Brian Mitsoda has been "suddenly terminated" from his position as narrative lead on Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2. "That this came as a shock to me is underselling it," wrote Mitsoda in a email statement given to RPS. Paradox Interactive have said in their own statement that Mitsoda and creative director Ka'ai Cluney are "no longer part of the team at Hardsuit Labs."
Mitsoda was a lead writer on the original Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines at Troika Games, and his presence on the development team for its sequel lent the project credibility. Most of the Bloodline 2's marketing has put Mitsoda front and centre, both in trailers and at events.
Paradox's statement, posted to the Bloodlines 2 website, says that the change was a "joint decision made by the leadership of Hardsuit Labs and Paradox Interactive."
"We appreciate, and value, the contributions of Brian and Ka’ai, which were instrumental in establishing the game's storyline and dark tone and have helped to ensure that we are making a true successor to the iconic Bloodlines. We wish them both the best in their future endeavors," the statement continues.
In his statement to RPS, which is quoted in full below, Mitsoda says that he is "incredibly disappointed and frustrated to say that this is where it ends for me on the project." He says that he's been involved with the project since its very beginning, in charge of narrative, and he had "never been led to believe that I hadn’t succeeded" in fulfilling the projects goals. He also describes the game's marketing as something which was "intensely difficult and took a mental and physical toll."
Bloodlines 2 has been delayed several times during development, with the most recent delay announced last week and moving the game into 2021. Paradox's statement about that delay mentioned "other organisational changes" that they would be announcing soon and which would help them "ensure the best play experience possible." This is presumably those changes.
Today's announcement also says that Alexandre Mandryka is joining the project as creative consultant to fill the creative director role and help finish the game. "Alexandre has been in the industry for more than 20 years and has worked on iconic franchises such as Assassin’s Creed, Warhammer 40,000, Far Cry, and more." It sounds as if Mandryka is more of a replacement for Ka'ai Cluney than for Mitsoda.
It's not unusual for developers to leave projects during development, but it is unusual for a creative leads and public faces to depart, and particularly unusual for them to be fired. Even in instances where a development lead could be seen to be disrupting or slowing development, you would more likely work to minimise their role in the production process than dismiss them entirely. In any case, you don't upset the vampire cart if the vampires are heading where you want them to.
Here is Brian Mitsoda's statement in full:
"Until recently, I was the Narrative Lead on a videogame called Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 for Hardsuit Labs, Inc being published by Paradox Interactive (which owns 30% of Hardsuit Labs). After almost five years involvement with the studio, I was suddenly terminated on 7/16/20.
That this came as a shock to me is underselling it. I’ve worked on Bloodlines 2 for almost five years. The story and main cast was initially conceived in my living room. I helped develop the pitch for Hardsuit Labs and helped pitch the project to Paradox in Las Vegas. I’ve been in charge of the narrative since the beginning, working long days and sometimes weekends to deliver a successor to Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, and I’ve never been led to believe that I hadn’t succeeded. Very obviously, I have also been involved in the PR and marketing side of things, even though it was one of the most difficult parts for me. I’m a pretty private person - press and crowds tend to heavily trigger my social anxiety (which, if you’ve ever wondered about the gloves, they are “armor” that make me feel less exposed in situations that trigger my anxiety).
Bloodlines and the fandom of the game mean the world to me. So I lent my legacy with the franchise, my name, and my participation in marketing efforts for the game, even when it was intensely difficult and took a mental and physical toll. This is all because I wanted to do what was best for the game and the team.
The pride in the work, the fan expectations, and the support from co-workers who started out as fans kept me going through this long five years. And I’m incredibly disappointed and frustrated to say that this is where it ends for me on the project.
I was not part of the conversations that led to the decision to delay production, and to my knowledge, there were no delays caused by the Bloodlines 2 narrative development. I am confident and proud of the work that I and my team put forward. When that work will be seen and what form it will take is unknown to me.
It was a pleasure to work on this game and with many people at Hardsuit Labs and Paradox and I’m sorry I won’t be able to see it to the end. I spent years on some of the best characters and dialogue that I ever wrote. It’s meant a lot to hear from the Bloodlines community and I do hope that what’s finally delivered is as satisfying as I intended it to be. Thanks to all of you who supported me throughout the project."
Disclosure: Cara Ellison works on Bloodlines 2 and was previously an RPS columnist.