In 2008, Rockstar games developed Bully 2 in their New England studio. They had six to seven hours worth of game content before development was halted and developers moved onto other projects. Ex-developers from Rockstar New England claim that Bully 2 was dead by 2009, as revealed in a Game Informer expose.
In 2006, Rockstar released the original Bully. It brought Rockstar’s trademark sophomoric humour into a private school setting. The original Bully is a cult favourite that has been reprinted in an expanded edition in 2008. After the expanded edition’s success, Rockstar purchased Mad Doc Software in New England and renamed it Rockstar New England.
While there have been many stories about the game’s development, cancellation and release over the years, none has been as thorough with insider sources as the Game Informer Report. These sources almost confirmed that the concept art leaked to a Twitter account called Bully 2 Info in 2017 was legitimate.
According to developers, Bully 2 was active development for 12-18 months before it was softly ended by Rockstar management. It appears that the game was being developed by almost all of the New England studio’s 50-70 employees at one time. However, developers began to move on to Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3. Others left protesting Rockstar’s internal death march to crunch.
The unfinished game’s vision was vast. Although the map is small today, it was meant to be accessed by legitimate means or by breaking into buildings. The prototype’s technology, such as dynamically breaking glass, would be used in later Rockstar games. Red Dead Redemption 2 was also inspired by the idea that NPCs could remember some information about the character they were working with. Other details such as dynamically growing grass for lawn-mowing are some of the most important game mechanics of the last decade of Rockstar games.
It is a fascinating look at the interplay between business and workplace management that influences how games are made.