How to design an Open World RPG: Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines

Intro:

Quote possibly the finest western RPG ever made, Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines, stands the test of time. My favorite moment was getting unleashed into the open world and immediately you find humans to feed on, but in this game, you don’t kill them, you drain them, but leave them for later. Half the game is just managing your blood intake, need to heal, drain some blood, need magic powers? Drain some blood. The politiqueing between the different tribes of vampire were also brilliantly constructed, well founded in the original lore, you could easily consider this the ultimate final form of the VTM lore. It is so richly constructed, with so many branching paths, different alleys to go down, each one bearing a new secret. A world filled with secrets. So much pain in that world, but it was such a beautiful place. It was a place of mystery and wonder, amidst an ever raging war for survival, both for the player and for everyone else trapped in it’s jaws.

You can check out my breakdown of Pathologic Classic HD right here, another classic of modern open world gaming and another example of everything to do right in your game.

When you’re done that, you can explore the story of Persona 2, the weird one in the room, right here.

Is Bloodlines 2 Cancelled?

Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines 2 isn’t cancelled, it’s just in development Hell, having been switched to another studio, and after multiple delays, it won’t be released until at least 2022.

Why was Vampire The Masquerade 2 Delayed?

After a planned release for 2020 got pushed back to 2021, the game has now been delayed again until at least 2022. News of this dropped after the games creative director and lead writer got the axe from Paradox.

Storyline:

Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines had a very interesting story, right from the start it sucked you in. You are a newly sired vampire, you were produced outside the sanction of counsel, and a summons is issued for the fate of you and your sire to be determined. Your sire, having fallen well outside the terms of what was permitted in the shadow society governing the vampire underworld, is duly and prompty executed.

But what of you? What happens to you? Under the rules of the council you are to be destroyed as well, but is our prince not merciful, he grants you your freedom, and sends you on your way. This prince and his political machinations will become a vast and sprawling web of intrigue and backstabbing, as you fight your way to the top and eventually, spoiler, kill the prince, or rather, I suspect you have your choice of whether or not to kill the prince, I’ve looked through the endings before but I have never completed the game, I got maybe 20% or 30% into the game before time and life defeated me. But I am certain you have the choice to kill the prince or not.

You have a lot of choices in this game, and I mean A LOT. It is more like a 3D open world choose your own adventure novel than a traditional GAME. And boy was it buggy.

Anyway after this you are released out into the world to feed and play and have fun. Do whatever you want, basically, is whole of it.

Bugs:

The original game had so many bugs it’s just mindblowing it was ever released, crashes, broken quests, clipping issues, you name it, VTMB has got it. The community patch is mandatory with this game, which turns to a mostly useable state. Forever bearing the moniker “The best buggy game ever made” it is not far off from the best game ever made, in terms of western RPGS, probably the best. JRPGS have some who can tank it, but not many. You’d have to look to Russian developer Ice Pick Lodge and their game PATHOLOGIC to find something able to crush it. It is a marvel of game design and one of the finest games ever made, rushed out the door well before it was completed, the community loved it so much they decided to get together to mend this broken game, and bring it into ship shape.

Here’s an article from PC GAMER about how to get bloodlines working well on your modern system.

Character Creation:

Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines has the best character creator of any game ever made, and that’s not because it gives you lots of dials for the size of your lets say arms, it gives you a choice between lots and lots of different vampire tribes, you can be the Tremere, or the Malkavian, or the Toreador, or the Tremere, or the Brujah, or the Nosferatu, or the Ventrue, or the Gangrel, or the Tzimisce.

Each clan has it’s own background, it’s own special dialogue and it’s own special strengths and weaknesses. Malkavians are very powerful, but they are insane, their dialogue is insane, what other people are saying to them is insane, basically, if you play as the malkavian, insanity will follow you and pour forth from you, like air and water from your throat. It is lions bread, that’s what dethinkers brew, openness isn’t even needed it’ll just get in the line of the blood. You might get or say a line of dialogue as demented as that. The entire questline of the entirety of the game has been rewritten, as madness, to and from the malkavian. It is generally recommended to play the malkavian on a second or third playthrough, because otherwise you will have absolutely no idea what’s going on.

If you’re the nosferatu, on the other hand, prepare to be so ugly you hide in sewers and feast primarily on rats. If a Nosferatu is seen, anywhere, doing anything, it is an automatic masquerade violation. They have all kinds of powerful magics and tricks to get around this debacle, but nosferatu is probably the least fun tribe to play as, for that exact reason. But as a role playing mechanic, it is fascinating isn’t it?

Best just to choose the Tremere, they’re the pretty one’s aren’t they? They seduce with their beautiful looks right? Just breeze through the game flirting up a storm with everyone you meet, right? That’s the way to play this game, you’re not supposed to start as the Malkavian because he’s awesome???

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Branching Plotlines:

There were so many branching and divergent plotlines in this game it was just ridiculous. Every task could be completed in a myriad of ways. Do you want to deal in diplomacy, seduce your way to victory, use magical spells to trick your opponents, burst through with raw force and brawn, hack the computer systems to let you sneak through, it was reminiscent of the original Deus Ex in the amount of ways you could progress. Almost everyone in the game was killable. And key characters have a way of getting their fates put in your hands…. You basically choose who lives and who dies, and who succeeds and who fails. There are so many different dialogue choices, and alternative methods for success. It really is a spectacle of light.

Truly a beautiful system to bask in.

Be the bad guy : But not too much

You can do a lot of really bad underhanded things over the course of this game, it really is a festival of villainy. You can do so many messed up and jerk things to people it’s really quite incredible. Aside from just draining the blood of humans, you can do it in such creative ways, you can make deals, make friends with humans, and then drain their blood, like a jerk.

But what is interesting, is that you cannot do TOO MUCH evil. The masquerade is broken if a vampire is too wanton in the things they do to innocents. The other vampires will come get them and it is basically game over. So you must maintain some decorum when you are hunting your prey of humans, do not drain them until they die, do not murder them without cause. If someone is attacking you then go hog wild, but do not attack innocent and harmless people, without any good reason. What you can do is steal, you can be a kleptomaniac in this game. There’s also a lot of cool vampire spells you can use. The most powerful of which are owned by the nosferatu, and the malkavians, whose other very bizarre tradeoffs are matched with the quality of their spells and magic.

The world was a bizarre urban sprawl

The world you inhabit is huge and interesting, it is generally urban slums and things like that, you’re going, well breaking into shops, people’s houses, gas stations, things of that nature. The roads are grimy and dark, the city is dark and full of highrises. It was one of the most fun open world games anyone had ever come up with at the time. The world was just so much fun to explore, with so much detail baked in. If you encountered a locked door, chances are you’ll be going through it at some point in the game. City Sections are connected by the sewers. You’ll find yourself in rubble and ruins, you’ll find yourself at the pier.

The world is it’s own character in this game, a very glum, unhappy character, on a variety of drugs and alcohols. You will sometimes find yourself in huge sprawling mansions. Beautiful nightclubs with even more beautiful characters to meet. The sisters were a nice touch. One is very good and proper, one is very evil and loves to party, together they made a good team. And of course, choices must be made as to who you like the best, and ultimately, who survives.

Wrapping up

I await Bloodlines 2, potentially it could be one of the best things ever made, or a mess of a game, riddled with agendas and politics of the worst kind. Only time will tell.

Anyway, let’s get into the world now, which is to say, let’s finish up with our final thoughts. I found Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines to be a very serviceable and fun RPG to play, genuine fun right out of the pit of your worst nightmare.

It is so fun being a vampire it’s just insane. The characters, the situations the plots the settings, getting drawn into sidestories about some godforsaken serial killer, there was so much to this game, it was huge and long as heck. Genuine, good quality gameplay. You should model your open world games on this. It is actually kind of the gold standard in open world western RPGS. If you’re like me you’ve probably watched Mangaminx, or she she calls herself now, The RPG Minx, doing her 114th video on the topic, she can make videos indefinitely, whenever it rains she can make another, and never really run out.

Model your game on this, throw away the sequel probably but we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt, this is one of those games that if you’re compared to it, it’s a big compliment. Check it out when you have the time.

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