Warface at GDC 2013: Meet Crytek's Free to Play Shooter

Company: Crytek
Author: James Prior
Editor: Sean Ridgeley
Date: April 2nd, 2013

Almost ready for war

While covering AMD's presence at the Game Developers Conference 2013 in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to meet with Trion and Crytek about their new Cryengine 3 based game Warface. Warface is a free to play first person shooter currently live in Russia and soon to be released in the China and Korea (APAC) markets, before coming to North and South America and Europe. In the massive Crytek booth at GDC, I spoke with Wim Coveliers, a Senior Producer for Crytek in their Kyiv, Ukraine office about the game.

Crytek at GDC 2013
Booth Presntation Area

The free to play market is the most successful market in Korea, and is becoming so across the world. The free to play games in Apple's app store account for 75% of the revenue on the iPhone/Pad devices, but is a hard concept for the western markets to grasp as easily as the eastern ones. Traditional triple-A games like Crysis 3 earn 90% of their revenue in the first month of release, when the title is hottest and capturing the most page views, advertising time, and word of mouth buzz.

The expectations of premium games at launch are massive: they must have flawless online services and no DRM issues to be considered a success, as well as out of the box support for high performance, high dollar systems while still providing a good experience on average 'Joe gamer' machines of yesteryear. Zero-day cracks, first day IHV partner driver issues, and patches for critical issues found at launch are all an anathema to success.

Free to play games have an inherently different value proposition, using in-game transactions to provide revenue back to publisher and developer. Wim spoke about how this reduces risk in the case of Warface - a more finished product is released to 'complete' status, and more complete testing is able to be performed. People value being part of private and limited pre-release alpha and beta tests, and like being evangelists for the game without being asked. This is why free to play gamers are inherently valuable without spending a dime in-game, and how Trion hope to convert people into in-game transactions: engagement.

An engaged gamer, enthusiastic enough about his or her game, will not only evangelize but contribute financially to the cause, either directly by playing for some time and deciding that the equipment cost is reasonable and preferred over spending time in game, or because someone they know has now joined and wants to play with them but wants to receive the same experiences by buying the same equipment. Self-upselling comes from a place of enjoyment and contentment with the community, so an active and progressive community providing regular updates, changes, and feedback is essential to the continued success of a free to play game -- exactly what gamers want from any online multiplayer, in fact.

Click to view High Resolution Screenshot
Click to view High Resolution Screenshot

As part of Warface, Crytek are launching a new social platform and want to engage players on a daily basis. The same standards of quality apply to Warface as do other triple-A premium priced games and Wim was very clear Crytek is committed to providing good quality games as a service.

Click to view High Resolution Screenshot
Click to view High Resolution Screenshot

Warface uses Cryengine 3 for its engine, making it easy to understand how its high quality and advanced effects can be delivered; a modern premium engine like Cryengine 3 makes the quality baseline higher all by itself. At the GDC booth you could play in a number of different ways, and the closed beta is accepting applicants who want to try it out now, worldwide.

GDC attendees in the booth were favorable in their comments about the game, leaving me with the impression it's worth the time to acquire and get involved. There is no pay to win imbalance or in game advertising; Crytek want to show the value of dedicated participants no matter how much or little they buy with real cash.

Buying bypasses the grind but doesn't let you become a tier above the rest just because you paid; you have to be good to be ranked highly, and all items that can be purchased can also be earned through time in-game by acquiring in-game currency. Dedicated and highly competitive players will be rewarded in the daily ranking with prestige versions of in-game items, which can be used to denote their ongoing attention and effort.

The team co-operative and player vs. player modes prevent uneven matchmaking to spare the newer players joining from being discouraged while preventing the veterans from pigging out on the fresh, easy meat.

Click to view High Resolution Screenshot
Click to view High Resolution Screenshot

Crytek don't have a definitive timeline for how long Warface will be on the market, but they hope to see a five year span of constant improvements, updates, and new players. Triple-A free to play games could transform gaming parties in that there's no need to find a game you all have to get online together with -- just create an account and everybody's in. I had a good time playing in the Crytek booth; it feels easy to get used to but quite distinctively different from Crysis 3. The animations, graphics fidelity, and visual effects are all pleasing to the eye.

Warface lends itself well to both the kind of spontaneous fun last seen in the days of casual lunchtime office Wolfenstein and Doom, as well as hardcore daily gaming for prestige ranking, and that can only be a good thing.