Sharkmob is ready to hand their baby over to a bunch of strangers. Bloodhunt, a battle royale set in the Vampire: The Masquerade universe, has been in production since 2017, but the devs know it can't reach its full potential until it launches. "We want to see how people play," game director Craig Hubbard tells me in an exclusive chat following the Future Games Show.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt is already a novel concept: you're a damn vampire, which is a helluva lot different from the battle royale's archetypal typical military grunt. But Bloodhunt has a few key pillars that set it apart from games like Apex Legends and Call of Duty: Warzone – its place within the larger Vampire: The Masquerade universe, the verticality of its Prague map, and its customization options. You'll be able to pick from three classes within three different vampire types based on the Vampire: The Masquerade universe, and fully customize each to your liking.
"The next natural step for me is getting everybody's reaction, getting that feedback, and expanding the game from this basic platform," says Martin Hultberg, communications and IP director at Sharkmob. That basic platform seems ripe for exploration and expansion, with Bloodhunt shaping up to be a battle royale that appeals to both fans of the genre and the Vampire: The Masquerade franchise. And with devs that are keenly aware of how important player feedback is when shaping a battle royale, Bloodhunt looks ready to compete.
A girl walks home alone in Prague
Bloodhunt is a far cry from the core conceit of the Vampire: The Masquerade RPG series, where "the masquerade" means vampires attempt to keep a low profile in US cities like Los Angeles and Seattle. Not only is Bloodhunt about vampires getting into firefights in the middle of city streets, but it's also taking the action overseas, setting its map in Prague, Czech Republic. "Prague is a nice mix of ancient history and a new culture, and it actually featured in Vampire: The Masquerade lore in the past, so we figured it's a good idea," explains Hultberg, after admitting Sharkmob wanted to originally set the game in their hometown of Malmo, Sweden. "Old Town Prague is the perfect location for a vampire game, it has many of the core aspects we wanted – it's an international city, lots of different people go there, so you can have a lot of vampires in theory, lots of vertical space with buildings that aren't too high, but still enough floors or stories to provide that vertical traversal that we wanted."
The Sharkmob devs are no stranger to building maps based on real locations, as many of them worked on Tom Clancy's The Division. But Bloodhunt's Prague won't be a beat-for-beat recreation of the popular Eastern European city. Rather, it's an amalgamation of iconic locations and spaces where Sharkmob took "large liberties" to make the city more fun for vampy firefights. You'll be able to progress from the city streets up onto the rooftop, which is why Sharkmob is laser-focused on verticality and diverse layouts.
"When you're creating a European city, there are a lot of cities that have a sameness to them," producer David Sirland points out. "They're built in a similar time period out of the same materials and architectural style. So, as a player, it's easy if you don't know the city to get lost. We found in playtesting that we needed to add more landmarks and more variety, because playing in a very same-y city landscape gets a bit repetitive and it makes it feel like it doesn't matter where you are because you're having the same kind of fights. So we introduced more modern rooftops and, where there are some fairly generic real-world blocks, we removed them and put a park in just to add variety. It's for navigational variety and gameplay variety."
Variety is the spice of battle royales, after all. And Bloodhunt's preference for more vertical firefights will already help it stand out from other popular games like Call of Duty: Warzone and Apex Legends, where players can often feel handcuffed by map layouts. "It's kind of the thing where you play our game a bit, and then you go back to Apex (which is an awesome game), but you feel like 'I wish I could just go over that obstacle, I feel so stuck that I'm in this box canyon and now I have to navigate around this rock, it's really tedious," explains Hubbard. "But it's part of what their game is and it works for them – it's just that I think it signaled to us pretty clearly that we do have something that's different enough that we're not just another BR; we're something different."
What we do in the shadows
Another feature that is primed to set Bloodhunt apart is its impressive amount of depth when it comes to character customization – which makes sense, considering its RPG roots. Rather than giving you a selection of characters to choose from and skins to outfit them in, like Apex Legends or Call of Duty: Warzone, Bloodhunt wants you to live your vampire fantasy. "It's one of the aspects where battle royale marries very well with Vampire: The Masquerade," explains Hultberg. "It's the whole customization of your character and creating your own fantasy, that was one of the obvious wins in the formula."
"Some of our direct competitors have characters or heroes, I think it's a nice differentiator that we just have archetypes that you construct in the way you want to," adds Hubbard. When booting up Bloodhunt, you'll be able to choose from one of three vampire types: Brujah, Toreador, and Nosferatu, and completely customize your bloodsucker from there. "It's good for the community to have more flexibility, but it also totally fits the lore," he continues. "You're a vampire who's lived for 200 years, even if you ever liked conforming, you're gonna get tired of it after a while or the fashion you grew up with is making a resurgence 200 years later."
Bloodhunt's customization options will play into the now-expected battle royale battle pass, which Sharkmob assures me will have cosmetic-only items. "It's fairly standard, we have a free track and a premium one, it's all vanity and customization options for your vampires. We're keeping it very much away from any gameplay-related items or abilities or perks," explains Sirland. "People want to become their own vampire and represent themselves in more ways than they would maybe in a military shooter game."
Just how much variation will come after launch is yet to be determined, but Sharkmob is confident that their release pipeline will be a fruitful one. The team isn't just considering more customization content down the line, but new game modes and other features that are now stock standard ways to keep battle royales fresh.
"We've done the best we can to make sure that there's a really solid platform to build on, but there are a lot of decisions we didn't want to get too locked into before we have a community starting to play the game because we could be wrong. We might have spent six months on a feature that nobody actually wants," Hubbard says. "So what we're trying to do is have a solid foundation, then see what the community latches on to and what they want to do, what they like and what they don't know...of course, we do have plans, there are things that we roadmap, but we're also pretty flexible because we know that a multiplayer game lives and dies by the community."
As far as the battle royale bones go, Bloodhunt seems to have a pretty strong skeleton. The vampires can provide the blood.
Bloodhunt is a free-to-play battle royale coming to PC early access from September 7 to September 13. The game will come down for a day for maintenance before going live again on September 15. Head to the Bloodhunt Steam page for more.