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Crime Boss, 2023’s worst-rated FPS, might actually be good now

As co-op heist FPS game Crime Boss Rockay City launches on Steam, PCGamesN speaks to its development head about how it’s grown since launch.

If you’re in the mood for a great heist game, and are waiting on Payday 3 to really hit its stride, it’s time to check in on a 2023 challenger you might have let slip by. The delightfully tongue-in-cheek Crime Boss: Rockay City has just launched on Steam with a temptingly low new price tag, so PCGamesN sat down with Ingame Studios head of development Jarek Kolář to discuss the game’s rocky launch, how far it’s come since, and the dedicated community that helped it find its place.

I’ll probably never forget Michael Madsen stepping on stage at The Game Awards 2022 to unveil Crime Boss: Rockay City. It was a bizarre yet compelling moment, trumped only by the FPS game itself, which features all manner of iconic ‘80s and ‘90s action stars including Madsen, Danny Glover, Michael Rooker, Kim Basinger, Danny Trejo, and, um, Vanilla Ice. Yet bugs, balance issues, and a perceived lack of content led to a rather mixed reception at launch. 15 months and nine updates later, however, Kolář tells me he’s much happier with how the game looks today.

“A lot of people [at launch] said ‘Oh, no, it’s not for me,’ and I would not disagree with them because those problems were there,” he says. “But we have been really [working on] resolving the problems and making things better. I think we are much closer to what we imagined in the beginning, and really working with the community helped us to do it. So if you compare your experience as a player a year ago to now, I would say it’s a completely different game.”

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Despite this, Kolář says the launch happening when it did, via the Epic Games Store, was essential to Crime Boss’s very existence. “To be honest with you, if we did not release it last year we would not be here with the game we have now. This game is quite unique and we had some ideas of how to make it different from other titles – some of those ideas were good, some of them… not so good.”

The launch gave the team the chance to work with its dedicated community on iterating Crime Boss’s good parts and removing the bad ones. “Our core community, it’s a thousand players, maybe, who are on our Discord discussing stuff and being very close to the game.”

The cast list, of course, is the most immediately memorable part of Crime Boss – but did the decision to lean into the roster of classic action stars work in its favor? “The motivation for us was to give the game a soul,” Kolář responds, “and then also it was a marketing tool because there are so many games that if you are coming up with a new IP you can simply get lost – it gets forgotten.”

Crime Boss: Rockay City - Kim Basinger as Casey.

“So the fact we have these big names helped us to give the game more feasibility,” he continues. “Obviously, it was turned a little bit against us, it was turned a little bit against us because people were saying, ‘They have paid for the actors but they have not paid for the development.’ Which was not true; the development was actually much more expensive than the relatively expensive actors.”

There was another big problem that caught Kolář off-guard: the cultural gap between older players and a young audience that hasn’t grown up with those ‘80s and ‘90s action flicks. “The young players, they don’t know these old movies, they don’t know these old actors, so it’s nothing for them.

“So they start asking why Chuck Norris is acting so funny – but this is what he did back in the day and we were laughing about it in the ‘90s. This is Chuck Norris, this is the way he speaks! It was actually quite an important lesson for us, that we should not rely on some cultural artifacts that are only acknowledgeable by part of the community.”

Crime Boss: Rockay City - Chuck Norris as Sheriff Norris.

Kolář also notes that the performances in-game were designed to suit players dying and replaying the roguelike campaign mode over and over again, rather than treating it as a more linear narrative. “Our intention was to have these characters have some kind of meme potential, if I can call it that. We are using it differently than, say, Red Dead Redemption. So a lot of people were maybe disappointed by what we have. If you are playing just for five minutes or half an hour you are going to say, ‘What is this? I don’t understand.’”

Along with its arrival on Steam, Crime Boss also has a price cut, with its new $20 / £16 price tag making it a pretty affordable proposition. You’ll even get all the previous DLC bundled in for free if you jump in during the launch window. “Without players, it doesn’t matter how many good features you have, or how much content,” Kolář says. “That’s why I think it’s also good to have a solid single-player.”

Crime Boss: Rockay City - First-person gameplay of a bank heist.

The initial response to the Steam launch has been mostly positive, but there’s still plenty more to come. Update 10, Baker’s Angels, is scheduled to arrive in July, with three more updates planned to arrive by the first quarter of 2025. “For us, Crime Boss is more of a platform than a closed game,” Kolář contiunes. “We have so many possibilities for how to expand it and add new content, even for the single player. So that’s basically our goal – to keep on doing more heists, more missions, more scenarios. And with this comes new weapons and, even more importantly, gadgets that give you interesting ways of playing the game.”

“We have this perfect opportunity because we have so many special characters,” he explains. “The plan is to develop more abilities and perks, and we are also working on some other variations of characters who are basically expanding the player set that players can bring along when they do the missions. So we will continue releasing free updates – there will probably also be some paid DLC but people are quite happy with the strategy we have taken, where packs were released for free for some time, then after several months they start to be paid.”

With a wealth of updates to gameplay, plenty more content on offer, improved replayability across the board, and a new low price point, it certainly feels like Crime Boss is in a better place now than before. So with Payday 3 still struggling to find its footing so far, and the GTA 6 release date still some way off, does Kolář see this as a perfect opportunity to capitalize on a gap in the market?

Crime Boss: Rockay City - A person in a yellow jumpsuit and helmet holding a minigun.

“If you look at the history of these games, they are special because they need some time to get good,” he remarks. “If you look at Payday or Payday 2, it took them time to get better. For games that are supposed to last for hundreds of hours, you cannot just bake them and get them fresh from the oven completely finished and functional – unless you are a super development team with hundreds of super-skilled developers. So it’s important for these types of games to work with the community.

“So I think Payday 3 will definitely be successful; they just need time, as we needed, and as Payday 2 needed. I think this is the formula for these types of games. It just takes a little more dedication. In this time of digital distribution, you cannot make a bad game – you can make a game that is not there yet, but with hard work you can turn it around and make it better. Any game can turn from a so-so game or a not-very-functional one into a brilliant game.”

People now play games that are years old, Kolář muses, as opposed to the time of physical-only releases where your shelf space at the supermarket was limited. “I remember back in the day we were releasing updates on magazine CDs because that was the only way. Now you have these super platforms where it updates everything and you can see the patch notes there, or click and have a community discussion. And we as developers really need to use these things. I think you see some indie teams being successful because they are really utilizing these strengths.

Crime Boss: Rockay City - Danny Glover, Damion Poitier, Michael Madsen, Kim Basinger, and Michael Rooker celebrate in the FPS heist game.

“Our motivation as developers is to deliver fun to the players – and fun is very different for different people. But I’m happy to see the positive sentiments on the internet, not only from our hardcore community members, but also people new on Steam,” Kolář concludes. “It’s so hard to break through with a new concept – I thought it would be much easier with this game, but [didn’t expect] the amount of effort we had to put in explaining to people that it’s a little bit different.

“I’m glad that we kept working on this, and I’m glad that some people understood it, and now we have more people that are fine with the formula that we have in the game. It’s very nice to be in my situation, because I really wanted to do something unique and now people are getting it and enjoying it. So I’m happy.”

Crime Boss: Rockay City is available now on Steam, with a 20% discount to celebrate the launch available through Thursday July 11. You’ll get all DLC bundled in, and can expect to pay $15.99 / £12.79 – just head here to take a look for yourself. You can also get it via the Epic Games Store.

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