LawBreakers has launched close to a week ago, and despite a mild overall reception Boss Key Productions aren't overly worried. The game's creators have described the title as double-A (AA), as opposed to their AAA competition, but that isn't entirely true.
Cliff Bleszinski, one of the co-founders of Boss Key Productions, has gone on at length about the unsustainability of a AAA business model leading up to the release of LawBreakers. The game itself was often described as a AA alternative to titles such as Call of Duty, which are expensive to develop and market. "Double A are games that look and play great but pick their battles in terms of budget and marketing", Bleszinski said.
LawBreakers can save time and money during development by skipping a single player campaign, if the final product is multiplayer oriented. If LawBreakers is online multiplayer only, then it makes a lot of sense to skip a retail release altogether, which drives the price down even further. So, a tighter development and marketing budget, coped with more focused design goals allows for a more affordable price, and this makes LawBreakers a AA title, right? Wrong.
When asked to name some examples for AA games, Bleszinski refers to Warframe, Rust or Rocket League. LawBreakers has little in common with these games other than their lower price point, but the real problem with the comparison shows itself when you consider the kind of machine you need in order to play LawBreakers in any competitive manner.
Warframe is incredibly well optimised, free to play, and hugely popular in the Eastern Europe - where PC gamers tend to have older and less powerful machines at their disposal; Rocket League will run just fine on pretty much anything with framerates sufficient for competitive play; and Rust is a fun but technically messy and poorly optimised survival game that has been in Early Access for almost 4 years now - and if something kills you in Rust it will most likely be another player, a glitch, or your own lack of experience, not the framerate.
None of these three games depend too heavily on high-end hardware in order to provide the experience they are aiming for. It is of course better to play them on a more powerful machine, but an older PC will do just fine in a pinch.
This isn't the case with LawBreakers. The game is a competitive mutiplayer online shooter and framerates matter, a lot. Here are the recommended system requirements as stated by the developers:
- OS: Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)
- Processor: Intel Core i7 -4790
- Memory: 16 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GTX 970, AMD Radeon R9 290
- DirectX: Version 11
- Network: Broadband Internet connection
- Storage: 35 GB available space
- Additional Notes: Recommended specs optimized for 90FPS. With a high end card like a Nvidia GTX 980 Ti the game should run at 144hz.
So, if you want to dance on the most level of playing fields for LawBreakers, you need a £600 GPU, and that is assuming your rig is already compliant with the rest of the requirements. Sure, I may be nitpicking, and PlayStation 4 players won't be having this problem, but it shows that Cliffy's definition of AA only makes sense from a developer/publisher standpoint.
LawBreakers is obviously still playable on lower framerates or on lower settings, but when designing a competitive shooter optimisation and performance has to be at least as high a priority as prettyness.
All of the games and the business models the developer cites as AA have one thing in common that LawBreakers doesn't - they are affordable and playable beyond just the price tag dangling off the game's virtual box. It would be much more accurate to say that Boss Key Productions is trying to break into the AAA market on a AA budget, rather than just saying that LawBreakers is a AA game - unless you are talking to investors of course.
From the studio's perspective, sure - LawBreakers is definitely AA, but from a customer standpoint it actually isn't, and the whole concept falls apart. If a player/customer is willing and able to cough up the money for a high-end PC, then expecting that same player to start counting pennies and shy away from a AAA priced game is more than a little unrealistic.
Also, there is a cosmetic loot box system, because we simply have to wait for that plague to burn itself out I guess. When taken together, the entire idea behind marketing a highly polished game streamlined to a point of affordability towards owners of more expensive high end PCs comes off as a little contradictory. It might actually work, but we will have to wait in order to find out.