The survival genre has sunk its fangs into Steam for years, but last month’s vampire-themed smash hit V Rising may have taken one of the bloodiest bites yet. It took just one week in Early Access for this survival game to sell a million copies, and that number has now more than doubled. Speaking to NME, Stunlock Studios‘ community manager Jeremy Fielding says that although the development team knew V Rising was something special, they had no idea just how well it would do.
“We had faith that our game is good and we were happy with our efforts with marketing. We thought we had done a good job, and we knew that we would find an audience, but the sheer scale of the response was way more than we could have ever expected. I think it would have been ridiculous for us to expect the sort of response we got – we’re super happy!”
Though Fielding may not have expected V Rising to take off in the way it did – “I guess the word of mouth was just really strong!” he exclaimed during the interview – he says that Stunlock Studios deliberately avoided hyping the game up to excess.
“When we went into this, we had the idea in marketing that we wanted to under promise and over deliver. We knew what was in our game, and we wanted players to still have secrets to find – we didn’t want to share everything!”
“I think that really played well for us, especially as an Early Access game – people didn’t expect us have as much content as we did, which surprises us because that was actually something we were worried about,” explains Fielding, who adds that V Rising may still hold a few surprises for many players as “there’s some things that I still don’t see people talking about very much, big jump scares in the game that I really love.”
Underselling V Rising may seem like a bold move – Fielding admits that gaming is “such a competitive space” right now – but Stunlock Studios was reluctant to make “impossible promises” to land sales.
“We were all pretty confident with the idea because the last thing you want to do in this space is deceive people,” says Fielding. “People don’t want to feel like they’re being lied to, and a lot of gamers today feel like that – they feel like companies are just trying to trick them. […] We wanted to tell you exactly what you would be getting, and then when you get there, you get more of it. That way you don’t feel deceived, and I think that’s important – trust is super important.”
“After experimenting around a little [and] pitching some ideas, people said that they wanted to do something survival-y. And then a little bit later down the line, the idea of vampires occurred to someone. That was around the time that Castlevania season one had come out, and people were just super into Dracula already, so they did a bunch of research and got super into it.”
“There was a story [at Stunlock] about the first time one of them had pitched the vampire idea to the rest of [the team]. They were all at Max Burgers together trying out the vegetarian burgers. One of them was just like, ‘okay: picture this: a dark room, there’s a coffin in it and a guy pushing his way out of the coffin. He’s starving and ragged, and he just picks up a rat and bites it’. And he’s like: ‘Vampires’.”
The pitch might have put the developers off their meal, but that was all it took for the idea to infect the team. From there, Stunlock wanted to create a game that flipped the survival genre “on its head” and put players in the shoes of a deadly hunter, rather than the hunted. Fielding says that although some of Stunlock’s leading developers have put hundreds of hours into playing survival games, the studio’s less hardcore approach to playing games in the genre actually proved to be a benefit for V Rising.
“We have hundreds of hours – not thousands [into survival games]. We’re not strict [and] intense […] which I think puts us in an interesting position to have put out a unique game in the genre, where we’re not trying to iterate off of the other ideas that we’ve seen. We’re allowed to just sort of do things and then decide ‘is this fun?’ and go from there. It’s allowed us to develop more freely than if we had a strong idea of what a survival game had to be. Are we looking to change the survival game space? I don’t think that’s a goal of ours, but I think we will. We will make something interesting – I think we already have.”
That’s a sentiment that would appear to be shared by the millions of players who have bought V Rising. Looking ahead, Fielding is excited about the game’s future – especially as V Rising‘s brief time in Early Access has already helped shape development plans.
“In our game we have a lot of different server settings, and we’ve noticed trends in certain directions toward what people prefer when they make their private servers. We’re probably going to be adjusting our official servers, when we start to do wipes and we start to reset the servers, to move them more toward what our players are enjoying.”
“The most important thing, I would say first off, is the end game, and refining the later parts of the game. We need to expand more on the late game, balance that stage and fill out the world more,” says Fielding, which will involve “more events and items” as well as an expanded version of V Rising‘s systems.
Fielding’s role as a community manager for Stunlock means that he’s seen plenty of player suggestions for what they want to see in V Rising, and there are some things he can’t help getting excited over.
“If there’s one thing I really want to see expand on more is I want to see raiding, more developed and with more variety. I think what we’ve got right now is really interesting, but man, just the idea of these huge epic raids, sounds super fun – like Castlevania season four!” says Fielding, referring to a similar scene in the show’s fourth season.
“But also, speaking of raiding one thing that people bring up to me a lot – and I think the whole studio is super interested – is some sort of PvE assault on the castle: like villagers coming to burn the castle down. That’s something I really want to see at some point – I don’t know if it’ll be in by 1.0 or it will be some sort of themed update afterward, but I really want to see that at some point.”
Speaking of V Rising‘s 1.0 launch, which Stunlock Studios says will include “more weapons to wield, loot to plunder, and sorcery to conjure“, Fielding says it “would be nice” if V Rising could be released within the next 12 months. However, Fielding notes that “we kind of want to leave ourselves a little bit of wiggle room – that’s part of why we don’t have an exact roadmap right now, and I don’t think we plan to put one out.”
Despite avoiding a roadmap, Fielding is happy to touch on what fans can expect. The studio is “very much paying attention” to V Rising‘s modding scene though “can’t provide that much support for them just now” due to the small size of Stunlock Studios. Beyond that, Fielding says a teaser for the game’s next zone was slipped into this blog post from May, and the developer is “working towards our first content update” which should arrive in Autumn this year.
Fielding almost shares what that content update will include, but just like Stunlock’s approach to marketing, he manages to keep things (mostly) under wraps. “We’ve definitely got a lot of ideas!”
V Rising is available on Steam.