Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

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Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
Vampire - The Masquerade – Bloodlines Coverart.png
Developer(s) Troika Games
Publisher(s) Activision
Director(s)
Producer(s)
Designer(s)
Programmer(s)
Composer(s) Rik Schaffer
Engine Source
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Release date(s)
  • NA November 16, 2004[1]
  • EU November 19, 2004
Genre(s) Action role-playing
Mode(s) Single-player
Distribution Optical disc, download

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a 2004 action role-playing game developed by Troika Games and released by Activision for Microsoft Windows. Based on White Wolf Publishing's role-playing game, Vampire: The Masquerade, the game follows a newly-created vampire who must seek to uncover the truth behind a recently-discovered relic which heralds the end of all vampires. Set in White Wolf's World of Darkness, Bloodlines allows the player to assign their character to one of several vampire clans (each with unique powers), customizing their abilities from combat to dialog and progressing through the game with violent and non-violent methods.

The game is presented from first- and third-person perspectives. It has an open world structure, allowing the player to complete side missions away from the primary storyline by moving freely between the available hubs: Santa Monica, Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles and Chinatown. Bloodlines' development began in 2001, and took three years. The process was turbulent, with the 32-member team struggling to finalize the game until its release (in an unfinished state) by Activision on November 16, 2004.

Bloodline' low sales contributed to Troika Games' failure in early 2005, when it was unable to secure additional projects. It had mixed reviews; although critics extolled the game's writing, full-voice acting, scale of choice and influence on the game world, they criticized its technical flaws. The game has a cult following as a rarely-replicated example of gameplay and narrative. As of 2014 Bloodlines has been developed for ten years by its fans, who have supplied fixes and restored lost and deleted content.

Gameplay[edit]

Bloodlines is a role-playing game with a first- or third-person perspective.[2] Before the game begins, players create a male or female vampire character by selecting a vampire clan and configuring available points in three areas—attributes, abilities and disciplines (vampiric powers)—or by answering questions, which create a character.[3][2] The player can select one of seven vampire clans: the powerful Brujah, the decadent Toreador, the insane Malkavian,[4] the aristocratic Ventrue,[5] the monstrous Nosferatu, the magical Tremere[6] or the animalistic Gangrel.[7]

The player builds their character by spending acquired points to increase their ratings in the three available areas. Attributes are physical (strength, dexterity and stamina), social (charisma, manipulation and appearance) and mental (perception, intelligence and wit). Abilities are talents (such as brawling and dodging), skills (such as firearms and melee) and knowledge (such as computers and investigation). Attributes and abilities are calculated for feats, which determine a player's result in tasks such as using firearms, brawling and lock-picking.[8][9] The player is initially assigned points to spend in the three available areas, with the amount they can spend determined by clan; for example, the Brujah can spend the most points on physical and skill attributes. During character creation each upgrade costs one point, with their cost increasing when the game begins.[7] Each ability can be raised from zero to five, and it is impossible to accrue enough experience points to complete every skill (allowing the player to specialize or balance their character).[2][9] Experience points are gained by completing quests, finding items or unlocking secret paths rather than killing enemies, and are used to increase (or unlock) the character's statistics and abilities.[10][7]

The player's clan affects their skills and powers. Although the attractive Toreadors receive bonuses for seduction and persuasion (opening dialog options), they are physically weak; the Nosferatu are forced to travel in the shadows or through sewers, but receive bonuses for intelligence and computer skills which access more information. The Malkavians have separate dialog options, reflecting their insanity.[9] Upgrading some skills provides additional dialog options; attractive and charismatic characters seduce to get their way, aggressive characters threaten and others persuade their targets to cooperate.[3][11]

Bare-chested character with an axe in an open space
From the third-person perspective, a Malkavian wields a melee weapon. The interface shows character health and weapon on the left, with available blood and disciplines on the right.

Firearms combat is first-person, with character points assigned to the firearms skill determining the shot's accuracy and how long it takes to target an opponent.[9] Melee combat is third-person, with access to weapons such as katanas and sledgehammers (for melee combat) or pistols, crossbows and flamethrowers (for firearm combat). If a player sneaks up on an opponent, they can perform an instant stealth kill; weapons provide unique stealth-kill animations.[10][2][12] The player can block attacks manually or automatically (by leaving their character idle).[12] They can use stealth in missions by sneaking past guards and security cameras, picking locks and hacking computers to locate alternative routes.[2]

Each clan has specific disciplines, which can be used in combat and to create approaches to quests. Although some powers overlap clans, no two clans share the same three disciplines. More-physical vampires can become quick killers or summon allies to attack their foes; others can mentally dominate their targets to force their cooperation or render themselves invisible to hide from detection, and others can boil their opponent's blood from afar.[6][2][7] Some disciplines, such as Auspex (which boosts perception, highlighting items and other characters' auras through obstacles) and Blood Buff (which temporarily upgrades strength, dexterity, stamina and lockpicking) are common to all vampires.[13] Several abilities can be active at the same time.[14] Blood is a primary currency in Bloodlines, used to activate disciplines and abilities. It is drained with each use, and can be replenished by drinking from rats, visiting blood banks or drinking from humans by attacking (or seducing) them. Drinking from innocents for too long can kill them, costing a character humanity points.[6][2][12]

Players are penalized for using vampiric abilities in front of witnesses; exposing their existence loses masquerade points. Violating the masquerade five times loses the game, but additional masquerade points can be earned with quests and other actions.[10][6] The player also has humanity points, representing the vampire's humanity. Some actions cost humanity points; a low humanity score alters available dialog options, increasing the chance of entering a frenzied state and embarking on a killing spree. This frenzy can also be triggered by a large amount of damage. Like masquerade points, losing all humanity points ends the game.[6][12] Some areas, known as Elysium, prevent the use of disciplines or weapons.[14] Players can recruit a female ghoul, Heather, as a customizable servant who gives them blood, gifts and money.[15]

Synopsis[edit]

Setting[edit]

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines takes place in four areas of 21st-century Los Angeles: Santa Monica, downtown, Hollywood and Chinatown. Set in the World of Darkness, the game depicts a world in which vampires, werewolves, demons and other creatures shape human history. The vampires are bound by a code to maintain their secrecy (forbidding the use of vampiric abilities in front of humans) and avoid unnecessary killing (to preserve the vampire's last shreds of humanity).[5][16][17][10][6] The vampires are divided into seven clans of the Camarilla (the vampire government), with distinctive traits and abilities. The Toreadors are the closest to humanity, with a passion for culture; the Ventrue are noble, powerful leaders; the Brujah are idealists who excel at fighting; the Malkavians are cursed with insanity, or blessed with insight. The Gangrel are loners, in sync with animals; the secretive, untrustworthy Tremere wield blood magic, and the monstrous Nosferatu are condemned to a life in the shadows to avoid humanity. The Anarchs are idealistic vampires opposed to the Camarilla's political structure, believing that power should be shared by all vampires. The clans are loosely united by their belief in the Camarilla's goals and pposition to the Sabbat: vampires who revel in their nature, embracing the beast within.[7]

The main character of Bloodlines (controlled by the player) is an unnamed fledgling vampire, transformed at the start of a game and belonging to one of the clans. The fledgling is employed by Sebastian LaCroix (voiced by Andy Milder), prince of Los Angeles' vampires.[1][18] The fledgling's travels through the vampire world bring them into contact with other undead creatures such as the deformed information broker Bertram Tung, the Anarch Smiling Jack (John DiMaggio)[19] and the mentally-unstable Voerman sisters, Jeanette and Therese.[18][9] Chinatown is controlled by the Kuei-Jin (Asian vampires led by Ming-Xiao), who do not require blood and consider themselves superior to the other vampires.[20]

Plot[edit]

In Los Angeles, an unnamed human is killed and resurrected as a fledgling vampire. For this unauthorized act, the fledgling and their Sire are brought before the Camarilla. The Sire is executed by order of LaCroix; the fledgling is spared the same fate by the intervention of the Anarch, Nines Rodriguez, and employed by the prince.

LaCroix sends the player to Santa Monica to help his ghoul, Mercurio, destroy a Sabbat warehouse. Following his success the fledgling travels to downtown Los Angeles, meeting separately with Nines, LaCroix and Jack. LaCroix tasks the player with investigating a docked ship, the Elizabeth Dane, for information about an Ankaran sarcophagus rumored to contain the body of an Antediluvian (one of the oldest, most-powerful vampires) whose arrival would herald the vampire apocalypse (Gehenna). The fledgling discovers that the sarcophagus seems to have been opened from within.

Increased Sabbat activity coincides with the disappearance of the Malkavian chief, Alistair Grout. At Grout's mansion, the fledgling sees Nines Rodriguez leaving and discovers Grout's remains in the mansion with vampire hunter Grunfeld Bach (who denies involvement in Grout's death). Learning about Nines' presence at the mansion, LaCroix tells the other chiefs to approve Nines' execution. The fledgling is sent to the Museum of Natural History to recover the sarcophagus, but finds that it has been stolen. Jack later suggests to the fledgling that LaCroix wants the sarcophagus to drink the blood of the ancient within, gaining its power.

Believing that Gary (the Nosferatu chief) has stolen the sarcophagus, the fledgling is sent to Hollywood to find him; after locating a captured Nosferatu for Gary, he reveals that the sarcophagus was stolen by the Giovanni vampire clan. The fledgling infiltrates the Giovanni mansion and finds the sarcophagus guarded by the Kuei-Jin, who claim their leader (Ming-Xiao) has formed an alliance with LaCroix. The locked sarcophagus is returned to LaCroix's tower and Beckett, a vampire historian, tells the fledgling that the only person who can open it has been abducted by Grunfeld to lure LaCroix. The fledgling kills Grunfeld and learns that the sarcophagus' key was also stolen.

They return to LaCroix, learning that the Sabbat tried to steal the sarcophagus to destroy it and prevent Gehenna, and kills the Sabbat leader to disperse his followers. The fledgling is met by Ming-Xiao, who offers to form an alliance. Ming-Xiao reveals that she has the key, and LaCroix killed Grout to keep him from unveiling LaCroix's plans; Ming-Xiao changed into Nines at the mansion to frame him. Denying Ming-Xiao's claims, LaCroix rescinds the blood hunt on Nines and entrusts the fledgling with recruiting the Anarchs to punish the Kuei-Jin for murdering Grout. The fledgling finds Nines hiding in the forest, but they are attacked by a werewolf and Nines is badly injured. The fledgling escapes with Jack, who reveals that LaCroix has issued an execution order on the fledgling for framing Nines on orders from Ming-Xiao.

The end varies, depending on whom (if anyone) the fledgling allies with. If the fledgling supports LaCroix or Ming-Xiao, each sends the fledgling to kill the other. LaCroix opens the sarcophagus, to be killed with the fledgling by hidden explosives; Ming-Xiao betrays the fledgling, chaining them to the sarcophagus and sinking it in the ocean. Supporting the Anarchs (or no one) makes the fledgling kill Ming-Xiao and maim LaCroix, who is killed after he opens the sarcophagus. If the fledgling opens the sarcophagus, they die in the explosion. If the fledgling is a Tremere they kill Ming-Xiao; LaCroix is replaced by Tremere leader Maximillian Strauss, and the sarcophagus is stored. Each ending has Jack watching from afar with the mummy (taken from the coffin) and the enigmatic taxi driver who transports the fledgling between locations and says, "The blood of Caine controls our fate ... Farewell, vampire".

Development[edit]

Double image of blonde, female vampire
Bloodlines underwent many modifications during its three-year development. (above) The original character model of Jeanette in a Hollywood club; (below) the final model in a Santa Monica club.[1]

The development of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines began at Troika Games in November 2001. The developers wanted to put a role-playing game in a first-person setting, believing that the genre had become stale.[17] Troika approached publisher Activision with its idea; Activision suggested using the Vampire: The Masquerade license used a year earlier in Nihilistic Software's Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption.[17] Instead of developing a sequel to Redemption, the development team researched the White Wolf property (including the game's rules) and its storylines.[21][17] Troika was a small game studio, with five developers and a total staff of thirty-two (including lead writer Brian Mitsoda, who joined the team less than a year after development began).[1][22][23] Although some preliminary design and levels were completed, much of the work was abandoned or redeveloped.[22]

Troika wanted to make a 3D game, but was uncertain whether to build a new game engine or license an existing one and whether to use first- or third-person.[24] At that time, the Source game engine was being built by Valve Corporation.[22] Valve employee Scott Lynch approached Troika about using the engine, and it was the first external team to use it.[24][17] Troika chose Source for its facial animation and lip-synching system, since it wanted players to speak to the characters face-to-face.[17] Since the engine was in development with Bloodlines and Valve's own Half-Life 2, Troika was working with unfamiliar code and tools from a single source (forcing it to write its own code to compensate for the unfinished engine).[18][1] Troika developed a lighting system to create distinctive, moody illumination for the nighttime setting, a particle system for the special effects accompanying the vampire disciplines and a cloth system for clothing flow.[24] Source lacked its later artificial intelligence (AI) coding, and Troika's code worked poorly with the Source engine.[25]

Activision introduced the game to the public in May 2003,[26] but that October Valve experienced a security breach in which hackers stole the source code for Half-Life 2. The breach required new security implementations for the engine, delaying both games; the release of Bloodlines was postponed until spring 2005.[27] Until May 2004 Troika and Activision said that the game would feature a multiplayer component and modes including a team of vampires against a team of vampire hunters, with the ability to upgrade characters between each round.[28] The team was left without a producer by Activision for over a year before David Mullich was assigned to the project. With no producer oversight Mullich found the game's design incomplete, game levels created and abandoned, and a number of technical issues (including problems with code for the proposed multiplayer option).[29] The Source multiplayer code was in its infancy, increasing its development time, and the idea was abandoned.[30]

In addition to problems with the Source engine, the designers found that the game's scope exceeded their resources. Bloodlines has several styles of gameplay (requiring different interfaces, animations and artificial intelligence for stealth and melee combat) and first- or third-person capability.[22][1] Compared to contemporary first-person shooters (with 10 to 20 animated character models), Bloodlines had over 150 characters with 3,000 animations (in addition to boss characters, with their own styles of movement).[31] The designers underestimated the length of time required to both prototype and improve these systems. The scope also suffered from content not being excised from the development process when necessary, while other components were approached with a perfectionist attitude that meant they would be continuously refined instead of finalized to allow the developers to begin focusing on other parts of the game system.[22][1] Additionally, all of the content had to be approved by both White Wolf and Activision.[25]

After three years in development, these issues meant that the game was progressing slowly, and there was seemingly no guarantee of when it would be complete. In 2003, publisher Activision stepped in, ordering that the game be ready for release within the next few months, and even advanced more money to Troika so that they could complete their separate work on The Temple of Elemental Evil for Atari, and have the entire Troika team available to work on Bloodlines. Activision eventually issued an ultimatum, requiring that the project be complete in a matter of months. Troika continued with development but the game was still unfinished when Activision forced its release.[1][18][25] Bloodlines' creative director, Jason Anderson, would blame Activision, saying that the publisher took the game from Troika without providing enough time to test and polish it.[18] Throughout the nearly 4 years of development time, Anderson estimated that the team had only two months where they were not in crunch time (working in excess of the standard 40 hours per week).[25]

When Troika had not completed a playable Santa Monica hub with combat and discipline usage that met Activision's satisfaction after more than two years of development time, the publisher took several steps to bring closure to the troubled project. It sent the game's Activision producer and two testers to work on-site at Troika's offices until the game was completed. Finally, it set a deadline of September 15 for Troika to produce a Code Release Candidate. Troika delivered the Code Release Candidate on the required date, though it left the development team in low morale. Due to the game's size and complexity, the Code Release Candidate took three weeks to test, but on October 4, 2004, Bloodlines went Gold as Version 1.0. Since contractual obligations with Valve would interdict Bloodlines to be released before Valve's debut of the Source engine in Half-Life 2, Activision did not publicly announce that the game had gone Gold and instead gave Troika an additional week to polish the game, after which Bloodlines Version 1.1 underwent another three weeks of testing.[citation needed]

Writing[edit]

Many of the basic plot elements existed before Mitsoda's involvement such as the prince, the anarchs being upset, aspects of the Gehenna storyline, and Jack and the sarcophagus being a major plot point. The designers developed ways in which the overarching story could be tied broadly into each individual hub and level. Each designer retained a great deal of control over their assigned sections in the game, and working with such a small team meant that it did not take long to develop a consensus or keep the plot elements consistent. Mitsoda eventually became the primary writer for many of the characters and their quests, dialog, and side content in the game such as e-mails which further helped to retain a consistent narrative; he was given a lot of freedom in regards to his script without restrictions on the use of language or the content, and was able to even rewrite characters like Damsel after he deemed his initial draft to be weak.[22] While the story was developed by Troika, it is inspired by White Wolf's "Time of Judgment" novels about the vampire apocalypse. Bloodlines' story was accepted as canon by White Wolf, with the game serving as a prequel to "Time of Judgment" and including some characters from the White Wolf game like Jack.[13][32]

Discussing the process of designing characters, Mitsoda said that he tried to put effort into disguising the necessity of characters that serve simply as a means of pointing the player in the appropriate direction. He said:

"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 [character] 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 [characters] to be standing around as if their lives begin when the character starts talking to them and end when the player leaves.[22]

Single-use characters that the character may only talk to once needed a unique personality trait to quickly establish them with the player, rather than serving as a disposable item, while major characters that the player speaks to on multiple occasions need to reflect the actions and progression the player as made in the game. Mitsoda wrote the characters by thinking about who each character was, assigning them individual motivations that would determine why they are where they are, what they think of the player, and what they want from them.[22] On the suggestion of fellow writer Chad Moore,[33] the Malkavian player character features a unique dialog script to the other eight playable races, but Mitsoda noted it was one of the less difficult aspects of the development cycle. Mitsoda wrote the Malkavian last, with time running out on development, which saw a lack of sleep and being overworked help contribute to what Mitsoda considered an unhealthy state-of-mind ideal to writing their insane dialog. He wanted to highlight their madness without it becoming comical.[1][22] As the story is set during the Camarilla's recent take over of Los Angeles, it was deemed appropriate to allow the player to only choose to be one of its respective clans, which was also considered to help simplify the complex plot.[7]

Design[edit]

A typical character sheet showing the various upgradable Attributes, Abilities, and Disciplines. Troika found translating the various statistics from the source game to Bloodlines one of the more difficult tasks during the design.

Troika co-founder Jason Anderson's research into the Vampire: The Masquerade source material and online fan-sites found that character interaction and involvement in the vampire societies was the primary draw in the game, rather than statistics and powers. Troika tried to stay true to the pen-and-paper role-playing game, hoping to avoid alienating the game's fans who would initially buy the game, but the rules designed for a multiple-person experience did not translate well to computer game design based around a single player. The team attempted to find which elements could work equally well in both pen-and-paper and computer games. Much of the character system translated over, as did character attributes, however not all of the attributes made sense within the game context, such as "knowledge of law". Overall, of the 30 pen-and-paper abilities, only 15 made it into the final design.[34]

Another difficult area was feats, as while commonly used feats worked well with random chance of success or failure, lesser used ones would seem broken as they would appear to fail more often. To avoid this, randomization was removed and replaced with a level of difficulty in accomplishing the feat instead. Similarly, pen-and-paper falling damage is random, but the computer game instead bases damage purely on the height and velocity of the fall. The team's biggest challenge was adapting Disciplines, which in the pen-and-paper version may require a little blood but take a long time to use, or require no blood-cost at all and be used at will, and upgraded Disciplines held additional requirements, which was considered too confusing for a streamlined computer game. Troika attempted to equalize the Disciplines, keeping the effect as intact as possible, but normalizing the cost, so that a first-level power requires 1 blood point, a second-level requires 2 blood points, and so on.[34] Among actions to balance the different clans, the aristocratic Ventrue were only allowed to feed on noble blood, but this was changed to allow them to also feed on lower-class humans, while receiving less blood.[35] During character creation, the game featured an optionally chosen character biography that provides a unique bonus and negative to the character, such as boosting a specific ability, while limiting another.[8] This was removed from the released game as Activision deemed that there was not sufficient time left before release to test them, and considered it a more stable option to simply remove them.[30]

With the team having previously worked on turn-based combat games, the designers struggled with developing a real-time combat system that was still affected by the various customizable attributes and abilities, and provided feedback to the player on how those things were affecting the battle. They initially found that by adhering too closely to the White Wolf source material rules for guns, where the effectiveness of a shot is determined by a contest between the player's skill and the opponents defense, the firearms seemed broken as the player would not hit where they were aiming. Troika found it difficult to convey the interaction of all the different factors available in the real-time setting.[12] Additionally, melee combat had to compensate for the variety of melee weapons and possible animations, as well as being tuned for melee-on-melee combat and melee-on-ranged combat.[31]

Troika chose to use the first-person perspective because they believed it would help immerse the player in the setting, with the benefit of interacting face-to-face with the various characters and their facial reactions to the player. Additionally, Troika opted to follow a single-character instead of allowing the player to create a party of characters to further aid the immersion, creating the isolation of being a vampire who is unable to trust any other character. This aided the story as well as compensating for the technical issues presented by allowing more than one player character.[36] A significant aspect of the game is choice, requiring a non-linear design capable of accommodating the various customized characters. Level design began with a list of things that needed to be considered such as Disciplines, stealth, and feats, as each area needed to be viable for a character who uses firearms (making sure enough ammunition was present to prevent), or focused on Disciplines (providing enough blood sources to keep the powers fueled), melee specialists (making sure it is possible to reach certain enemies without being killed), as well as stealth options, and combinations of any of these options. Level design typically started with a focus on stealth, taking into consideration the positioning of guards and the potential stealth capabilities of the character. Then more direct, combat-heavy paths were added, as well as dialog-paths where applicable.[37] The Santa Monica pier area was to feature Arcade games with playable Activision titles like Pitfall!, using an emulator, but the idea was abandoned due to time constraints.[30]

Boyarsky considered the animation system to be an important aspect in choosing to use the Source engine. The integrated "faceposer" tool allowed Troika to customize facial animations, expressions, gestures, and lip-synching, eliminating the need to explain what a character was doing simply through text. This also meant that every non-player character required voiceovers, although it helped Troika define their characters more quickly through their voice. The engine also provided a physics system that allowed for new features like monsters hurling corpses at the player, or dying characters crumbling into their component parts realistically instead of using pre-built animations.[24] Troika had previously ignored first-person engines due to technical limitations such as low-polygon counts and limited texture memory, but as technology improved, they considered that they could create a real-time action game without sacrificing the immersion and story of a role-playing game.[31]

Describing developing a game based on the existing White Wolf property over creating their own, Boyarsky said that although an original property lacked the constraints of working within an existing one, the downside to developing an original property was that it had not been tested and could be rejected by its potential audience, while the existing property was already proven.[36] Troika tried to stay as close as possible to the White Wolf rules, while reducing the number of abilities and disciplines to those relevant to Bloodlines gameplay.[7]

Music[edit]

Original instrumental music for the game was produced by Rik Schaffer.[38][11] Troika licensed many songs for the game, and posters for real bands are featured on the walls of the game's clubs.[18] The soundtrack was released as a limited-edition CD to customers who pre-ordered the game through the Best Buy retail store chain.[39] It features 9 tracks by artists including Daniel Ash, Chiasm, Tiamat, Darling Violetta, Genitorturers, and Lacuna Coil.[40][41] The song "Bloodlines" performed by Al Jourgensen and Ministry was composed and performed specifically for the game.[42] The licensed tracks were chosen by Activision without input from Troika.[30]

Tracks
No. Title Artist(s) Length
1. "Bloodlines"   Ministry 7:16
2. "Come Alive"   Daniel Ash 5:55
3. "Cain"   Tiamat 5:27
4. "Swamped"   Lacuna Coil 4:02
5. "Isolated"   Chiasm 5:17
6. "Needle's Eye"   Die My Darling 3:55
7. "Pound"   AERIAL2012 5:32
8. "Lecher Bitch"   Genitorturers 4:15
9. "Smaller God"   Darling Violetta 4:25
Total length:
46:04

Release[edit]

Models portray some of the game's clans during promotion for the game at E3 2003

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines was released on November 16, 2004, in direct competition with Half-Life 2, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and Halo 2, among several other titles.[22][43] Valve's contract for Troika use of the Source engine guaranteed that Bloodlines could not be released before Half-Life 2.[44] Similarly, Bloodlines could not be revealed to the public until after the announcement of Half-Life 2, over eighteen months after development began.[45] In February 2004, the game had originally been scheduled for release in spring 2005, in part intentionally to avoid competing with Half-Life 2 and the competitive Christmas period.[46]

In a 2013 interview, Mitsoda remarked that it was released at "the worst possible time - most people didn't even know we were out... fans and the Troika [developers] are always going to wonder what the game could have been like with another six months."[1] Activision contracted model Erin Layne to portray the character of Jeanette in promotional material for the game. Layne worked with Bloodlines' artist Tim Bradstreet over the course of a day, to provide the poses chosen by Activision to represent Jeanette in the game's posters, clothing, and other items.[47]

The relative failure of Bloodlines' release contributed to the eventual demise of Troika Games. Shortly after the game's debut, most of the development staff were made redundant, while the remaining staff alternated between attempting to patch the released version of Bloodlines and developing new game concepts to help secure funding to keep Troika in business. Troika was unable to obtain further funding, and gradually released its employees in two waves, the first in November 2004, followed by the remaining staff in December, except for its three founders: Anderson, Boyarsky, and Tim Cain.[25][23] Some employees had continued to work unpaid to continue fixing the game.[48] By the time the company finally closed in February 2005, it had secured no other game development deals.[1][49] In the same month, Boyarsky confirmed that Troika had not been working on a patch for the game, having been without most of its staff since December 2004.[23] In a November 2004 interview, Boyarsky stated that the team would like to pursue a Bloodlines sequel, but that ultimately the decision fell to Activision.[30]

Unofficial patches have since been created by the game's fan community to further develop Bloodlines.[50][51][52][1] After experiencing some issues with the first versions of the Unoffial Patch created by Dan Upright, analytical chemist Werner Spahl continued patching the game from version 1.2 on, getting the permission and information on how to do so. The community around the game served as testers for Spahl's patches, providing reports on bugs, spelling errors and more. The complexity of the game system often meant that repairing one aspect broke another, but as work on the patches progressed, Spahl moved beyond simply fixing issues with the base game and began restoring removed and incomplete content which still remained within the game files, like adding new quests, items, weapons and characters while using fans to provide voice acting, new models, to even reinstating entire levels.[1] The changes altered the original game so much that Spahl was criticized by some of the game's community, resulting in the release of separate patch versions: a basic one that fixes the technical issues of the game, and a plus version which installs the additional content too. As of April 2014, the game has received almost 10 years of post-release support with the release of version 9 of the patch.[1][53]

After Bloodlines was released to the public, Activision compiled a list of problems customers were reporting to its customer service department and on various Vampire websites. It then authorized Troika to spend a week creating a patch to address the most serious issues. Despite this, several employees continued to work without pay on the Version 1.2 patch, which after three weeks was released on December 22, 2004.[citation needed]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 81%[54]
Metacritic 80/100[55]
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 3.5/5 stars[56]
Eurogamer 7/10[6]
GameSpot 7.7/10[2]
GameSpy 4/5 stars[9]
IGN 8.4/10[10]
PC Gamer US 77%[57]
PC Zone 8.6/10[3]
VideoGamer.com 8/10[58]

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines received a generally mixed response, with reviewers praising the writing and presentation, while criticizing the various technical issues present throughout the game.[59] Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic, respectively, provide a score of 81% based on 68 reviews, and 80 based on 61 reviews.[54][55]

The game was frequently cited as a flawed masterpiece. The scale and variety of choice and effect was highlighted by reviewers as Bloodlines's greatest success, including the variety of clans with specific dialog options, and the specific reactions from other characters each carrying their own clan alignments and prejudice. GameSpy said that taken purely as a role-playing game, it is nearly flawless classic, and the New York Times calling it brilliant but unfinished.[9][60][6] Eurogamer complimented the "effortlessly intelligent" script, claiming that "no other game has come close. Nothing's even tried," and VideoGamer.com said that at its best, Bloodlines stands among the greatest RPGs of the preceding five years, though its technical issues should not be forgiven.[9][6][58] HonestGamers stated that the game "may not be polished and may end with a sigh instead of a shout, but for its ambition alone it deserves stream after stream of compliments."[61] Reviewers compared the game to other successful role-playing games, including the Fallout, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Planescape: Torment, Baldur's Gate II, and Deus Ex, with EuroGamer describing Bloodlines as Deus Ex with vampires.[6][2][10][3][58]

IGN appreciated that Bloodlines rewards exploration outside of the main story, and the New York Times and GameSpy praised the "wonderfully imaginative missions". Reviewers noted however that the later parts of the game were disappointing, delivering repetitive combat-focused missions with respawning enemies, that abandoned the other options such as dialog and stealth, punishing players who build characters with more social skills that combat abilities.[6][10][60][9] GameSpy noted that they had never seen a role-playing game so affected by player actions, with everything from clan choice and character build, to actions in missions influencing future options and dialog.[9]

The writing received consistent praise from reviewers. The narrative was considered to be deep, offering a successful use of White Wolf's Vampire: The Masquerade content. EuroGamer said it featured the best script they had ever seen in a video game, while others considered it to be a superbly crafted tale of conspiracies, underworld subterfuge, fun, and intrigue.[9][6][2][57] Reviewers appreciated the use of adult themes like sex and death in the story in a contemporary video game, that no other games had tackled with similar effectiveness. The mature themes succeeded while never being gratuitous or exploitative, or existing purely to shock, and instead being dealt with in honest and truthful ways by a writer who is knowledgeable about the topics.[6][2][58] The characters were well received for their memorable, well-developed personalities, with most major characters featuring their own intriguing backstory, that are presented as living people instead of ciphers delivering the next mission.[58][3][9] The ending received a mixed response, with reviewers appreciating the ability to influence which of the game's four endings were received which added incentive to replay the game, and others considering the ending anti-climatic.[2][60]

GameSpot and GameSpy said the dialog was sharply written, featuring many memorable lines and phrases.[9][2] Eurogamer noted that the characters frequent use of vulgar language made sense because they are written like real people and such language fit their character, rather than simply having them swear to make the game seem more adult.[6] They also appreciated that the breadth of dialog options was immensely rewarding in allowing the player greater control over personalizing how they play their character. Conversely, PC Zone said that the quantity of well-written dialog did not necessitate quality, considering that too many player choices appeared to have little effect on the outcome of a conversation, and the best response often being the most obvious.[3] The voice acting was repeatedly singled out for praise, both for the quality of the actors, and the amount of voice work present due to the amount of available dialog options.[2][10]

Much of Bloodlines' criticism focused on the it's technical failings upon release that undermined the experience or made the game unplayable. Reviewers noted as well as errors that closed the game, Bloodlines featured several typographical errors in on-screen text. Others highlighted frequent and sometimes lengthy loading times encounted while moving between hubs and entering or exiting buildings and separate areas.[6][3][2] GameSpot said that the game's Artificial Intelligence (AI) was poor, causing enemies to often rush at an armed player, fire at them from too great a distance to be effective, or become immobilized while waiting for the player's next attack. IGN noted that stealth also broke the AI, allowing traps to be triggered, but leaving the assailants standing still, unable to locate a hidden player.[2][10] GameSpy said that the Source engine was Bloodlines greatest weakness, reasoning that the RPG aspects are the game's strongest aspects, while the features of the Source engine such as first-person shooting, are where the game stumbled.[9]

Combat also received criticism, with reviewers labeling it poor, clumsy, and unsatisfactory.[2][6] Reviewers complained that Bloodlines favors melee combat, with firearms being weak, unwieldy, and slow, even for characters that specialized in guns.[2][6][10] However, PC Zone said that the first-person shooting was entertaining and challenging.[3] While melee combat was criticized as sluggish and difficult due to enemy attacks interrupting the player's, reviewers still considered that melee combat was overpowered, with GameSpot stating that a boss character was killed with melee weapons the first time after repeated failures attempting to accomplish the same with a gun.[9][2] The New York Times said that the final part of the game featured unavoidable combat so difficult that they had to cheat to succeed.[60][58] Stealth was also criticized with IGN noting that even with low stealth skill, it was possible to sneak around many enemies, and even feed from a guard without altering another guard stood immediately next to them.[10] However, GameSpot said that some of the best missions were stealth-based, with combat being more straight forward.[2][9]

Sales[edit]

Despite the generally favorable reviews,[55][54] Bloodlines's initial release sold only 72,000 copies (earning approximately $3.4 million)[citation needed] which was considered a poor response and helped contribute to Troika's shutdown shortly after the game's release.[44] In comparison, its release competitor Half-Life 2 had sold 6.5 million units by 2008.[62]

Recognition[edit]

In 2004, IGN named it the Best PC RPG of that year, and GameSpy named the "Ocean House Hotel" quest, as the Level of the Year.[63] In 2005, Computer Gaming World named it the Role Playing Game of 2004, saying that it offered "a deep, balanced character-creation system, a truckload of interesting quests, a good story and great NPCs to interact with."[64] In 2006, PC Zone listed Bloodlines as the seventh-best PC game that people were unlikely to have played, saying it was the "best buggy game ever released".[65] In 2007, the game appeared at number 80, on PC Gamer's list of its top 100 games, and in 2013, PCGamesN listed as the seventh best PC role-playing game.[66][67] In 2011, Rock Paper Shotgun listed Bloodlines as one of the most important PC games of all time, saying "it signposts a direction to a future of games that we were denied". Rock Paper Shotgun also named it as one of the 122 Best PC Games Ever.[68][69] Cinema Blend named it one of the most underappreciated games of the decade.[70] In 2011, Official Xbox Magazine named it one of the ten PC franchises it wanted to appear on the Xbox 360 console.[71][70] In 2014, Empire's reader-voted list of the 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time, listed Bloodlines at number 90.[48]

Retrospective critiques of the game have continued to praise the narrative and degree of choice. In 2009, Rock Paper Shotgun said "the sense of sorrow comes from the realisation that there’s nothing like [Bloodlines] on the horizon... why should there be so few games like this? Oh right, because it’s so very hard to do... the lack of games comparable to Bloodlines is one of the great tragedies of our time." Eurogamer called the game inspirational, with a level of narrative detail that remained unmatched. In 2010, The Escapist said that Bloodlines was a flawed masterpiece that could have been a genuine masterpiece with more time, money, and staff, but that while great games may inspire awe, the game instead created a devoted fan base that continued to develop the game.[18][72][73] The game is considered a cult classic.[18][74]

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Books
  • Osborn, Chuck (2003). Cover Story: Bloodlines - The Half Life 2 Engine Gets Dead Sexy 10 (114). PC Gamer US. pp. 46–54. ISSN 1080-4471. 
  • 2004 Games of the Year (249). Computer Gaming World. March 2005. pp. 56–57. 
  • Osborn, Chuck (2005). Reviews - Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 12 (132). PC Gamer US. pp. 92–94. ISSN 1080-4471. 

External links[edit]