Hi there! My name is Andy Kipling, and I’m the CEO of Hardsuit Labs. Being a CEO means a lot of responsibility: From deciding how to grow the team, to looking after the company's profit & loss plan. All of it important, but not all of it fit for a dev diary.
Seeing that we recently visited PDXCon, I thought I’d share what the event was all about, giving you a glimpse behind the scenes from the perspective of the HSL team.
On October 16, 2019, I boarded a flight whose final stop would not only take me to Germany for the first time but would also take me to my first ever PDXCon. I have attended a lot of industry-related conventions over the years, but I have never been to one which featured so many passionate fans focused on a single publisher’s set of games. And it was quite the experience.
The weeks leading up to PDXCon were intense as we had a lot of irons in the fire: Among other things, we were pushing forward on development, we were coordinating the pending delay announcement, and we were preparing talks for PDXCon.
Side note: developing a public talk about the nature of development is no easy task. On the one hand, I could probably talk for hours about Living World or Combat or general development, but without proper context, a lot of that talk can easily be misunderstood or misconstrued. So, boiling down all that information into something concise and comprehensible was a challenging yet interesting exercise.
That said, when we stepped off the plane in Berlin, the delay had already been announced, it was mostly well-received, and our talks were… nearing completion. With our feet firmly in Germany and our focus solely on PDXCon, we got to work, meeting up with our friend and Product Manager, Florian, at our hotel to being practicing and dry runs on our talks for the event.
The next day we woke up early and headed over to the Funkhaus where PDXCon was being hosted. We had the chance to show the very same demo we announced the game with, back in March at GDC. To this day, there have been no recordings of this build, which meant that we could offer our guests something exclusive. As I got into the groove, it was 7 months since I last did this demo, I recognized that we hit our familiar stride with when doing the press demos, a demo that was well received. It would turn out to be a stark contrast to the next day, however.
Saturday the 19th started early. We arrived at the venue around 7:30 am and the fans were already there en masse. Kudos to you all who were standing around outside the early cold fall morning.
Demos with the fans started at 8:30 that morning and immediately I was surprised, excited and impressed. In all my years in this industry and with all the demos I have been a part of, I can not say I have ever had the privilege to present to a group of fans like the people at PDXCon. Within 30 seconds of starting the demo, our audience was clapping, cheering, shouting out answers for dialogue and generally showing a level of excitement I haven’t experienced before. And as a developer, that was super inspiring and emotionally fulfilling. For as early as it was, and as jet-lagged and tired I was, that initial experience was a real inspiration and something I took home to Seattle to share with the team. If only they also had been there. And to top it off, I had a Malkavian cosplayer in our audience!
From there it was a few more demos, followed by the big announcement show. After some quick rehearsals outside on the banks of the river Spree, it was back inside the concrete Funkhaus for a deep dive into combat mechanics, where I stood in for our designers, who had opted to stay home and press on with development. Despite my trepidation, it went off without a hitch.
By then, we had also settled into the rhythm that was our time at PDXCon. If one of us was not manning the demo booth, then someone was off giving a talk, be it on Combat, Living World, Dialogue Systems or the game’s narrative. Oh, and speaking of Narrative, I should note that while my experience reflected most of the other HSL dev’s experience, Brian and Cara, being responsible for our narrative, had quite a different experience; doing back to back interviews for two days straight. I’m truly impressed and glad that they could take on that responsibility.
Saturday was by far our busiest day, but it was also the most fun day. In addition to being able to show the game to our fans, we also got to interact with them one on one. We had a community meet and greet for an hour where we got to just speak freely about all things Bloodlines, HSL and Paradox. It was great to meet a lot of the fans, pose for pictures and just enjoy the conversation and support. I can not say how great it is to have positive feedback and support from the community. We have been at work on this game for a long time, and it is because of people like those who came to PDXCon (and many others) that we have the opportunity to put as much time and effort into this game as we have.
Also, to the person whose poster I accidentally signed twice, please accept my apology.
This takes me to the Dev Update on the main stage at PDXCon. While we did not end PDXCon with the keynote it did mark the culmination of a lot of behind-the-scenes work. We spoke to some of the history of the project, the studio, the relationship with Paradox, where we are presently and most importantly; where we are going from here.
I mentioned this earlier and I will mention it again, but the support that you all have shown us following the delay announcement has been tremendous and wonderful. It is that kind of response that inspires and motivates us developers and so I wanted to personally say thanks. It is something that we not only heard leading up to PDXCon but was reinforced over and over while at the event – do what is necessary and best for the game and we will support you.
So, with that in mind, and as we alluded to in the keynote, we are going to be a bit quieter for a while as we do just that – do what is necessary and best for the game; making it all it can be. This means that you may not hear or see from us as much but that does not mean we have forgotten about you. Rather, we are heads down working to make Bloodlines 2 everything we want it to be. We look forward to seeing you on the flip side. Until then...
— Andy Kipling