To create a battle royale in this day and age is an arduous and foolhardy venture. The genre is populated with numerous dead games, all built with lofty ambitions in mind. Hyperscape. The Darwin Project. Hell, even Radical Heights. Even games with genuine merit have found themselves shattered against the industry’s biggest titles. Enter Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodhunt. An incredibly fun entry by Sharkmob into a saturated market; yes, with some blemishes but entertaining nonetheless, it built a dedicated community of players and major influencer attention within in just a few weeks.
However, fast-forward a few months and Bloodhunt is teetering perilously close to a similar fate. Thanks to consistent bugs, a perceived lack of content, and other troubles, player interest is waning. In an attempt to get things back on track, a substantial summer update has been announced today which aims to fix these issues and get things back on track. But can Sharkmob succeed? We sat down with producer David Sirland to take us through the studio's thought process, to examine the major changes coming to Bloodhunt, and chat about the developer's goals moving forward.
“The biggest change here is we are essentially saying that we’re not going to do seasons anymore in the traditional sense," explains Sirland. "When we launched the game, we did a 12-week standard season with a Battle Pass of 100 levels and similar value to other competitors out there. We realized, quite quickly into the season, that we can't really sustain this as the team we are – and it's also hurting us because the content plan is essentially holding us back from making quicker gameplay updates faster, and fixing the key aspects of the game that our core players are screaming for in some cases.”
In our interview (and in the official release ahead of the summer update), “time to player” is established as the new goal through which all future updates and support patches will be created around. “Our target now is to get into a monthly cadence for gameplay updates. It might not be that initially, but that's the goal for those updates. Bug fixes and responses to issues will be separate from content updates too. That sort of thing that will go straight into the game and be worked on continuously.”
This will come as good news for those who’ve remained a touch frustrated by some of the persistent bugs and issues that have been in the game since launch. Problems like the reload glitch where refilling your weapon wasn’t registering, or inconsistencies with the red gas damage are all due to be fixed with this new update. The battle pass is also shrinking – as is its price – with the goal of providing things for players to do at a faster rate.
“We want to try and see if it’s better to do 100 ranks and make it cheaper? Are shorter passes released more often better? That's something we will work on for sure as we go forward, and we don't expect this one to last the full 12 weeks.”
Another issue not addressable through simple bug fixes is game mode variety – which is where Team Deathmatch comes into play. This 8-player game mode is a shorter, more compact choice where those not quite feeling the battle royale experience can team up with a partner to face-off against three other pairs of vampires on the streets of Prague.
“We’re calling it a beta for now, because we want to make sure that we really adjust the new mode based on how players play. The core audience will probably look at Team Deathmatch as a nice warm-up. And, you know, a really good way to sort of hone in on the mechanics of all our archetypes and the guns, and so on. While our casual player base, which is also a target for this mode, probably views Team Deathmatch as a really good way to figure out the base game much faster than playing a royale where you die really quickly.”
Also, if you’re a console player, apparently, you’ve been getting bodied when matched up against the PC community. As such, the team at Sharkmob is lending a helping hand. “We saw a lot of console players come in and they got their ass handed to them to put it bluntly. So for that to be much safer, we are adding the best sort of controller options that are out there – you can probably emulate any sort of control scheme with these new settings. We also want to separate the different player pools when they start playing. With the release of the summer update cross play will be off by default in solos and TDM so you will have your safe space on PlayStation 5. Then, when you want to go and dip your toes into the cross play pool, you play the group modes.”
Then there’s the Big Rig project; an extraordinarily early rig update for the character models with the hopes that this will speed up the process of creating new content for player characters. “Our rig was legacy stuff from when this game started development five years ago, we had to fix that. Not only does it simplify the process of making new content in the future – we optimized it to be expandable and scalable – but also performance is much better.”
But, even with all this, there’s no escaping the fact that the player base has surely dropped since release – with many leaving the game to the side thanks, in part, to many of the problems the summer update will try to patch up. "The player base is okay, it's not where I would like it to be. But also given the slow turnaround rate for what they consider the most important things that we haven't fixed yet until this update, I don't blame them. I think we are in this situation because of how slow we can react to the most important things, which is why we're changing that.”
“We sort-of know how many still have the game installed but aren’t playing. We very much believe that with this change and just being more adaptable and listening to them, and reacting quicker, will make sure that we can build a base slowly. I don't really want this update to be like a boost of massive numbers of players. Just for it to go down again. I'd rather have it be slowly organically growing. I think that's where we want to be.”
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt's summer update is out on July 14. For more Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodhunt content, check out our beginner's guide for early game tips, or read why ex-Division devs chose Prague for Vampire Bloodhunt’s classy backdrop.