A few weeks ago I was invited down to the Premier headquarters in Soho for a hands-on with the sneak-peak beta for Warface, the new free-to-play FPS from Crytek. While I was there, I was given the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with Executive Producer Joshua Howard about what we can expect from Crytek’s first steps into the world of free-to-play.
For the guys that don’t know, can you explain what Warface is?
Warface is Crytek’s free-to-play shooter. That statement means a lot for us; Crytek-quality, Crytek-gameplay, Crytek-visuals. Free-to-play is a really powerful way to deliver experiences that I think is really great for players, and shooters being deep in our DNA – so having decided to do free-to-play, Crytek is really bringing to the world of free-to-play a super high-quality shooter.
Apart from Crytek’s history with the genre, what was it about the FPS that made you think it’d work as free-to-play?
It was in our DNA, it was something that we felt we understood; something that we’ve built a few of, and building from a place of strength was important. It’s not that there aren’t other really good ways to use free-to-play, but it was a thing the organisation felt qualified for, and had some unique ideas we wanted to try that proved OK. There were some early ideas about what free-to-play meant and how you built the game accordingly, and they took the time to try things out, experiment to see what worked; to see what didn’t, and what we have is the result of all that learning.
What would you say Warface offers that other free-to-play games don’t?
I would say in the world of free-to-play, there are a couple of key differentiators. One is clearly the quality bar; now I do think eventually you’ll see more and more free-to-play on this AAA quality bar, but right now there’s a lot of free-to-play which isn’t so good, and free-to-play grows up when you bring the Crytek-quality visuals and gameplay to it; and then, in the free-to-play shooter space, our co-op, as opposed to just being a versus game, is a really big deal. In shooters, it’s been traditional to have really strong PvP, but with Warface, we invested in this co-op mode, feeling it was an important way to both bring new players in – as well as to let players have another way of exploring the game. I think it’s really sets us apart, because instead of just being something that’s tacked on, it’s really a pretty fundamental part of the experience.
What changes are there between the first beta sneak-peak we’re trying today?
There have been a number of changes, and I’ll talk about a few of them real quick. In the previous beta, in co-op players would come in and see a choice of three different activities for the day, and players asked us for more choice, so we provided that. There are now five different missions that you can do that continue to cycle through as you come back every day. That’s a change. Other changes being the introduction of what we call a contract system; you’ll be able to buy contracts that last a day or longer, accomplish some feat and earn something, and this is something that we’ve just recently launched with the sneak-peak, and we’re pretty excited about that.
Another thing that launched with this that we’ve just introduced for the first time on our western build is some of our female skins. It’s something that our Russian market was really excited by; we delivered there and it went well. Our western players were asking for it as well so we’ve done that. We’ve also introduced another PvP experience; in our ‘Versus’ play we’ve introduced a new mode called ‘Storm’. Not only is this a new mode, a new area capture-style play mode, but it’s also the first to introduce some levels built on our new setting which is sort of a classic Asian city, a Chinese city, which is some really beautiful level work that we’ve done there. While each of these are exciting changes, it’s more exciting in some way that we’re setting an expectation with players that if they engage and become part of the Warface community they should expect these kinds of changes as a natural part of business. We will be delivering new modes and content and new things, and you won’t be paying any more for it, it just becomes part of the experience that’s there because as a service it’s going to continue to grow and evolve.
What sort of micro-transactions will there be, if any?
We offer a variety of ways for users to pay real money; part of the secret is giving users the choice in how they wanna do that. You can pay for convenience; there are the accelerators that say “I wanna earn more experience for the time I’m playing, because a guy like me doesn’t have a lot of time to play anymore”. There are some vanity items; you wanna be able to wear that skin or that skin. These are things that don’t affect gameplay, but you can pay a little bit of money if you want them. And there’s a thing or two that affects how you decide you want to play the game; the resurrection coins for example, you can when you die in a PvE match in co-op, but if you’re that really impatient gamer and want to dive right back in you can pay for the right to do that. These and other options represent the choices you have, but none of them are forced upon you. You can play the entire experience, the entire game, without spending. Then to top that off, something we do that I think is really exciting that I think you’ll see other games adopt eventually is our premium currency, which is a currency you can’t get with cash. The most interesting currency in the game, Crowns, are only earned by high quality play, and that is the only way to get specific tier or high end weaponry and equipment, so, when that guy beats you with that high end gun, it’s not because he spent a thousand euros, it’s because he was a really skilled player, and that’s within the spirit of a competitive game.
So player skill is rewarded?
Exactly! Time is something that is rewarded also. You can play a lot and not be very good, like me (laughs), but if you’re a very good player, even if you don’t play a lot, you’re gonna get these Crowns, and the Crowns are really the key to some of the most exciting content.
The Warface beta has been out for a while in other territories, such as Russia, what made you decide to go there with it first?
When we first started showing Warface around to a variety of different regions and a variety of different partners, we got excitement from a lot of different places. We also had to pick who would be first, and the decision to launch first in Russia came in part because it’s sort of the studios back yard. The core studio that builds this is based in Kiev, it’s a Russian speaking studio, Mail.Ru was a partner who was excited to jump in and be a part of this. It was a good combination for the team, it was a good fit with the partner, and it made sense. There were other good partners who were interested as well, but say our first partner being a language the team didn’t speak would introduce a challenge that we thought we could just simplify. So, first release in Russia made things easy, made us learn things really quickly, and then from there, in a few months we were able to come out in China, come out in Korea, a little bit later come out in Brazil, so more regions followed on.
Finally, when can we expect to see it?
So we’re in sneak peak now, and we’re discussing dates for the pre-open beta, and the expectation is if the open beta goes well, then probably shortly after something will happen. Hit our site, the dates are in the press kit of the pre-open beta for when that’s happening. We haven’t announced dates past that because it’s really why we ask players to come and join us and tell us if they think we’re ready or not. If we’re ready, we’ll go out to the next step.
You can sign up for the closed beta here at the official Warface site.