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E3 2009: CrimeCraft producer says game is the next step for Call of Duty, Halo players

Tracey John

All Points Bulletin wasn't the only crime-themed MMO I saw at E3 last week. I also got to check out Vogster Entertainment's CrimeCraft. Just before the conference, the developer announced an August 25 release date, a monthly subscription as their business model and an exclusive deal with Best Buy.

On the floor, associate producer Aaron Krasnov laid down what's new in the game, how it's different from APB, the help he got from former Warhammer Online developers and how CrimeCraft is a natural progression for players of Halo and Call of Duty.

Gallery: CrimeCraft | 10 Photos

Since we last saw CrimeCraft at GDC in March, the developers at Vogster Entertainment have added a slew of things to the game. First, they've built out their customization options. Krasnov said that they've added more clothing choices as well as more options in the game's gun customization, which now allows for pattern-texture, various colors and up to five weapon attachments, like barrels and scopes.

He also told me that they've added new environments, including two new lobbies based on downtown Brooklyn, New York. "We want each of our lobbies to have a different feel, and we want players to be able feel at home," Krasnov explained. "If they don't like night-time neon, they can run around in the sun where everything is happy. There are just more places for players to live and breathe."

In addition to environments, the developer has fleshed out new new matches and instances. There's also a new system that allows players to seamlessly jump from the city and straight into battle. "We've built out our levels now so you can play almost any game type on any map," Krasnov added. "We want players to be able to play what map they want with what game type they want. So it's just more maps, more content and getting ready for launch."

"This is a game about skill. This isn't a game about leveling up."

Another part of CrimeCraft that's received some tweaking is the story. Senior content producer Mike Donatelli, the former content design lead for Warhammer Online, has been helping to build out the content for CrimeCraft. "On the story end and on the itemization end, he's been really key in getting all of our loot tables done and itemization in place," Krasnov said, "as well as bringing those kind of persistent story elements and world-building stuff right into our game -- which is awesome because we didn't have that previously."

He continued, "We've now built an over-arcing story structure about the gangs and the players and how that's going to work out. We know how it's going to start and how it's going to progress. We want us to help gangs grow and brand those gangs within our world to give player identity a big push in our story."

With all the emphasis on character customization and player identity within the game, I couldn't help but think of two of the "three C's" that competing crime MMO All Points Bulletin is focusing on -- "creativity" and "celebrity." I asked Krasnov what he thought about Realtime Worlds' title and its similar themes.

"APB, from what I understand, is more of a full-featured MMO than we are, and we're not trying to be full-featured MMO," he said. "We just really want to be a solid shooter with good character customization and building tools with solid social community aspects. APB only has 100 people per server. We have 1500. To be fair, I haven't seen anything besides the trailer. Their character customization is amazing, and outside of that, I just think that we're a very, very different game." [Edit: The number quoted by Krasnov is incorrect. Realtime Worlds has clarified that it's 100 people per district, and entire servers can have up to 10,000 players each.]

But it's not only APB that the makers of CrimeCraft have to worry about. On the show floor at E3, there were a handful of other games -- Global Agenda, The Agency, Fallen Earth -- all trying to convince me that their MMO shooter was the right one for me.

"We've kind of our own little place in that we're more of a shooter than those games," Krasnov contended. "What we're doing right now is making sure we have the community tools and the content ready and we're making a push to get this into the competitive shooter space."

In fact, Krasnov explained that CrimeCraft is, first and foremost, a shooter. "We take our shooter above everything else and built some other elements into it," he said. "As we made the game, we wanted complete parity between a level one player and level 15 in the actual shooter itself. We don't want a level 15 wiping the floor with a level one character. A level 50 character with max gear can only be twice as good as a level one character, so we're able to show the players that this is a game about skill. This isn't a game about leveling up."

"We want to introduce the FPS players... to all of the great character-building content that MMOs deliver and put that into their world in a way that makes sense."

The company also plans to run their own tournaments and have a robust community site that displays in-game stats. Krasnov said that they're giving players the tools to judge their skills and place it on leaderboards with the "reputation system," a rating that shows how good the player and his/her gang is in the game. Based on that, players will be rewarded with titles and special items. "I think because of that, we fit in the competitive shooter space, whereas those other games are more filling out the MMO space," he reiterated. "We want to introduce the first-person shooter players, the Halo and Call of Duty 4 people to all of the great character-building content that MMOs deliver and put that into their world in a way that makes sense."

Citing the RPG aspects in Call of Duty 4, Krasnov thought that adding these elements was more a natural progression for the shooter, and that a game like CrimeCraft is the next logical step. "We want to give players the tools to plan their event, get right into matches, do their gang wars type stuff but also have a crib to hang out in and decorate," he said. "There are cool things that are in MMOs that I think shooter fans just haven't really been party to before this."

With all this focus on appeasing shooter players, I wondered if the developers had to compromise any of the MMO features that were being put into the game. Krasnov said MMO players needn't worry. He revealed that Chris Behrens, another Warhammer Online content designer, had revamped the crafting system, something that MMO gamers will appreciate. "We're now almost as in-depth as EVE Online's crafting system but it's still very accessible for the first-person shooter crowd," he said. "One thing we're doing is that gangs must pick a craft type. We're playing with the dynamics of the auction house so that gangs will be able to corner the market on certain things... so we're going to start seeing rivalries and some cool economic stuff for that."

With Vogster having both shooter and MMO gamers in mind, it seems that the main barrier to entry now is the fact that CrimeCraft is only available on the PC. "We understand that we'd be a very good fit for consoles," Krasnov said with a smile. "It's something we're looking into."

CrimeCraft will be released on August 25 in Best Buy stores and via digital distribution.

Massively was on the ground in Los Angeles last week and covering all the latest E3 MMO news coming from the convention. Check out our breaking coverage (or all the Joystiq network E3 reporting) and keep your eye on Massively's front page for the latest developments.

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