Gangland Gankage - A CrimeCraft Hands-On Preview
CrimeCraft exploded onto the scene less than four months ago, part of a new wave of “perpetual world shooters,” an up-and-coming niche that includes Huxley and Global Agenda. With a growing beta crowd and a release date set less than two months away, I asked Senior Designer Mike Donatelli how Vogster was able to get CrimeCraft out the door in such short order. “We only have about 10 American developers,” Mike explained, “but we have this huge 200 developer studio in the Ukraine. They’re basically spinning their wheels; we’re basically ready to go.”
The concept of green space didn't occur to Sunset City's planners.
Mike illustrated what a powerhouse he has in his Kiev studio is by describing his newspaper concept. “One of my favorite things is a newspaper. It’s on the dev server, it’s a done deal, but you can’t see it here. Basically, we track a lot more stats than the players can see. We can see what gangs are fighting each other and we’re going to write stories in this newspaper, not necessarily that this player pwned this player in an instance but crazy stories about these gangs.
“ typed up the technical design document [for the newspaper idea] and asked how long it would take. There’s a lag due to the time difference, so I didn’t hear from him until the following day. He emails me back and says, ‘Yea, it’s done.’ I was like, what do you mean it’s done? I just need you to sign off on it. He said, ‘No no no, it’s in the game.’ And that’s why I can say that our schedule of monthly updates is super-impressive, it’s like nothing that’s ever been heard of before. We’re just going to pick up and keep on going.”
But CrimeCraft breaks the mold in more ways than simply shortening the standard three year development cycle. “We’re not a traditional MMO,” Donatelli explained. “I play every night. We get a lot of level 1 MMO guys screaming bloody murder because they don’t understand what we’re trying to do. Don’t get me wrong, there’s story. There’s a bank, an auctionhouse, crafting, instances, so we have some of the trappings of an MMO. But we have just a few narrative, solo missions and PvE instances designed to set a context for the world... a ship with a boss that spawns and you can grind and get good loot off of, for example, but we’re not a PvE game.”
CrimeCraft is set in the fictitious Sunset City just a few years after a major worldwide financial collapse. “We’re not post-apocalyptic, but we’re circling the bowl,” Mike joked. Walled “city states” still trade with one another, and protecting (or attacking) these cities and the trade between them is a big part of the game. But outside the protection of the city, violence reigns among the “super gangs,” spawning faction-based content and CrimeCraft’s core gameplay: 8v8 instances where tactics and skill reign over levels and equipment. Instances come in various types, from team vs. team deathmatch to standard CTF to “robbery” - where teams must steal cash from the opposing team’s safe and carry it back to their safe for deposit. Instances are timed and typically take less than ten minutes to play.
Gangs, drugs, and guns in a game built in a ex-Soviet bloc country and New Jersey. It's almost a sim.
Four crafting progressions are available in CrimeCraft: Guns, Gun Attachments, Boosts, and Clothing. Everything except boosts can be dyed or overlaid (with preset patterns, no plans to upload your tags) seperately and will show up on your character. “If you want a purple scope with a pink polka-dot rifle, have at it,” Exec. Producer Matt McErney joked, but explained that you’d either have to find these dyes and overlays as drops or buy them. Clothing has stats and can take “attachments” too, such as nano-technology, fire resistance, or a ballistic coating that improves armor rating without adding weight that slows you down.
Guns come in nine weapon types; four primary weapons (rocket launchers, grenade launchers, sniper rifle, and light machine guns), and five secondary weapons (assault rifles, shotguns, pistols, submachine guns, and grenades), with six attachments per weapon. The heavier the weapon, the more attachments, the slower you run. Customization is key in CrimeCraft, “We want you to be able to take the game as seriously as you want to take it; if you want to be paramilitary, go get the camo gear and the assault weapons and rocket launchers, but if you want to go out as pirates or ninjas, we’re good with that too,” Matt intoned.
Outside of the ceasefire zone of Sunset City, the game is entirely instance driven, with matches currently fixed at 8 vs. 8 (Mike was careful to note that “if we want to go bigger [than 8v8], we can go bigger. But we have no plans to go bigger right now”). Missions, aside from the narrative PvE content described above, “When you finish an instance, you basically get three things: experience points, in-game cash, and items. With experience you gain levels [to a current max of 50] and with levels you gain skill points. Skill points allow you to pick different skills, whether it’s active abilities like planting land mines and grenades, or passive abilities like improved radar or increased running speed. When you’re a higher level, you can still only carry three abilities with you into an instance, but you have a much wider choice.”
Two guns and a quick switching finger means never running out of ammo mid-firefight.
That limit means that while a level 50 player might be better equipped and more versatile, a level 10 player has a decent chance to take that level 50 down if he or she plays smart. “A level 1 has the same number of hitpoints as a level 50,” Mike explained. Levels mean little when you take a point-blank shotgun blast in the face, just like in real life, but in certain match types (like capture-the-flag) a level 50 could equip key abilities (like speed boost or stealth) to turn the battle in his team’s favor. To prove that skill matters much more than level, Mike described one high level gang that re-rolled level one players naked except for cowboy hats, cowboy boots, and pistols. According to Mike, this gang nonetheless continued to dominate the instances. “It’s all tactical.”
As for the gangs, Mike hammered home that he wants CrimeCraft to be a social experience. “Everything we do hovers around gangs. Gangs earn reputation based on how they do in instances, and they can earn gang perks, access to better crafting, etc.”
As for “quests,” players use one of Sunset City’s payphones to grab up to 20 “missions” at once. Missions are a lot like paid achievements - i.e. kill 10 players with a headshot or kill 10 players packing a rocket launcher with a pistol - with more cash for tougher missions. Jobs, CrimeCraft’s more traditional take on missions, will be available as well at times throughout the game.
The Vogster team discussed their pricing model for the game for the first time at E3 as well. “We’ll have an incredible amount of new content monthly, but instead of the episodic stuff like Guild Wars would do, we’re going to charge a moderate server fee (because we’re going to have 24-hour customer service, we’ll host the servers, we’ll host the anti-hack software, we’re going to host the tournaments and have refs for those tournaments). We’re providing a decent amount of customer service, and it’s not that much money. We’re hoping people say ‘that’s not that much money, I can pay for that and pay for another game.’
Tactics mean everything in a game balanced so that a level one players can kill a level 50.
“But we’re going to have premium items, and that’s the split. My mandate was that they could not affect skill. It won’t be like other games where you can buy the best sniper rifle in the game if you have enough money. So what we did is that you can go to a merchant, and say you have a helmet that has awesome stats. You can have that merchant make you another style of hat, say, a cowboy hat. So it’s ultimate modification, you can look exactly how you want to look and not sacrifice anything.” It’s an idea that gangs have really put to good use, Donatelli explained, with many gangs choosing a color and style all their own. As for how much this might cost? “It’s not going to be fifty cents for an outfit, it’s going to be on the cheap side,” Mike enigmatically answered.
As for the future of CrimeCraft, post-launch? “I want to do monthly content updates, new buildings, new instances. [Vogster] signed off on it, so we’re a go - we’re going to update every month with new challenges.” In addition to monthly content, look forward to live events and tournaments run by the live team.
Surprisingly, the Vogster team even has a fairly concrete idea on what they want to do for an expansion before the game even launches. “It’s kind of like back in World War 2, when the Italian mobsters would team up to fight the Germans. So these gangs might have to band together to fight an outside threat. We have a plan, it’s there, but we want players to drive it there. We want players to clamor for vehicle combat so we can say that the gas is all going, say, here. But the military took it, so we want to have this big lobby that takes place on an abandoned military base. Or maybe Vegas-style, indoors, with crazy lights. We want to do stuff like that, but we’re hoping to get players’ feedback on what they want and let that drive the game.”