It might seem odd, but within Games Workshop’s Warhammer universe there’s a place and a time for the warring factions and races to put down their weapons and engage in a little sport. Of course, just because it’s sport doesn’t mean they hold anything back, with players regularly put in critical condition just for being in the way, sweeping corruption and, very occasionally, a touchdown being scored.
Amidst a flurry of new Games Workshop adaptions, Cyanide Studios are returning to this world, to take a second shot at converting this board game into a digital form. We caught up with Gauthier Brunet, Lead Game Designer on Blood Bowl 2, to chat about the game, as it heads towards release on PC, PS4 and Xbox One next week.
TSA: There’s a lot of Games Workshop games being adapted right now, but some are sticking much more closely to the tabletop games than others. Where does Blood Bowl 2 fit on that scale?
Gauthier Brunet: In the management part of the game we tried many new and different ideas, but we are trying to give an interesting adaptation for both the original tabletop community, so they can play with the game and have fun with it. It’s a huge community and they’re very interested in our adaptation and they want to play it.
The game has a long story, it’s a very balanced game, and we wanted to use these strengths but make it as much of a videogame as possible. So, making it fluid and dynamic and interesting to play, merging both the advantages of the original board game set up and the videogame setting.
TSA: It is a turn-based game, but did you ever look at sports games and consider turning this into a real time game?
Gauthier: The first game was released with two different modes – turn-based and real time – but it was two completely different games, so it was like making two games in one. In Blood Bowl 2, we thought about making a real time game, but we decided to go for a turn-based one, because with series like XCOM people understand that turn-based games can be dynamic and interesting. Core gamers might be interested in turn-based games again.
We wanted to keep our core and the DNA of Blood Bowl, so we’re doing this in turn-based, but real time was also an interesting idea for us. We just had to make the choice at the beginning and keep going in this direction.
TSA: I guess it always helps only having to make one game at a time! It has been a long time since the first Blood Bowl came out though, so what have you been able to try and do this time that you weren’t able to before?
Gauthier: We had lots of opportunities, given the new technology, but also with our experience from the first game. All the online gaming, playing with players who aren’t next to you, has changed a lot. We wanted to keep our game up to date with this, so we tried to adapt and give a very smooth experience for online gaming. […]
We made some different decisions compared to the first game, so in Blood Bowl 2, we have all of the rules and the game taking place on the server side, so if anything goes wrong with your match, we have the information, we know where the match was and we can start again from where that was. We can also change the rules and hotfix the rules very easily. You don’t have to download a patch to make your client up to date, we just have to hotfix the server and everything will update for you right away.
TSA: You’ve actually just started a new beta test in the last few days [last week]. How have the first few hours of that gone? Has there been a mad panic or have things gone nice and smoothly?
Gauthier: Right now it’s going smoothly. We had some numbers that we think are going to play, from the structure of the first game and the experience of the first game, so our expectations were correct. We are still talking about a small amount of the people who are going to play the final game, but we don’t have any problems right now.
Technically, this early access is going quite well for the online play, but players are experiencing some issues with the client, but most of them are due to not up to date graphic drivers and stuff like this. We are also fixing the last few bugs and problems, which is one interesting thing when you have this early access. You have data coming from many types of computer, many types of configurations, and we are working right now on making the final version of the game even more solid. It’s going quite well. There’s some minor problems, but you can’t expect anything else…
TSA: That is why you have a beta test! You do have some interesting ideas for the online play, with persistent teams, custom leagues and so on, but you often see the PC gamer get more options and flexibility with these things. Has the entire experience been brought across to console as well, or have you had to make a few cuts?
Gauthier: The game is nearly identical with all of this support. You have minor differences, but we really want to keep the console version as close as possible to the PC version. We’ll make everything possible for it, because the console market is really interesting for us. It’s a brand new opportunity and we’re bringing the game to players who haven’t had the chance to play the game before, so we don’t want to have a lower version and a higher version.
TSA: I think one of the things that stands out is the game’s presentation values, from the thick grass to the stadiums, but have you found it difficult to make all of the different races feel unique, beyond being able to draw upon Games Workshop’s universe?
Gauthier: That was quite a good asset, and all the races have a strong identity, but it’s also about having a graphic style for your game. It took a long time trying find a style which fits Blood Bowl 2 and looks like Blood Bowl 2, and we did this for the first race before adapting all the other races to this new graphics style.
TSA: Finally, there was a bit of a fuss after you announced the game was being delayed by a few months, because you also announced two additional races which would then be given away as a pre-order bonus, depending on the platform. Some people didn’t react very well to this, so can you explain what’s happening with the Lizardmen and Wood Elves and how they’re being developed?
Gauthier: Of course. Blood Bowl 2 was supposed to ship with eight different teams, and our goal was to have the same amount of teams as we started the first game with. We pushed back the release date, because we needed and wanted a more polished game, to create the game that the player wants. With this early access, we think we did it; there’s not a lot of annoying bugs or crashes.
But when we did this, it was mostly on the programming side who were working on this, and all the graphics part of the team was freer with these six months. So we talked with our publisher to bring something to the community, and so we decided to produce two more teams – we are also already thinking about bringing more, because Blood Bowl players want more teams and the universe is filled with many interesting teams.
We also agreed with our publisher to give these first two teams to the different communities on PS4 and Xbox. Each one has a free team at release, but these are not exclusive, they will be available for all at the same time.
TSA: I think some of it comes down to people on the outside not realising how resources are used during development. I think it’s always difficult for developers to communicate what’s going on when there is a delay and change of plans like this.
Gauthier: Exactly. We know that the communication is difficult, but releasing a game which is not in the state we wanted it to be in would be even worse, so we chose this path.
Thanks to Gauthier for taking the time to talk to us. Blood Bowl 2 is out next week on 22nd September, for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.