Also thanks to the cast of well-known faces, one of the products that most teased viewers of The Game Awards 2022 was certainly Crime Boss Rockay City, the shooter that gives a nod to Payday and GTA Vice City. After having told you about it in the preview of Crime Boss Rockay City, we had the opportunity to have a chat with Jarek Kolar, the Head of Development of INGAME STUDIOS, who revealed some curiosities about the project and clarified some doubts about the depth of the gameplay mechanics.
All of Hollywood in one game
Everyeye.it: Let’s start with the setting: you chose America in the 90s to tell us about the criminal plot in Rockay City. Why did you decide to create a game in this particular context? What were the main inspirations for the creation of this imaginary city?
Jarek Kolár: In the 90s the world was very similar to today, but at the same time there were big differences. Cell phones had just begun to spread, computers were mainly used in companies, there was no internet, news was communicated through newspapers and there were no social networks, just television. Everything was simpler, clearer and, why not, more beautiful. It’s also a time in history that many of us experienced through the eyes of a teenager and during which action movies were strong in pop culture. Music (rap, rock, grunge, rave and disco), summer, holidays, neon, MTV and B-action movies are all part of the essence of Crime Boss.
Moving on to Rockay City, it is a rundown place where the crime rate is very high. Crime is in control of the city and the police force can’t keep up with it. We know that it is an unrealistic setting but it is functional to the type of story we want to tell. It is a place similar to the city that is the backdrop for the Sin City comic. If we had to find real cities that vaguely resemble Rockay City and from which we were inspired, we would definitely choose Miami and Los Angeles.
Everyeye.it: In addition to Death Stranding, we had never seen a video game with a cast made up of such a large number of successful actors as that of Crime Boss. Was it difficult to get all these celebrities to take part in the project?
Jarek Kolár: In Crime Boss Hollywood superstars play characters whose spirit is very similar to the icons they represented in the 90s. By asking them to join the project, we allowed them to take a dive into the past and go back thirty years in time. Thanks to the Unreal Engine it was also possible to rejuvenate them to make them perfect for the story of Rockay City.
Everyeye.it: Can you tell us more about the role played by each actor in the game?
Jarek Kolár: Michael Madsen is the character controlled by the player, aka Travis Baker. It is about a crime boss whose aspiration is to become the undisputed king of Rockay City. It will be possible to decide whether to take him on a mission or whether to keep him safe by sending other gang members to commit crimes. Kim Basinger is Casey, a woman central to the management of the criminal empire of Baker. Damion Poitier plays Nasara, a mysterious gangster who serves as the right hand of the boss.
Nasara does both the dirty work and recruiting new gang members and planning the heists. There’s even an ex-cop attracted by the opportunity to make easy money by selling valuable information: we’re talking about Gloves, played by Danny Glover. To close the circle we find Michael Rooker with the Touchdown of him, captain of the criminal army of Baker.
On the other side we find the rival bosses such as the powerful crime lord Dollar Dragon, played by Danny Trejo, who leads the gang of deadly Sicarios. Vanilla Ice plays the role of Chicko Sangres, who controls a South American gang made up mainly of rappers.
At the top of the list of enemies we find Sheriff Norris, aka Chuck Norris. The goal of this villain is to hunt down all the criminals of Rockay City and, consequently, will put a spoke in Baker’s wheels during his rise to power. Norris will present the most complex challenge of the game, as he will ensure that justice always, or almost always, triumphs. After all, you need a challenge, don’t you?
Everyeye.it: Many of the actors featured in Crime Boss starred in the most famous action films of the 80s and 90s. Were you inspired by some of these films?
Jarek Kolár: Probably the main inspiration is Pulp Fiction with its narrative structure, formed by a collage of interconnected stories revolving around common themes and characters, all told in a non-linear way. We also looked at Reservoir Dogs, with its stellar dialogue and the incredible performance of Michael Madsen. There’s also a touch of LA Noire, which is a classic story about police corruption (and featuring a gorgeous femme fatale played by Kim Basinger).
We were also inspired by films of other genres such as Predator 2, which perfectly depicts a metropolis under the control of criminals with the police unable to fight them. Since we boast Danny Glover in the cast, we cannot fail to mention Lethal Weapon as well. Among the less realistic films that we have used as inspiration we find Last Action Hero, Rambo, Commando, Machete, Bad Boys and Sin City, instead among the more serious ones there are Goodfellas (Goodfellas), Scarface and Heat. We must also mention a couple of unforgettable TV series from that period, namely Miami Vice and Walker Texas Ranger. As you can see, we are big Hollywood fans!
A little managerial, a little FPS
Everyeye.it: Will Crime Boss be playable exclusively in multiplayer or will it also include a single player campaign? We would also like to know if we will be joined by bots when no other users are in the game with us.
Jarek Kolár: The core of the Crime Boss experience is the single player campaign, in which players experience the story of Travis Baker in his fight to take the throne of Rockay City. The Crime Stories mode is instead focused on the cooperative for four players and consists of mini-campaigns in which you can use the best gang members and the strongest weapons. Finally we find Rags to Riches, which allows the player to create a gang of criminals, hire new members, buy weapons and take part in advanced missions.
Everyeye.it: Can you tell us more about the game structure and missions? We would also like to know if Crime Boss is a linear game or if its activities have procedural elements in a similar way to what we saw in Payday 2.
Jarek Kolár: The single player campaign offers non-linear progression. The narrative paths that will lead Travis Baker to become the king of Rockay City are selected partly randomly and partly based on the player’s choices and the outcome of the missions. Count more than one attempt to get to the crown, because Sheriff Norris will not let you win and, in case of defeat, you will have to start the campaign from scratch.
The structure of the single player mode is comparable to an open world, but without the need to freely explore the game world. In this case there is a map on which events appear and thanks to which missions can be started. This is a necessary approach to promote replayability. There are hundreds of missions with multiple variations of the same maps. Each raid is short but difficult and requires two to ten minutes of adrenaline-pumping gameplay to complete. These are rhythms similar to those of competitive multiplayer titles such as Counter Strike or Team Fortress.
Everyeye.it: In the gameplay video that you have published, no alternative paths or extra ways to complete the objective are seen. Is there only one way to complete a mission?
Jarek Kolár: That video is meant to show in 5 minutes what the game has to offer in terms of atmosphere and gameplay. I agree that the impression one might have upon viewing it is that of an easy and linear title but I assure you that what we saw in that trailer represents a small part of a big robbery, i.e. the most difficult missions of all.
In the single player campaign, heists are affected by the story events that triggered them, and these factors also affect the options and obstacles that are placed into the match. There is freedom in choosing the approach. Also the mission is partially procedural, so each heist is different from the others. We prefer to create tension and atmosphere rather than propose a simulation with many approaches available.
Everyeye.it: In Crime Boss will it be possible to enhance or customize the protagonist? We’d love to hear more about the progression system.
Jarek Kolár: In the single player campaign, players can upgrade both the boss and gang members, so they can be given more perks, give them stronger weapons, and boost their stats. These improvements are permanent and do not reset when the campaign is restarted. In addition to being able to modify their equipment, players can also customize the appearance of all bank robbers except Baker.
Everyeye.it: Is there a weapon modification system in the game? In the gameplay footage you can see rifles with accessories, but it is not clear whether or not it is possible to install them at will.
Jarek Kolár: In Crime Boss Rockay City there is a system designed to support accessories that modify the guns from all points of view: according to the configuration, the functionality, aesthetics and animations change. Each accessory allows you to alter numerous weapon stats, so as to improve their performance.
Similar to real life, weapons cannot be unlocked and must be purchased piece by piece. This implies that, upon the death of a robber, you will also lose the tools of death that he carries. This mechanic adds tension to the mission, as failure has serious consequences. Furthermore, in this way we ensure that even in the endgame the players do not get stuck on a single weapon.
Since the user has to manage the gang and each of its members must use a gun that is part of the armory, we didn’t want to burden the work with managing the arsenal. Because of this, it is not possible to manually modify weapons. In Crime Boss you can buy numerous pre-configured weapons that mount mods and accessories. Some tools of death are rarer and have a unique appearance.
Everyeye.it: Crime Boss is only available for PC and latest generation consoles. Can you tell us which version of the Unreal Engine you are using and which technologies you are using to speed up development?
Jarek Kolár: The game is being developed with Unreal Engine 4. The most important technology we are leveraging is Metahuman, which has allowed us to create incredible faces and facial animations. We’re also using Mutable, which allows you to randomly generate characters. In this case it is a UE4 plugin that has been integrated into Unreal Engine 5.