This week saw the full launch of free-to-play shooter Warface on Xbox 360 and we had a chance to talk to senior producer Wim Coveliers about the game and its future.
While Crytek may still be best known among gamers for creating Far Cry and Crysis, their free-to-play offering Warface has already reached 25 million registered players since first launching on PC in Russia back in 2012. The game officially launched in PC in Europe in October and this week the Xbox 360 version of the game dropped it's beta tag.
Warface offers a mix of straight forward PvP action like Team Deathmatch and Free-for-All as well as co-op oriented PvE missions that can be described as similar to Spec Ops missions in Call of Duty. The action is class-based as players unlock Medic, Sniper and Engineer classes after starting out with the Rifleman.
Wim Coveliers, is senior producer working out of Crytek Kiev, the team chiefly responsible for the game even if development now spans all Crytek's various development studios to varying degrees as the project has grown in scope.
"It's a very dynamic and interesting, but somewhat stressful experience. You have to make sure that we understand what are the things that we need to do. Prioritise those things so that we can work on the right things first. And then working with the different teams to ensure that they're working on the right things. That's a challenge, but it's an interesting and very satisfying one."
"As soon as something goes live you will immediately see what [people] think about it, how they play it, what they like, what they don't like and you can continuously craft that experience, which is really fun."
Speaking specifically about the Xbox 360 game, Coveliers had this to say:
"We've been really happy to see the reactions coming out of people playing the open beta [on Xbox 360]. People have generally been quite positive about it."
Are then Xbox 360 players different than those on Gface and PC, or is perhaps more tied to geographic preferences?
"Gamers in the West tend to have the same requests regardless of whether they play on console or on PC. You do see different requests coming from the players in different countries, because people are just to playing game slightly differently in some countries so the requests that they put forward are... different. It's funny because, most of them are totally compatible to eachother it's just that you know where some territories or countries will think that it's much more important to have some new, I don't know, e-sport stuff in the game, others will think that just more maps or more weapons are more important. But all of them want the same thing, they just have different focuses I guess."
One of the major differences between Warface and most other free-to-play shooters is the inclusion of a fully fleshed out co-op mode.
"One of the problems that we sort of realised was there in the existing multiplayer games that exist is that it's very hard to customise the difficulty of the experience. You play against real people you can't go and asked them 'hey, can you kill a little bit less people', you know that just doesn't work. So that's really where the co-op mode comes from. So with the co-op we try to give variable levels of challenge, cause I mean, yes, if you want to play every single mission that we have it will get quite challenging, cause I think that's important. But at the same time if you really want to you can just keep to the easy missions or the medium missions and that's not too challenging and it will get you to grips with the game and once you've played a couple of those maybe you can move on to the next level."
"We let people do it at their own pace, but I do think it's important that you put some level of challenge in even in co-op, because people love that. We want people to play for a long time, so if you've played the game for a couple of tens of hour, having that really hard mission that requires you to work together as a team to really figure out where the strengths and the weaknesses of the team are in order to get to a certain point. I think that's really important."
The free-to-play model is often criticised for promoting 'pay-to-win' scenarios, Coveliers explains how Crytek handle the business model and what their focus is.
"What is sometimes lost in the free-to-play space is that games need to be fun. No mattter what you spend on it what you do with it. What we do is we leave the choice of whether they want to pay or not to the user. Rather than us telling them 'you have to pay now in order to continue doing A' we let them decide 'well, I actually want to buy this weapon and I don't want to spend my in-game money on it, I want to spend real money on it, cause then I can spend my in-game money on something else'. And it seems to be working. People are still playing, some people are paying, some people are not paying, everybody is playing so it sort of works."
"We're not forcing people to start paying up when their energy runs out or whatever. We stay away from that, we just want to make sure it's a fair game. So even if you spend money into the game we don't want people to feel they get an unfair advantage or that people who don't pay are at a total disadvantage. So at the base of it the decision to pay basically comes from a 'do I want to spend a little more time playing the game so I can get some more money to pay for this weapon' against 'oh I actually don't mind spending a couple of dollars in the game and getting this weapon and something else without having to get the in-game money'. So to that end most of the items you can buy in the shop you can buy with both currencies."
What of the future then? Warface is just out on Xbox 360 and plans are in place to roll it out across several new territories on PC. New content is the lifeblood of the game.
"Warface is a service and we take that really seriously. So that means we will continue to service the game with a whole bunch of new stuff. New everything - weapons, features, maps, levels, whatever you can think of is what we'll be adding to the game."
"Because we want to be nimble, because we want to be able to react to [player requests] quickly we don't really set everything in our roadmap. But that said, we know there are certain things we want to invest in. Like making the game a little bit more sociable, having better support for clans and e-sport in the game. Stuff like that are definitely things we want to invest in for the future."
With the Xbox 360 version out in the wild, are Crytek looking towards Xbox One next?
"When you work in the video games industry all platforms are always in your mind, but we don't have any plans for it right now. So we want to focus on making the Xbox 360 [game] that product it needs to be and the success that it deserves to be and so once we've sort of established that and once we've gotten something that's good, once we've launched it, we might start looking at other things."
Warface is currently available to play for free via Warface.com on PC, and the Xbox 360 version is free with Xbox Live Gold membership. The screens in this article are of the PC version.