Whereas Rockstar Video games is understood finest for the Grand Theft Auto collection, Bully – its recreation a few juvenile delinquent pupil named James “Jimmy” Hopkins rising by way of the ranks of Bullworth Academy – is simply as extremely regarded by some. Many had hoped a sequel could be on its manner, and though it has but to occur, former Rockstar builders have revealed the main points of the time they tried to make that dream come true.
Sport Informer spoke to 5 of those former workers from Rockstar’s New England studio – the crew that was really engaged on Bully 2 within the late 2000s – they usually shared why this recreation by no means… nicely… graduated and made its manner into the world.
Rockstar Vancouver was the crew behind the unique Bully, however Rockstar New England was entrusted to work on this sequel. They have been excited to show themselves worthy as Rockstar had not too long ago bought them after they have been nonetheless often called Mad Doc Software program.
Whereas they needed to be the “golden youngster within the Rockstar factor,” it was arduous to flee the shadow of Rockstar North – the principle studio behind the Grand Theft Auto video games.
“[Rockstar New England] needed to be form of the golden youngster within the Rockstar factor, but it surely’s actually arduous when Rockstar North was the one which was producing all of the golden eggs at the moment,” one developer says. “Dwelling within the shadows of somebody who casts an enormous shadow like Rockstar North, and making an attempt to usurp that position, it’s actually tough and almost unimaginable. However man, did they fight. Oh, did they fight.”
Have you ever performed Bully?
Previous to Rockstar’s acquisition of Mad Doc, the studio was approached to work on Bully: Scholarship Version, which was a remaster of the unique with new missions, characters, and gadgets. Following their profitable partnership, Rockstar bought them in April 2008. The crew was ecstatic.
“Rockstar itself […] you say, ‘I work at Rockstar,’ folks have been actually in awe of that,” one former developer says. “It was good to have some clout to a job. You already know? I used to be excited to work on something that that they had, as a result of a lot of the video games that they’d churned out [had] been fairly golden.”
Sadly, the honeymoon interval didn’t final lengthy and the studio’s tradition rapidly modified. Not lengthy after they turned Rockstar New England, Rockstar’s vp of growth Jeronimo Barrera visited the studio and left some feeling a bit nervous.
“One of many first crimson flags was when somebody requested about hours and weekends and stuff like that,” the developer recollects. “Jeronimo’s reply was one thing to the impact of, ‘Properly, we don’t work each weekend.’ He is like, ‘For instance, I’m not working this Saturday.’ The emphasis on the phrase ‘each,’ after which ‘this,’ have been somewhat disquieting of their impact.”
In 2019, a report got here out from Kotaku and revealed Barrera was described as “abrasive” and “risky,” and one worker accused him of sexual assault. Barrera denied all of the allegations.
Following that assembly, the studio was arduous at work on ending the PC model of Bully: Scholarship Version, helping with Grand Theft Auto IV’s two story expansions and Purple Lifeless Redemption, and starting work on a sequel to Bully. Regardless of among the crimson flags, they could not be extra excited.
Bully 2 was positioned to “sit alongside Rockstar video games of the time, similar to Grand Theft Auto IV and Purple Lifeless Redemption.”
“There was a variety of deal with character, very deep methods, seeing how far we may push that, and placing it up there alongside a GTA,” one developer on the undertaking says.
Bully 2 was to be “greater and deeper than that of the unique recreation,” and there have been roughly 50-70 folks engaged on the undertaking. Whereas the sport’s open-world map wouldn’t have been as giant as GTA IV, its deliberate scope was to vary “from the dimensions of Grand Theft Auto: Vice Metropolis’s open world to ‘3 times’ the dimensions of the unique Bully’s college map.”
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To make up for the dimensions, Rockstar New England was planning on making each constructing within the recreation enterable, “both by regular means or compelled entry.” As one developer put it, “in the event you may see it, you would go into it.”
“[The player] was not going to be driving a automotive wherever, so the entire playable area [and] land dimension [was] positively going to be smaller,” one other developer says. “Largely as a result of youngsters – he’s not going to be driving – and in addition as a result of we needed these very deep methods. Like, in the event you can go into each constructing, that’s a variety of work. We’d slightly not have a extremely huge world; possibly scale that again somewhat bit simply in order that we will guarantee that we have now all these significant issues in there.”
Rockstar New England was distinctive within the discipline of synthetic intelligence and needed to leverage that information to “make the participant’s actions extra significant than in earlier Rockstar video games.”
“We actually needed to guarantee that folks remembered what you probably did, so in the event you pulled a prank in your neighbor, they’d bear in mind it,” says one developer. “That your actions had extra which means past a 20-foot radius and the five-second recollections of the [non-playable characters] close to you.”
Whereas Bully 2 was clearly by no means launched, a few of its concepts – together with this one – made it into different Rockstar video games like Purple Lifeless Redemption II.
“Gamers see modifications in protagonist Arthur Morgan’s habits based mostly on his honor,” Sport Informer writes. “If Morgan has excessive honor, he’s a extra compassionate character. If Morgan has low honor, he’s pushed by greed and apathy. Equally, if Morgan robs a retailer, he can’t simply stroll again into it a couple of minutes later as if nothing occurred. The shop clerk remembers Morgan and denies him service, asking him to go away.”
“The way in which that you simply work together with different characters on the planet, extra than simply together with your gun or together with your fist, they’ve some sense of reminiscence – a variety of that stuff [originated in Bully 2],” one developer says.
“From what I bear in mind studying [in] among the design docs and my conversations with folks is that you would construct relationships with characters on the planet,” he says about Bully 2. “You’d be, like, finest mates with the chef within the mansion or no matter, or the chef may actually hate you or one thing, and that may open up completely different choices. I don’t know to the extent of the place that ended up – if that acquired pared down right into a common ‘you’re good Jimmy’ versus ‘you’re dangerous Jimmy’ or what – however I do know in among the early concepts being thrown round, you’d have that fine-grained degree of relationships to different characters on the planet.”
Rockstar New England’s new glass fragmentation system was one other instance of tech making it to future Rockstar video games. On this explicit case, it might be seen in Max Payne 3.
“In the event you’ve performed Max Payne 3 and also you shot some glass, as an alternative of simply the glass breaking the identical manner each time, we had constructed this entire system in order that this chunk proper close to the impression of the primary bullet would get away, and you’d see somewhat spiderweb of glass,” one developer says. “Then in the event you shot some extra of the glass, little particular person chunks close to the place you really shot would fall out. [It made] it look reasonable.”
AI and glass fragmentation weren’t the one tech they have been enthusiastic about working with for Bully 2, as grass rising was one other spotlight. Sure, you learn that proper.
“You might go and mow the garden, after which it might really be decrease,” one former developer says. “You might really do job, trip, and create strains on folks’s lawns, that form of factor.”
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“It sounds so foolish, but it surely was one thing that we have been all enthusiastic about as a result of [of] the know-how behind it,” one other developer says of the grass-growing mechanic, during which you would really see particular person blades.
Climbing was additionally a spotlight, as it might assist broaden the world as Jimmy may discover way more of it and simply usually trigger much more chaos.
“Timber have been clearly an enormous one; we needed the participant to have the ability to climb up the tree to cover or do some hijinks with all types of issues like paintball weapons or water balloons, all of that form of stuff,” a former developer says.
All of those concepts might be seen in a vertical slice of Bully 2 that was playable at Rockstar New England. Devs may “run around the globe and work together with objects and non-player characters, and there have been some missions – similar to one involving go-karts, one other with a beekeeper, a Kamp Krusty-style mission, and one which had Jimmy in his underwear, even that includes a crotch bulge.”
“It was positively going to be somewhat risqué,” a former developer says.
“There have been a variety of ’80s-kids-on-bikes motion pictures, like Goonies, that got here up as reference. Porky’s was one other generally used film for reference,” he says. “We [looked] at a variety of these sorts of issues. It’s positively in that type.”
“The sport was at the very least six to eight hours playable,” says Marc Anthony Rodriguez, a former recreation analyst for Rockstar’s New York Metropolis headquarters and one of many undertaking leads on Bully: Scholarship Version. “So, totally rendered, totally realized.”
At that time, Bully 2 was nonetheless a number of years away. Sadly, Rockstar would start to tug folks off the undertaking to assist different in-development video games that have been in want of help, like Max Payne 3, and “as soon as anybody acquired pulled off of Bully 2, they by no means returned.”
Additionally at the moment, the builders recalled months-long crunch that may have sure members of the employees working 12- and 16-hour days and dealing weekends. One former developer used the phrase “countless” to explain the crunch on the studio.
“I imply, it was simply ridiculous,” one former developer says, describing the event of Purple Lifeless Redemption. “I do know that it received recreation of the 12 months, and that was nice and satisfying, however the method to growth was simply – it was ridiculous. It took nobody’s life exterior of labor under consideration.”
That crunch was one issue within the change of the studio’s tradition, which was a far cry from what it was like throughout the days as Mac Doc Software program.
“The tradition simply – it simply modified,” one other former developer says. “I noticed those that beforehand I actually appreciated change into simply sycophantic. After which there was the entire ‘our bodies in chairs’ factor, you recognize? You don’t have work to do, however you’re going to be right here on the weekend, as a result of there’s some studio head that’s going to be strolling round. This doesn’t even get into the off-work hours stuff the place it was simply – it was like a hardworking frat home. There may be an age and an individual that’s actually drawn to that. Rockstar, for my part, is nicely conscious of this.”
All of those components and extra have led to the truth that we nonetheless haven’t got Bully 2 in our lives, however the true destiny of the sport nonetheless very a lot stays up within the air.
Through the years, there have been rumors and reviews of Bully 2, like in 2009 when Bully’s composer Shawn Lee mentioned, “it seems like I will likely be doing the soundtrack for Bully 2 within the not so distant future.”
In 2011, Dan Houser instructed Gamasutra that Rockstar may match on the sequel after Max Payne 3, which was launched in 2012.
In 2017, the Twitter account Bully 2 Data posted some supposed idea artwork and in-game screenshots, and Sport Informer’s contacts confirmed that a variety of what was leaked was respectable.
In 2019, YouTuber SWEGTA uploaded a video with a former Rockstar New England worker who spoke about Bully 2 and “Rockstar’s resolution to shelve the undertaking in 2009.”
Additionally in 2019, VGC revealed a report that mentioned Bully 2 was in growth at Rockstar New England for “between 12 and 18 months earlier than really fizzling out” and that the event of the undertaking befell between 2010-2013. This all “roughly strains up” with what Sport Informer heard, however the builders they spoke to mentioned they bear in mind it being labored on between 2008-2010.
Sport Informer was unable to verify if Rockstar New England or one other Rockstar studio is at the moment engaged on Bully 2, however one developer did share that “a construct of the sport nonetheless existed at Rockstar New England as not too long ago as a number of years in the past, elements of which have been used as reference materials for later initiatives.
Whereas it stays to be seen if we’ll ever play Bully 2, it is clear its affect has been seen in different Rockstar initiatives. Even nonetheless, these former builders nonetheless look again fondly on what may have been.
“It was going to be actually cool,” one former developer says. “What we had was fairly wonderful, particularly given the very quick period of time that we have been engaged on it. […] It actually would’ve been very distinctive, very fascinating, actually a variety of enjoyable. Loads of cool and fascinating mechanics that we have been engaged on that also aren’t in different video games.”
“It’s nonetheless an idea, for my part, price exploring,” one other says, “and I feel that it might be a missed alternative for them to let it go endlessly.”
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Adam Bankhurst is a information author for IGN. You may comply with him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and on Twitch.