Game and Business Model Changes
It was a sunny day in San Francisco and I, with other game journalists were in the University Club on Powell, high on Nob Hill, playing CrimeCraft by Vogster Entertainment. CrimeCraft is billed as a Persistent World Next-Gen Shooter (PWNS - cute) set in not-quite a post-apocalyptic world, but one in the near future where devastating ecological disaster has created a near collapse of civilization, cities have walled themselves in and armed quasi-military enforcer groups keep the peace. Play nice in the cities now, your gang may be hot-shit but within the walls of the city, you are a peaceful citizen, talking to the guards, saying hello to Captain Jones who may give you a mission to clean out that dilapidated warehouse on the fringe of the city, just beyond the wall. You can also go head to head against other gangs, but outside the wall, kids.
The three major player hubs are beautiful. Nothing post-apocalyptic about it. No abandoned cars and buses or trashed, bombed buildings. Instead, you see pristine architecture, working neon signs and billboards, and trees. Yes, trees still grow in these large pockets of carefully controlled civilization. Gangs, well, they head outside to determine who's biggest and baddest, then strut their stuff inside, displaying gang logos on their gear and strutting it, but no turf wars in this city. That is how CrimeCraft plays. Large city hubs where NPCs are scattered for your trading, crafting, gang housing, an instanced PvE mission system where most of your crafting materials drop and instanced PvP maps with different scenarios for as many as 8 vs 8.
CrimeCraft launched on August 25 with box-sets available from their exclusive retailer BestBuy to reviews critical of the price to value of the game and reviewer inability to obtain review copies. Vogster Entertainment's purpose this last day of September, was to inform members of the media of the changes they have planned that will roll out October 26th, 2009. Without going into reasons and specifics, Senior Marketing Manager Casey Dickinson of Vogster informed us of the changes forthcoming in their business plan.
The original cost of the game was $49.99 with two months free, plus a $9.99 subscription thereafter, a micro-transaction system using Gold Bars costing about a nickel a bar, which bought your cosmetic changes - hair, clothing, etc. and what seemed to be an in-game advertising system of bill boards and shop window signage.
Come October 26th, the price of the game will be dropped by $10 to $39.99, three months of free play will be included as well as exclusive items and $5 of Gold Bars. Two subscription tiers will be available; $4.99 monthly which only provides two skills, one augment and one boost and $9.99 which gives you three skills, two augments and two boosts. Both subscription levels also provide a stipend of Gold Bars, the cash-shop currency. A content limited trial will also be available for players wanting to try the game for free and players will be able to move to a subscription model easily from the trial.
"We need the casual players in this game as much as we need the hard-core," said Mario Kroll, Director of Marketing at Vogster Entertainment. Gangs need plenty of members and Vogster is making sure that it is easy to change subscription models at any time.
"We have not forgotten our early adopters," Mario was careful to point out. "We also will have a customer loyalty program which retros the free month of play to them, and they will receive the Original Gangster in-game title."
Associate Producer Aaron Krasnov talked about the advantages of being in a gang. Firstly, gang members can make sure they are on the same side in the PvP instances when they join a game in the PvP lobby. Then there are gang hideouts. As gangs increase in size and reputation, they will be able to unlock and purchase all lobby NPCs so they don't have to run around in the common world to do their daily transactions. Also, gangs can specialize in crafting skills. The highest level of crafting stations can only be unlocked inside a gang hideout. Just as players gain levels and skills, gangs do the same.
Also rolling out on October 26th is a major content update. At that time, players will be able to play PvE missions throughout all maps, and not just the two maps currently available. More Jobs and Missions will be introduced and loot drops in all instances have been tweaked and increased. Jobs in CrimeCraft are the short quests - the FedEx delivery, "do-me-a-favor" types and Missions are the story related and thread into the larger overarching storylines.
The cityscapes in CrimeCraft are inspired by the large cities in America. Players familiar with New York, San Francisco and LA to name a few, may see street corners reminiscent of some iconic areas such as Times Square. Vogster makes good use of the Unreal engine and graphics and animations are top notch. The billboards in game right now feature Vogster's partners in creating CrimeCraft and WEC fighter Jens Pulver will become an NPC in the game in December. According to Mario, whether they become real in-game advertising is a decision for the future. For now, they provide a way to feature their partners and to provide some life and character to the cityscape. They will also be used to publish the various player and gang leader boards in-game.
A feature built into the game for players is Voice-over-IP using a system that was built in-house so players do not have to go through a third party for gang communications. Vogster is planning for tournaments with some "pretty nice prizes" and there will be some weighting involved so that new players will have a chance against seasoned players. Also in the works is the gang tournament system which will also be launched October 26th.
Many things are in the works at Vogster Entertainment for CrimeCraft. A change to the business plan, major content updates, even Facebook and iPhone applications as well Gang web pages with their own forums. Whether Vogster has made a game that gives players an experience that is value for their money remains to be seen, but they are taking steps in the right direction to address the current perceived shortcomings.