wish we could get him to work on another awesome vampire RPG, but I guess is no-go.

  15. pilouuuu says:

    Great interview. It’s sad that Troika is no more… I would love a new Vampire. Maybe someday…

    I liked the bit where he talks about NPC and how they should be real characters and not quest kiosks. Brilliant idea for developers. Are you taking notice, Bethesda?

  16. Wurzel says:

    Heh, replaying it at the moment (as a malkavian, ofc). It’s a really very good rpg, at least before you reach chinatown and it becomes bugged to hell. Reading the bit about ‘quest kiosks’ really drove home for me what was different about it; no people stopping you in the street and being all “we need an outside opinion on whether I should carry my baby to term”. You can imagine that everyone has their own lives, wishes and responsibilities, and it brings the game to life where the engine might fail.

  17. danielcardigan says:

    “Great interview. It’s sad that Troika is no more… I would love a new Vampire. ”

    Don’t forget there was an OLD Vampire, before Bloodlines.

  18. H says:

    I absolutely love the game, but I can’t get past the haunted house because it terrifies the hell out of me. Just like The Cradle.

    • jseph1234 says:

      Yeah that haunted house is THE SCARIEST part of any game I have ever played, I luv/hate it and REFUSE to play it at night!… (True story!)

  19. Bobsy says:

    Random problem with Bloodlines: the foley is awful.

  20. Gnarl says:

    This interview is significantly better written than most games. That pretend bit of script was great. Kudos to both interviewer and ee.

    Bloodlines is probably the game I’ve enjoyed most. Just flat. And Mr. Mitsoda is probably why, so thank you. I have to disagree with the point that writing is not key to making a fantastic game though. I wouldn’t describe any game as more than ‘alright’ if it’s writing didn’t grab me. I won’t argue successful though.

  21. unclelou says:

    Thanks, Hümmelgümpf.

  22. cheeba says:

    Excellent work on the interview, thanks to all involved for bringing it our way.

    Of course I’m going to sing Bloodlines’ praises too while I’m here. Yeah, it wasn’t perfect, but everything it got right it really nailed. Other developers should be fucking embarrassed that most of ‘em can’t even get facial animation and character performances to this level, never mind the writing.

  23. Rob says:

    Huh, it’s obvious now you say it but I’m a bit miffed that my legitimate purchases of the game didn’t actually send any money back to the guys who made the thing.

    Interesting interview about an overlooked game, thanks.

  24. Jockie says:

    @H – try putting the camera into 3rd person and jumping around the hotel like a loon, it looks so ridiculous that any fears will soon evaporate.

    Nice interview, Bloodlines with the unofficial patches turns into a great game without bugs marring the experience. There really are a phenominal number of great and memorable NPCs in the game when compared to most crpgs.

  25. Dave Gates says:

    Probably not the place, but I just got my copy of PC Gamer through the post. BIOSHOCK 2 PEOPLE. Looks top drawer.

  26. clovus says:

    You can get it for cheap in boxed versions all over the place, or on Steam for £15/$20. And yeah, the money from your purchase won’t get back to the original team.

    I haven’t played the game yet, and would really like to. If I buy it on Steam, what exactly am I paying for then? I don’t want to bring up the p-word, but I’d feel much better directly sending a few bucks to the various people who actually worked on this game, then paying Steam for it. I’m guessing most of my $20 would just go to the people who screwed everything up. That makes it almost immoral to buy the thing.

    Then there is the patch. So, I am paying some jerks for the right to play a game, but not paying the people who made it or the people who fixed it. Awesome.

  27. Heliocentric says:

    I’d prefer it if bioshock looked top shelf. Barely leagal sister Rawr!

  28. Dave Gates says:

    @ clovus :
    I don’t really follow your point. If you buy it from steam then you are paying steam and the developers. The developers get some money for making it, Valve get some cash for bringing it to a wider audience. The patch made by modders is a labour of love, they knew they’d get no money for it and in all honesty some people get jobs at various developing house due to work on mods. The guys who made Portal for instance made Narbacular drop and Valve (ironicaly given the content of this conversation) employed them to make a game. Really, buy it off steam, and you will supporting independent game development as well as give the makers a few quid.

  29. Jim Rossignol says:

    The development studio closed. They will make no money.

  30. Dave Gates says:

    @ Jim.
    To which end the argument is a bit redundant. Buy it off steam, enjoy the game, nobody benefits from the ‘p’ word.

  31. Lucas says:

    Most games where the writing matters just need LESS writing altogether. Then making it not suck should be much easier.

  32. Torgen says:

    Jim Rossignol says:

    The development studio closed. They will make no money.

    Which is why the publishers are so keen to keep title to all the old games- if the dev studio is defunct, the publisher keeps their share of the residuals too!

  33. flo says:

    Yeah, really nice game, just started replaying all the clans … (Malkavian, Toreador, Gangrel, Tremere finished so far) If you get at least the 1.2 patch it really isn’t buggy anymore, I had no crashes, ever, and gamepla is very smooth. (the AI still feels retarded sometimes, but then again this might just be if your sneaking is high enough)
    The only thing I don’t like about the game, that apart from xp you can’t get as a certain character (really doesn’t make sense to skill persuasion as a gangrel) there’s also lots of events where if you don’t know “i have to ask about/do this thing now, or the opportunity is gone” then you might be screwed in the endgame or at least have it a lot harder, especially when both come together. So you basically can’t play it w/o watching very carefully what you do, and for a first time player even then lots of things that can be important are not even apparent in any way, unless you know they are there.

  34. Rook says:

    I hate to say this, but Troika really did deserve to die. The bugginess of their releases was 100% inexcusable.

  35. wcaypahwat says:

    Does the steam version support the unnoficial patches, though?

  36. Markoff Chaney says:

    Phenomenal Game. Excellent Interview. Thank you for digging and sharing with us. Always a pleasure to see what was going on in the heads of some of the people who write some of the best non-linear storytelling.

  37. Jim Rossignol says:

    Rook: Yes, because PERFECT MECHANICAL FUNCTION is way more important than creativity or memorable experience. Yes, Bloodlines was a mess on release, but even in that state it was a superb thing to play through – the same is true of many bugged-to-shit games. I actually hit a show-stopping bug on my first play through Bloodlines, and that made me cry hot man tears. But the preceding ten hours, well, that was worthy.

    wcaypahwat: I believe you can bodge the patches to work on the Steam version.

  38. clovus says:

    @ Dave, Rook: From reading the wiki about the game (hey, look, Kieron Gillen of EuroGamer is in there), the bugginess was mainly due to Activision forcing them to release it before it was done. I don’t want to now give Activision money for screwing over Troika. So, now I will not pay for the game. I don’t feel I can justify pirating it either though, so I guess I’ll just not play it.

    I’m definitely not giving money to Steam for “bringing it to a wider audience”. The umm… internet… has already made the game as available as it could be. Now, if Steam/Valve had actually updated the game (a la GOG) then I might consider it.

    I’d also consider buying it if Activision (or anyone else that caused the problem) is no longer connected with the game.

    I shouldn’t have mentioned the patch; it didn’t really contribute to my point. Maybe it is just that since the game wasn’t properly supported, it seems unfair to pay for it now. When the community finished the game, it sort of becomes the property of the community. Again, this isn’t a great argument.

  39. Dan (WR) says:

    Thanks for the interview. I wub Bloodlines.

    I think it would be a shame if designers shy away from kitchen-sink design. It’s a very PC-games sort of thing, and I’d much rather play through a seething buggy mess of ideas than a single set of ideas polished to a high sheen.

    Boiling Point > Halo

    (Also I would have thought that both System Shock and Deus Ex were born of Kitchen-sink approaches)

    I like his attitude towards games writing – particularly that games with pretensions towards good writing should receive more scrutiny. I can’t help but think that when he says that certain studios and writers get a pass he’s referring to Bioware. Mass Effect recieved some absurdly hyperbolic praise for its story, but despite its impressive world-building it featured quite a few dull exposition-dump characters. Including your crew. I think such things need to be prodded with a point stick rather than us all sitting back and coo-ing in happiness that someone actually bothered to put some effort into writing a story.

  40. MeestaNob! says:

    @Jim & wcaypahwat

    I imagine if you set the game in Steam to ‘Do not automatically update this game’ it will ignore file discrepancies between your machine and the original version, allowing you to mod to your hearts content.

    In other news, I’ve never played this game – and I just don’t have the heart to slog though yet another flawed genius of a game. That said, if someone reputable were to buy up the Vampire Bloodlines licence from whoever holds it these days (presumably still Activision) and fully re-create it in it’s intended glory, I’d be very happy to give it a go.

  41. Jazmeister says:

    I bought Bloodlines after some dude at my college was raving about it, and it took over my life for a couple of weeks. It ended, for me, at this one bug when you’re returning from some castle, with some scientist, or…. well, I can’t remember which horrible bug it was, but I remember having to manually load the map, and then I didn’t have my stuff, and then I just watched my brother cheating through the rest of his game. I don’t know the ending, actually.

    But although Bloodlines came out crashing and clipping you into walls and things, Oblivion had faults too. Not for everyone, but for me, that game would crash every five minutes, nomatter what. I still drop ancient important powerful lewt through floors in Oblivion. The one quest guy, the high-end thieves guild fence, just doesn’t work. The community released an excellent patch for that too. Bethesda get to make Fallout 3, with wooden, expressionless people pulling bottles of coke from their ass and saying the same shit to each other. Troika get to completely disintegrate and become this bad taste in the mouth of the games industry, like an example to all who’d dare to attempt to pitch a rough diamond instead of a polished turd.

    So take what I just said, and pretend it wasn’t so venemous > that’s what I meant to say.

  42. Chis says:

    Yesterday I happened upon the Fallout 3 page on IMDB. Go take a look. The rating is a few points away from The Wire, and similar to Deadwood. Both shows that, and I’m sure those that have seen them will agree, have truly outstanding writing, acting, screenplay, everything. I’d be tempted to put Bloodlines pretty close to this, but Fallout 3?

    Bloody hell!

    (Great interview, by the way! Now do an article on Pioneer, damnit.)

  43. jalf says:

    I hate to say this, but Troika really did deserve to die. The bugginess of their releases was 100% inexcusable.

    How so? Bloodlines *with* the bugs was still a better game than most games that are released in a non-buggy state.

    Isn’t the overall picture worth considering? Or do you *only* count bugs, and completely ignore the actual game?

  44. Okami says:

    I hate to say this, but Rook really deserves to get flamed to hell and back again. The flame baitedness of his post was 100% inexcusable.

  45. markcocjin says:

    When you buy the games on Steam, you could at least tell yourself that there is something good that would come out of it.

    Redemption.

    Although Activision may hide the long tail profits Bloodlines gets, at least Valve knows. And Valve knowing about how something done with the Source Engine outside of their development might inspire them to support other developers who value game elements like characterization through great acting and writing. In RPG, that is a forgotten virtue.

    Buy the game. It’s longevity speaks volumes about how quality goes a long way. And here I thought an abandoned underwater city stuck in a bygone era would make a better story than a generic dark world full of vampires in hiding.

  46. TwistyMcNoggins says:

    :(

    It’s really disappointing to hear that the lesson they all learnt from Bloodlines was to do LESS work in the future.

  47. matte_k says:

    @ Clovus: Look for a copy on ebay. Only person who profits from that is ebay and the seller.

    @H: Play it with the sound off, a lot of the unsettling creepiness in that Hotel is from the whispered warnings, footsteps, etc.

    Love Vampire. Mitsoda’s comments about “quest kiosks” rings so true, in Bloodlines it felt like less of that, most characters are aware of your lowly status, and treat you accordingly. It’s very much a case of “You want help? Ok, what’s in it for me? You going to work (i.e. Take their quest) to earn that help?” which feels a bit more realistic. Hell, some NPC’s insult the crap out of you on a frequent basis.
    Would be interesting if Mitsoda did some writing for the forthcoming VTM MMO from CCP and White Wolf…speaking of which any further news on that?

  48. clovus says:

    @Dan: I actually found myself thinking Mass Effect had great writing, but you are right. I will stick to my guns that it had really good voice acting though. The overall story was nice, but ya, I totally skipped my crew’s stories. Those were terrible. At some point I realized that I was only even talking to them in order to get get XP (and ummm… to see that one scene). It really was the world that was interesting. I liked listening to the various aliens talk about their cultures. Especially the ones that described their emotions in words and sounded like they were voiced by Keeanu Reeves.

    @markcocjn: That’s a very reasonable line of thinking. Maybe I’ll buy it if it goes on sale again.

    I’m agreeing with people on the internet; can I burn my AIM merit badge?

  49. Jason says:

    Great interview. I think actually that the good writing for the “quest giver” NPCs continues through the whole game. My first play-through was as a Ventrue (because I like to win and why not pick the clan that wins?) I picked the “arrogant bitch” choices with everyone but the Prince and the “grovelling suckup” choices with the Prince and he gave me all kinds of crap just for being me. The next time through, as a Nosferatu, where you can’t even walk down the street without losing the game due to your ugly face, I was a crotch-punching blood-belching jackass to everyone in the world except people who started out nice to me, and what do you know, the Prince didn’t give me shit and damn near half the people I talked to freaked. If the end few quests had had just a bit more polish, it would have been brilliant. And actually the writing is much better than Deus Ex as it stands. Malkavian playthrough next.

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