Hands-on with APB

A larger issue is simply whether APB’s combat is too simplistic, and whether over time familiarity will dim the pleasures of the relatively basic multiplayer conceits that adorn the top layer of a frankly remarkable player-matching system. The back-end of APB is so clever, so complex and so ingenious that the actual top-end gameplay does seem a little facile in comparison – it doesn’t feel that there’s much room for hugely tactical play, for example, and we frequently found ourselves standing stock-still as we hosed an enemy with bullets rather than frantically dashing around the place to seek cover.

Then again, as with all MMOs, the release of APB is widely seen as the beginning of its ongoing development rather than Dave Jones whipping his scarf over his shoulder and saying “And that’s the end of that chapter!” There’s a three-year plan in place, and the game will evolve according to player demand: new areas will be made available, new game modes will emerge and existing mechanics will be tweaked.

As we wandered around Real Time Worlds’ studios it became clear that there are plans to somehow incorporate what are potentially more scripted engagements from enigmatic scribbles on whiteboards – events like bank jobs, heists and raids on supermarkets. We began to feel that the Financial and Waterfront districts are something of the tip of the iceberg, and that a mass of potential content is waiting beneath the waterline.

Right now, as the game enters its final beta stages, APB is a remarkable framework for unscripted frivolity. The dream is that upon release, with the expert guidance of us the in-game gun-toting madmen, Realtime Worlds can build ever higher on the remarkable back-end they’ve constructed. We think that upon release APB will be good, but a year later we’re guessing it will be remarkable. Or at least, that’s the dream.

A brief interview with Dave Jones, Creative Director, Realtime Worlds

We root through Dave Jones’s locker, and upon discovery make up some questions to placate him

Will APB tell a story?

There’s a big story behind the city of San Paro to do with the mayor and the characters in it. We focus a lot on the characters, the contacts and the organisations, and all of them have interesting backstories as well.

I think there’s about 45 different contacts, and every one of them has a bit of storyline behind them. There’s also something with the whole Criminal/Enforcer thing: the reason we called them Enforcers and not Cops is because the Criminals aren’t necessarily criminals. It’s more that they’re not liking what the city has become, and the fact that they feel that the enforcement side is actually pretty corrupt.

So there’s a story there, and it’s something we plan to unveil and change as time goes on.

Are some areas of the map more dangerous than others?

We’ve been playing internally with what we call the Chaos District, which is one in which you can shoot anyone at any time. As you can imagine, that’s a different game. Completing a mission where anyone can shoot you is pretty damn hard. You could accidentally run over someone and they could start shooting at you. Within five minutes it could turn into war. It’s for more experienced players, and you ought to go in there pretty well armed. We want to roll the Chaos Districts out soon after launch.

How will the game change after it’s launched?

Well as players say ‘Hey I think with these particular tweaks this would be a more interesting game’ we will absolutely have districts with different rule sets. So Chaos is one rule set, but there’ll be different styles of the game that we make available to try out.

Because of the way our system works, as more people go to those districts – if they’re popular then we can start to make more with those kinds of rule sets. If we launched tomorrow, in three months we may find that people prefer another rule set from the one at launch – and the game would just dynamically have more of those districts. I’m hopeful that six months after launch we’ll have many different kinds of games within APB, and that people will migrate to the one that they love.

May 20, 2010