Blood Bowl 2 Interview: The Interface, Leagues, And DLC

I blame Tolkien. He wrote Orcs like football hooligans and so Games Workshop’s idea of them actually playing football – albeit a version of American football where mutilations are encouraged – makes some sort of sense. The judgemental timer of Steam says I’ve played Blood Bowl more than a lot of other games in my library, more than plenty of games I play without having to complain about the interface, or the AI, or the fact you can’t turn the commentators off and turning their volume down banishes them only until you score a touchdown and then suddenly they’re back in your headphones and GRRR GORBAG SO CRANKY.

Blood Bowl is a game I love in spite of its flaws but find hard to recommend. Will Blood Bowl 2 remedy that? I spoke to Sylvain Sechi, project manager on Cyanide Studio’s Blood Bowl 2, to try to find out.

RPS: How far back does your personal history with Blood Bowl go? Did you play the board game?

Sylvain Sechi: I played it on I think the third or fourth edition with my cousin. Actually that was the very first miniature game I played from Games Workshop. We used to play it with my cousins and we were not really faithful to the rules back then because we were a bit young. When I got into Cyanide eight years ago it was as game designer on Blood Bowl 1. It was a small team. It was a really passionate project because Cyanide had already done Chaos League before. I don’t know if you heard about this game?

RPS: It was… very similar to Blood Bowl.

Sylvain Sechi: [laughs] Actually, the little story is we did not manage to get the IP from Games Workshop. They did not want at that time to share their licences with us. Since we were really eager to make the game we decided to do it even though we didn’t have the licence, so we created a new licence which was very similar to theirs.

When we shipped the game we had a really good success, and they were a bit unhappy because it was so close to Blood Bowl that they felt like we cheated their IP. We managed to find a deal where we said, “We’ll stop exploiting the Chaos League licence and we start exploiting the Blood Bowl licence with you.” Since Chaos League was very fun and did well, they were more than happy to work with us at this point. Since then we’ve been working with all their IPs in this manner. Now we’re working on more major IPs like Warhammer 40K: Space Hulk and this kind of stuff.

RPS: It comes with eight teams right out of the box, Blood Bowl 2? [Humans, Orcs, Dwarfs, High Elves, Dark Elves, Skaven, Chaos, and Bretonnians.]

Sylvain Sechi: Yes, that’s the idea. We still have not decided what will be the distribution for the next races. That’s also a big topic. Only eight races at ship, just like Blood Bowl 1. It’s a pity for players that have experienced Blood Bowl 1 because they bought the extension and with the extension they got up to 24 races, yet we wanted to improve a lot the quality of the races – much more detailed characters, and make sure we integrate more fully each skill for the races we have to add at some point.

I personally don’t like to milk players, I’m not keen on the extension package retail model, so we are discussing a lot about trying to sell players races individually, which will eventually I think cost much less for players because you don’t play with all races. Each of us we have two, three, four favourite races, some of which will already be in the Blood Bowl 2 original content. We’re still discussing it at this point, I hope we manage to do this one-purchase-per-race stuff.

RPS: Of those teams that come with the game there’s going to be a new team, the Bretonnians?

Sylvain Sechi: Yes. The Blood Bowl universe was shipped with a defined number of races, number of teams, and it took some time and some discussion with Games Workshop – you know we really use the licence. If you look at the miniatures they’re ’80s, they’re a bit old-school, and with Blood Bowl 1 we reworked the art direction of the IP and with Blood Bowl 2 we went even further.

RPS: The Bretonnians in Warhammer, they’re Arthurian knights but they’re also quite French. You’re French developers, was that an influence on the decision to include Bretonnians?

Sylvain Sechi: [laughs] There might be a bit of unconscious decision but no, it’s not on purpose.

RPS: Will Blood Bowl 2 be purely turn-based?

Sylvain Sechi: Yes! That also was a big decision for the team when we started the project. It’s actually two games [if] you want a cool real-time experience and a cool board game experience, that’s basically developing two games and it takes lots of resources and time and money to do that. We wanted for Blood Bowl 2 to really up the quality level of the game, we wanted a really finished, polished product, technically nice. We had to make some cuts and we eventually decided to cut the real-time mode only to focus on – I think that even though it’s the ‘hardcorest’ part of the game it’s also a much more fun part of the game and since we could not sacrifice this part, we did not want to sacrifice the turn-based, we had to make a choice: we either go full turn-based or full real-time. We decided to keep the full turn-based because we knew it was where Blood Bowl shines the most.

RPS: One of the things that made Blood Bowl 1 feel inaccessible was the interface. How have you gone about changing that?

Sylvain Sechi: I think that was a topic that we had the most changes on. Interface, where do I start? In-match, we wanted to have a more clean experience. Blood Bowl 1, through all the extensions and abilities that was added, we had a very clunky interface with lots of things that were around the screen. Lots of buttons, lots of feedback, lots of messages, lots of stuff. We decided to revamp everything from scratch.

One of the first things was that one of the most important [pieces of] information that you want in Blood Bowl is your player information. We created this player card, a bit like when we used to be trading soccer or American football cards, where you can find the skills, statistics, wounds you develop, all the information on your player on a little card that spawns when you click on a player. And when you confront a player you have these two cards that come together on the side of the screen so you can compare their stats. Lots of the interface goes through this card stuff, which I think is very friendly and it lightens the interface and yet gives you all the information you want. Also I think it really fits American football, from the IP point of view.

Something else we did is add lots of information and feedback on the pitch. Now when you want to move the player from one point and make a tackle and then pick the ball [up] and do a pass, you now get – at every point where you take a risk – a little feedback on the ground that shows you that you’re going to have a roll at this point, and at this point, and you’re going to make your last roll here.

RPS: They’ll be able to see step-by-step what’s going to happen and what’s likely to go wrong?

Sylvain Sechi: Yeah, more clearly. I think that’s important. On this aspect, in Blood Bowl 2 we have a campaign, a solo campaign that is divided into 15 matches. It’s story-based so you’re playing one team of Humans, the Reikland Reavers, and there is storytelling but basically we bring in rules. The tutorial is integrated into the campaign. As you play, rules appear one by one. You don’t get confused with all the rules at the beginning, so it might be a bit confusing for experienced players because they start the game and they say, “Why is there not Wounds?” We removed the Wounds on the first match and then it gets [introduced] on the second match, and then another gameplay rule gets inserted. For the seven first matches of the campaign we add rule after rule.

Hardcore players, they go very fast on these first matches and new players, they will really take time to learn the game rule by rule because – I mean, you know Blood Bowl. You know that if you look at the living rulebook where the rules are from, the one we are very faithful to, it’s a 60-page book. That’s kind of the failure we had in number one: we were expecting the player to learn this massive rulebook in a couple matches. It takes a bit more time.

RPS: What other features are new to Blood Bowl 2?

Sylvain Sechi: One of the biggest things we focused on was the league management. That was a very important part of the game for us because that’s what makes the community live and once again that’s the essence of Blood Bowl. And so we added lots of features regarding league management. You know, in Blood Bowl 1 some players were managing their own leagues out of the game. They had their own web application or whatever to create a league and say, “You’re going to play against him and you meet both at 11 o’clock the next day,” and they would bring all this stuff out of the game.

We thought it was a shame. We should, as the developer, provide the player the tools to do everything in the game, to have the rewards automatically given in-game, to give the players the ability to set entry fees for their league or give free tickets to players and so we did all this stuff. We added lots of league management options, like leagues can have boards of managers and they can share the management. I won’t say that we are the EVE Online of sport management because that would be a bit too much, but basically that’s the idea behind it.

RPS: Do you have a release date yet, can you talk about that?

Sylvain Sechi: I can talk about that all day but it will change in the end! The game has been put back because we wanted to add some more polish to the game. We had some bugs that we wanted to fix, some minor new features we wanted to add to the game before it ships, and so we had to push back the game and I think it will be around, let’s say, Q2 of next year, so between March and June of 2015.

RPS: Some fans of the previous version of Blood Bowl were put off by the different editions that were released. What would you say to those players about Blood Bowl 2 and why they should care about this new version?

Sylvain Sechi: We’re not aiming for this model. Like I said earlier, it’s not set. We might have another extension model, we might have a more simple extension model, like only one extension, and we might have some – I don’t like this word, but ‘downloadable content’ even though it won’t be just like that, it will be purchasing the races one by one. We’ll try to keep it one Blood Bowl 2 experience and not make the same mistake we made [by having] several Blood Bowl 1 experiences.

RPS: Thank you very much for talking to me.

39 Comments

  1. shinkshank says:

    Well, I’ll certainly keep an eye on it.

    I’m not going to lie, I’ve not enjoyed the latest things Bloodbowl had to offer when it came to the games. I enjoyed the idea and the aesthetic much more than I did the actual gameplay.

  2. Janek says:

    “I personally don’t like to milk players”

    And yet they’re following exactly the same pattern of arbitrary limitations as last time.

    The only way this could conceivably be acceptable would be if it were new team + league management/UI improvements + shiny new graphics as a modestly-priced upgrade from Legendary/Chaos Edition.

    Fundamentally, the original game is still not feature complete or bug-free, five years, two expansions, and multiple patches after first release. And they expect us to pay full price to go all the way back to the beginning? No way.

    • wyrm4701 says:

      Thanks, you’ve articulated quite well why I won’t be buying BB2, despite my love for the license. I wouldn’t believe anything Cyanide says about “not wanting to milk players” after they released three versions of the same buggy game.

    • gnodab says:

      Thank you for articulating what i wanted to say, without all the screaming and swearing I would have used.
      I’ll wait for the 4rth full price standalone expansion pack for BB2 then.

    • sinister agent says:

      Fourthed. I see no reason to give them even more money when they couldn’t even be bothered to fix the most basic, obvious flaws of the first one.

    • BooleanBob says:

      If they ever put in all the teams, and all the Star Players, and fix the bugs, they’ll have (another) sale out of me. But these are the things it is going to take. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.

      • Loyal_Viggo says:

        I agree, and as your attorney I advise the best strategy is wait two years for the inevitable ‘BB2 Infinity’ edition and wait for a steam sale and get it for 80%.

        That’s my plan.

    • Ian says:

      Yup, exactly where I am with that comment and Cyanide’s Blood Bowl in general, Janek.

      Not a fucking chance.

    • Bassen_Hjertelos says:

      I’m going to swim against the stream here. What, exactly, is the problem of adding races through DLC? If the game is good and has a core of 8 races for a reasonable price, I don’t see the problem with adding more through DLC. It will let them focus on developing the game-play rather than umpteen teams. Need I also add that you didn’t get all the races when you buy tabletop BB? There were expansions up the wazoo, not to mention the task of buying miniatures.

      It seems there is this compulsive need to rant about DLC just because, well, DLC.

      • sinister agent says:

        It’s more because Cyanide released multiple iterations of the first game at full price without every fixing the huge, glaring flaws with the interface, completely useless AI, or many common, game-ruining bugs. And now they’re asking people to fork out all over again for a game that has far less content than the old one.

      • bill says:

        In this case I actually think DLC makes perfect sense, and I imagine a lot of players will agree.
        For a game with so many teams and star players it makes much more sense for people to be able to buy the ones that they want. And it doesn’t fracture the player base like releasing new versions does.

        But I think in this case the complaints actually AREN’T about DLC (for once!), but are more about the previous business practices. (Releasing multiple paid versions of the same game without addressing any of the bugs/complaints about the first version).

        If they’d gone the DLC team route for Blood Bowl 1 I actually think there’d be a lot less complaints here. I never understood why they didn’t.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        Generally I think it’s a good idea, the only thing is, as a new player, how would I know which race fits my play style without playing a couple of games? It would be slightly annoying to buy (eg) a Skaven DLC to find out I don’t like playing with the little buggers.
        Also, we should be able to play against someone who has a new team DLC without needing that DLC ourselves (that’s a wish, not a statement).

        • Obtuse says:

          I’d be surprised if that wasn’t the case. If it wasn’t the community would immediately become massively fractured on every team’s release.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        If you’re happy with what should be core game features being shipped as paid DLC then by all means encourage the fuck out of that shit.

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      Yeah, cyanide sticks out in my mind for buggy games that keep their bugs (Unlike say Bethesda which have buggy games that lose their bugs) and milking their customers, so hard. Especially considering the races they did release were already designed for them, all that was left to do was model the models and slap em in.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      You go on about, “arbitrary limitations,” while neglecting actual, real-world limitations. It takes time to do these things. In business, time = money. What you’re asking for is them to mimic the content of their fully expanded game, after two expansions, inside their newly built game. And then charge a “modestly-priced” fee for it. And who sets that nondescript “modestly-priced” fee? You and your arbitrary-as-hell application of metrics? They’ve reworked the game, overhauled the engine, and actually done a lot of work, if you cared to read up on it rather than being an irate ignoramus.

      If you don’t want to buy the game, then that’s fine. However, they don’t owe you the entire franchise on their new game. It’s a sequel. Deal with it. Or don’t. But stop acting like people owe you years of their work for a pittance

      While I agree that Cyanide’s BB can certainly be criticized for its horrible lack of thorough explanation when roll decisions are allowed and not thoroughly explaining the rules, the rest of the game is pretty thorough. People often cite the “my re-roll was the same as the last roll” occurrence as a bug. But if your player is a loner, then they have to roll to re-roll. If they fail a 4+ roll, the previous roll stands. Otherwise, they re-roll. The only common bug that I know of is the extra player bug..

      Many of you are making numerous factually inaccurate claims about the expansions. There were two expansions. The Dark Elf expansions was free and replaced the original game in digital storefronts. After that was Legendary and Chaos, both which were discounted if you had a previous title. There were issues with cross-platform between the DE edition and the later editions, but Cyanide eventually fixed it, IIRC.

  3. jonahcutter says:

    Unless I missed it, no mention of improvements to the single player AI?

    That is the single most important factor for me in shelling out for a sequel. Either a non-brain dead (or dare to dream, even decent) AI. Or the modability for players to fix it.

  4. heyheynaar says:

    I really enjoyed bloodbowl, but there are so many faults, you are right you really cannot recommend it. I pretty much only ever played a Skaven team against my friends Wood Elf team, probably something like 100 hours between Legendary and Chaos and we would struggle to remember how to get a game running with the awful interface. Oh and we are now used to the rather regular occurrence of the unlikely roll (Especially death where my Rat Ogres are concerned)

    I imagine I will get Blood Bowl 2 unless there is something horrifically wrong with it, but I guess I will be waiting until they add Wood Elves.

  5. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    On one hand, Cyanide’s Blood Bowl was pretty good regarding the core gameplay. On the other hand, interface issues, bugs, missing rules and starplayers and continually re-selling the game did not help.

    I definitely won’t be buying BB2 at launch. Maybe I’ll get it eventually, when a definitive version comes out. Or maybe I won’t if it isn’t much better than Blood Bowl Chaos edition.

  6. Horg says:

    One the one hand, they openly acknowledge most of the faults of the original. On the other hand, Goblins aren’t in the base game. No amount of improvements can make up for that.

    • frenz0rz says:

      A strange decision that, considering that to faithfully represent Orcs they’ll have to include goblin players. In fact, if you look closely there’s even a goblin standing to the right of the troll in the final screenshot. If they’ve already made a goblin, why not include their team?

      The cynical side of me (i.e. most of me) tends to think it’s a DLC decision.

      • Zelos says:

        I think if they want to sell races individually it’s best for the players if niche races like goblins are not part of the base game. They’re fun, but for most players it would look like bullshit meant to force you to buy the race you actually want to play.

        But of course that’s exactly how I see the inclusion of Bretonnians over Wood Elves, so I guess the point is moot.

        • sinister agent says:

          Goblins are the embodiment of blood bowl, though. They’re hopeless but potentially devastating, and playing them (or ogres, who I personally favour, but don’t consider as important to the game) is the definitive blood bowl experience. Let the dice fall as they will!

          • Horg says:

            Nuffle smiles upon those who view the rules as mere guidelines.

    • Jdopus says:

      I might be incorrect here or misremembering – but aren’t Blood Bowl’s goblins just part of the orc team? As I recall to make a goblin team you were just playing as the orcs but specifically choosing only goblin players.

      I might be getting this mixed up with the WFB tabletop though.

      • Obtuse says:

        Nah, Goblins have their own team with special players like chainsaw-wielding Loonies. Nearly everything they have works around 50% of the time, but when it works it works amazingly.

  7. DarkWeeble says:

    I’ll be waiting several months to pick this up, I think. I hate that I can’t trust anything they make to work properly.

  8. ocelotwildly says:

    Everyone come to FUMBBL instead! It’s the best place for bloodbowl on the internet by far. The same wonderful core game, with fantastic community and far slicker and more user friendly interface. I’ll be very sad if this cynical cash grab further damages the player base of that brilliant website.

    • Ian says:

      RPS FUMBBL used to be a thing. :(

      • Squirrelfanatic says:

        Funny you should say that, just yesterday I posted in the RPS FUMBBL thread. I’d be up for (ir)regular matches. And who knows, maybe we can relight that fire.

        Edit: Here’s the link to the thread:

        link to rockpapershotgun.com!

  9. drinniol says:

    I just had a thought – maybe Cyanide have a Sony-Spiderman deal where they have to make a new game on the licence every so often or the rights default back to GW? Would make sense.

  10. 2helix4u says:

    I’ll still pick this up as long as it’s like £30. I’ll wait to see the user reviews first though to make sure its not broken – ’cause Cyanide.

    The DLC model is a bit meh, although I don’t mind as long as it has a cheapish way to buy all the content at once or some kind of Season pass for all the teams to be released. It’s vastly superior to potentially needing to buy three games to get all the teams though, I only just got into Blood Bowl recently and even I ended up buying two games to play it.

    I really like BB1 though, there’s nothing quite like it and it leaves me really wanting more. I hope they have a more interesting career mode this time round, my main problem with it in BB1 is that you start with no skills or exp but your opponent teams are already partly skilled up. If they make all teams start at 0 EXP in the newbie league and level up through matches that would be much better.

    Its currently definitely with those games like Crusader Kings that take a few tries to understand and then offer something really unique. Now I just gotta figure out how to build this fucking Dwarf Fortress…

  11. Loyal_Viggo says:

    This is all irrelevant.

    The only question we should be asking is:

    When will GW let someone make Battlefleet Gothic and Necromunda?

    When I ask? WHEN?

    • jrpz2 says:

      Oh Necromunda… sorry was lost in a happy fog of memories there. And please please give the license to Firaxis and let Jake Solomon work on it – he was never shy about his fondness for Necromunda. What a match that would be, given the great job he did with Xcom

      • Loyal_Viggo says:

        Hmmm, interesting you should say that about Xcom…

        Having grown up with the originals, and even edited hexadecimal files to boost my soldiers back in the day, I thought the Xcom remake was absolutely terrible, woeful, horrific nonsense.

        It was the ‘Console Players’ version of strategy, heavily limited maps, bases, squads, almost no choice at all. The game was so bad compared to the original or TFTD which are superior in every single way (although perhaps not as nice looking).

        If you want a far more truthful rendition then Xenonauts just shits all over the Firaxis one.

        /rant off

        Someone needs to make Necromunda and Battlefleet Gothic.

        • Obtuse says:

          The guys making the Mordeheim game said they’d like to take on Necromunda at some stage and they’re pretty similar in concept.