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I haven't talked about Bloodborne on this blog yet, other than in passing. This has been because there wasn't much information on it except for the most superficial information and a few minutes of gameplay video. But over the past few months, more information has come out, so I'm going to take a moment to talk about some of the features and mechanics that I am excited about.

If you're not already aware, Bloodborne is the PS4's spiritual successor to FROM Software's hit games Demon's Soul and Dark Souls. Both of those games are among my favorite games on the PS3. I'm eagerly awaiting this game, as it is likely going to be the reason that I end up buying a PS4.

Overall, the game looks to play similarly to the Souls games with one major exception: it takes place in a steampunk, Victorian setting instead of a medieval fantasy universe. This means that the traditional sword and shield gameplay doesn't transfer to the new setting. In fact, shields don't seem to play a role at all. Instead, the player's off-hand can be used to equip a second bladed weapon or a gun. The lack of a shield means that the game is designed to be faster-paced, and combat is intended to be more aggressive and offensive so as to encourage players to attack and dodge rather than backpedal behind their shields.

Bloodborne - bloody combat
Bloodborne looks to be a darker, bloodier, and faster-paced variation of Dark Souls - with guns!.

Little is known about the game's story so far, except that it involves people transforming into vicious beasts, and the player character is hunting them. There might also be a bit of a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" theme here, as it's been hinted that players can transform into beasts. This is presumably a replacement for the "soul form" and "hollow form" in Demon's Souls and Dark Souls (respectively). There will be multiplayer components similar to the previous Souls games, but specific details are limited.

According to a preview at a recent Sony expo, the PS4-exclusive Bloodborne will have some interesting new features:

Bloodborne to include procedurally-generated dungeon

A demo shown in December's PlayStation Experience expo in Las Vegas, Nevada (apparently, there was an official Sony PlayStation convention in Vegas that I didn't hear about until the week after it was done?) revealed an intriguing new feature: the game will include a procedurally-generated dungeon.

The "Chalice Dungeon" (as it is called), is an optional dungeon that will vary from player to player, or character to character, or game to game, or visit to visit, or moment to moment (depending on how you interpret the tranlator). A key semantic point is that the dungeon is being called a "procedurally-generated dungeon", and not a "randomly-generated dungeon". The extent of the randomness isn't entirely clear, and the demo narrator actually implied that the characteristics of the dungeon may be based on the individual player or character.

"The first aim or objective that we have with the dungeon [...]
is that it's going to change its form based on the player.
So once you walk in they are procedurally-generated,
and it's going to be ever-changing.
     - via translation from Japanese presenter

So there may be some kind of profiling system in place that allows the dungeon to generate traps and enemies that it has determined will be the most challenging for you. This would mean that the dungeon may be custom tailored to the individual player or character in some way, rather than just being a hodge-podge of booby traps and beasts. And it may even change while you are inside! It's also unclear whether the geometry of the dungeon will change, or if the game will just be swapping out enemies at traps at pre-defined locations within a pre-made game space.

Players may also have the ability to share their custom dungeon with other players. So if you get one that is particularly challenging, you can share the brutality with your friends!

The fact that the dungeon is also optional is interesting, and I think it's a good design choice. The Souls games are great in part due to their exceptional world-building, which requires careful design. A randomly-generated dungeon (or one based on player tendencies) is inherently not controllable in the way that FROM controls the rest of their level designs. So separating this dungeon from the narrative is a good move, since it doesn't compromise the carefully-designed world or narrative.

PvP based on Demon's Souls Old Monk may be returning!

There have been plenty of rumors regarding the game's multiplayer mechanics. Previews have generally suggested that the mechanics will be similar to the Souls games, but not quite exactly the same. The video above does show scenes in which a ghostly character is visible, so it seems likely that you can still see phantoms of other players in the level. But what we don't see are hint messages and summon signs.

So the co-op and invasion mechanics definitely seem to have changed.

Youtuber VaatiVidya has an excellent explanation of the features on his channel:

He discusses the procedural dungeon, and he also talks about the idea of PvPers being able to assist the boss in defeating the local player (skip to around 4:15 in the video). Such a mechanic would be similar to the Old Monk battle from Demon's Souls. I had suggested adding encounters like this to Dark Souls II. I'm glad to hear that such a mechanic may exist in Bloodborne! I also hope that it comes fairly early in the game, so that (like the Old Monk fight), it can act as a practical invasion tutorial for players and expose them to PvP and its rewards early enough that they can feel comfortable practicing it during the rest of the game.

One of my complaints with Dark Souls (especially the second one) is that PvP is more hidden and has less utility than in Demon's Souls. This discourages large chunks of the player base from ever playing PvP and leads to lots of one-sided conflicts. Encouraging - or forcing - players into unavoidable PvP scenarios is a great way ensure that everybody gets at least some practice. And hopefully, this feature isn't restrained to a single boss fight like it was in Demon's Souls. If it's spread out over more of the game, then it would give players even more practice.

This is definitely an exciting feature possibility, and I look forward to getting confirmation from the developers. I don't really care to get much more information about how it works though, because that would spoil the surprise when it does happen. One of the things that made the Old Monk so enjoyable was that it came as a total surprise the first time. Realizing that I was fighting another player put me in a panic because I had previously been killed several times in PvP. But the fact that it was a player who was trying to be summoned for co-op meant that it was a much more even and intense fight. I want that surprise and panic to be retained in Bloodborne.

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