Crime Boss: Rockay City’ INGAME STUDIOS Head of Development Jarek Kolář Discusses Current Issues with the Game, Future Plans, Managing Expectations of Fansand More [EXCLUSIVE]

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We recently got the chance to sit down and talk to Jarek Kolář, Head of Development for inGameStudios, the developer behind the release of Crime Boss: Rockay City. It’s no secret that the game hasn’t been well received, both with the chaotic and much-maligned PC release a few months ago, and the more recent console release earlier this month. It is refreshing, however, to see accountability from a developer, with many deciding to simply ignore fans and backlash, taking their money and running. This doesn’t seem to be the case with the publishers, developers or talent involved with Crime Boss: Rockay City…

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Inspiration, Talent and Unique Setting of Crime Boss: Rockay City

Crime Boss: Rockay City

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Q. Where did the idea for Crime Boss: Rockay City come from? Not only the execution in gameplay style, but the story itself?

The idea of the coop organized crime game came from the publisher 505 Games, which hired a small independent Czech studio to develop such a game. The studio expanded as the project progressed, and the publisher eventually acquired it and changed the name to INGAME STUDIOS. The main focus of the plot was on large-scale heists. We wanted to create something unique and decided to add the single player roguelite mode including turf wars which gave rise to the main plot line of the player’s criminal boss aspiring to be King of Rockay City. Our goal was to develop something big, different and more evolved to give the player the full experience of being a criminal kingpin.

Q. With regards to the talent involved, who seemed to have the most fun with their roles and why? Who would improvise, and who stuck strictly to the script?

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All of the actors had a lot of fun recording our, over-the-top b-movie dialogue. Even though the script is crammed with swearwords and little political correctness they all understood the pastiche we’re creating. All of the actors portray characters based on their most renowned roles from the 1990s, therefore it was easy for them to embody these characters. Michael Madsen had the most leeway in improvisation, changing practically every phrase as he delivered the voice. Michael Rooker spent the most time practicing his lines and strictly adhered to the script.

Q. Was there ever a time where you thought about making Crime Boss: Rockay City a little grittier? Less 80s and 90s camp action and more early noughties British gangster films? Would you ever consider doing a London version? Or even just an international chapter?

Growing up with The Professionals and Dempsey & Makepeace, I’d love to see a reimagining of that era of London crime action. But we’re putting all our focus on Rockay City right now – this is the place that needs to grow and thrive and we’re listening to our fans to make that happen. The criminal underground of Rockay needs care right now.

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Q. What was the team’s approach to designing the different locations to try and keep them unique and challenging in their own way, and how do you think that will affect players in how they approach each scenario/level?

Level designers have spent a lot of time making the levels ready for randomization, so players will get a slightly different playthrough every time they play. Artists were always trying to create environments that were unique for the 1990s Florida setting. I have already mentioned that in future updates we need to improve the variety of scenarios and expand the player’s freedom to solve them. This is the top priority in the current development.

Q. Is there any particular facet of the game that you weren’t able to implement due to time/budget/direction etc that you wish you could bring into Crime Boss: Rockay City as it is now?

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That would be the lack of score and leaderboards for all game modes and the maximum levels of unique heroes that unlock special abilities. All of it is planned to be delivered in the upcoming free updates.

Q. Games live and die in the details, so what small, seemingly insignificant part of Crime Boss: Rockay City is the team as a whole proud of?

The fact that each team member in Baker’s gang has a unique set of voices that react to various situations in the missions is quite neat. The number of lines written, recorded, and implemented is massive.

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Crime Boss: Rockay City Future Plans, DLC and Free Updates

Crime Boss: Rockay City

It’s no secret that the content on offer in Cre Boss: Rockay City isn’t the most varied on offer, with the game feeling stale after a mere couple of hours of playing, but it does sound like the developers are aware of this and intend on offering more bang for the player’s buck…

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Q. Are there any plans for any story expansion DLC for Crime Boss: Rockay City, and if so, when could we expect to see it?

Such expansion DLCs are planned as you can see on our roadmap. We want players to further meet the other characters, such as Danny Trejo’s Dollar Dragon or Chuck Norris’ Sheriff. Each expansion will come with a story plotline embedded into the Baker’s Battle campaign, with the shorter version playable as an Urban Legends coop minigame and the big heists also available in Crime Time multiplayer mode.

Q. Many players criticized the game’s lack of variation with the level design and goals. Is there any plans to release content that’ll change that? If so, will it be for both PC and consoles?

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The lack of variety in small hits and medium heists is definitely an area we are actively working to produce more variety and flavor. The next free update will contain a small portion of mission variation, and we will gradually continue to add more environments and scenarios. The roguelite replayability of the campaign will really hit its stride when there is a ton of content, and we are ready to provide that.

Q. Are there ideas in place to allow players to fully plan a heist from start to finish, similar to other games present in this admittedly very niche genre?

In the next expansion with a new big heist, we have a lot of small recon and preparation missions that will allow players to approach the gold depo in various ways. This is a small step towards more player agency inside the mission, but we would like to proceed further down this route. The long-term goal is to turn the scripted flow of objectives into a more freeform, immersive sim experience.

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Q. With the single player campaign featuring players fighting over turf in an attempt to become the new King, what stopped you developing a multiplayer version of this very same mode, with each player fighting over turf in the same fashion? Or even having the same set up but with crews of players doing the same thing?

Adding PvP multiplayer to the game may sound exciting, but this is something that our team isn’t yet focusing on in the short to mid term. For now, the plan is to work on improving the existing game modes and making them stand out. I can share that among the plans for free updates are the possibility of inviting friends to help with heists in the single-player campaign or adding proper progression systems in the multiplayer Crime Time mode.

Q. What changes, updates etc can we expect in the coming twelve months, and how will that affect the game as a whole?

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The list of improvements and additions that we have planned for the first year is quite huge. Let’s start with the most important one, which is adding more levels with a greater variety of activities. a bunch of new small environments for the early game and bigger ones for the late game. These will be added throughout the year in the free updates. Very significant is the tweaking and adjusting of the whole campaign—in the way the events, missions, and plotlines are randomized and executed, so players get more surprising new runs. This goes along with the expanded scope of levels and having the existing big heists more available in campaign and multiplayer. The Turf War missions will need more variation, and we want to simulate the enemy gang more clearly so the player has a chance to drain them economically as well. We are also thinking of adding some options to play the plotlines separately with a focus on their stories.

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Crime Boss: Rockay City’s Challenging Gameplay and Double Launch

Crime Boss: Rockay City

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The developers haven’t shied away from how poorly received the PC version was, as detailed below, but acknowledgement doesn’t always mean a learning experience. Is the console version actually any better than the PC version?

Q. Unfortunately the PC version of the game wasn’t particularly well received by fans and critics alike. In the time since that released, what have you implemented or changed for the console version to hopefully give it a better chance of success?

The PC release was smooth on the technical side, without any functionality problems or crashes, but the rogue-lite experience was a bit too rough. The console version was released with necessary patches, improved AI, and more tweaking and balancing. This alone should give console players a much better experience than what the PC reviewers had. Additional content is planned for upcoming free updates and as we’ve always said, we will keep building upon and improving our game just as many games before us have found themselves doing.

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Q. What was the hardest yet best lesson from the PC launch you learned?

The management of expectations is the most important thing. Hollywood actors bring a promise of narrative content, but if we serve a rogue-lite campaign without a coherent narrative, the audience may be disappointed. Gameplay innovation elements may turn against the developers if they are poorly understood by players and reviewers. In a gameplay experience that is difficult and frustrating, players are less tolerant of problems and bugs. They don’t like the feeling that the game is not fair. I can’t stress enough how much we’re listening to our fans to meet their expectations.

Q. What was the most challenging aspect of the game not only to implement, but also to balance?

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The most challenging aspects of any FPS game are the gunplay, AI, and level design. I am pretty happy with the feel of the guns. The AI is solid and makes the game fun and challenging. I am also happy with the state of the bot AI, but we also need to give players better control over their AI companions, as that is probably where the most complaints come from. In level design, the most challenging aspect was the randomization and replayability of the same scenarios. This went alright, but we simply need to add more content, variety, and freedom to solve the objectives creatively in multiple ways.

But going back to the original questions, for us, the most challenging aspect was the management part above the missions. Combined with the permadeath and roguelite replayability, this is quite a unique concept that is great, but it can frustrate players. It still needs balancing and tweaking. I definitely don’t want to divert from this hardcore concept, but this game mode needs more balancing, additional accessibility features, dynamic difficulty in levels, and custom difficulty options in general. The goal is to make the experience appropriate for all types of players.

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Crime Boss: Rockay City’s ‘Baker’s Battle’, AI and the Best Tip

Crime Boss: Rockay City

The single player portion of Crime Boss: Rockay City, ‘Baker’s Battle’, offers more variety and gameplay mechanics than the other modes, but it also could have benefitted from being able to play that specific mode with friends…

Q. With ‘Baker’s Battle’ being a single player roguelike experience, how did the team come to the decision to not make it fully co-op playable and do you think you’d want to make it co-op now, if given the chance?

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In the free updates, we are planning to add the possibility of inviting friends to help with heists in the single-player campaign or adding proper progression systems in the multiplayer Crime Time mode.

Further along, there is an idea to extend the Crime Time mode to offer a similar Crime Boss experience in multiplayer as in the Baker’s Battle single-player campaign.

Q. Baker’s Battle features the infamous Chuck Norris as Sheriff Norris, Travis’ biggest thorn in his side and throughout the campaign seemingly growing ever closer to catching him. Was that the idea from the start, or was it implemented once Chuck was on board?

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Originally, the game had only a faceless police force. But when Chuck Norris was signed to play the Sheriff, we put him in the position of the main Baker’s adversary. It’s Sheriff Norris who is hunting Baker down and eventually stopping his crimes. The sheriff is also giving an important moral lesson: that crime doesn’t pay and the criminal will always be caught and punished. We have also started thinking of making Sheriff Norris appear in the missions when the police intensity reaches the maximum level. Would the players accept the existence of an enemy character that cannot be defeated, deflecting bullets with his cavalry saber, and walking slowly towards the player to execute him with a round kick? I think that’s just about nuts enough, we might put it in.

Q. The hot topic in many fields right now is AI being used in development, writing and so on. Was AI used from a creative point on the game? If not, why? And whilst it’s inevitable that AI will be used in game development more and more, do you think we’ll ever get to the point of a fully AI-created video game?

We don’t use AI to create content (if you don’t count automatic LODs for 3D models). During the development, we have been using generated voices from text, so we are able to play with sounds before the final VO is recorded.

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Q. What is one tip you would like to give to players to help them become a criminal mastermind?

Indulge in the game’s FPS format without checkpoints. The game does not safeguard players from failure but allows for the decision of who will be sent on missions and also the possibility of escaping if things go wrong. The possible permadeath of team members and restart of the campaign if Baker dies are harsh, but the tension and atmosphere that players get are rewarding.

What did you make of the answers then? Do you think there is any salvaging of what is quickly becoming known as one of the most poorly received games of the year? Let us know in the comments!

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Written by Luke Addison

Articles Published: 441

Luke Addison is the Lead Video Game Critic and Gaming Editor. As likely to be caught listening to noughties rock as he is watching the latest blockbuster cinema release, Luke is the quintessential millennial wistfully wishing after a forgotten era of entertainment. Also a diehard Chelsea fan, for his sins.

Twitter: @callmeafilmnerd