Lead narrative designer Brian Mitsoda and creative director Ka'ai Cluney are no longer on the development team for Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 at studio Hardsuit Labs.
Publisher Paradox Interactive confirmed that the two have left the team in an update (opens in new tab) posted today, just over a week after Bloodlines 2 was delayed to 2021 (opens in new tab). At the time, the publisher said it would soon share "organizational change" that will help it hit its updated release date.
"This was a joint decision made by the leadership of Hardsuit Labs and Paradox Interactive," the update says. "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 publisher didn't explain why or how Mitsoda or Cluney were removed from the team, but in an email to Rock Paper Shotgun (opens in new tab), Mitsoda said that it caught him totally by surprise. He says he was "suddenly terminated" on July 16 and it's only now being made public, and "that this came as a shock to me is underselling it."
"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," he says. "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." He also stressed that he had "never been led to believe that I hadn’t succeeded."
It's unclear whether Cluney was fired for the same or similar reasons, or when he left the studio. In his place, Paradox has recruited creative consultant Alexandre Mandryka, who's worked on multiple Ubisoft franchises including Assassin's Creed and Far Cry, as well as Splinter Cell and some Warhammer 40K games. Mitsoda's role will seemingly be left open for the time being.
Paradox says it will "share further updates as they occur," so this may not be the end of its "organizational change." As always, it's worth noting that losing or changing a handful of positions, even for executive or director-level creatives, is not always a sign of critical development troubles. However, given the timing of the latest Bloodlines 2 delay and Mitsoda's account of things, this news doesn't inspire confidence.
Bloodlines 2 was also delayed in 2019 (opens in new tab) to ensure it doesn't "repeat mistakes."