It’s a difficult time to release a live-service game. Apex Legends Mobile, CrossfireX, Knockout City, and RumbleVerse have all announced they’re closing their servers for good, and Battlefield Mobile has been canned midway through development. It’s not much better for those managing to keep the doors open, either. The last live-service title I was excited for, Darktide, was so bogged down in microtransactions, currencies, and storefronts, that it forgot to pay much attention to the game itself.
Blood Bowl 3 won’t be like those games – at least, that’s what Cyanide Studios’ product manager Gautier Brésard assures me. “Cyanide has a good track record of keeping Blood Bowl alive,” he tells me over a video call. “Blood Bowl and Blood Bowl 2 are still alive, and we are not going to shut them down any time soon. [We aim to] keep Blood Bowl 3 alive for years and years to come. We are not going to give up on it. We know that the community is there, the players are there, we just have to give them what they want, and then they’ll stay.”
Giving the players what they want is one of the main reasons that Blood Bowl 3 has been delayed so many times. Initially set to launch in August 2021, multiple beta tests revealed that the community was not happy. The pandemic and a general underestimation of the work involved with the series’ third instalment contributed to further delays until we arrive at the present day, 18 months behind schedule, but with a game Brésard is happy with. To some extent, at least.
“We’re perfectionists! I'm not sure it will ever be the game we want,” he laughs. “But we’re in a pretty good place. It's much better than it was during the betas, and we’re quite happy with the changes that we were able to make thanks to them.” Brésard believes the players have been a big part in making Blood Bowl 3 what it is today, and despite the delays that their feedback caused, it’s ultimately been a positive thing for the game.
Like most Games Workshop games, Blood Bowl has a very passionate community, but these players may be more dedicated than most. In the first 15 years of this century, the tabletop game’s rules were solely updated and errataed by a group of fans known as the Blood Bowl Rules Committee. The Living Rulebook kept the game alive as Games Workshop let it languish until 2016, when it released a brand new box set, complete with rules, miniatures, and more.
The 2016 edition of Blood Bowl also updated some of the less savoury aspects of the game that were hangovers from the ‘80s. As new kits were released, more female miniatures were added, and their kits were far less sexualised. Blood Bowl 3 takes much of its inspiration from this edition of Blood Bowl, and indeed Brésard tells me they had a strict guideline to follow, modelling players as closely on the current miniatures as possible. It’s a shame then, that there are so few female players in the game.
Brésard tells me that Blood Bowl 3 has been designed to be “the most faithful adaptation of the tabletop game” to date, from both a rules and miniatures standpoint. However, there are plenty of teams – looking at the Elves and Human Nobility in particular – that have female players on the tabletop, but not in the video game.
“That's something that we would like to introduce,” says Brésard. “This feature didn't make the cut for day one, as we've had several delays and, although it's hard to say more important things – it's hard to compare these kinds of things – but we needed a game that works first. And unfortunately, we weren't able to include [female players].
“But that's something that I really like, and I would like to do it in the proper way. On a personal note, I am not a big fan of how it's supposed to behave with the miniatures where the roles are gender locked. So if you’re a Catcher, you’re female, if you’re a Blitzer, you’re male. I'm not a big fan of that. That would definitely have been easier to implement in the game, but I wouldn't be satisfied with this. So hopefully, we will find the time, and the community will ask for this, and we will have the opportunity to implement this in a meaningful way.”
Brésard points out that the cheerleaders, where Cyanide has had more creative freedom, have more gender parity, with inspirations for a bikini-clad Beastman (Beastwoman?) coming from niche issues of Spike magazine, and male and female cheerleaders appearing in almost equal measure. He also mentions that the Witch Elf (the only standard female player at launch) wears marginally more clothes than in Blood Bowl 2, and hopes that forthcoming cosmetic options will allow players to further cover her up if they so wish.
While I haven’t had a chance to check out the cosmetics store or prices ahead of launch – it was locked off in my preview copy – Brésard says that the threequel will be more generous with its microtransactions than previous iterations.
“Our goal was to be more generous than Blood Bowl 2 was,” he explains. “That goes for a lower price point for the base game, and also the new season system, the Blood Passes, are more generous than the DLC system we used in Blood Bowl 2. One of our rules is to have only the cosmetics in the paid version of the Blood Pass and in the shop selling cosmetics. You have a way to unlock new factions for free every season by just playing the game. That was very important for us to not completely lock gameplay options behind a paywall.”
He’s also keen to point out that Cyanide has intentionally made the Blood Passes achievable. He expects the three-month seasons to take around 50 hours to complete, which amounts to around half an hour a day and seems very reasonable. He couldn’t reveal exactly which teams or cosmetics would be on the way, but says it’s largely down to player feedback, and Cyanide is committed to listening to what its fans think. If you want more female players, ask for them. If you want the Norse team next, ask for it. Make your voice heard.
“As long as people continue to buy cosmetics,” Brésard explains, “We’ll make new cosmetics, and that in turn, will help us get the funds to continue updating the game and the rules.” That’s live-service for you. But if any game is going to buck the trend and get live-service right in 2023, it will probably be the game with a passionate fanbase who have stuck by the game for decades and from a studio with nearly 15 years of experience of keeping niche live-service fantasy sports titles alive.
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