Rockstar Games was developing Bully 2 at its New England studio in 2008, and had six to seven hours of playable game content, before development stalled as the developers moved to other projects. This is according to former Rockstar New England developers and described in a talk by Game Informant, who say that by the end of 2009, Bully 2 was indeed dead.
The original Bully, released in 2006, took Rockstar’s sophomore humor to private school. It’s a cult classic that many remember, and it even got an Extended Edition in 2008. The success of this Extended Edition prompted Rockstar to purchase New England-based Mad Doc Software and rename it Rockstar New England.
There have been many stories over the years of the game’s development and cancellation, but none have detailed it in as much detail with internal sources as the Game Informer report. It should be noted that these sources practically confirmed that the 2017 concept art leaks on a Twitter account called Bully 2 Info were generally legitimate.
Bully 2 was in active development for around 12 to 18 months, according to these developers, before being gently killed off by management at Rockstar. At one point, it seemed like almost the entire New England studio of 50 to 70 people was working on the game. During this time, however, more and more developers were moved to games. like Max Payne 3 and Red Dead Redemption. Other developers left in protest as the newly acquired New England studio began to comply with Rockstar’s internal death march.
The vision for the unfinished game was expansive, and although the map was small by today’s standards, each building was intended to be either legitimately or broken into. Technology developed in the prototype, like Dynamic Glass Breaking, would be found in later Rockstar games. The NPCs were also meant to remember a bit of the character’s behavior, an idea that later caught on in Red Dead Redemption 2. Other details, like dynamically growing grass for mowing the lawn, are the genre of in-depth gameplay mechanics that defined the last decade of Rockstar gaming.
It’s an interesting talk about the intersection of business, workplace management, and game development that shapes the way games are created. Great report, Game informant.