Diablo creator and Blizzard North co-founder David Brevik is a big fan of the viral bullet hell game Vampire Survivors, which has quickly taken over Steam and simultaneously stoked Brevik's plans to make his own smaller, snacky games.
Vampire Survivors is a trimmed-down rogue-like where you cleave through thousands of ghouls, goblins, bats, and other monsters using only the power of WASD – and some Castlevania-esque weapons that you collect, upgrade, and automatically fire as you move around. I was instantly hooked on it when I tried it last February, and since its launch in December 2021, it's racked up over 71,000 overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam while still in Early Access, the majority of which poured in during the past two months.
Brevik believes Vampire Survivors' runaway success is entirely deserved. Speaking with GamesRadar+, he explains that he first learned of the game through his Twitch and Discord community, which he and his wife have been building for over five years.
"Some of the people started talking about it and that is how I found out about the game," he says. "They seemed to be having a great time. I was curious so I went to Steam and when I saw the reviews and the price, I thought I would give it a try. I didn't really even know much about the game at that point."
"I played it a lot more than other things I've played lately," he continues. "I wouldn't say I've put in as many hours as some other people I know, but it is my most played game in the last few months. I just don't have a lot of time for games right now. I've really enjoyed my time playing and I continue to go back and play more."
Solo developer Poncle continues to update Vampire Survivors with new items, secrets, and playable characters which keep its simple formula from ever getting stale. Brevik reckons its popularity is also down to how accessible and dynamic it is thanks to its streamlined gameplay loop.
"I would say it is closer to mobile in design than anything else," he says, singling out the game Archero as a reference. "The actual mechanics are great. Every run is different; infinite replayability, short sessions, what people call 'rogue-like' advancement (progress, die, upgrade your account, repeat). The controls are great because you just need to focus on a few things. Removing the firing and changing from a twin-stick shooter to a passive shooting dodge-fest is different. Also it is a really inclusive control system and allows for disabled gamers to play as well. And with it being so simple, it is easy to pick up, you don't need tutorials."
In a tweet, Brevik pointed out that, like Among Us, Vampire Survivors has hugely benefited from exposure generated by YouTubers and Twitch streamers. Many of gaming's bigger content creators have played the game, and in the past few weeks especially, Vampire Survivors has become a popular pick among Japanese YouTubers and Vtubers – including YouTube's biggest Vtuber, Hololive's Gawr Gura – which has helped spread its word-of-mouth virality to new regions and fans.
Vampire Survivors is easy to get into, hard to put down, and extremely cheap – just $3 at full price, and $2.69 during its frequent sales. Brevik says he's been interested in making smaller games around this scale and price point, and Vampire Survivors has become another encouraging example of this sort of project punching well above its weight.
"I currently have several jobs, so I don't have the time to make a huge project on my own, but thought something smaller could be possible," Brevik says. "I realize that Vampire Survivors is a complete outlier and there are many low-cost games that are never looked at, but it is an interesting way to get eyeballs on a project. It is hard to stand out on Steam with hundreds of games released a week. It is also a fact that the average game on Steam makes about $1,500 lifetime, so don't expect much."
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