Pokemon fans, we have some very interesting news for you all! It looks like Pokemon and Adidas could be “joining forces” to make the very first Pokemon x Adidas collection, featuring Pikachu and Squirtle A sneaker insider, hugokickz, shared the potential Pokemon x Adidas collection on Instagram and according to him, there are two variants …
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Paradox and Hardsuit Labs revive one of the best cult classic role-playing games on PC in 2020
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines never had a chance. Released in 2004 in the same window as Halo 2, Half-Life 2, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, it sold fewer than 100,000 copies at launch. Most of its development team was laid off shortly afterward. But over the past 15 years, the PC role-playing game based on the popular White Wolf tabletop franchise has become something of a cult classic. Fans and critics hold up its ambitious story and emphasis on player freedom as evidence that Bloodlines arrived ahead of its time.
Now, under a new publisher and developer, Bloodlines is getting a second chance with an official sequel, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2. Judging from a meaty demo showing during the 2019 Game Developers Conference, the original’s many fans have reason to be hopeful.
Paradox Interactive acquired White Wolf and the rights to the Vampire universe from CCP in 2015. Now the publisher and developer, best known for its collection of high-concept strategy games, has tapped a relatively new Seattle-based studio to build a sequel. Called Hardsuit Labs, the team is best known for its free-to-play shooter Blacklight: Retribution. It has brought on Bloodline’s lead writer, Brian Mitsoda, along with game writer and critic Cara Ellison.
During our demo, Mitsoda underscored that Bloodlines 2 will capture the tone of the original: a mix of noir, personal drama, political intrigue, and humor. The latter features heavily in the demo with a young hermit named Dale Talley, who introduces our character to the game’s world and the life of a vampire. His lighthearted pragmatism elevates the usual exposition dump that starts most games into a fun, surprising conversation — and a helpful primer for somebody new to the franchise.
Bloodlines 2 is set, fittingly, in Seattle. (The game’s internal code name was Project Frasier.) Our character — whom we can identify and specialize however we see fit — is a Thin-blood, a human with new or relatively weak vampire powers. The character is one of many “bloods” to be “born” from an incident called a mass Embrace. A band of rogue vampires converted a crowd of humans in public (including our character), breaking the Masquerade and igniting feuds among the city’s many vampire factions.
The Masquerade, for folks new to the series’ lore, is the first and most important rule of vampire life: to not reveal one’s true powers, strength, and vampiric habits to humans. In the fiction and in the game, breaking the Masquerade gets the attention of rival vampires and faction leaders, who will do their best to cut off our character’s head.
Of course, the rules are a good deal more complicated and fluid than that, which is why our pal Dale has opted to stay safe with the confines of his apartment, living off blood bags and obscure ’90s television reruns. While he stays out of the power struggle, our character won’t take that approach.
In the Bloodlines 2 demo, we learn to be a human-slaying vampire in a jiffy. At the beginning of the game, we choose our first power from a trio of options, each emphasizing traversal and combat. One lets us glide over big gaps and conjure bats that attack enemies. Another ability turns us into mist that can travel through vents and choke people. The last ability is a traditional take on telekinesis, allowing us to manipulate objects from afar and snatch weapons from the hands of attackers. The game generously lets us try each power in order to solve a small puzzle before having us select our favorite. This is just one of many choices and abilities that unlock as our blood adapts to their new vampire life.
After gaining this skill, we meet some poor humans who don’t know they’re about to get absolutely wrecked. Our character can wield any of the game’s weapons, but the demo emphasizes physical strength and acrobatics. We punch with the force of a sledgehammer. We leap with the grace of a dancer. We suck blood because we are a vampire and that’s sort of our thing.
Though most of the game takes place in the first person, the camera briefly zips to third-person for particularly fast and elaborate maneuvers, like vaulting over an enemy and delivering a blow to their side.
These early scrimmages transpire beneath Seattle. Mitsoda notes that in the late 1800s, the original Seattle downtown area burned down, leaving the community to rebuild the city atop the old one. In Bloodlines 2, this means that a literal scorched city awaits just beneath the streets, a sort of American Pompeii full of abandoned storefronts and grimy street signs.
When we finally make our way to the surface, we’re met with the bright, colorful glow of the Ferris wheel on one of Seattle’s commercial piers. It’s impressive just how beautiful a video game of this scope can be, despite coming from a team that, compared to the mega-studios producing franchises like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, is modestly sized. Sure, developers like Hardsuit Labs now have access to more and easier tools than they would have in the past, but I suspect that what truly elevates this game is its art direction.
Bloodlines 2’s story blends horror and noir, like its predecessor did, but its visual style doesn’t rely exclusively on the expressionistic shadows of classic noir or the neon signs of its contemporaries. Instead, it’s full of a variety of lighting techniques, each suffusing rooms and outdoor spaces with different moods. An urban square central to the story has the soft glow of retro lampposts. A Brutalist parking garage exterior is softened by pink neon. The apartment of a recluse has the harsh fluorescent lighting that reveals every stain and fleck of dust that has accumulated over the years. And throughout the world sit Christmas trees and holiday lights, giving scenes an almost trippy splash of color.
To be clear, though, this game is deeply pulling from noir storytelling. As a blood, we don’t know much of anything about the world of vampires, while most characters we meet seem to know a good deal about us. So it’s up to our character to set into the night, leaving behind poor Dale, to get some answers.
As in the original Bloodlines, personal choice is the core of the game. We can kill our enemies, or sneak about using our powers. Ellison explains that we can maximize our seduction abilities and seduce our way through much of the game. We must feed on blood to survive, but even then, we can nibble, leaving our victims alive, albeit drained.
Blood has flavors depending on the emotion of the victim. They might feel rage, joy, delirium, or some other sensation, and by tapping into their veins, we get a bit of that emotion, getting a passive buff. We can even develop a taste for specific flavors of blood, which unlock additional perks that can be equipped like loadouts.
We didn’t get to learn too much about our character in the demo, or from conversations with the game’s creators. Understandably, they’re keeping story specifics hush for now. But Mitsoda and Ellison did expand on the macro and micro directions in which they’re taking the narrative. On a top level, our character’s journey will take them across Seattle, a city once known for its music culture and progressive ideals that’s been overtaken in recent years by big tech companies and billionaires.
Mitsoda said the game’s factions will capture the conflicting wants and needs of the city’s community, both new and old. And Ellison spoke about the more personal level of the story, focusing on the many other Thin-bloods we will meet, people who are struggling to align their new life as a vampire with the domestic challenges and responsibilities of their recent time as humans. These people may still have spouses, kids, and obligations, and the city’s rapid change may affect them both directly and indirectly in unexpected ways. Ellison said it’s the creators’ chance to “explore the space of vampire puberty.” Our character enters vampirehood with the help of Dale and a place to live, but other Thin-bloods aren’t so lucky.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 is set for release in the first quarter of 2020, so it’s early to make any real judgments. But the short demo we were shown has tremendous promise, and while it looks like a game from the present, it echoes its ambitious predecessor from the mid-2000s. Asked if the team had considered designing any elements of the game for Twitch and streamers, the project’s creative director, Ka’ai Cluney, stated with confidence that “at no point was Twitch considered in the design.” It’s totally fine, he continued, if players stream the game, and great if they share their unique experiences. But Bloodlines 2 is a game about players making their own choices, imagining their own backstory, and taking their own path.
Maybe this time, the audience will be ready and eager for such an idea.
We’ll have more info on Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 in the coming months, including an interview between team members and our resident Vampire: The Masquerade expert, Charlie Hall.
Valve breaks down what’s changing on Steam at GDC 2019
Valve is making some big changes to Steam in the coming months with the addition of new features like Steam Events and a redesigned look for your game library. At the 2019 Game Developers Conference on Thursday, Valve’s Alden Kroll revealed a new, information-dense design for Steam libraries that will emphasize recently played and recently updated games.
Each user’s Steam library will now have its own homepage. Kroll showed an example page that displayed a user’s most recently played games at the top of that homepage, with the intention that a Steam user would be able to easily jump into one of their most played games. The redesign also made it clearer which Steam games a user’s friends were playing at the time, and which games had recently been updated.
Game updates — things like new characters or game modes — will be highlighted as well. Just below the section of the Steam library page that listed recently played games was a section titled “Your game updates.” As examples, Valve showed a new character update for Don’t Starve Together, a new hero for Dota 2, and the new Danger Zone game mode for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
The rest of the redesigned Steam library page listed friends activity and a user’s complete collection of games, with filters to help sort and display them.
Individual game pages are also getting a visual overhaul. An example page for CS:GO elevated information like recent events and updates, friend activity, and available downloadable content for the game.
Valve’s redesign of the Steam library is coming in beta form sometime this summer.
Prior to that, Valve plans to release a new feature called Steam Events. Kroll said Valve is adding Steam Events so that developers will be able to communicate to customers “when there’s something interesting happening in a game.” Examples of Steam Events include in-game events tied to holidays, developer livestreams, bonus weekends that offer double XP, and tournaments.
Events will be shown throughout Steam, Kroll said, including current events that players can join now and future events that they can receive reminders for. Players will be able to opt in to reminders for upcoming events via external calendars (iCal, Google Calendar, etc.), email, mobile app notifications, text messages, and Steam itself.
Steam Events will enter open beta in the coming months.
Check out the gallery below for a look at more mockups of Steam Events and Steam’s updated game and library pages.