The Culling 2 was announced last week, just a few months after development of the original Culling had ended—which itself happened only a couple of months after the game had been fully released. That rapid-fire stop-and-go struck me as a bit odd, especially since the battle royale genre is more crowded than ever now. (Hello, Fortnite.) But Xaviant said that the timing isn't quite as "off" as it might appear, because the game had been in Early Access for so long.
"On the PC, the vast bulk of our audience really only played during the first few months after we launched in Early Access in March of 2016. We did dozens of patches and content updates after that, but we never saw our sales or player numbers return after the initial boom died down. To be honest, apart from a passionate core audience, the majority of PC players haven’t seen or thought about The Culling in two years," director of operations Josh Van Veld told me in an email. "That’s a healthy timeline for a sequel to roll around."
The Early Access release created other challenges for the studio as well. "Before the game is shown to the public, a developer is free to recklessly experiment, introduce bugs, and generally make a lot of mistakes. Once people have paid you for a game, it now belongs to them," Van Veld continued. "It’s a big responsibility and in retrospect I think we initially failed to appreciate how big changes could be disruptive for a live game, Early Access or not."
Because of that experience, Xaviant will not be releasing The Culling 2 as an Early Access game. "In theory, Early Access is a roadmap to a full release. In practical terms, every game launches once," Van Veld said. "If you make people aware of your game and offer it for sale, you’ve launched. Whatever label you apply doesn’t change that."
The situation is somewhat different for owners of the Xbox One version, which came out much later than expected and thus came out of Game Preview much more quickly. Because of that, Van Veld said, Xbox players didn't see the game evolve: Instead, their first access came in June 2017, and the timeline leading to the announcement of the sequel is much shorter.
"We completely understand how that may appear unorthodox, because much of indie development is unorthodox, but it’s certainly not nefarious," he said.
2 pic.twitter.com/onuTxYYwbqJune 14, 2018
Van Veld also addressed a recent leak of The Culling 2, although he described it more pointedly as a "theft" and "a deliberate attack on our studio intended to disrupt an official announcement of our new game." Gameplay from a work-in-progress build was shared with a small segment of The Culling community, and not everyone reacted well to the changes they saw. A thread in The Culling subreddit, for instance, criticizes the gameplay for looking like "a generic third-person shooter," too similar to games like H1Z1 and PUBG.
"The direction we chose to take with The Culling 2 is to embrace what the genre has evolved into over the last couple of years, while preserving the core and spirit of The Culling. First and foremost is melee combat," he said. "While The Culling 2 now features a full suite of ballistically-accurate firearms, our robust melee combat system remains intact and is more deadly than ever. Combined with specific Perks (another system we’re bringing back from the original game) and a more intimate Battle Royale setting, it is possible to build yourself as a fast, silent assassin capable of taking out gun-toting opponents,"
Van Veld wasn't willing to share more about the game, but he did express a few thoughts about the leak itself. The people involved "claim to be passionate fans of The Culling, yet have been on a long-standing crusade to bully and harass members of our team, even to the point of harassing a team member’s spouse," he said. "These toxic individuals use complaints about our game as a smokescreen to justify their behavior. It’s offensive, gross and frankly unacceptable."
"I know that a leak is seen as a normal thing that happens, especially to AAA titles, but like many indie studios we’re a small group with a lot riding on this and each game we put out. We’re real people with spouses, children, families and lives. Any kind of attack on Xaviant feels like an attack on us personally, not on some vague corporate entity. In addition, this type of harassment can and often does bleed into the personal realm, affecting members of our development team directly and indirectly."
The Culling 2 doesn't have a release date but Van Veld said Xaviant is "excited to get the game into the hands of players soon."