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How Battlerite already found 200,000 players, and what's coming next

Why isn't Battlerite just Bloodline Champions 2? 

We have been debating that internally, and the main reason is that we don't want to be limited by all the rules or the limitations around it. So, if we would release it as Bloodline Champions 2, we would probably get a lot of "why isn't this working as in Bloodline Champions?" and we didn't want to have that limitation. We just want to make the best arena game possible with the experience we now have, and we want to have a new branding on it. 

I had heard that there was also a conflict with the publisher you had on Bloodline Champions. Is there anything to that? 

Not really anymore. We had problems with it since we didn't have the rights for the IP, but fairly recently we got everything back, so potentially we could have released it as Bloodline Champions. But it still happened during the pre-phases, so we were pretty much already set with a new IP. 

We're still a small studio, and I think we can really make a mark.

Martin Lövgren

Gotcha, so this is really just the game you guys want to be making. 

Exactly, yeah. 

It's only been out for a couple weeks, but how many players do you have so far? 

I think we're at about 200,000 right now. 

That's impressive. How does that compare to Bloodline Champions? 

I'm not sure if I can go into exact numbers, but our peak record for Bloodline Champions was about 4,500 concurrent users. And Battlerite has like 13,200, and that's Early Access. You have to buy in, if you compare it to Bloodline Champions as a free-to-play game. So just looking at those numbers, it's an insane difference. 

That's nearly triple already. What do you attribute that difference to? 

Yeah, I'm not sure. [Laughs] It really exploded during the first week now. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I think when we reach free-to-play launch and we've fixed all the major concerns and really improve the game—because now we can get a lot of feedback from our players—I think we can reach really high numbers and really make a mark out there and contest the really big games. We're still a small studio, and I think we can really make a mark. 

Do you think public opinion on MOBA-looking games has shifted at all since Bloodline Champions? Obviously Battlerite isn't a MOBA, but for a period of time, any new top-down action game would get written off by a lot of people as "just another MOBA."  

Yeah, even when we we worked on Bloodline Champions people called us a MOBA. Then we moved on to [Dead Island:] Epidemic, which was top-down but very different as well, they also called it a MOBA. And I think there's more and more games who try to refine that type of top-down gameplay, even if they are referred to as MOBA. I think it's become more and more acceptable that top-down games don't have to be a MOBA. It had to take a couple of years for really good top-down games to show it could be a top-down game without being a MOBA. 

Battlerite feels incredibly refreshing within the top-down genre, so it's exciting to see that it could overcome that stigma. 

Yeah, I'm really happy it did actually as well. But it was harder with the first game, because it's almost like "do you want to market yourself as a MOBA?" because it could be beneficial even if it's not a MOBA. I think we did the right call for Battlerite—we call it a team arena brawler, and maybe it could be a start of a type of game which hopefully we're going to see. Because we haven't seen a lot of arena games, and that's why we decided to do Battlerite as well. We did Bloodline Champions, it was unique and it was well received. And then WoW arena wasn't as good in my opinion. And then Diablo 3 said they wanted to add an arena, but they didn't, and there haven't been any other polished games out there. So it's very good timing for us to come up Battlerite, and I expect to see more arena type of games in the future. 

It's nice to see the early workings of replays in the game, and you guys made a great video before launch showing off your VR spectator mode. How important is that sort of stuff to you? 

I think it's quite important. We have one guy who is really skilled in VR and really being in the front end of developing for it, even since it's started to expand. And it really helps to be among the first developers who want to take the steps into it. I think we have a lot to gain both in terms of marketing, and how spectating is going to be revolutionized. The way you can use that camera for observing or switching [views] is more like how it works in sports events—but it's even more freedom when it comes to digital, since we can teleport around the field, zoom in, zoom out, and pan everything. It's amazing, and I think in five years all esport games are going to have similar tools.

We never want to stop, saying "okay, now we're happy with the game." We always have to see how we can make the gameplay even better.

Martin Lövgren

Are you using the same game engine or have you rebuilt from the ground up? 

Everything is new, so there's no code or anything that's reused. I think there's some icons being reused, but basically that's it. 

Speaking of sports, how big of a thing is Battlerite esports in your mind? 

Right now, we don't want to invest too much in esport ourselves, because we think we're still in Early Access and to get a good esport we need a big player base and a community. So right now, we're mainly trying to work with like "what tools are required for the community, for the players out there to start hosting tournaments?" So we want to supply them with the tools they need to start building esport. We were getting a lot of contact from different esport or competitive partners who wants to work with us. I think competitive games, like esports, is very important for us, but I think we're making the right decision to start supplying with the tools instead of trying to build esport right now. 

So you're putting people in a position to host tournaments, but you're not going to take the tactic of some other companies where you throw money at huge prize pools.  

Exactly. I think it's more important to put that money into tools for the community.

Do you know when we can expect a full replay and spectator system? 

No, sorry. We don't have any specific dates, it's very flexible right now.  

Your Steam page says you're aiming to release Battlerite in the first quarter of 2017. What defines it leaving Early Access? What's the most important thing need you need to get in the game before calling it 1.0?

That's a tough question to answer. I think we still have to get a super polished core loop, as I spoke of earlier. So that will be matchmaking, and also continue to work on gameplay. We never want to stop, saying "okay, now we're happy with the game." We can't do that. We always have to see how we can make the gameplay even better. Even if it's awesome right now, how can we make it even better? We should never be satisfied, like we should never just stop working on gameplay. 

But apart from that I think we need to fix servers, maybe. We have to work with anti-cheats and stability. I think progression, in terms of do you have enough things to do in the game? And also the social aspect is super important, and something we're going to continue to work a lot on as well. Like, how can you go in and enjoy playing this game by yourself, with your friends, how do you meet new friends, how do you find them? All the successful games out there have a very strong social aspect, and I think that's something we need to continue working on for Battlerite. I think The Odeum [Battlerite's shareable replay system] is a good start. Sharing highlights and things like that, following your favorite person, but we still need to continue work. 

Tom is PC Gamer’s Associate Editor. He enjoys platformers, puzzles and puzzle-platformers. He also enjoys talking about PC games, which he now no longer does alone. Tune in every Wednesday at 1pm Pacific on Twitch.tv/pcgamer to see Tom host The PC Gamer Show.