The MMO for 'Halo,' 'Call of Duty' Fans

The makers of massively multiplayer online shooter "CrimeCraft" insisted they're not an MMO. So if it's not an "MMO," what do they call it?

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During GDC, I got a brief look at Vogster Entertainment's "CrimeCraft," a massively multiplayer online shooting title powered by Unreal Engine 3. Like the name implies, the game is set in a world riddled with crime following ecological disaster and financial ruin. Cities are surrounded by walls, which are safe havens, but outside them -- it's every weapon-wielder for herself.

"What separates us from the other shooters is this persistent world, but we do have features you'd normally find in role-playing games," explained executive producer Matt McEnerney.

Like an MMO, "CrimeCraft" offers PvE and PvP play, guilds, grouping, extensive character customization, a variety of weapons as well as different classes, missions, jobs and quests to level your character. However, McEnerney insisted that "CrimeCraft" is not an MMO.

"We don't want people to think we're 'World of Warcraft' or 'Warhammer.'"

"The biggest thing for us is that we don't want people to think we're 'World of Warcraft' or 'Warhammer' or any of these other games," he said. "When people think MMO, they usually think high fantasy role-playing games; we're not a fantasy MMO. We're not orcs and elves; we're guns and knives."

McEnerney thought that the term "MMO" would scare away shooter fans, the gamers they're looking to get. "We just want to make sure we classify our game properly," he said. "We want to get the people that play 'Call of Duty,' 'Halo' and 'Saints Row.' We want to bring them in first, and say 'Hey look! MMOs aren't scary.' As soon as you say 'Warcraft' to a shooter fan it's like 'Aaah!' and they don't want any part of that."

To make the massively multiplayer experience less intimidating, McEnerney said that Vogster simplified the role-playing elements, like the classes and crafting, to make it more accessible for those who play shooters.

"As soon as you say 'Warcraft' to a shooter fan it's like 'Aaah!' and they don't want any part of that."

But I wondered if he thought "MMO" was an outdated term overall. He thought it was still valid for other games, but reiterated that it didn't fit "CrimeCraft." "First and foremost, it's a shooter," he said. "The term 'MMO' is massively multiplayer online, but how much is massive and how much is multiplayer? ['Crimecraft'] to us is just the evolution of the shooter. Most of the shooters have multiplayer modes, usually 32 or 64 players. We're trying to expand that out. In our game, when you go into a shooting instance, it's only eight-vs-eight, but when you come out in this world, we're looking at 500 people in this lobby alone."

So if it's not an MMO, what is it? McEnerney told me that Vogster came up with a new term: PWNS, which stands for "persistent world next-gen shooter." He added, "Other than just being a clever acronym, it's the only thing that really fits our game."

"MMO" or "PWNS" or whatever you'd like to call it, I asked McEnerney what he thought of crime-themed MMO "APB" coming from "Crackdown" developer Realtime Worlds.

He said, "'APB' certainly has a similar theme but from what I've read they're going the more cops-and-robbers route, and we're focusing more on the gangs and social and community aspects. Plus, you can be cops or robbers in our game, but you don't have to be. There's plenty of room for good games, so we'll see."

"CrimeCraft" will be out later this year, and although the payment model isn't finalized, there are plans to have micro-transactions for vanity items.