It’s hard to explain a vampire-themed competitive open-world survival action RPG. Because of this, it was a priority for V Rising developers Stunlock Studios to get people playing as soon as possible.
Since launching via Steam Early Access on May 17th in a remarkably complete state, V Rising has grown in popularity day by day. It reached nearly 50,000 players within hours of release and has a 24-hour peak of more than 150,000 on May 23. For comparison, today more people played V Rising than the Steam versions of Grand Theft Auto V or Elden Ring.
“I absolutely didn’t expect that many people,” said Jeremy Fielding, Stunlock’s Community Manager, just as V Rising hit 80,000 players and sold a total of 500,000 copies. “I don’t think anyone expected it to be this big.”
V Rising begins with the player waking up as a fully customizable vampire, very weak and in need of blood after a centuries-long sleep. But what starts as a Diablo-style survival action game soon evolves 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’s taking huge chunks of the modern MMO landscape and reusing it.
Stunlock has been working on V Rising for around three years, but only revealed it in May 2021 – and not many people seemed to be paying attention. “It was a slow start,” Fielding laughed. “A very small company with a brand new IP? It took a long time for a lot of people to take notice.”
That changed once they actually got to play V Rising. “We really got a lot of attention going 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. Just hearing about the concept makes it really hard to understand what it is,” Fielding continued. “We’ve got a pretty unique game that’s hard to explain – we say dark fantasy vampire survival action RPG – and when you say there’s a million different things your brain can do with it. I think it’s not really processed until you see it or feel it.”
Screens – V Rising
V Rising has slowly but surely built a strong community since the beta released, with some of the more dedicated members even answering new players’ questions, while Fielding helps out the other tens of thousands.
“These people are happy to be here and excited to defend us, stand up for us and spread information for us because we created a good space for them,” he said. “I am very grateful to our entire community right now. I know that sounds super cheesy, but it really makes it so much easier.”
Keeping in touch and listening to the community is one of the ways Stunlock V Rising aims to move forward. Fielding said he and his team have already been asked why the game is in Early Access in the first place as it feels fairly complete, but given its wide range of genres and mechanics it’s almost a necessary step to get people playing V Rising leave to start it fully.
“We know there are a million base systems in the game, all of which can expand in infinite directions,” Fielding said. “We’re leaving it a bit open-ended in how we see people interacting with our systems because the players will do everything. Especially if you give them an open world game, their game will always be different than what you expect. So we plan to adapt to that.”
Stunlock already has certain plans. In particular, it wants to expand and improve V Rising’s endgame: “But there are so many other ways we can work on it in the future,” Fielding said. “The game design philosophy is that every system in the game should affect every other system, so we want to monitor and adjust and fill out the scope in the future.”
However, work on these new systems may have to wait a while, as Fielding says, “Right now, we’re just making sure everything runs smoothly.” V Rising’s launch day was a rollercoaster ride, as a small delay meant added stress for the team before they could finally release their game.
“The combination of disappointed people and incredibly excited people makes for a pretty hectic atmosphere,” Fielding said. “It was this amazing turn of events that people were incredibly upset and frustrated, then the game goes live, it suddenly goes a lot quieter, and then ten, 20 minutes later people just start gushing about the game. It’s a great feeling to see people love something they’ve put so much work into.”
The team spent the next few hours sharing the numbers of their concurrent players, and everyone raced 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 were able to relax and watch. They watched streams and everyone cheered every time we hit a milestone. We had it on a big TV.”
Thankfully, Stunlock was overprepared server-wise, as his previous game Battlerite was also an unexpected success and thus had early connection issues. “Even so, we still have too many,” Fielding said, “but we don’t expect 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. It all translates into the diversity 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 edit their experience to make it their own to do,” Fielding said.
This is another area he wants to monitor 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 he doesn’t really know what they are are still. It’s worth remembering that even though so much is happening and so many players are now invested in the future of V Rising, the game has only been in Early Access for a few days.
However, Stunlock has a long-term commitment to V Rising. “There’s a lot of really cool little things in the game that I think just needs more, and we plan to do that,” Fielding said. “I think by the time we get to full release, people will really realize what our intention is, that this is a fully fleshed out experience. And after that, there are so many things we can still do.
“That’s one of the coolest things about this genre. There are so many ways to expand and improve your systems. It’s just an incredible long-term perspective that we can do.”
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer who occasionally thinks about tweeting @thelastdinsdale. He’ll be talking about The Witcher all day.