Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodhunt is out today, bringing an updated look at the dark and mysterious world the franchise is set in. With this installment, not only do we get an updated look at vampire society almost twenty years after Bloodlines, but we also see them in a largely unrepresented part of the world in Prague.
To explore both this setting and the series’ adaptation to a modern setting, I sat down with Art Director Erik Nilsson to talk about inspiration, what has changed and stayed the same, and what helped shape the real Prague into a battle royale arena.
VG247: You’re making a vampire masquerade in 2022, so how do you modernize the style and presentation for a modern audience?
Eric: The funny thing is that it’s coming out in 2022, but we started it almost five years ago. So back then, Apex Legends wasn’t out and Fortnite was out – but it wasn’t massive yet. There was no Bloodlines 2 either. Nobody had done anything with the IP for the PC for a long time.
So for us it was like looking at if it’s even feasible to make vampires? Would people care? And what we decided was, yes, we believe they do. There are a few of these fictions that keep popping up; Vampires are one of them, pirates are another. There are a few of those tropes that people like and that resonate with society. We can definitely make a modern version of [vampire fiction] while keeping the cool things of the classic game.
VG247: Can you give me an example of some of these “cool things”?
Eric: We decided to essentially just build a couple of foundation pillars. For example, we wanted the characters to feel fairly relatable. One of the strong things about VTM and vampires is that you are not born with powers. Anyone can become a vampire. There’s a vampire for everyone, there’s a clan for everyone.
And then there’s this contrast: vampires are old, but they live in the modern age: how do they survive with cell phones and things like that? So it was really important for us to find those pillars and build things around them. The style we wanted to go for also had to be reviewed as Bloodlines is heavily based on LA and the movies and cinema that were coming out at the time.
So we wanted to take a look at what the media looks like today. For example, HBO has made and takes inspiration from a lot of really good, kind of nifty looking TV shows. So we definitely did.
VG247: Since you said LA inspired many of the visuals with that title at the time of Bloodlines’ release, how much of modern-day Prague goes into the vampires we see in Bloodhunt?
Eric: In the Vampire Masquerade storyline, quite a few events take place in Europe. Vienna, for example, played a major role. There was also Vampire Masquerade Redemption – I think it’s called – a pretty old game. Well, that takes place in Prague, and there’s a story of vampires in Prague, and there was a Tremere church in Prague, among other stuff.
So there is a lot of history both in real Prague and in lore that we could draw on. But I think the reason we initially chose Prague was partly because the founders had kind of come from The Division and were really fed up with America – but also because Prague is a very interesting city.
VG247: In a class-based multiplayer title, how do you represent the different clans in a way that creates clearly identifiable enemies on the map? How do you distinguish two classes of Nosferatu?
Eric: So I’m going to use the Prowler and Saboteur from the Nosferatu clans as examples because I think they answer this question well. Yes. We used these classes as the base on which we created outfits for the game. So the saboteur is more of the hacker type of Nosferatu, so we created a few outfit designs that focused on that, while the drifter is more of a sewer rat, so we kept that in mind when designing outfits that would suit this style.
VG247: Aside from the existing Vampire franchise, what were some of the main visual inspirations for this game?
Eric: It was certainly a lot to watch a lot of modern movies for reference. I mean, the reference comes in many shapes and sizes. A lot of this came from our tour to Prague where we took photos and also looked at real life events.
So it really depends on what aspect of the game you’re talking about, right? Because if you’re talking about the entity, then obviously there are a few different inspirations that we had in mind. If you talk about the city itself, then obviously Prague was the biggest inspiration, but in general for the vampires it comes down to the brand and the cinema.
I would say I think John Wick is a good film example of how you can treat this kind of secret society with historical aspects like when they are in Rome. But that’s just a movie, we watched a lot of things.
VG247: I was dying to ask you about the entity that takes the place of an antagonistic force (aside from players). Where does this modern crusader look come from?
Eric: The general idea with them is that we wanted them to feel very obviously chivalrous, yes, to show that they have the ancient history of a Templar order, but also with the modern gear. For example, they have exoskeletons to combat vampire superpowers and they have these glowing eyes. We wanted them to feel almost like a demon, like a Balrog. We wanted you to think, “Shit, they want to kill me” when you see them.
VG247: Typically with battle royale maps, there are these massive landmarks that really stand out. While Bloodhunt has different locations, how do you take a realistic city and apply the BR map theme to it?
Eric: It’s definitely hard. It’s challenging because on one side you have a very realistic map or world that you’re trying to represent. And not only in Prague, but of course also in the IP. On the other hand, you now have an extremely fast arcade game. Yes. How do you bring the two together? I think a lot of that comes down to having some really clear types of places that stand out, like the church on fire or the cemetery or you know, some of the ones that really stand out.
Also, good color correction makes you think, “I’m blue, I’m green.” So that was an important part of it. I think by the time we make future maps we will definitely have learned a lot from them and hopefully the future ones will be even more interesting.
VG247: When playing the game, one of the aspects of the map that really stands out is the detail in tiny areas. You can see interiors, you can find small drinking gardens and distinctive buildings that aren’t these big landmarks. How much work is behind such complicated details?
Eric: A lot. I mean yes, at least three or four years of hard work and research trips and stuff. But I would say it’s always a struggle between what you want to do artistically and what you can technically do, so you know artistically there are so many things we would love to do that we just couldn’t do. And then you just have to look at what’s feasible in terms of performance, what’s feasible based on the size of our team?
https://www.vg247.com/vampire-the-masquerade-bloodhunt-prague-art ‘They Were Fed Up With America’: Why Ex-Division Developers Chose Prague for Vampire Bloodhunt’s Stylish Setting