It’s hard to explain a vampire competitive online RPG that relies on building rules in an open world. That’s why, for developer V Rising Stunlock Studios, the priority was to let people play as quickly as possible.
Since its launch through Steam Early Access on May 17, in remarkably complete condition, the popularity of V Rising has grown by the day. It reached nearly 50,000 players within a few hours of release, and as of May 23, it had a 24-hour peak of over 150,000. For context, more people who played V Rising today than Steam versions of Grand Theft Auto V or Elden Ring.
“I wasn’t expecting this many people at all” by the time V Rising reached 80,000 players and sold 500,000 copies overall, said Stunlock Community Manager Jeremy Fielding. “I don’t think anyone would expect it to be that big.”
V Rising begins with the player, as a fully customizable vampire, who wakes up after a century’s sleep, very weak and in need of blood. But what begins as a survival action game in the context of Diablo quickly turns into a fully open world adventure with base building, not to mention co-op and multiplayer. As a result, it’s a sprawling, multi-species beast that takes up vast swathes of modern MMO landscapes and reshapes them.
Stunlock has been on V Rising for about three years but only revealed it in May 2021 – and it seems a lot of people haven’t noticed. “It was a slow rise,” Fielding laughed. “A very small company with a brand new IP? It took a lot of people a long time to start paying attention.”
That changed once they could actually play V Rising. “We really started to get a lot of interest when we got into the closed beta, when people really got a chance to get their hands on the game,” Fielding said. “I think it’s when they start to pay attention, and that makes sense.
“People just want to play. When you only hear about the concept, it’s really hard to understand what it is,” Fielding continued. “We have a pretty unique game that’s hard to explain – we say it’s a Dark Fantasy Vampire survival RPG – and when you say there are a million different things your brain can do with it. I think it’s not really processed until you see it or feel it. it out”.
Screens – V Rising
V Rising has slowly but surely built a strong community since the beta release, with even some of its most dedicated members answering questions from new players while Fielding helps tens of thousands more.
“These people are happy to be here and happy to stand up for us, speak on our behalf, and spread information to us because we have made a good place for them to be,” he said. “I am so grateful to everyone in our community right now. I know this sounds very cheesy but it really makes it a lot easier.”
Staying in touch with and listening to the community is one of the ways Stunlock plans to move V Rising forward. Fielding said he and his team have already been asked why the game is ever in early access, as it looks quite complete, but given its wide range of genres and mechanics, getting people to play V Rising is almost a necessary step toward a full launch.
“We know there are a million platforms in the game that can all expand in infinite directions,” Fielding said. “We leave it a little bit open because we see how people interact with our systems because players will do anything. Especially if you give them an open world game, their gameplay will always be different from what you expect. So we plan to adapt to that.”
Stunlock has some plans already. Notably, he wants to expand and improve the final V Rising game: “But there are many other ways we can work on that in the future,” Fielding said. “The game design philosophy is that every system in the game should influence every other, so we want to monitor, adapt and fill the scale going forward.”
Work on these new systems may need to wait a while, because Fielding says, “For now we’re just making sure everything runs smoothly.” V Rising’s launch day was swift, with a little delay adding extra pressure on the team before they could finally launch their game.
“The mix of disappointed people and incredible enthusiasm leads to a very hectic atmosphere,” Fielding said. “It was such an amazing turnaround for people getting incredibly upset and frustrated, and then the game started right away, and all of a sudden it got quieter, and then ten and twenty minutes later people started getting interested in the game. It’s a great feeling, to see people like something that you put in a lot of work on” .
The team spent the next few hours sharing their synchronized numbers of players, with everyone racing to post their latest achievement. “It was a very exciting night,” Fielding said. “I was at the battle station, just trying to make sure everything was going smoothly, but a lot of people in the studio had to relax and watch. They were watching the streams and everyone was cheering every time we hit a milestone. We got it on a big screen TV.”
Fortunately, Stunlock is overly prepared in terms of servers, thanks to its previous game Battlerite which also had an unexpected hit and thus had early connection issues. “However, we still have a lot to do, but we don’t expect it to be a problem,” Fielding said.
V Rising also allows players to host their own servers, which has clearly helped player loading, as Fielding notes that surprisingly most of its servers are player-managed. It all goes back to a variety of V Rising, “because I think one of the coolest things about our games is the flexibility of our servers and the different ways we offer people to tweak their experience to make it their own,” Fielding said.
This is another area he plans to monitor, so Stunlock can see exactly what players want and build the rest of the game around that. The developer isn’t willing to talk about when these updates will arrive, in part because they don’t know what they really are be distance. It’s worth remembering that while a lot has happened and many players are now investing in the future of V Rising, the game has only been in Early Access for a few days.
Stunlock is committed to V Rising for the long term. “There are a lot of really cool little things in the game that I think need more of, and we’re planning to do that,” Fielding said. “I think when we get to the full version, people will really realize what our goal is for it to be a complete experience. And then there are a lot of things we can still do.
“It’s a great thing about this genre. There are so many ways to expand and improve your systems. It’s just an incredible long-term viewpoint that we can do.”
Ryan Dinsdale is a freelance translator at IGN who occasionally remembers @thelastdinsdale’s tweet. He’ll be talking about The Witcher all day long.