This article (own work) was originally published in the gaming magazine 2old2play. Read other articles

“For players new to the FPS world, this modern tactical shooter's action-packed gameplay has been structured with an easy learning curve. For the expert FPS fans, variety of game-play -- from small squad level close quarters combat to medium-sized urban conflicts to huge multi-squad and vehicle operations – provides deep gameplay. K2 Network's Free2Play™ model allows players to have full access to the game free. Fans that crave an enhanced experience can use in-game money earned during play or real world cash to access increased player abilities, special weapons and other benefits. An efficient engine allows War Rock to supply high-quality visual details and fast frame-rates without the need for the latest, most expensive computers.” – K2 Network

Warrock is a FPS PC game by K2 Network, which has just gone into public beta testing. Warrock is entirely free at the moment, although a commercial version will also be available soon.  PC, FPS and FREE, need I say anymore? Warrock is currently in public beta testing before its commercial release, although it has been confirmed that the game will always remain free to play, with the option to purchase a fifth weapon slot and more weapons and features.

Why all the hype about Warrock? For me it’s the fact that Warrock can be played casually and you can still be good at it. Unlike other FPS shooters where, the more you play, the more skilled you become, the more you own. In Warrock, you still become more skilled the longer you play, although it doesn’t mean you’ll always own newer players or players which play less.

Gameplay 9.5/10: Warrock is similar to both Counter Strike and Battlefield 2, although unique in such a way, which makes every game different. There are currently three map sizes at the moment. Mission mode maps, which are small scale maps for small arms combat on which you either have to plant or defuse bombs. K2 Network is planning to introduce more mission modes in the future. Next up is infantry combat with maps slightly larger, in which a few vehicles are added to gameplay and there are a few flags to capture. Finally, there is vehicle combat, which is large scale maps designed for vehicle and air combat, with a large number of flags to capture. Mission mode allows for up to 16 players, infantry combat maps allow for up to 24 players, while vehicle combat maps offer play for up to 32 players. Mission mode is played in rounds, where the first team to win a set number of rounds wins, while infantry and vehicle maps are both won by capturing a set numbered of flags. 

There are five soldier classes for you to play, and you can change what class you are playing as soon as you have died. The default sidearm weapon for all classes is a Colt handgun, while the default primary weapon varies. The engineer repairs vehicles and warplanes, etc, although is useless in mission mode maps where there is nothing to repair. An engineer carries a sidearm gun, primary gun and spanner. The medic carries a hand gun and primary gun. The medic also has the additional bonus of 10 medic kits which they can use to either partly raise their own or a teammates health. A scout (sniper) is considered the best class by the more skilled group of players. The scout carries a secondary gun, two hand grenades and the sniping rifle, with the M24 being the default weapon for a scout. The combatant class is easily the most popular class in the game, mainly for the fact that this class can use what some would consider more powerful weapons (some weapons are restricted to certain classes). A combatant carries a sidearm gun, primary gun and two hand grenades. The fifth and final class available in Warrock is the heavy weapons unit, a player who chooses this class carries a sidearm gun, four TMA mines, and a rocket launcher, with the default being the PZF. Each class has its advantages, with the medic or combatant class being best suited for new players, while the scout or heavy weapons class is more suited to experienced players.

Better weapons can be purchased from the item shop using the in game currency Dinars. Dinars are earned whenever a match is played, and the better you did, the more Dinars you will receive. Whenever you level up a level, you receive 5000 Dinars. Weapons are leased from the item shop for 3, 7, 15 or 30 days, costing from 1200 Dinars for a Desert Eagle hand gun for three days, up to 19000 Dinars for the RPG7 for 30 days. When the time the weapon was leased for is up, the weapon is returned to the item shop. This adds greatly to gameplay and the replay value of Warrock, as to have more powerful weapons, you need more Dinars, which are largely gained by leveling up. The more you play, the harder it is to level up and the harder it becomes to earn Dinars.

More mission modes and ways to play in mission mode would certainly make gameplay on small scale maps more interesting.

Graphics 8/10: The graphics for this game are surprisingly good, although I found little difference between the low graphics settings and high graphics settings, apart from the muzzle flash on weapons. The ‘rag doll’ effects when dying are great, although sometimes inaccurate. For example, where a soldier breaks all their bones and is thrown across a road after being shot in the head. The graphics are crisp, although not stunning, like other FPS games. Consider that Warrock is still in beta though and has a great development team behind it…

Sounds 6/10: This is one aspect of the game which is not so developed yet. Why weapon sounds and sound effects are decent enough, the Korean voiceover's are of below average quality. Hearing ‘medic’ and the same voice over’s repeated over and over in a round is nearly enough to make any player mad. Although voiceover's were recently updated in a patch, and may change again before the final commercial release. 

Performance 8/10: The game does not need a decent computer to run. It will even run reasonably well on an old P3, all thanks to the Jindo 3D engine, which supports play on older computers. Servers for the English Warrock are currently located in West USA, East USA, England, Germany and Spain. Lag is not an issue for me, even with slower internet, although a very small minority of players report problems with lag

Replay Value 10/10: Every game is different with every conflict being unpredictable. The simplicity of the game keeps one entertained for hours, although there’s still plenty more for experienced players. Ranking and leveling up a big factor, with there currently being 100 possible ranks, ranging from a Private Second Class to a General. To obtain better weapons, you have to play more, and the more you play, the harder it becomes to get enough Dinars for that desired weapon. To me, Warrock is a casual gamer’s game, one that can just be picked up and played.

Counter Strike has always been a favourite at a LAN party, although Warrock will be soon be ready to take over. Warrock is a great game for a LAN, with game play easy to master for first time players, and still fun for more skilled and existing players. Although clans and clan-wars are currently disabled, they will be available for explosive action in the not too distant future.

Overall Warrock is a neat game, considering its still in beta testing and is free to play. What it lacks in graphics, it makes up for in game play. This is defiantly one game I will be buying when released, just to see the new ‘pay to play’ features K2 network come up with. Its no surprise Warrock is often compared to as “the free Battlefield 2.”

Overall 8.5/10

We were lucky enough to catch up with Matt Norton, the producer of Warrock, who was more than happy to answer our questions.

Warrock will be a free release - totally free. How do you feel you will become profitable with future releases and patches if you hand the game away for free? Why would someone purchase the commercial game over its free counterpart?

MattN: WarRock will always be free to download and Free2Play™. Even after commercial release players will be able to play for free, and rise to the highest ranks, without ever paying us a penny. We believe that if you enjoy the game and play it for ten, twenty, thirty hours a week (or more) that we can offer things that our players will find useful enough to pay for. In War Rock free players play alongside the Premium players - there is no need to separate service for paying vs. non-paying players since both are equally competitive. During the course of the game players can earn in-game money (called Dinars) as a result of their victories, and even hard-fought defeats. Players can choose to spend their Dinar on things like additional weapons, the ability to carry a wider variety of weapons onto the battlefield, healing packs, and the like. We will be selling additional Dinars to players if they would like to get a wider variety of game-enhancements than they could afford through their battlefield exploits alone. These packages of Dinar will include additional benefits like: the ability to create game-rooms with more customized features (game duration, game type, password restricted, etc.), first access to new maps, log-in preference on crowded servers, access to some Premium-only game-events, and an assortment of other features. Non-premium players will still be able to join any of the games and they will be able to create games with standard preferences. The important thing is that players will never be able to buy their way to the top ranks.  No matter how much or how little a player spends, access to more advanced and specialized weapons and other gear will be restricted by character rank - with the higher ranking characters having access to the cooler military technology (much as in real-life, the more experienced troops tend to get some of the more specialized equipment).

How long was the development cycle for War Rock, and did you find any huge hurdles and challenges while designing the product?

MattN: Dream Execution, Ltd., is the South Korean-based developer of WarRock. It took over two years to create the Jindo engine underlying the WarRock game code and a year longer to create the game. WarRock has actually been in commercial release in South Korea for over a year now, with over 3-million registered users. Dream Execution has made special effort to make the game quick moving and easy for even novice players to get involved in.  An additional feature of WarRock is that the Jindo engine is extremely efficient. WarRock’s minimum system requirements are only a PIII 800 MHz (or equivalent) and its recommended system spec is a PIV 2.0 GHz. While the game is extremely successful in South Korea, Western players have slightly different priorities and expectations than Korean players do, so we’ve spent most of our Beta-test time fine-tuning WarRock for Western players.

Do you foresee any additional content being made available once War Rock ships a final commercial release? Will you develop a sequel or publish purchasable, downloadable content to your audience?

Our schedule for War Rock includes monthly content releases.  This new content will be accessible by all players free of charge. In addition to the normal content releases, a couple of times a year we will be releasing larger packages of updates that will include more game modes, updates on the background story, as well as new maps, weapons, and vehicles.

How do you see Warrock unique and different from other FPS?

MattN: War Rock is different in a few key ways.  First, at K2 Network we see online games not so much as a product industry (where you put a box on a shelf) but rather, as a service industry. As part of that belief, we feel that the game belongs to the players not us. Since we’re already scheduled and set up to provide monthly releases of new content, it makes sense to allow the player-community to define that content by telling us what they want next. We read the forums and respond to users, but we also actively solicit information on the game from our top players and clans. For example, we recently ran a poll so the players could tell us which weapon they wanted us to add to the game next. I think the most important and most exciting difference for War Rock as an FPS, is that we can create a game in which the content is very player driven. For example, some of our clans have set up races on one of the maps, using 6-wheel trucks and motorcycles. We think that’s a great idea and are planning to create some race maps to support that. Other players came up with the idea to allow for Asymmetric combat. As you know, this refers to situations very much in the news today, in which you have a smaller group of well armed soldiers against a great number of opponents equipped only with AK-47s. It sounds like a great idea so we’re slating it for production. Another popular request from our players is to allow character customization. We’re currently working to let players show their clan symbols as unit-patches on their character uniforms, and even to enable clans to customize their uniforms (with, say a red-beret for all of your clan members in the game). We let the players decide the course of the game, and I think that’s something very unique in online games.

Will new content released after the commercial release be exclusively for players who purchase the commercial version? If so, do you think this will cause balance issues between players who bought the game and players who play for free?

MattN: There will be no required purchase as part of the commercial release. When the game goes to commercial release that merely means that we will start allowing players to purchase some enhancements, but the framework of the game will not change. Non-premium players will not be able to start a game with some of the new maps for the first 30-days after new assets are released. But they will be able to start normal games (with default settings) and they will be able to join games on new maps. Other than that, all of the contents allowed by each player’s rank will be available for purchase using in-game money (Dinars) regardless of whether those Dinars were earned in-game, purchased, or a combination of both.

Do you have any game designers with prior military experience working on the game design and "realism" factors in the strategy and combat tactics?

MattN: The emphasis in War Rock is on action and fun rather than realism for its own sake. Many of War Rock’s developers at Dream Execution have served in the South Korean military and we blend that with the team’s FPS game-experience. The result is a good blend of the real-feel with constant fast-paced action.

Have you found your open beta to be a success? Are gamers enthusiastic about having access to a game in its early stages and feel "part" of the quality control for the product?

MattN: The Open Beta has been extremely successful for us in finding out more about what our players want as well as which areas we need to improve in. Additionally, we’ve been able to start establishing ties with clans and players across the US and EU. We read and respond daily to bugs given to us on our forums, we allow our Beta players the ability to input bugs directly into our bug-tracking software via a web-interface, and we have in-game GMs. At first, we weren’t sure how useful GMs would be in a FPS game, but it turns out that’s something that the players really like. Our GMs move from the lobby into the various game rooms, and are able to answer questions, verify cheating vs. skill, and to help run in-game events.Having GMs in-game has been so successful for us that we intend to enlarge the GM staff and make that a permanent part of War Rock’s service.I think that the Beta test time has given us a real opportunity to show our players that we listen to them, we care, and most importantly we take action on their concerns and requests. As a developer, it feels very good to be able to respond to player’s wishes. I’m very excited to see where our players will take War Rock in the coming months and years ahead.

Do you consider War Rock the "World of Warcraft" of first person shooters?

MattN: In any online game the online community formed by the players is a vital element. Some large, diverse, and dynamic communities have grown up around WoW.Nurturing and supporting the War Rock game community so they feel a real attachment to their game is vitally important to us. In that sense, WoW and War Rock share some common goals. WoW is a very cohesive developer-vision of a fun game-world, and players are invited to experience that vision. Where War Rock differs is that we would like to help our community to form War Rock into their vision of the best FPS ever. The War Rock team looks forward to doing just that.

Minimum System Requirements:     
-Pentium 3, 800 MHz 
-512 MB RAM
-Radeon 8500LE, Geforce MX400 or better   
-Windows ME, 2000 or XP.
-800 MB Storage

Recommended System:     
-Pentium 4, 2000 MHZ
-512 MB RAM         
-FX5700 or ATI 9200
-Windows 2000 or XP
-800 MB Storage

Warrock 01 Warrock 02
A scout preying on his next victim.

Warrock 03 Warrock 04
A pilot showing off his skills and a soldier carrying an MP5 about to board a helicopter.

Warrock 05
One of the 13 maps currently available in Warrock.

Warrock 06
The player ranking system in Warrock.  

This article (own work) was originally published in the gaming magazine 2old2play. Read other articles