The past 12 months have seen Crytek delve into the world of free-to-play with first-person shooter Warface, a title boasting over two million registered players since its launch in Russia earlier in the year. With the Far Cry and Crysis developer bringing its new CryEngine 3 project to western regions later this winter, VGTODAY’s Andreas Varotsis caught up with producer Peter Holzapfel.
Warface is free-to-play, but Crytek has a reputation for beautiful, high quality graphics – so are you trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator of computer with Warface?
Peter Holzapfel: Accessibility is a really big thing for us because we want the strongest community possible playing Warface. We want as many people as possibly playing it, so for us, it’s not really a contradiction. The whole low quality game means free-to-play is totally over, so from now on I think more games are going to go AAA quality on free-to-play, and the same goes for Warface.
We have already heavily optimised the engine for Crysis 2, and pushed it even further for Warface, so the minimum specs are really moderate, but it scales with the CryEngine beauty.
How early in development did you start thinking about the free-to-play model? When did that start becoming a consideration for design and mechanics? Was that from the start or did you build it as you went along?
PH: With an free-to-play title, you have to keep the business model in mind early on in development. It’s more of an integrated process – it’s not like we thought “okay, let’s make a free-to-play title” and designed the game around it. We always wanted to do a co-op shooter, but we started thinking about the monetisation model really early, so we didn’t just paste it in at the end.
Regarding the monetisation model – Warface has already opened in Eastern Europe, and that’s a very different market. Are you changing the payment model for Western Europe? Are you locking the regions?
PH: We are publishing Warface with different partners in different territories – Tensent in China, Nexon in Korea, in Russia it’s Mail.Ru and for Western territories it’s Trion. Those territories will be separate since we think it’s okay, because the experience for somebody in China playing with somebody in the US wouldn’t be that good anyhow.
Coming back to payment models, the way we do things has seen the core game in development in Kiev with a 100-man team for a couple of years now, and we are also setting up different co-production teams for the different territories. So the idea is to create content that can feed back in other territories, and also adjust things like weapon balancing and progression to the preferences of the different markets.
How do you think you’ll deal with a competitive shooter that’s also free-to-play? Games like Tribes Ascend and Planetside 2 are trying to find a solution to being both competitive and letting people buy an edge – how do you deal with that?
PH: So far the model we have in Russia seems to work really well. We’re going to adjust it for Western territories in some ways, but honestly, the problems don’t seem to be that big if you make a monetisation model where people enjoy the core gameplay and then give them convenient features on top of that like XP boosts, and we have co-op mode where we have a resurrection mechanic that remains purely skill based. We also create different random bundles people seem to be enjoying.
So everything seems to be going well – as long as the core game is for free, and people can either buy or not buy. Although, if people enjoy the game, they probably will buy at some point, because they’ve already invested the time to enjoy the game so much.
It’s one of the first games that have come out using CryEngine 3, and how has that worked out?
PH: (Laughs) How would you expect me to answer that? It’s our engine.
Good point. Is it terrible? Tell me it’s terrible.
PH: You’re right, it’s so bad, we’d never want to use it again. No, obviously the engine is being developed with all our products in mind – the feature requests from the team as well as our licensees feed back into the engine, so definitely.
With the game as a service model, we can add continuous iterations and improvements to the game and the community – being in a dialogue with the community, adding features to the game, new maps and settings and all that. Having CryEngine built around that is a big help.
So, what are your plans for Warface going forward? Is there anything grand that you care to reveal?
PH: E-Sports is something we’re definitely thinking about at the moment. It won’t be something we have for day one, but it’s going to be very important in the future as we really want to make Warface a competitive E-Sport title. Then there’s clan functionality, and also game modes and settings we can’t talk about yet.
Warface is currently expected to launch in the west sometime this winter. A big thank you to Peter Holzapfel and the team at Crytek for helping set-up this interview.