Post E3-2009: APB
Players: 1+ Player Game | Genre: MMO
In a secluded meeting room, we sat in an exclusive behind closed doors session of Reality Worlds' long awaited APB (All Points Bulletin). Earlier in the week, we learned that the title would be Published by EA under their EA Partners program. In the room, we had a chance to hear more about APB and see some of the technology and brief gameplay.
For those of you not aware, APB is from the creators of the original Grand Theft Auto title. Their vision is to create an online world that can not only be enjoyed like a regular single player game--but to compete and play with and against other real people. As we sat down for the demo, Real Time Worlds showed off several of the customization features of APB. Customization is a big part of the game and they will allow you to make a character to be completely unique from head to toe.
As you go through customizing your character, you will then be able to design a symbol to look and feel however you want it to. This symbol can be given to other players, friends, and people in your group or party. The level of detail for the symbol was completely insane. When placed on the body, the symbols will be placed as tattoos. They can, however, also be placed on as body paint.
There are also many different styles of clothes that are completely customizable. It is extremely easy to take different colors, textures, shapes, and sizes to mold your character into a unique looking person. At one point, they showed an African American from behind with a note on his back that said "Can We Make Him?" As they turned to the front, you could see a character that looked identical to President Obama with a badge on his front pocket saying "Yes We Can".
Just when you thought we had seen the last customization feature, we were shown next how to create and customize their own vehicle. Like both your character and symbols, players can create, share, and trade their own unique paint jobs and looks for their vehicles. But not all of us are artistic and I will be the first to raise my hand that I am not that great when it comes to creating custom paint jobs, shirts, etc. To reconcile the need, APB will have a marketplace where players will be able to buy and sell content for the game. This includes symbols, clothing, and even custom paint jobs. Real Time Worlds hopes that people will use their talents to create plenty of objects to sell on the marketplace and become famous clothing designers, artists, and people will look to these famous virtual designers for the latest in style in fashion.
But APB is much more than just a bunch of virtual creation tools. This is an actual game after all. After all the customization is done, players must choose to be an Enforcer or a Thug. All NPC's in the game world will also take part to one of these organizations. Although it would make sense for you to face off against opposing NPC's--Real Time Worlds' vision for the future of the genre is to pit player verses player. All combat will take place in this fashion. How they go about this is the fun part.
Each city within APB houses roughly a hundred players. Players won't find any lobbies but will enter the world and go to one of the cities. As a Thug, players will go about trying to commit a crime by themselves or with other people. As the crime occurs, the server will automatically call out an All Points Bulletin on these players to active Enforcers who match up with similar skill levels. The Thugs don't know where or when the Enforcers will come or how many there will be. However, no other Enforcers are able to participate in the combat unless they are called in by the server.
It is possible for the player to deny an APB--however it is strongly frowned upon by the community as the player should be on "active duty" in areas where they receive an APB. We were also told that there are times when the server will allow the crime to take place. The Thugs don't know this and they will be timidly going out to carry out the crime wondering if they got away cleanly or if the Enforcer will be just around the corner.
Matching players against each other is something that Real Time Worlds takes seriously. The key is to see how talented the players are and the server will rank them behind the scenes. This can cause some interesting scenarios. For example, if you have a really talented Thug committing a crime, the server might call out an APB to five different, less skilled, players. This will not only be a challenge for the five players but also the one, really good, player to try and carry out the crime against a large number of enemies.
Death will not be a major penalty in APB. You will die and you might die often. This is just a part of the game. But the penalty will be sitting out for about ten seconds before getting back into the action. As the game is still in development--this might change later--but Real Time Worlds feels this will be the way the death penalty will work in the future.
Death does has an interesting feature though. Players can continue the customization all the way down to their death. You can construct a death song using a built in editor. Players in the current beta test have used the tools to make famous movie and game sounds. But when you die, not only does this sound play for you--it will also play in the speakers of the one who kills you.
For those players who accomplish a lot, the game will try to make celebrities out of them by erecting statues in their image, placing their symbol throughout in various billboards and other locations.
On the subject of music, Real Time Worlds is very serious about giving players the option to play the tunes they want and share them with others. To accomplish this, APB will allow players to use their own MP3 library. But more important than this is the relationship they have forged with Last.FM. Using Last.FM, players will be able to share not only listen to their own music but find similar music through the popular Internet Radio player.
Another intriguing aspect of APB is the use of VOIP in the title. Every player has built in VOIP and the voices can actually be heard in the game world, as you get close to a player or group of players, in the direction they are standing at. In the world of APB, you may hear some conversations going on in the distance--just like you would in real life. If you wander over towards the voices, you will hear them get louder. The Developers did not disclose if you have the ability to turn off individual voices or what happens if people are being rude/profane. I am confident these issues will be addressed in the future.
Real Time Worlds will control the world from being overpopulated by any one side by only allowing a certain mix of players to exist in a given city. The server would then start up another dynamic city to begin serving play for a new group of players. Another way they plan to keep the action moving is to allow NPC's to give Enforcers and Thugs missions to complete. As these missions are going on, the Thugs and/or Enforcers will be told about it so they can join in on the action.
On the subject of fees, Real Time Worlds is not ready to disclose the pricing structure that will exist for APB. They did say that the game would not feature a standard MMO pricing scheme but will offer something as unique as the game is. Intriguing comments and as soon as we learn more, we will be sure to disclose them to you. Overall, APB is shaping up to be a great game. While the gameplay elements we were shown were limited in scope, I am very eager to see more of the title.