Interview: GamersFirst Explain APB Reloaded

By Brendan Caldwell on January 27th, 2012 at 1:33 pm.


Our London-based agent Brendan Caldwell recently talked to the men who are responsible for the resurrection of ill-fated MMO-shooter, APB. Michael Boniface and Zak Littwin, who hail from the original Realtime Worlds team, had quite a lot to say about the current state of their project. Read on for Uzi lovin’.

RPS: Small talk time! How is everything up in Edinburgh?

Zak: Yeah, it’s good. Been pretty busy couple of weeks, we’ve got a couple of patches coming out this week and then we’ve got a Valentine’s Day event coming up so we’re just trying to get to get geared up for that. And also trying desperately to learn some Robbie Burns poems.

RPS: What kind of things are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

Zak: So, we’ll be giving all the players in the game some pink guns to use for the durations. Killing people with pink guns gets you points towards things that we’ll add… We’ve got some new symbols coming through, we’ve got a new pair of sunglasses that are heart shaped and in a slight nod to the Valentine’s Day massacre we’re also putting in a pink police hat and Tommy gun.

RPS: History. Nice. APB has its own history too. You’re not worried that people will have a prejudice against the game, based on the press and response it got when it was first released?

Michael: No, I don’t think so. We did a lot to try and engage the previous community – for example, if you’ve done a lot of character customisation originally you can carry it over to the new game – so we tried our best to reach out to that community and bring that with us. I mean, we’re coming up to a year and a half now since Realtime Worlds went down and I think that, no, it was never going to be a quick thing but people have played the game again and have seen the changes, seen what we’re doing . And I think the fact that we are so closely engaged with the community I don’t think anyone carries that prejudice over.

Zak: It’s still a little bit of an uphill battle to get players to play the game again but… we’ve changed a lot about how the game plays and feels. There’ll always be those who didn’t really like it but I guess it’s free. So as long as you can get people [to try].

Michael: Which is a good point. I think if we had tried to go for a boxed product again and said all right you need to buy another £29.99 box with a subscription, that wouldn’t work. But because it is free, what have they got to lose?


RPS: When you talk about the changes you’ve made, what sort of things have you tweaked?

Zak: Well, to start with the weapons, the vehicles all feel completely different. They’re a lot more flowing and visceral and fun to use. Progression has completely changed around, so you do have a proper list to see what you’ve got to do and where you need to go and such like. And you’ll see a lot of content. A lot of new weapons, vehicles.

Michael: And Fight Club.

Zak: Fight Club’s been added recently. We’re just putting challenges out and are testing them at the moment. Yeah, there have been quite a lot of changes.

RPS: How the vehicles handled were one of the biggest concerns in reviews. How exactly has that been fixed?

Zak: Well before, there was almost double latency. So you had the latency to the server from the client, which can’t be fixed because that’s purely down to connection speed. But also what happened is previously when you pressed a direction key, that would tell the character to start turning the wheel that way which would take a considerable amount of time to do. So you’d sort of have the duration before, between you telling the character – and telling the server – to turn the wheel and the wheels turning, which would take about another half second so you have a lot of delay there. We still keep that for some vehicles that we want to feel really heavy and sluggish, which is what all vehicles used to do. Now it’s just things like armoured vans and garbage disposal trucks that are really sluggish but a lot of the other ones are really fast and can nip about. I was really trying to get all the vehicles to fall into their own archetype and feeling like they should. In a lot of cases not how they would in real life but sort of Hollywood realism. So, driving a muscle car it’s going to go driving in a straight line insanely fast but you’re going to have to handbrake turn corners, that sort of stuff. The thought is that you can zip in and out of traffic fairly easy. It’s definitely one of the first things that someone who has played the original game will notice when they get into the new one. You get a vehicle and you can drive it. It’s actually a bigger problem in our beta – you’ve got a new vehicle as the starting vehicle and it’s really easy to drive, really responsive and nimble. Old players would jump in it and [not get it] at all because they’re turning a second and a half too fast. They’d try it, see a corner coming up and turn before they’d think they’d have to because they expect it to lag and they’d just crash into the wall before they hit the corner because we’ve taken a second off the turning time of most vehicles.


RPS: On the subject of balance, how do you ensure that new players aren’t getting trounced by veterans or people who have simply bought the higher-end guns?

Zak: So, with the first weapon you get [now], the Star 556, you switch from a slow-firing, accurate marksman weapon to a fast-firing assault rifle. It’s a pretty – it’s as good as any other gun in the game actually. A lot of people never really go past that point. I know our QA tester Adam only uses that gun. The trick was to try and make the first one you get into a fun, jack-of-all-trades, good weapon… If there’s a better player close to you with a shotgun, you’re still going to get dropped. Same with the sniper rifle from long range but you’re better than most weapons outside your niche and you’ve got your own niche as well. On top of that, we’ve made it so that you can unlock all the basic weapons apart from explosives within about a half hour of starting the game. You’ll get extra modification slots later because we changed the upgrades to mods, so they all have upsides and downsides, it’s all about making it [so that] everything balances out. So as you play through the game you get more specialised but you don’t get ‘better’. There’s no such thing as a plus nine percent damage mod, which is what we had in standard APB. There’s still a plus nine percent rate of fire mod but it also heavily reduces accuracy and shotgun spread – it makes your gun kick around a bit.

RPS: As far as pricing goes for the higher end weapons in the Armas store, it costs as much as £10 (or £15) for some guns but that’s only to ‘lease’ them for 30 days. And if you want to buy them permanently it costs more, sometimes upwards of £30 (or $50). Do you think that’s a good pricing plan? Especially considering the cheapest deal is basically for renting a gun?

Michael: So, there’s a broad range of pricing for different items. You know, sometimes it reflects the amount of work that has to go into making the items. The problem is that because the game is free to play it really is player choice, so yeah, there’s a spectrum of pricing. We do lots of different deals and offer weapons that are higher price but you’ll find with discounts at certain times. There’s the leased or permanent sort of stuff as well and we’ve been looking at doing trial weapons and things like that. Yeah, I think the pricing is vague – it does change quite a lot. It’s a constantly evolving thing for us, we’re always looking at how we work with pricing and what works best but at the end of the day the game is not pay to win. So, you can go into the free trial with the initial weapon and get through all the content and have the same experience or a good experience. So I think it’s just down to player choice, if people want to try the different weapons, if they want to lease or buy… The lease option is quite good because you’re not hitting the higher spend.

Zak: At the same time, Michael’s mentioned trials which you just hand out to players and let them try the weapon for free, and that’ll be updating twice a week in the near future so even if you don’t want to spend anything… you can try those weapons out and have a play with them. We’re also adding in the future – near future actually – the ability to use in-game special currency to get Armas weapons for a limited duration, so if you don’t want to pay cash and if you play a lot then you can [level up that way].

RPS: You can still buy things off the NPCs using in-game currency that you earn, is that right?

Zak: There are a couple of weapons that are unique to Armas and we’re definitely making sure that they are not over-powered, that they’re just different in a few ways. So the spread of the shotgun blast, damage of the sniper rifle – that sort of thing. So the sniper rifle you get in Armas – actually most weapons you get in Armas – are much lower in damage than the ones you [earn] in-game. But they tend to be more specialised. So, you can sprint with the [Armas] sniper rifle, the sub-machine gun is silenced, the assault rifle has a scope on it so it has longer range but is far less accurate than the real one.

Michael: It is just all about balance. Like Zak pointed out, no weapon is particularly better than another weapon – they’re just different in different ways.

Zak: And if they are better accidentally we’ll find it pretty fast and give it a tweak. There will be balance issues as we add things but you often find out pretty fast.


RPS: Do you feel like you salvaged something from what was originally a very difficult launch and that APB can go on to be as successful as possible?

Michael: I think – well, this is how I feel, [Zak] might feel differently and other guys may feel differently – but for me personally what we’ve managed to achieve is that we’ve actually finished the project that we all started. There’s a great sense of achievement for all of us. In that sense, the Realtime Worlds thing was horrible – it still is horrible – it was a horrible time for everyone involved. But at the end of the day we wanted to get the product to market. Turning it free-to-play actually has turned out to be the best way to do that and I think we’re all happy with that.

Zak: I think as far as saving it, yeah, pretty much. A lot of the stuff we’ve actually added has been on the list of things we need to do since far before Realtime Worlds collapsed, it’s just we never got round to it. And I’ve actually talked to a lot of the people from Realtime Worlds since I’ve been working here and they’ve been like, ‘Yeah, I’m glad that finally got in the game’. And we’re still getting there. Turf Wars I think is the big one that has constantly been mentioned for the last five or six years that we’ve always meant to do and we’re finally getting to start that as well.

Michael: There was an interview with one of Realtime’s execs just before it went down and the question was asked: ‘It’s been a bit of a soft launch, how do you feel about that?’ and he said, ‘Well, the great thing about MMOs is you can always keep fixing them as you go on. So really it is just an extension and we had to just address the issues that players had originally. And we’ll continue to do so, by no means are we saying the job’s done.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

Expect our APB WIT tomorrow.

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59 Comments »

  1. Dana says:

    Does this game still suffers from shitty performance ? Last time I played it, it ran worse then Battlefield 3.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Sounds like someone needs a new PC.

    • DevilSShadoW says:

      This game ran like crap on my machine that handled BF3 maxed out @ 60FPS

    • johnpeat says:

      @Jim nah, people who need new PCs KNOW they need new PCs and generally don’t complain.

      The people who bitch are those who THINK they have a mean PC and have the associated high expectations :)

      For the record, I ran the original Beta on a fairly poor PC and it ran ‘as well as could be expected’ – the gameplay problems certain outshone any performance issues…

    • DrGonzo says:

      This runs a lot better than Battlefield 3. It does crash after 2 or 3 hours with a ‘run out of memory’ error though.

      However, before it went free to play it ran like pap.

      I have a slow old Intel quad core @3ghz, 4 gigs of ram, and a 6870. However, the 6870 made no difference to the performance over my old 4850.

      I’ve found the game to be excellent after it’s relaunch. But it’s a pay 2 win game and that really lets it down. If it was possible to properly buy weapons instead of renting them it may be more satisfying too.

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      I played it about a month ago, and it still had enough latency that, despite really liking the game, I had to uninstall it. I would definitely be willing to give it another shot if they patch it up though.

    • Astroman says:

      Nope, it’s still APB. It has that perpetual laggy feel. Otherwise it’s a slightly less buggy version of the original with simplified weapons. Close range, mid-range,long range, and the occasional jerk with an RPG.

    • Wreckdum says:

      I’m rockin an i7 2600k, SLI GTX 580′s and 16GB ram and the current build of APB runs like hot garbage on my machine. Unigine benchmark I can smoke with tessalation on extreme and AA on 4x. Average about 70 fps. APB… Hot doo doo.

      Sounds like an optimization issue. I read on some forums that disabling SLI will actually improve performance. When I read things like that I just uninstall the game. I didn’t pay for performance to have to turn it off because someone can’t get SLI to run right in their game.

    • kzrkp says:

      terrible performance and leaks memory like a sieve

  2. AmateurScience says:

    I know it’s optional, but £10 to ‘lease’ a gun for 30 days seems a bit rum.

    • Gozuu says:

      Optional you say? Ha Ha Ha.

      Excuse me for laughing at you good Sir. But the game is developed so that aim is second priority. Weapon damage is first priority. You can sit someone in the head a good 3-4 times with the guns earned by doing missions (in-game currency) but you could also lease weapons the two shot people by leg shots , which all the high ranked players do.

      The game is fun and all, until you get two shot by weapons that cost €10 per week. In the foot. From 100 feet (yes, by a shotgun).

    • Qwentle says:

      @Gozuu: The weapon you mention that kills in 2 shots from the Marketplace fires 8 times slower than the in-game one that needs 4-5 shots, it also does significantly less damage than the in-game version everyone gets (but is more mobile to make up for it).

    • AmateurScience says:

      I’m less concerned about the game balance issue, and more concerned that paying what is equivalent to the price of many a decent indie game or meaty DLC (or indeed 1/3 of a ‘full’ game) gets you one in game item *temporarily*.

      I know there is no ‘one-pricing-structure-to-rule-them-all’ but this is probably the most poorly disguised monthly subscription charge I’ve seen (and lets face it F2P boils down to an exercise in disguising a monthly subscription charge).

    • PodX140 says:

      Gozuu: No offence, but skilled players can easily counter every armas gun by either aiming better or working them into areas/situations that your gun excels at and theirs fails. If you keep getting sniped, maybe it’s time to hide by the capture point and let them run into you, close quarters style. If you’re attacking, maybe just go with a vehicle rather than run in and get shot.

      However, I will say that a large quantity of players who have purchased the armas guns have done so BECAUSE they enjoy the game already and are skilled at it, making the gun look like the culprit.

    • ninjapirate says:

      @Gozuu: Three to four shots in the head equal three to four shots in the torso or in the foot. The zone makes no difference, characters have only a single hitbox.

  3. Kdansky says:

    Why is this not first person? And also a post that really nailed the head on how F2P really works:

    http://greedygoblin.blogspot.com/2012/01/you-are-not-player-you-are-content.html

    So yeah, those “microtransaction” (50$) weapons? Pay2Win.

    • Zarunil says:

      Good read. Some games do microtran$action$ correctly, most – however – don’t.

    • PodX140 says:

      Yeahhh. Those 50$ weapons are not P2W at all, they just – as the article says – Offer a more specialized gun. You have to understand that the people willing to spend that cash on the game enjoy it immensely, and therefore are likely very skilled, and buying the gun barely helps them, it simply allows them to enjoy their playstyle more.

      TL;DR: 90% of ARMAS gun owners are already skilled players. Hate the player, not the game.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I agree with the guy to some extent, even though he sounds like a douche. However, it’s unfair to cast all F2P games in that light. Western F2P MMOs sell content more frequently than power. You get a limited amount of content for free and then you pay to access more. DDO is a great example of this.

      LoL, which sadly seems to be in the minority of f2p pvp games, sells cooler models, slight ease of use improvements, new characters, and experience gain. The thing about paying for experience gain is that you’re actually paying to make the game harder. The very slight improvements from new runes absolutely don’t compensate for the huge leaps in skill between tiers, and soon enough everyone has the same runes anyways. Well, that’s how the philosophy worked before they were bought out by that Asian company. Now they release new characters so quickly that the game is just unbalanced.

  4. johnpeat says:

    “So, there’s a broad range of pricing for different items. You know, sometimes it reflects the amount of work that has to go into making the items.”

    I’m sorry wut!? It takes a lot of effort to ‘make’ a digital gun in a game!?!??

    Wut??

  5. int says:

    Anyone know if there is a way to remove old APB from my Steam library. It’s there… Mocking me.

    • Aemony says:

      Submit a ticket to the support, or send a PM to an administrator on the forum (i.e. BurtonJ ) and they might possibly remove it.

    • InternetBatman says:

      You can also make a not interested category and keep it closed. That’s where I put extras I got from bundles that I don’t terribly like.

  6. Aemony says:

    Ah, the lovely Star 556. Been called a cheater more times than I can count because I am able to kill players whom have spent quite the monetary fortune on their ‘powerful’ weapons, extra armor and stuff. But yeah, it is from guys whom threws “L2P!” at your face when you’re defending the area you are supposed to defend, so it’s fine.

  7. Nick says:

    Did I detect a Brass Eye reference?

    • EthZee says:

      It’s a classic song. Fur Q was a musical shakespeare, but of murder.

  8. sremorse says:

    You can sugar coat this game all you want, but it’s terrible.

    Boring, awful performance, terrible pricing structure, lifeless environments, rubbish community. If anyone buys the superior weapons, you’re simply DOA.

  9. Dominic White says:

    The prices on the game are extortionate. Some games have really quite reasonable microtransaction-based business models. This isn’t even close to being one. If the weapon prices were a tenth of what they are (£1 for a rental, £5 to buy a gun outright) it would be acceptable to most.

    • Elltot says:

      TBH I don’t understand why companies don’t just use the same model as League of Legends, one of the most successful F2P (with microtransactions) games of all time.

    • diamondmx says:

      At least, unlike EVE’s store, it wouldn’t be cheaper to buy a real gun than the virtual one.

    • The Magic says:

      I have relatives who can get an AK for £10… but then you know how exchange rates are.

  10. kwyjibo says:

    Reckon that APB should be a financial success. Pick up a property that cost tens of millions to develop for less than two million means that you should have a quality much higher than the rest of the f2p pack. Tie that with a business model that isn’t as fucking imbecilic and frankly insulting as Real Time World’s, and you ‘ll do quite nicely.

  11. Tei says:

    I have return to apb. I loooooove the game, but in the current iteration is full of rusians. Not problem, i love russians. And some cheaters, small problem. And everyone seems to have better weapons than me, small problem. I have not played in one week and half, because the game is not the game, without some of the old friends. Apb is a game ehere is easy to make friends, but i just miss the old ones. What i really want is for these people to return. Big problem.

  12. hemmingjay says:

    Shame on you B. Caldwell for not mentioning the biggest buzz about this game that keeps players away. It has one of the highest population of hackers of any game out there. With many hacking services offering this one for free and the developers offering nothing in the way of anti-cheat evolution. That will be the nail in the coffin of this otherwise enjoyable game.

    We all know if we play pvp mmo’s we will have to endure some cheaters, but this game is obscene with epeen wielding lonely fat kids with a dozen hacks running.

    • diamondmx says:

      Ah, that’s what kills a lot of these freemium FPSes, the devs simply don’t make the effort to prevent serious cheating by technical measures, and banning in a free to play game is barely inconvenient.

      Thanks for saving me the download time :)

    • Tei says:

      Do you have anything better to download just now?

      Everybody sould try the game at least once. Most people don’t seems to like the driving, or the shotting. But Is a unique game. Theres a billion wow clones, but only one APB. Test it, I say!

    • d34thm0nk3y says:

      90% of accused hackers are just good players.

    • ninjapirate says:

      What d34thm0nk3y said.

      It’s mostly new players who complain about cheaters. If you’re coming from an FPS background, it would seem obvious to suspect someone who’s “snapping” to a target that’s behind them of cheating. However, having a camera that’s not fixed, but can pan 360° around your character, gives a player a new level of awareness compared to FPS games (she can look around corners, look behind her, etc.).
      Combine that with a skilled and smart player, and you could easily mistake his game play for cheating.

    • kemryl says:

      I am more annoyed by people accusing each other of hacking then I am by hacking itself. Hackers are usually much quieter, and it feels like more of an accomplishment to me to defeat one.

  13. siegarettes says:

    GamersFirst huh?

    They must be DevelopersSecond…

  14. Jimbo says:

    I think you can rent a real gun for less than that. Not that it really matters, because the whole pay-to-win model makes me want to puke out of my ass anyway, regardless of the price they put on it.

  15. jezcentral says:

    Alas, I was constantly (and undeservedly) Punk-busted out of the start zone. It looked interesting, and piqued my interest in online shooters but I started playing TF2 instead and never looked back.

  16. PodX140 says:

    I honestly don’t know why everyone is complaining about the ARMAS guns and hackers. The former is in no way overpowered, I easily can and do take on scoped N-tec players with my regular N-tec and win the majority of the time, thier fire rate is MUCH slower, evening the playing field. And the latter is honestly just children (Free-to-play seems to attract hordes of them) complaining that they got killed once. I have completely honestly not once encountered any hackers in over 40 hours of gameplay as an enforcer, and the armas guns are not overpowered, let alone as badly as everyone says.

    The game has been fixed immensely since the original, with driving much more manageable, and firearms handling has improved as well. Though, I do advise playing it with friends, as otherwise it can get a bit annoying being on a team with not a single person speaking on a microphone.

    • Chris D says:

      If I had payed that much for a gun and it turned out not to be overpowered I’d demand my money back.

    • PodX140 says:

      Well Chris, they honestly aren’t. Oh sure, they get maybe a few more situations where they would help over regular guns (The running sniper allowing you to move into position faster, silenced smg to allow you to spray at an enemy and them likely not noticing until you’ve hit them once, ect.), but it’s not a huge difference by any means.

    • Chris D says:

      Oh I believe you, it’s just that in that case I have a hard time seeing why anyone would want to pay that much for them.

  17. Shortwave says:

    I tried to like this game far too many times.
    : /

    • Davee says:

      ^ This.
      I actually liked what G1 was doing to the old thing – until they started churning out tons of pay-exclusive weaponry (including the only silenced weapon – bar a sniper – in the game that was nearly inaudible) and equipment for hideously high prices and putting “HEY! GET A PREMIUM ACCOUNT OR YOU SUCK!” -pop-up window blocking large part of the screen every other mission the times I wasn’t using one. And oh, the abysmal performance on the later versions.

      I think they’d have a lot more players willing to hand them money if they limited the payment stuff to customization (which APB is still among the best and biggest at), premium accounts/subscription, services and other things that don’t directly alter the flow of combat, removing the possibility for pay-2-win altogether… Or do it the EVE Online/TF2 way (so it’s optional but much faster/easier to pay for your gear). I for one would probably still be playing it on and off if they used one of these two models instead of the extortionist prices for exclusive guns thing.

  18. Baines says:

    Did they ever liven up the city? I know that they finally put in the ability for cops to “witness” crimes, but the city always felt dead because there was almost no interaction outside of missions.

    You’d see gun battles, but there was nothing you could do. If you weren’t in a mission, your bullets would just pass through other players and their bullets would pass through you. You could shoot npcs, but there was no point in that (and it didn’t even count as a crime.) Being able to steal and blow up cars had a similar issue when you had player-owned cars that you couldn’t mess with.

    I know some people cried that there was already too much interaction from people outside of missions, either from acting as spotters (who were invulnerable because they weren’t officially in the mission, and thus you could do absolutely nothing about them even if they were standing right next to you) or from interacting with npc owned vehicles, but the lack of full interaction just made the world seem dead to me.

  19. TODD says:

    I love APB to death, but as Something Awful says, “The highs are very high and the lows are very frequent.” It’s an incredible game when you’re in a mobile street shootout or have a team working together in voice comms – I have often felt like I’m in the middle of the bank robbery scene from Heat. The game absolutely, 100% nails the over-the-top cops and robbers feel.

    You just can’t pick it up and join a random mission, though. I would have quit the game within days had I been stuck playing on my own. Join a clan with independent voice comms and run missions with friends, or the idiots the game loves to saddle you with will make you want to blow your brains out. APB’s community plumbs depths of stupidity uncharted even by such scions of adolescent vulgarity as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. Get in a clan, stay away from the forums, and you’ll be OK.

    Re: ARMAS weapons. The developers are being truthful in the interview. Every unique paid weapon suffers severe tradeoffs in return for increased specialization. I wouldn’t touch any of them myself; being able to sprint with a heavy sniper rifle, for instance, isn’t worth the 50% reduced damage. It is also true that the STAR 556 is perfectly serviceable as a permanent weapon. Many players, myself included, hit “gold threat” (the maximum measured skill level in the game) using the starting weapon. That doesn’t mean that they are ludicrously skilled or hackers; it just shows that the free starting weapon is that good.

    I’m surprised that the interviewees didn’t take the opportunity to sell what is arguably the best feature of APB: the unparalleled character and vehicle customization. 90% of my motivation to continue running missions has nothing to do with “better gear” (since there are no direct upgrades to the basic model in each weapon class); rather, the incentive to run missions is unlocking new clothing items, vehicle parts, and shapes and fonts with which to assemble more complex symbols, tattoos, logos, etc.

    • innociv says:

      Yeah.

      The game is great fun with friends (see: Criken Fun Police http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO9ZnEu4zXs )
      But it’s a bit boring and there are long lulls of doing nothing interested if you’re playing alone.

      And the devs are truthful in the interview.

      The game, while being free now, is also MUCH better than APB was. They fixed so many issues.
      The core gameplay is really good now, it just lacks content I guess.

    • kemryl says:

      Criken’s videos are hilarious and should all be watched.

  20. kzrkp says:

    Character movement badly needs momentum in this game. I’m taken back to the days of C&C Renegade and Planetside. Firefights are conducted by twitching back and forth madly to throw off the enemy’s aim. Also it’s a shame that the most fun part of the game – the cops and robbers spontaneous side missions – are the most neglected and hardest to find.

  21. Qwibbles says:

    APB isn’t all that bad. The number of ways to customise your characters (as well as your car) is astounding. It’s just too bad that the combat is dull, because if it weren’t we would have a fantastic game on our hands.