More story, more communication, more content – how Sharkmob wants to support Bloodhunt for years to come
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodhunt is a live service game, which means it doesn’t have the luxury or burden of simply coming out and relying on its initial popularity for success. Instead, it’s a game with a future already planned. Future seasons, changing content plans, and new additions based on community reception and feedback.
To find out what direction the team currently has in mind for their title, I sat down with producer David Sirland to discuss what content we can expect, anti-cheat support in the future, and how they plan to appeal to players who have already invested in other Battle Royale.
VG247: You are releasing a Battle Royale, a super competitive genre with many big games that already have their own deep game base. What do you hope will catch the attention of battle royale players who may already be invested in these other games? Or maybe even people who don’t pay battle royales at all?
David: I mean there are two ways to grab them here. I think man is exactly what it looks like and how fun it is to play [perspective of a spectator]. You may not be into battle royales, but you can say, “Oh, they’re vampires. Oh it looks cool. I want to try it and it’s free to play!” So we’re hoping to be a gateway for the masses.
It’s important that you can hear about the game and see the game being played, which is why it’s so important to us to have an organic growth setup with influencers and streamers and such – because it lends itself to being streamed. It’s fun to watch someone play [our game], especially if they are really good! They can do some weird, cool things – things we haven’t figured out yet! – with this game.
The other way is that it feels pretty fresh. Especially the city; The city is really the kind of protagonist of this game. The city and some of the mechanics and how to play around with both turns it into a vertical playground. I feel like there’s a vertical aspect missing in a lot of games. And there have been some relatively recent variations on it, perhaps without the rest of what’s important. I think we basically have the whole package.
VG247: What kind of post-launch support like seasonal support can players expect from this life service game?
David: I mean they should expect the very best when it comes to how we communicate with them. And how we communicate what the future will look like. I mean, we’re obviously very interested in it. I think replacing the anti-cheat is a good example of how much investment we see in it. Since this is our first game, it’s really a branding exercise for the studio. So we really want to look like, you know, ‘we make great games, here’s our first game, it’s our baby, we’ll take care of it.’
I mean, there are no set schedules or anything, but turnaround times are pretty long for a live service battle royale. We’re looking way ahead when it comes to your basic overall planning because we have to or we won’t make it to “Season X”.
VG247: From my time as a gamer, there were the typical things you would expect from the game – be it personal progression systems and a battle pass, etc. But as a Vampire the Masquerade game, there’s also a quest hub with an ongoing narrative. Can we expect updates regarding new quests and new story arcs?
David: Yes! For sure. I mean we have a basic start to the narrative, there is a season specific quest line that reveals what happened and advances the core story. You get to know these NPCs in Elysium, and that’s the start. We really want to see how attached players are to it and then we can go a lot deeper. Obviously we have this whole IP to fish from! There are also ways that we can go in completely different directions, so we’re planning some kind of scenario right now when it’s not just about the story, but all sorts of features that are of a larger nature.
VG247: You mentioned the IP of Bloodlines – that’s obviously a huge source of inspiration and maybe even a direct implementation! But when you play the game in Prague, a little different than what many players would be familiar with just playing the old RPG game, do you see the team draw a lot from that background?
David: I guess due to the nature of the game it’s a combination right? There’s the legacy of the previous games and what they did, there’s obviously notes and nods to what was. But also, yes, we’re going to take a creative license and because that’s the multiplayer aspect of it. We have to listen to what the players like, but we always do it in a way that fits the bill. For example we have abilities that expand the story a bit (like a healing ability) but we sell them in a way that isn’t magical because the vampires aren’t really magical, they affect their close environment.
It’s kind of a bend, but we’re very careful to do that. We want to do it right, but also try to stay very open about where we can go playfully. That’s one of the reasons why we chose Prague. Because then we have less of these direct ties. They’ve obviously set up their own brand of vampires per city since they’ve been around forever, but they’re not the same groups we’ve seen before.
VG247: You mentioned anti-cheat earlier and it’s such a big ongoing topic for live service multiplayer games. This game has already been transitioned to using basic anti-cheat, but what further steps will the team take to mitigate this future issue?
David: I think anti-cheat has two aspects, or actually three. But one thing is technology. Obviously that’s a big part of it. Then it’s how you use it and how you communicate how you use it. The last is the processes when something goes wrong. This is really manual labor and it requires a localized regional facility that we have and where we solve people’s problems.
Also, when thinking about new features and designing your gameplay, you need to keep this in mind. How exploitable could this be in a worst case scenario? So I think it has to allow everything if you seriously want to do this for a long time.
We also try to be honest about the fact that we will never win this fight – it’s endless! We want to make it annoying for cheaters, and a key thing in Season 1 is our ranked mode. It requires you to be player rank 10, which means you have a time sink here. So you can’t have at least one repeated cheater game ranked.
VG247: How long do you think it would take on average to get takes at number 10?
David: I think it’s an average of 22 hours or something like that.
VG247: They’re definitely trying to reach that mature audience, but the genre itself is pretty young – what’s the balance between appealing to those who want this mature game and the larger crowd or battle royale gamers?
David: I mean, I think there’s an ideal point here where the first generation of battle royale players are now getting older and wanting something that’s not what they’ve always played. If we could be the new battle royale of friend groups to play together, that would be a great place to be.
I think for us it doesn’t have to be everyone’s first game or the game they play the most. Here they can come together and have competitive fun. We wanted the game to be competitive. We wanted to feel like winning is important, but it’s fun.
VG247: How does it feel to be the first new Vampire the Masquerade game right now? That wasn’t originally the plan, was it?
David: No, we shouldn’t come out first in the new games. I mean it feels great to be honest because I think the product stands on its own and can carry that and our testing has shown that. So I’m really excited to get it working and see how far it goes when we, you know, really live.
VG247: I imagine the change of plans must have added some extra pressure as the first game in this new wave of Vampire titles?
David: There is always pressure when it comes to a release. But I mean, thanks to Early Access, we’ve practiced a few times now. Also the team is really on point, when we had problems we were really quick and that’s what I think is the most precious thing when you’re in a live service, how quick you can react and how quick you can fix things or shut down .
I’m confident, and we have a community that lets us know in a way that isn’t heartbreaking for the team. So I feel building that relationship combined with that tag makes me pretty calm with this release.
For more Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodhunt content, check out our beginner’s guide to early game tips, as well as our other interview feature on why ex-Division developers chose Prague for Vampire Bloodhunt’s stylish setting.
https://www.vg247.com/vampire-the-masquerade-bloodhunt-future-interview More story, more communication, more content – how Sharkmob wants to support Bloodhunt for years to come