APB Sold, Definitely Going Free-To-Play

Damn, I'd just applied for a viewing.

Looks as though the most recent APB purchase rumour was the true one. Reloaded Productions, owned by GamersFirst, owned by the K2 Network, owned by entropy, has bought it all up, and plans to make it free-to-play during the second half of next year. Whatever they paid, it’s one heck of a bargain for the technology they now own. As dodgy as the game may have been, the customisation tech in there is unparalleled. They plan to redevelop a few aspects, the GamersFirst dude explaining,

“We are deep into the planning and early execution stages for this next chapter of APB and we will share more details in the near future. In order to put ‘Gamers First’ we will also actively engage the community in many aspects of all the planned changes.”


  1. Choca says:

    I’m gonna go with meh.

    The game being free doesn’t change the fact that its gameplay need massive overhauls to be even barely enjoyable.

    Throwing the inevitable free to play grind on it might actually hurt it in the end since it was already pretty grindy.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I don’t see how it’s a grind at all to be honest. Your just taking part in a team based multiplayer shooter. You can join in from the moment you log in and carry on that way without doing any ‘grind’. But I suppose it depends on what you think grind is.

      As for the problems with gameplay, I don’t think there was much wrong, add in better hit detection – optimise the engine A LOT, and get rid of the bugs and you have a very satisfying game, especially for a free to play game.

    • bob_d says:

      @DrGonzo: That sounds like a lot of development work. Fixing someone else’s broken game is a nightmare to begin with. I’d be surprised if they had either the resources or the will to do so, unfortunately.

    • Mr Bismarck says:

      So essentially, all they have to do is fix all the problems and they’ll have fixed all the problems?

    • wcanyon says:

      There was quite a bit of grind for some of the Roles advancement, especially Defender.

  2. Brumisator says:

    Neat! I could spend some time in the customisation house.

  3. stahlwerk says:

    In order to put ‘Gamers First’…

    *slow clap*

  4. Mike Blackney says:

    Customisation is great in this game. If they fix driving and combat I’d play it again (even without Asia Pacific servers).

    • zach says:

      ive heard its easy to drive when you figure out your supossed to brake around each turn but i wouldnt know i havent played yet

  5. Xik says:

    The biggest problem they will have is the bad reputation. They should probably change the name of the game.

    In the other article it says it is for the IP. Is this still true? Or is it just for the tech?

    • Chalky says:

      If someone told you “hey, they’ve fixed the driving and the shooting, and now it’s free!” you’d probably give it a go – it’s reputation as a really promising game ruined by some broken vital elements is a good thing if they can fix those elements.

      Does anyone know if the company who’s taken it over are any good?

    • bob_d says:

      @Chalky: From what I’ve read, the new owners are a localization and customer support company for Asian free-to-play games… they don’t seem to have done any development in the past. If the game needs serious work, it doesn’t sound like this is necessarily the company to do it. Edit: Though this seems to be a development team set up just for this project. Who knows what previous experience they have, how big the team is, etc…

    • Flimgoblin says:

      apparently the last patch prior to it going under fixed the driving and shooting… (never got around to trying it though)

  6. Meat Circus says:

    “We will also actively engage the community in many aspects of all the planned changes.”

    What a silly idea. Why not just tell us we’re playing it wrong?

  7. Lewis B says:

    Finally RPS you’ve put up this story! I’ve been waiting hours for you to! :)

    I think it’s a shrewd move: fix the driving and shooting and I’d give it a go!

    • Mistabashi says:

      Considering APB is a game about driving and shooting, what you are really asking is “fix the game”. I wouldn’t really hold-out much hope of these core gameplay aspects being improved much, it seems like the problem with shooting is more of a design issue and the problem with driving is more of a technical one.

      Since the only universally-praised feature of the game is it’s customization it seems fairly likely that this is what they bought the IP for. So expect to see an emphasis on the item store, just like every other F2P game.

  8. Lobotomist says:

    What a deal for those guys

  9. Mike says:

    You know what else is free to play? Freecell.

  10. Mike says:

    I heard first half of next year? I think this is great news.

  11. The Hammer says:

    Hey, if it’s free-to-play, I’ll give it a shot! APB was one of my most awaited games this year, and when it turned out to be a flop – with the subscription options too – I was well disappointed.

    EDIT: I remember John making it his game of E3 2008 (or ’09?); clearly there was huge anticipation for APB.

  12. jeremypeel says:

    I can’t imagine they’ll be changing any gameplay elements in any significant way before releasing it again. But who knows, eh? I’ll be trying it out this time.

  13. Kadayi says:

    “As dodgy as the game may have been, the customisation tech in there is unparalleled. ”

    How would you know, you never even played it John.

  14. int says:

    The game had potential. A brilliant customization system and with the decal designing.

    Gameplay could have used another year of fixing before they released it.

  15. Fionny says:

    Do people not worry what the Free to Play aspect will do to this game? APB itself was imbalanced with guns and upgrades before… now imagine some guy coming along buy the top weapons straight away.. Free people wouldnt have a shade’s hope.

    • clownst0pper says:

      I doubt they’d do that: most F2P games don’t- it’s usually all cosmetic items. They’re trying to retain customers, not put them off…

    • Nameykins says:

      “Do people not worry what the Free to Play aspect will do to this game?”

      Er, not really? Any improvement on being utterly and completely dead is (surprisingly enough) an improvement.

    • Damian says:

      @clown: They are planning to do just that, to bridge the gap for new players. It’s a dumb idea.

  16. Starky says:

    Ditto on what many have said above – if they can improve (fix is a bit too much to hope for) the driving and shooting, I’d give it another shot.

    I no longer feel so burned by the game thanks to EA giving me another game instead (deluxe dragon age at that).

  17. Lobotomist says:

    The mystery of APB purchase for only 2,5 million dollars is now becoming bit clearer.

    Apparently GamersFirst will pay ex Realtime workers all outstanding wages and promised holiday pay.

    • Ace says:

      I can see why there’s some confusion here, but, GF/K2 aren’t paying the ex-RTW workers – the administrators (Begbies Traynor) are, from the funds raised by selling the IP.

      Much of the outstanding salary & holiday pay (depending on the difference from £380/week) has already been dealt with by the government via the RPO (Redundancy Payments Office).

  18. fallingmagpie says:

    Ace, now you can log in from any comment thread!

    I’ve been away a while, in case this is old hat.

    Also: will play APB if free. Worth a pop, innit?

  19. Zhaosen says:

    I’m happy for the ex-employees. They will get their pay atleast =D.

    As for the game, i cannot wait for the release and at the same time i dread it.

    I cannot wait because i miss the APB customization. Unfortunately i belive GamersGate will charge items for certain clothing/design privileges along with weapon access…

    hmm, this is what i was posting on the APB forums a long time ago actually, i remember saying “want my money RTW? GET SOME VIRTUAL CLOTHES!” but then those would probably last forever, unlike this “rental” shenanigans.

    Another fear of mine will be the amount of “hackers”…it was BAD when RTW was handling it….i can only imagine what GamersGate will do (hint: nothing, look at the amount of hackers at WarRock)

    So theres that….shame really.

    O well, as long as i can make designs and incorporate them in the game ill be a happy camper =D

  20. KindredPhantom says:

    An interesting interview with GamersFirst’s Bjorn Book-Larsson on why to revive APB. It gives hints of what they plan to do, the following two answers are particualry interesting:

    What does GamersFirst plan to introduce or change about the game?
    Bjorn: For our first release, we just want to get a production version back up and running with basic modifications, along with premium features and items—including the ability to buy and lease premium items.

    When do you plan to launch the new and improved APB: Reloaded?
    We plan to launch sometime in the first half of 2011, and then take 6-12 months to grow the game after that. We might try to come up with a ‘starter’ version that might have reduced graphics, and then allow you to upgrade to the larger version later.

    • Zhaosen says:

      Are they seriously dangling the “pay more get better visuals” carrot?….f’n really?!

    • KindredPhantom says:

      I do dislike the idea of paying to get a better looking version of the game, the idea of a starter version isn’t too bad as one of the complaints about APB was it’s performance, so a starter version may allow players that don’t reach the spec to run APB.

    • Dominic White says:

      Right now it all seems up in the air. Working out a business model that’d work without horribly unbalancing the game in favour of paying customers is a tricky job.

      What would you suggest? Keep in mind that it has to make a steady profit, but without subscriptions or boxed copy sales.

    • KindredPhantom says:

      Well, what i would suggest is something similar to Guild Wars where you can pay to buy extra character slots for different armour and to unlock all the skills etc. In APB’s case you would still have the characters slots but you could pay to unlock all the decals for the designer without having to progress with the in-game contacts to unlock them.

    • Ace says:

      I think the small/large client is more to allow people who don’t feel like downloading 7.3gb to play the game, as opposed to monetising graphical quality. And, as Kindred suggests, a lower quality client should be easier on performance.

      If we must jump to conclusions, then consider jumping to positive ones – it’ll invariably make for a happier day :)

    • Zhaosen says:

      Uhm, one of the strengths of APB was its customization…if you so much as LIMIT that in one way…well….bricks will be shat.

      Personally, i would not mind paying for CLOTHING. (but hey, that seems HARDER to make than LIMITING the design choices eh)
      But mess with my ability to “design” said clothing and i will not play this game.

    • Kadayi says:

      One of the games big issues was that it it was pretty demanding in terms of performance. You really needed to be rocking a quad core/i5/i7 a heap of ram and and a 1GB gfx card to get the most out of it , so making a cut down version for lower spec machines makes sense, given the market they are chasing.

  21. RiptoR says:

    Makes me wonder what has happened to Huxley, the Unreal Engine 3 powered MMO shooter announced a couple of years back. I know the game’s available in Korea, but no word about Europe of the US…

    • Ruki says:

      Huxley had a closed beta test here in the US, and it was gawdawful. All multiplayer matches were hosted by the player who created the lobby, resulting in them running around cleaning house while everyone else dealt with 2000-millisecond response times.

      You couldn’t even PvE to avoid it, as after an hour of PvE you advanced to a second zone which made your Zone 1 equipment literally useless (it lost some 90% of its stats via technobabble about radiation levels). Acquiring new equipment which actually worked required tokens, which could only be gained… from multiplayer matches.

      A week later, Closed Beta ended and the game dropped off the face of the earth. I really enjoyed the gameplay that was there, but deciding to use locally-hosted games instead of dedicated servers was a mistake on par with APB’s horrible driving physics and payment model.

  22. Gabbo says:

    If my old account works, then I may give it a look after the relaunch.
    Otherwise, I have more than enough games to keep me busy

    • Kadayi says:

      They didn’t buy the game as a going concern, just the IP. Account data won’t be carried across.

  23. Hypatian says:

    Honestly, the driving in this game wasn’t horrible at all, in my experience. There were some issues with weird physics (larger vehicles being quite a bit more tippy than they ought to have been), but the overall experience was good once you got a feel for the controls.

    Even the gunning wasn’t horribly awful, just in terms of straight-up shooty mechanics.

    The things that drove the game down in my opinion were:

    1) Poor map design. There were a number of special “hidden” places for people to find on the maps—which isn’t immediately a bad idea… you want to support the explorers after all, right? Unfortunately, they tended to be on rooftops, and the mechanism for hiding was typically narrow little climbing paths with enough cover and clutter not to be obvious to the naked eye right away.

    So yeah… that does not combine well with “death match” or “VIP” missions. Whichever team got in the lead could easily speed to the nearest rooftop hide-away and have a near perfect killing field to take out the other team as they try to even up the score. In one of these locations, there were even destructible barrels at the bottom of the access path that could easily be destroyed by the team holding the roof.

    And of course, this being an MMO means that even if the spots were hard to find initially, it took very little time for everybody to know about them.

    2) The apparent widespread use of hacks. I don’t know how much hacking or other cheating was going on, but it certainly felt like there was at least some going on. People accused other people of hacking quite a lot, and the devs were really not saying anything at all. It got to the point where it felt like cheating was accepted and acceptable, and that’s just not cool.

    3) The power level of weapon and player mods once people had level 3 mods and 3-slot guns was too high. I think that in general, the combat should have been a bit slower paced—with people taking more shots to finish off but regenerating health more slowly, allowing for longer battles. Then again, that might have just made the short-range weapons even weaker compared to the long-range weapons.

    The combination of 2 and 3 also tied into an overall sense of unfairness, and people not understanding threat level vs. rating. They’d look at a person with a very high rating but low threat level (like me, for example), and bitch instantly that they have no chance, even though they in fact had a pretty decent chance, because I’m a lousy shot. The mods I had gave me an even chance against people at range and made me pretty decent in close quarters, but I was regularly owned by people with half my rating (e.g. “level”) or less.

    Really, what the new devs need to do is sit down and look at the gameplay experience and figure out how to make it feel more like there’s a level playing field (i.e. people aren’t cheating, every time you’re matched up against people you have a chance to win) and focus on the question of how to make sure the game is fun.

    Final thought: I’ll definitely look at it again once it goes F2P, and recommend people check it out. Not having the spectre of “how much game time do I have left?” staring over your shoulder is nice. If they can tweak the core features to make the game more fun, that will be very nice. If they can look at adding other features (I really want GTA + Mirror’s Edge + Jet Grind Radio mixed together somehow) that would be pretty great.

  24. pupsikaso says:

    Dammit! Wait for a whole year? Exactly what are they planning to change with it that would take a whole freaking year? I want to play NAO!

  25. Damian says:

    Apparently, dead in the water.

    ijji discusses relinquishing rights to Huxley

    Thi swas supposed to be a response to someone. I can never get my comments to work properly.

  26. wcanyon says:

    Know what? This game was already F2P for me. I’m not bragging, it wasn’t difficult to level up to the point that you could sell in game stuff for game time. Why someone would pay cash money for in game stuff, I dunno.

    Even when I wasn’t paying for it, I wasn’t all that in love with it. Add in a cash shop and some asian grind and it’s a big meh.