Last week I was afforded the opportunity to sit down with Cliff Bleszinski & Arjan Brussee (CEO and COO of Boss Key Studios) to discuss their first title, the highly anticipated arena shooter, LawBreakers. Here’s what they had to say about pricing, exclusivity, eSports, and what sets LawBreakers apart from other arena shooters.
Bagogames – Is there any single player or co-op content in LawBreakers?
Cliff Bleszinski – No. We’ve talked about bots, whether or not we do those remains to be seen. We want to focus on the versus first.
Arjan Brussee – Right. No bots right now. We are thinking about them maybe down the line. Right now, it’s just a player experience. Right now our focus is just to make sure matchmaking works really well. We don’t want people to jump into the game for the first time and play against really experienced players because that would be horrible, so that’s the first thing.
BG – So what happens if someone drops out mid-game?
CB – The structure’s not fully in place yet, but we’re considering structuring the game so that there’s drop-in/drop-out mode, and then there a “pro mode,” where you’re committing to that and if you drop out, you get penalized and whatnot, to encourage people to stick around. We’ve all been on servers where one side quits when they’re losing and it’s like “C’mon man, see this through!” So, as game designers, you have to get people to stick around, like give them XP or whatever, even if they lose. That whole thing is being planned right now.
BG – What made you guys decide to switch the art style of the game from cartoonish to “R-rated”?
CB – An interview quote I had that really stuck around was “We want to make the Quentin Tarantino version of all these shooters. At the time, we were like “Are we really that, or are we too cartoony?” So we decided to differentiate ourselves from your Overwatches and Battleborns. There are a lot of arena shooters now, but a lot of them look like they are really for a young crowd and T-rated. We are going to be the guy in the rated R movie, not the guy in the PG movie. It’s strategic for us, essentially. There’s a trend among these games to look a certain way and we want to be a more mature type of game.
BG – What’s the most important detail about LawBreakers you want to get across to those who haven’t played it?
CB – I’d say it’s the moments that happen in the game. Like kicking someone off a ledge and you think that they’re dead in the void but then they come flying back up with a jetpack. That kind of stuff. Finding out that a Hellion can grapple to another Hellion who can grapple to another Hellion is cool. These kind of tangible moments that are the results of all the verbs we put in the game and in this new world order of Youtube and Twitch, all those moments are what people want to see.
BG – How do you respond to those who complain about games that launch as multiplayer-only, with no campaign?
CB – A lot of those games are great, but are they really worth $60 when I have Skyrim over here? I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, but let’s just say that a lot of these multiplayer-only games that came out on consoles probably shouldn’t have been $60 from the get go, and then there’s micro transactions on top of that! I mean, c’mon man, that’s getting a little greedy!
BG – What made you guys decide to move away from free-to-play and what will be the price point for LawBreakers?
CB – All we were thinking about then was “How do we monetize? How do we monetize? Do we have rotating characters? Do we do energy meters?” It’s really, really easy to start getting sleazy in that space and we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to focus on making the best damn game possible. For people that are used to spending $40 to $60 on a game, is there a mid-range point where it’s kind of in impulse buy? We are not announcing it today, but my gut tells me that there’s a level that’s not $60 and that will make a lot of sense for us.
BG – Will there be DLC and micro transactions?
CB – So, there will be a type of micro transaction in the game. Let’s just say we’re big fans of how games like Counter-strike do it. Their system is rather interesting. When it comes to DLC and new maps and everything, we want to make sure everyone is on the same page. So if we roll out a new role (character class) or map, everyone just gets it. It would just be part of an update.
AB – Pricing game-affecting DLC, like maps and classes, often fragments the market and player base. I think that old model is starting to break. Price drops and discounts don’t always work. I think there’s going to be a new order there and I don’t know how those old models are going to get out of it. They are getting so expensive.
BG – What about LawBreakers in eSports and tournaments?
AB – We are making a game that’s very competitive. If it turns into an eSport, over long term, that would be great! We’d love to see that happen. But normally, that takes many years and you need to build lots of features to get there. It’s fast paced and very skill based, so if people want to organize tournaments, we’re not going to stop them. We’ll figure out ways to help them.
BG – Are the Alpha and Beta going to be open?
AB – First, we are starting small with a gradual ramp up, “friends and family” type stuff, maybe streamers. I’m a not big believer in super closed alphas and stuff. If you give them to a bunch of people it will leak. I’m fine with that.
BG – Is the exclusivity on Steam timed?
AB – We’re starting with Steam because it’s a very mature platform. Players have already trusted their payment details to Steam. It’s easy to buy and find games there. People have their friends lists there. That’s better than having people make new, fledgling accounts and so forth. It’s just so convenient. There’s also a lot of motivation for Valve to work with us as they’re also seeing that a lot of big titles aren’t available on their platform anymore. Overwatch isn’t on Steam. Uplay and EA are doing their own thing.
BG – Will LawBreakers support traditional multiplayer game modes, or will they be unique to the game itself? Also, how many different modes will be available?
CB – I don’t want to ape the modes that everybody else has just because you have to have them. If we’re going to do something like 1 flag CTF, we’re going to have our own twist on it. So one mode we’re playing around with is my kind of version of what Domination might be. I task the designers to “end it with drama” and to not be the exact same thing as regular games. They might say “But that’s scary, people are going to have to learn something new!” Well, they will if it’s fun! Look at all the rules for MOBAs that didn’t exits until MOBAs made them exist. We’re hoping to have 2 – 3 minimum different game types, but we don’t know what’s going to stick if hypothetically, down the line, it becomes an eSport or pro game.
BG – So is there going to be a straight up Deathmatch or anything aside from team vs team?
CB – I’m not willing to commit to other game types. When you get around to some of the other modes, it’s kind of like a hybrid of Deathmatch with objectives. Straight up Deathmatch for a class-based game doesn’t make a lot of sense. But that said, I like to kick around servers so I won’t rule it out. I also wouldn’t rule out 2v2v2 or something like that. It would be really hectic, in a good way. The big thing I don’t want to do now is have big maps. I want to make sure you can see people clearly and easily.
BG – So why did you decide to forgo health pickups and regenerating health?
CB – We didn’t want to do regenerating health because we felt that, with health stations, which were deliberately put far away from objective locations, you’ll be like “Oh my god, are they going for the objective right now? Is my health high enough yet? Do I risk it and go back out there?” There are trade offs and decisions. If you die because you didn’t stay at the station long enough to get more health, you blame yourself and not us. The beauty of these health stations is they create a fear of missing out. Plus, the automatically charging health is in every game now and this is just another way we’re going to stand out.
While reluctant to commit to any launch window for the game (or for the Beta), I was assured that the Alpha will be arriving “soon.” Confirmed to no longer be free-to-play, the game will launch as a PC-only, Steam exclusive for “less than $60.00.” If you were lucky enough to score tickets to this year’s PAX East, you can check it out for yourself as it will be playable on the show floor.
For more information on LawBreakers, and to see exclusive gameplay footage, make sure to checkout out our in-depth, hands on preview.