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More story, more communication, more content – how Sharkmob plans to support Bloodhunt for years to come

In our final Bloodhunt interview, David Sirland talks us through what players can expect from the game's future.

Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodhunt is a live service game, which means it doesn’t have the luxury or burden of just coming out and relying on its initial popularity for success. Instead, it’s a game with a future already planned out for it. Future seasons, shifting content plans, and new additions based on community reception and feedback.

To try and determine 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 going forward, and how they intend to appeal to players already invested in other Battle Royales.

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VG247: You’re releasing a Battle Royale, which is a super competitive genre with a lot of big games that already have their own in-depth playbases. What do you hope catches the attention of Battle Royale players who are maybe already invested in these other games? Or maybe even people who don't pay Battle Royales at all?

David: I mean, there's two two ways to grab them here. I think one is just what it looks like, and how fun it looks to play it from the [perspective of a spectator]. You might not be into Battle Royales, but you can be like “oh, it's vampires. Oh, it looks cool. I want to try it and it's free to play!” So we hope that we'll be an entryway for the masses.

It’s important that you can hear about the game and see the game played, which is why it's so important to us to have an organic growth setup, with influencers and streamers and that sort of thing – because it lends itself to be streamed. It's fun to watch someone play [our game], especially when they're really good! You can do some weird, cool things – things that 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 sort of main character of this game. So the city and some of the mechanics, and how you play around with both, turns it into a vertical playground. I feel like there's a missing vertical aspect in many games. And there's been some fairly recent variations of this, maybe without the rest of what’s important. I think we have the full package essentially.

VG247: What sort of post launch 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 will communicate what the future will look like as well. I mean, we're obviously very invested in this. I think just swapping out the anti-cheat is a good testament to how much investment we see in this. Since this is our first game, it's really a branding exercise for the studio as well. So we really want to come off as, you know, ‘we're making great games, here's our first game, it's our baby, we're gonna take care of it.’

I mean, there's no set timelines or anything, but the turn around times are pretty long for a live service Battle Royale. We are looking far into the future when it comes to your basic overarching planning because we have to, or we're not gonna make it to ‘season X’.

VG247: From my time playing, there were the sort of typical things you'd 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 on-going narrative. Can we expect updates in terms of new quests and new storylines?

David: Yeah, for sure. So I mean we have a basic start to the narrative, there's a quest line that's specific for the season that reveals what's happened and brings the core story forward. You get to know these NPCs in Elysium, and that’s the start of it. We'll very much want to see how much players attach to that, and then we can go very deeper. Obviously, we have this whole IP to fish from! There's also ways where we can go in completely different directions, so we're sort of scenario planning right now when it comes to not only the story, but all sorts of features that are of a bigger nature.

VG247: You touched on like the Bloodlines IP – that's obviously a massive source of inspiration and even maybe even direct implementation! But in setting the game in Prague, somewhat separate from what a lot of players would be familiar with if they just played the old RPG game, do you see the team pulling a lot from that background?

A vampire shooting down at other vampires in the streets below.

David: I think by the nature of the game it’s a combination, right? There’s the heritage of the previous games and what they've done, there's obviously notes and winks towards what's been. But also, yeah, we will take creative licence and because that's the multiplayer aspect of this. We need to listen to what players like, but we're always do it in a way that fits the bill. For example, we have abilities that might stretch the lore a bit (like a heal ability) but we're selling it in a way where it's not magical, because the vampires are not really magical, they're influencing their close surroundings.

It's sort of bending that a little bit, but it is something we take great care in doing. We want to do it right, but also while trying to keep a very open mind in where we can go gameplay-wise. Also that's why we picked Prague. Because then we have less of those direct ties. They obviously have their own sort-of vampires set up per city, given that they're been around forever, but it’s not the same groups we’ve seen before.

VG247: So you previously touched on anti-cheat and it's kind of this big ongoing topic for live service multiplayer games. This game has already shifted to using easy anti-cheat, but what other steps will the team take to curb this future issue?

David: I think there's two aspects to anti-cheat, or three actually. But one is technology. Obviously, that's a big part of it. Then it is how you are utilising it and how you are communicating how you are using it. The final one is the processes around when things go wrong. This really requires manual labour and it requires a localised regional setup which we do have in place and where we handle problems people have.

Also when you think about new features and when you're designing your gameplay you have to keep that in mind. How exploitable could this be in a worse case scenario? So I think it needs to permit everything if you're serious about doing these for a longer time.

We're also trying to be honest about the fact that I mean, we're never winning this battle – it’s endless! We want to make it annoying for cheaters, and one key thing in season one is our ranked mode. It requires you to be player rank 10, which means you have a time sink here. So, you can't at least have a repeat cheater play ranked.

VG247: How long do you think it would take on average to get to rank 10 takes?

David: I think it's 22 hours or something like that, on average.

VG247: You're definitely trying to hit this mature audience, but the genre itself leans quite young – what's the balance between appealing to those who want this mature game and the larger mass or Battle Royale players?

David: I mean, I think there is a sweet spot here where the first generation of Battle Royale players are getting older now and they want something that isn't what they have always played. If we could be the friend groups’ new Battle Royale to play together, that would be a great spot to be in.

I think for us, we don't need it to be everyone's first game, or the game that they play the most. This is where they can come together and have competitive fun. Like, we wanted the game to be competitive. We wanted to feel like it matters to win, but it's fun.

VG247: How does it feel to be the first new Vampire the Masquerade game out right now? That wasn’t originally the plan right?

A firefight happening in a mall.

David: No, we weren't supposed to come out like first in the new slew of games. I mean, it feels great, to be honest, because I think the product sort of stands for itself and can carry this and our tests have shown that. So I’m eager to get it going, really, and see how far it goes when we're, you know, live for real.

VG247: I imagine the shift in plans must have added some additional pressure, as the first game in this new wave of Vampire titles?

David: There's always pressure with a release. But, I mean, we’ve practise now quite a few times as well thanks to Early Access. Plus the team is really on top of things, when we have problems, we've really been fast and that’s what I think the most precious thing when you're in a live service, is how quickly you can react and how quickly you can get things fixed or turned off.

I'm feeling confident in that and we have a community that will let us know in a way that isn't, you know, heartbreaking for the team. So I feel like that relationship in combination with this day to set up, makes me fairly calm with this release.

For more Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodhunt content, check out our beginner's guide for early game tips, as well as our other interview feature on Why ex-Division devs chose Prague for Vampire Bloodhunt’s classy backdrop.

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