It’s hard to explain a vampire-themed online base-building competitive open world survival action RPG. That’s why, for V Rising developer Stunlock Studios, the priority was to let people play as soon as possible.
Since launching through Steam Early Access on May 17, in a notably complete state, V Rising has grown in popularity day after day. It hit close to 50,000 players within a few hours of being released, and as of May 23, has a 24-hour peak of more than 150,000. For context, more people have played V Rising today than the Steam versions of Grand Theft Auto V or Elden Ring.
“I absolutely did not expect this many people”, said Stunlock’s community manager Jeremy Fielding just as V Rising hit 80,000 players and sold 500,000 copies overall. “I don’t think anybody expected it to be quite this big.”
V Rising begins with the player, as a fully customisable vampire, waking up after a century-spanning sleep, very weak and in need of blood. But what begins as a survival action game in the vein of Diablo soon turns into a fully open world adventure with base-building, not to mention co-op and versus multiplayer. As a result, it’s a sprawling, multi-genre beast that takes in huge swathes of the modern MMO landscape and repurposes them.
Stunlock has been working on V Rising for around three years but only revealed it in May 2021 – and not many people seemed to pay attention. “It’s been a slow ramp-up”, laughed Fielding. “A very small company with a brand new IP? It took a lot of people a long time to start to take notice.”
That changed as soon as they could actually play V Rising. “We really started to get a lot of attention when we went into closed beta, when people really got an opportunity to get their hands on the game,” Fielding said. “I think that’s when they started paying attention, which makes sense.
“People just want to play. When you’re just hearing about the concept it’s really hard to grasp what it is,” Fielding continued. “We have a fairly unique game that’s kind of hard to explain – we say dark fantasy vampire survival action RPG – and when you say that there’s a million different things your brain can do with it. I think it doesn’t really process until you see it or feel it.”
Screens – V Rising
V Rising has slowly but surely built a strong community since the beta was released, with some of its more dedicated members even answering new players’ questions while Fielding is helping the other tens of thousands.
“These people are happy to be here and happy to defend us and speak up for us and spread information for us because we made a good place for them to be,” he said. “I’m super thankful to all of our community right now. I know that sounds super cheesy but it really does make it so much easier.”
Keeping in touch with and listening to the community is one of the ways Stunlock plans to take V Rising forward. Fielding said he and his team have already been asked why the game is in Early Access at all, as it feels pretty complete, but given its wide array of genres and mechanics, having people play V Rising is almost a necessary step towards a full launch .
“We know that there are a million base systems in the game that can all expand in infinite directions,” Fielding said. “We’re leaving it a little bit open as we see how people interact with our systems because players will do anything. Especially if you give them an open world game, how they play will always be different than what you expect. So we’re planning to adapt to that.”
Stunlock does have certain plans already. Notably, it wants to expand and improve V Rising’s end game: “But there’s so many other ways that we can work on that going forward,” Fielding said. “The game design philosophy is that every system in the game should affect every other system, so we want to observe and adapt and fill out the scope going forward.”
Working on those new systems may need to wait a little while though, because Fielding says, “right now we’re just making sure everything’s going smoothly.” V Rising’s launch day was a rollercoaster, as a small delay added extra stress for the team before they could finally release their game.
“The combination of people being both disappointed and incredibly excited leads to a pretty hectic atmosphere,” Fielding said. “It was this amazing turn of people being incredibly upset and frustrated, then the game goes live, it suddenly gets a lot quieter, and then ten, 20 minutes later people just start raving about the game. It’s an amazing feeling, seeing people love something that you put so much work into.”
The team spent the next few hours sharing their concurrent player numbers, with everyone racing to post the latest milestone. “It was a super 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 got to relax and watch. They were watching streams and everybody was cheering every time we hit a milestone. We had it up on a big TV.”
Stunlock thankfully went in over-prepared where servers are concerned, thanks to its previous game Battlerite also being an unexpected success and thus having early connectivity issues. “Even so, we still got too many,” Fielding said, “but we don’t expect it to be a problem.”
V Rising also lets players host their own servers, which has obviously helped with player load, as Fielding points out that, surprisingly, most of its servers are player-run. This all feeds back into the variety of V Rising, “because I think one of the coolest things about our games is our servers’ flexibility and the different ways we offer people to edit their experience to make it their own,” Fielding said.
This is another area he plans on observing, so Stunlock can see exactly what players want and build the rest of their game around that. The developer isn’t ready to talk about when these updates will arrive, partly because it doesn’t really know what they are enough. It’s worth remembering that, despite so much happening and so many players now invested 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 haul though. “There’s a lot of really cool little things in the game that I think it just needs more of, and we’re planning to do that,” Fielding said. “I think that when we do get to full release people will really reality what our intention is in this being a fully fleshed-out experience. And then after that, there’s so many things we can still do.
“It’s such a cool thing about the genre. There’s so many ways to expand on your systems and make them better. It’s just such an incredible long-term view that we can do.”
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer who occasionally remembers to tweet @thelastdinsdale. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.