From its focus on heists to its ambitions of offering meaty experiences on both co-op and single player fronts, from its 90s-inspired setting of a crime-ridden city to its star-studded cast of Hollywood A-listers, Crime Boss: Rockay City has certainly made no few major promises that have turned quite a few heads. The first person shooter recently launched for PC, and in the lead-up to its launch, we reached out to its developers with some of our most burning questions about the game, and what makes it tick. You can read our full interview with InGame Studios’ head of development Jarek Kolar below.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s launch.
"In Crime Boss the Hollywood superstars do play their most iconic characters from the 90s. We haven’t cast them in our story, we have invited them to go back in time, let them again experience what they have been famous for since 30 years ago."
Obviously, one of the most eye-catching things about Crime Boss: Rockay City is its incredibly star-studded cast. What motivated the decision to go with a cast full of such recognizable actors for this game, and what has the process of working with them been like?
Signing up all these Hollywood talents took quite a significant time and the cooperation with their busy schedules is quite difficult. But their input into the characters via their voice acting is extremely valuable. It’s improving the narrative experience quite dramatically.
In Crime Boss the Hollywood superstars do play their most iconic characters from the 90s. We haven’t cast them in our story, we have invited them to go back in time, let them again experience what they have been famous for since 30 years ago. With Unreal Engine technology we have provided them with their young bodies and let them jump into the story of Rockay City.
The game portrays these actors in their physicality of the late 80s and early 90s. For example, Mr. Chuck Norris is now 82 years old. So, it was not possible to use photo scan or mocap. But they did record the voice lines for their characters, and sometimes also amended the script lines with their take on those characters, that they have portrayed in the 90s.
Co-op is obviously going to be a big part of the experience, but what would you say to players who’re looking for a single player experience?
The primary game mode, Baker’s battle, it is the single player campaign – a narrative roguelike experience. There are other game modes, Urban Legends and Crime Time which utilize the cooperative play.
Baker’s Battle is the ultimate single player experience of Crime Boss, where players take on the role of Travis Baker, played by Michael Madsen.
Every step of the way you are competing against Sheriff Norris, who is in charge of law enforcement and will be constantly collecting evidence against you. The better planned a job, and the better executed it is, the less evidence you’ll leave behind. Go in all guns blazing and Norris will likely win in the long run.
Maintain your turf and fight various gang bosses of Rockay City including Dollar Dragon, played by Danny Trejo, Hielo, played by Vanilla Ice, a cunning Asian warlord, and the dreaded Italian mafia.
The end goal of Baker’s Battle is to become the King of Rockay, which means dominating every inch of turf in the city.
"Baker’s Battle is the ultimate single player experience of Crime Boss, where players take on the role of Travis Baker, played by Michael Madsen."
Specifically where the game’s big set piece heists are concerned, what can you tell us about their structure? What sort of a balance will they strike between stealth and combat?
The big heists are the highlight of the heisting of Crime Boss. The main ingredients unpredicted challenge and replayability. The big heists are designed for coop gameplay and are 10-30 minutes long. They are quite challenging to finish in the flow single player campaign, but then Baker became super rich.
The flow of the heists is set by designers. It has relatively linear structure, so the objectives are often very same each playthrough. But there are options and players need to proceed cleverly to succeed. Some set up of the missions can change based on the events and decisions in the previous plotlines. On top of that, there is a built-in variation of the environment and position of elements. The AI is completely systemic, reactive on what is going on. Put it in a word, by one of our focus testers “The missions are repeating, and they feel familiar. But not in a way that they would feel repetitive. It’s about getting better and maximizing the efficiency and results.
Our goal is to have the FPS missions bursting with atmosphere, where the planner (Danny Glover in big heists, or Damion Poitier for small hits) communicates with the crew via radio comms. Damion was also the writer, and with the team of writers they have adapted basic dialogues of the 30 different characters to give a Hollywood spin on everything. So, whichever characters are sent on missions, there will be a unique dialogue for every character. Damion has a vast knowledge of jargon and accents, so he helped us a lot.
In some games you need to replay the missions many times to understand the environment, to learn every path of each guards, to be able to perform a perfect heist. This is exactly the opposite what we do. We don’t have checkpoints, it’s actually quite hard to retry levels in Crime Boss. It’s desired that players cannot “learn” or memorize the paths and ways how to complete the missions. You know what the objectives are, you know the space, but things are different. And you need to react onto it. The goal is quick fun and replayability. Think of the games like Counter Strike. You know that you need to find terrorists and disable their bomb. You know the flow. You know the environment. The mission is simple, and you have played it hundred times. But every game is a bit different and every time it is quite challenging and unforgivable. We are trying to bring this exclusive experience from competitive multiplayer games into single player and into coop.
What has your approach been to designing Crime Boss’ different locations, and what sort of variety do they bring in terms of how players are encouraged to tackle them?
The game is set in the 90s. The world was quite almost the same as now, but also very, very different. Mobile phones just appeared, computers started to be used widely in business, there was no internet widespread amongst people, news were printed on paper, TV was a thing, there were no social networks. Everything was simpler, nicer, brighter. It was a time when the men were men and women beautiful. This was the time which we still remember as we have enjoyed it through our teenage years, action movies and pop culture in general. Rap, rock, grunge, rave and disco music, summer, holidays, sins, neon, MTV and cheesy action movies.
Rockay City is a fictional city due to its decadency and high rate of crime. Criminals rule the city, while law enforcers are struggling to fight them. This is far from any reality but works well for the context of the game. Almost like the comic themed Sin City. The closest real-life inspiration are Miami and Los Angeles.
"Criminals rule the city, while law enforcers are struggling to fight them. This is far from any reality but works well for the context of the game."
Given the game’s structure and its focus on co-op, is its post-launch roadmap something that you’ve given a lot of thought to? Should players expect new content and steady support after the game’s release?
A lot of things in the game are modular – environments, scenarios, events, plotlines. The campaign is procedurally created on the fly with these modular pieces. Player will be playing it over and over, with a different experience every time. Adding new pieces into the mix, can extend the amount of variations that are available.
We have a lot of plans for the upcoming years, regarding the current project and the new ones, but let’s focus on finishing Crime Boss first. Hopefully the game will be well received by players so we will be given opportunity to realize our ambitious future plans.
What can you tell us about the campaign’s roguelike structure? How will the turf war mechanics play out specifically?
In Crime Boss you are Travis Baker. You may play everything just as Travis, he is quite a powerful character. But if you die, that one run of the campaign is over. Everything restarts. But that’s not a bad thing. Because every run of the campaign is different, offering different opportunities, story plotlines, choices, and outcomes. The cutscenes are the narrative thread for each character, but the direction of the story is directly impacted by the player’s decisions and actions. In the new run, you may do much better choices, so you progress faster.
For playing Travis Baker in missions, you are rewarded with boss points (these are the XP points). You also get points for completing the campaign run (even if you fail). With these points you level up. With each boss level, you choose a perk or improvement that is persistent. There are no skill trees, you are presented with random 3 cards and you pick one.
In the game menu, there is a boss office, empty and ruined at start, but turning into a showroom of power and wealth after some successful runs (the boss room and asset there are persistent throughout the multiple runs). Assets are expensive, but each brings a lot of boss points when purchased. So, you are turning cash into permanent growth of the boss level.
The most difficult thing for us as designers is to explain and teach this roguelike gameplay to the players. Other FPS games are not designed like this, so it takes time for players to embrace the failure and keep restarting. But our focus tests are showing the players who are restarting the campaign often, are enjoying the game much more. They can improve, make some better decisions, be more successful in individual missions and progress faster and further. So hopefully by the time of release, the game will be good enough to teach this to all players. I hope the players will be open to learn this innovation and enjoy it.
How will Sheriff Norris function from a mechanical standpoint?
Sheriff Norris, played by Chuck Norris, is player’s biggest enemy. Sheriff is hunting down the criminals in the sin infected Rockay City, which means he will become the major obstacle in Baker’s rise to power. Sheriff Norris is also the reason, why police will always win. Well, almost always, but this is the challenge for the player.
Sheriff is investigating Baker’s crimes (based on the leads player leaves in the missions). With progressing investigation, there is more police heat, which means, that cops will react faster and more vigilantly on crimes, making heists and other criminal activities harder and harder. Sheriff will strike on Baker’s organization, once his investigation is finished. And there is no way how to defeat Sheriff Norris. Sheriff is teaching players that crime doesn’t pay.
Sheriff is a narrator of certain events, we let the player experience them through dialogues between Sheriff Norris and Lt.
"Developing cross-gen compatibility is complicated and limiting. On old gen we would not be able to let player to play missions in the generated city environments, let player combat with armies of enemies and have high quality metahuman facial animations."
Roughly how long will it take to see through the game’s story?
The story of Crime Boss is pretty simple, and players should understand (or see through it) pretty quickly. But there are nuances, variations, that will make the story changing every campaign run. The modular narrative of the single player campaign is composed of plotlines, events and choices that pretty much differ each time a player goes through it. The game is not created to let you experience a different experience and stories. But in 40 hours you will most likely gone through the basic beats and events. Unless we add more plotlines and events into the mix…
What was behind the decision to not develop Crime Boss: Rockay City as a cross-gen title?
Developing cross-gen compatibility is complicated and limiting. On old gen we would not be able to let player to play missions in the generated city environments, let player combat with armies of enemies and have high quality metahuman facial animations.
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