GDC09: Our look at CrimeCraft

Shawn Schuster
S. Schuster|03.30.09

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GDC09: Our look at CrimeCraft

Vogster and CrimeCraft have enjoyed a period of calm before the storm during their development cycle, but at this year's Game Developers Conference, they were out in full force showing off their upcoming crime MMO. You may already know Vogster as the creator of a few games on other platforms, but they're actually a fairly large studio with offices in New Jersey, Chicago, Moscow and Kiev, Ukraine. During GDC, we were able to sit down with Casey Dickinson, Senior Marketing Manager, and Matt McEnerney, Executive Producer, for an in-depth look at what this game has to offer.

So what is CrimeCraft exactly? Well, in a nutshell, it could be considered more of a shooter wrapped in an MMO shell powered by the Unreal 3 engine. Or as they describe it, a Persistent World Next-gen Shooter (PWNS... get it). They recognize the fact that first and foremost, this game is a shooter. This is evident in the gameplay style and general feel of the game. So where exactly does the MMO part come in? That's precisely what we plan to uncover! Keep reading to find out more from our interview and demo of CrimeCraft.%Gallery-48843%
Character Creation
Truly extensive character customization is expected from an MMO these days, and CrimeCraft doesn't disappoint here. From hair and facial feature sliders to a clothing system that will be directly pulled from the shelves of top designers (a creative way to provide ad revenue for Vogster), you will have the opportunity to make some pretty amazing characters. Even the weapons are customizable with patterns and colors applied during the character creation process. "We're going to give you the freedom and the range to do whatever you want to do." McEnerney tells us. "So if you want a pink polka-dot assault rifle, go right ahead."

That said, the body details themselves are kept quite simple since the game is still primarily a shooter. The main concern here is to keep the hit boxes consistent, otherwise everyone would be making the smallest, thinnest characters to avoid the bullets from other players.

The concentration on clothing and item customization is there because the game is about gangs. They want you to be able to create a look for you and the others in your gang, but at the same time, you don't want to look like everyone else. That feature is a major strength of CrimeCraft.

Are there classes?
When you pick your character, you can pick the weapons and items according to your own style, not really a style predefined in a class. If your friends tend to go more for baseball bats and brass knuckles, you can grab a sniper rifle and be the eye in the sky for them. Even if you decide later that you don't like what you've picked, respecs will be available.

Ripped straight from the headlines: "Ecological disaster causes domino effect. Financial ruin. Society is totally in chaos." This forces the cities to build walls around them to keep order. Your characters can't actually fight within these walls, but when you leave the common city areas, it's every gang banger for themselves.

We were told that there are six factions built into the game from the start, although not much else was said about that. Pertaining to the storyline, it's assumed that these factions will play heavily into character development and the focus of your gangs.

The missions and quests will be similar to what you'd find in most other RPGs. You can access these through "over 70" quest-giving NPCs or through objects like a pay phone. These missions are story-driven and will relate to gangs in the game. Even the PvP and PvE battles themselves will have that crime theme running throughout. It's not simply capturing the flag, you will actually be robbing their safe or fighting for control of that street corner. There will also be jobs in the game which will help you in the leveling system.

Leveling and advancement
At each level ding, your character will gain ability points. These points will act as skill points to be distributed throughout passive and active abilities. While the game will be mostly player skill-based (as any good shooter is), these abilities will help with other aspects of the game such as health regen boosts, etc.

The level cap is set at 50 currently, but Vogster has established a system where all players can co-exist on the battlefield. Since combat is based on how well you can aim and shoot, the abilities you unlock through levelings will not directly affect that part of it.

Gangs are basically your guilds or clans. They can have special housing called "cribs" that have unlockable interior features like crafting stations, gang bank accounts, and more from the in-game mail system. When asked about the possibility of gang vs. gang turf wars on the cribs (drive-by, anyone?), we were told that that isn't in place yet, but it's been in discussions.

Grouping and combat
This is where the game gets back into that heavy shooter feel. You'll meet up other players in the common areas and peruse the matchmaking system that includes all of your typical shooter maps: team death match, control point, capture the flag and a wide variety of maps to simply battle with your friends. These work in both PvP and PvE environments and are available to every player from the beginning. Vogster understands that there's nothing more frustrating than not being able to play with your friends, so why perpetuate that barrier?

In PvE, you will join on the fly, so they're always running. The two major PvE game modes include a defensive battle and an attack mode where you will fight a boss at the end. Each of these will have three levels of difficulty from easy, medium and hard. These levels dictate what types of loot you'll receive as drops. The harder the difficulty, the more chance you'll have to get a rare loot drop.

In PvP, it will be all about the bragging rights. Not only will you be playing against other players in an 8v8 setting, but there will be a reputation system that facilitate leaderboards for players and gangs alike. These leaderboards will reset every month to give players a chance to step up their game and start new each month with the added incentive of in-game item rewards.

Yes there will be crafting in this game, and yes it will be quite important. Not only will be able to craft some of the best items in the game through crafting (with certain comparable drops only available from the hardest bosses), you can specialize in four categories: clothing, weapons, weapon attachments and boosts. If you're wondering, yes boosts are essentially drugs in the game, although you can think of them more like "potions" that have both positive and negative effects when consumed.

Crafting takes place in your gang's crib, and gangs will actually specialize in certain crafting categories, instead of it being up to your individual character. So it's entirely possible for your gang to become a cartel selling boost on the street corners, while killing off any rivals who dare sell their own product on your turf.

But not only that, there's also a pawn shop in game which acts as an auction house. This is used to sell dropped or crafted items to other players, creating more of a player-based economy.

Payment options
While the game doesn't have a definite payment plan just yet, we're told that there will certainly be RMT in place for the more fashionable items. This can be in the form of certain designer clothing, consumables or even respec tokens. In-game ads will also be used throughout the game to help offset the high cost of development, but these ads can also be used for something else. The proprietary system will allow Vogster to display certain events or achievements such as when the leaderboards are updated or an in-game holiday event has begun.

In all, CrimeCraft marries two distinctive styles quite well: the action-packed shooter and the character development of an MMO. They're allowing you the chance to build a story for yourself in this crime-addled universe of drugs and violence, while focusing the combat on a system that makes the most sense in this genre. Forget dice rolls and 30-second cooldowns on spells. When it gets right down to it, it's your skill with a gun (on a screen, mind you) that determines who wins and loses.

With a launch date of Q3 of this year, we look forward to seeing how CrimeCraft pans out among contenders in the cross-genre field like Huxley and Global Agenda. We also look forward to seeing much more of this game, and you can count on us to bring you the latest.
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