Returning to the Scene of the Crime



The post-WoW world of MMOGs has given rise to a couple of disturbing trends, the foremost of which is that the subscription numbers a triple-A title needs to retain after launch has increased to nearly unachievable levels. The second phenomenon, tied closely to the first, is that gamers are now expecting these numbers regardless of the goals the gameÂ’s developers and investors may have set. This leads to players abandoning ship and trashing some perfectly good games when they canÂ’t replicate the success of the bloated Blizzard behemoth. The way this artificial inflation in numbers has corrupted an industry that used to view 250,000 subscribers as respectable is reminiscent of the recent housing crisis.

No sex in the champagne room? 
Luckily, for those of us who would prefer a meal created by a local chef to the bland and corporate fare served by national chains that judge their servers by the pieces of flare they wear, many developers are fighting for their games rather than simply pulling the plug. The strategy that seems to be working best for many companies is to remove the subscription barrier and allow players open access to try out and explore these worlds. Vogster has taken this approach with its third-person shooter themed MMOG, CrimeCraft. If you are new to our site, or new to CrimeCraft, I must insist that you read Benjamin J. De la DurantayeÂ’s initial review of the game. Besides being a great primer, you simply wonÂ’t find a better read than one of his articles. BenÂ’s review included several concerns as well as a bit of forecasting about the changes the developers had planned at the time. Several months have passed, and CrimeCraft has had time to stabilize, grow and implement those changes as well as some new ones. When I sat down with Kevin Ballentine and Casey Dickinson from Vogster to explore the current state of the game, I did so with these issues in mind.

Ordering a round.
Like Ben, I found CrimeCraftÂ’s graphics to be slick and easy on the eyes, with smooth gameplay and no latency or lag issues. But I also shared his and other playersÂ’ frustration over the unintuitive UI--it is as unlike a standard MMOG interface as any you are likely to encounter. ItÂ’s in this area, however, that the first improvements in CrimeCraftÂ’s player experience have been made. The tutorial has been improved and expanded, giving you adequate time and practice to master the inner workings of the various menus and interfaces. I would still personally prefer a different style of interface, but thatÂ’s my personal preference and not necessarily an indictment against whatÂ’s currently in place.

I didnÂ’t play CrimeCraft at the stage when our first review was penned so IÂ’m unsure whether the mission selection process was revamped completely or just better explained by the new tutorial, but either way the concern of queuing into the wrong scenario for your current mission has been resolved. It is now clearly noted whether the game type you are entering holds any objectives for you. This is one of the longer tutorials I have played in recent memory, but I have to thank the guys at Vogster for their insistence that I run it to completion before setting me loose to wreak havoc.

Aiming to Misbehave.

CrimeCraft may not look like it has all of the pieces that make up your run of the mill MMOG but rest assured, they are all present. PvE questing, a bustling player driven economy, tradeskills, avatar advancement and PvP are all well represented, with PvP being the real meat of the game. As a former Unreal Tournament addict I know all too well the allure of leaderboards, tournaments and bragging rights, all of which are seamlessly integrated here. During mission play you can see a leaderboard for players of your level and there is also a ranking system which is determined by your kill vs. death ratio, level, weapons, equipped items and boosts. In town you can view a leaderboard and tournament bracket results for the daily team tournaments. This is one of the additions I could tell had received a lot of time and consideration, and based on its popularity with the community, it was effort well spent.

During my tour of the game we ran several scenarios, most of which were PvE based and showed off the speed and power of the combat system well. After being abused for a couple matches I rebound my hotkeys, got some good advice and started feeling less the hunted and more like the hunter. Pointing the barrel end at the enemies really helped (thanks for the tip Casey.) Moving on to PvP is where I really found what I was looking for. I mentioned earlier my obsession with UT, the game that almost flunked me out of college. What I didnÂ’t tell you was that it was the last FPS I played once I tripped over EQ. I had forgotten the thrill of strapping on a sidearm and blasting the virtual brains out of an enemy who wasnÂ’t computer controlled. The marriage of this FPS-style action with the complexity offered in MMOGs is a great combination.


This isn't your dad's shooter.

Community is a pillar that will hold a game up through all sorts of adversity, and it is with this aspect that I see the most potential growth in CrimeCraft. Gangs form the base of this pillar and the additions that Vogster has implemented reinforced the power of strength in numbers. Gangs can now own and operate their own clubs, where they can gather and meet to watch scantily clad females dance on poles, sell top end boosts (in the form of beverages from a bartender), listen to blaring music or get a private lap dance. Top end gangs, those who can craft the best boosts, can post a hefty cover charge for the ability to access these stat-increasing elixirs. Gang leaders can now challenge other gangs to a war for bragging rights and cash. Imagine settling a beef with a rival guild in your current game in this fashion. (Okay, now try imaging it without that grin on your face.) With even more plans in the works on how to strengthen gangs, this layer of the game will become the one that gives CrimeCraft the most bang for the buck.


Gang Clubs add an extra layer of depth to CrimeCraft.

Value is one area that I was most interested in and concerned with. In my writings here at Ten Ton Hammer I focus mainly on the free-to-play community and the games that make it up. One of my biggest barometers for long term playability is the tenet that no item that directly impacts gameplay should be available solely in the cash shop. On the flip side of that, I also believe that players should be able to buy worthwhile and interesting items to help customize and personalize their characters. While CrimeCraft shares these goals, they havenÂ’t fleshed out the cash shop completely yet. While we washed the blood off our hands from our sanguine tour of Sunset City the talk quickly turned to the itemization plans and, based on that conversation, my biggest worry about the game was assuaged. Kevin was even good enough to forward me over a written plan of what the future holds and I want to share that with you:

Since CrimeCraft has moved to a true Free to Play model, we have been planning to implement a more extensive Black Market/Real Money Economy where players can choose greater options for character and game play for Gold Bars.  All items that are sold for Gold Bars in the Black Market can also be earned in game play through crafting and loot drops. Features that are sold for Gold Bars supplement the game play experience but are not critical or necessary to enjoying the core features of the game.

One feature sold for Gold Bars will be Pre-Sets. These are additional paper dolls, allowing multiple builds on the same character. A player could have a separate build for PVE and PVP, or for tournaments vs. everyday gaming. Players will be able to purchase a pre-set directly from the paper doll UI. This additional paper doll can be customized down to clothes, weapons, AUGs, Attachments, Abilities and Boosts. Players with presets are also given the ability to respawn as a different preset any time they die, allowing players to tactfully change their load-out to meet the changing demands of a battle.

WeÂ’ll also be selling the ability to remove Attachments and Weapon Modification Kits. Currently, players can remove these from their weapons, but the Attachment/WMK is destroyed in the process. From the Black Market Vendor, these can be removed with destroying the Attachment/WMK. Even better, players will be able to purchase Premium Weapon Repairs that completely restore the item and increase item durability back to its original value.

The Black Market vendor also will sell ingredient packs in each tier for all of the crafting professions. These packs will include five ingredients at tier 1 up to eight ingredients at tier 4. To really crank up the crafting, players will be able to purchase craft recipes and even a second crafting profession for their characters.

We will also continue to expand the way we are handling the cosmetic clothing purchases. WeÂ’ll be rolling out a variety of new clothing styles and a revised rolling availability for items that will make sure we are able to continuously add new content and new styles to the game while meeting our demanding technical goals for quality. Clothing styles will cycle through the game monthly with some items being Limited Edition to ensure that players will truly have their own unique style.

All Rarity 2 and 3 AUGs, weapons, clothes, attachments, ammo and boosts will also be available for Gold Bar purchase through the Black Market. Players will be able to craft these items and sell them on the Pawn Shop (Auction House) giving buyers the option to support their local crafter via in-game currency or buy directly off the Black Market for Gold Bars.

Our players have asked for more options on how to expand their game play experience and these changes should exceed expectations. WeÂ’ll continue to look for innovative ways to add to the game, whether through free content updates or through the continued addition of optional features that will only appeal to the hardcore player. Our goal is to make CrimeCraft a fun experience for ALL players with customized content for players who want it.

Keep in mind that these plans are still in a testing stage and are subject to change, but based on VogsterÂ’s track record of implementing nearly every planned addition to date, I doubt this is an empty promise. With the the current additions alone taken into consideration, the game has improved by leaps and bounds over the version that shipped.


Lapdances start out racy and get more risque.

Mature gamers who enjoy gunplay, crafting, loads of competitive banter and half-naked gyrating bodies will easily find a home here. The only concern I have is that our inherent lack of patience as gamers may cause those folks who have formed a strong connection with their avatar to grow frustrated as they wait for more vanity items and more customization than is currently available. CrimeCraft is still evolving and coming into its own, but with the implementation of a stronger item shop and a bit of patience on the part of the playerbase this should be one more franchise to add to the growing example of high quality subscriptionless games.

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