Remember APB? It was GTA Online before GTA Online existed. It was a massively multiplayer game of cops and robbers. It launched like a soggy biscuit and its developers, Real-Time Worlds, collapsed just weeks after launch. It was eventually bought by another company, GamersFirst, and turned into a free-to-play game called APB: Reloaded that we still didn’t like.
Yet the game carries on, buoyed by a small but dedicated audience and a team of developers who are clearly passionate about making it better. They’ve done a lot of work over the past couple of years, and a new post on the team’s development blog outlines the game’s future, while also offering some candid thoughts on Grand Theft Auto V.
The plan is to update the game’s engine, shifting from an older version of the Unreal Engine to the version of UE3 used to power Epic’s own Gears of War. That’ll mean a game that’s faster for the team to add new content to in future, and which both looks better and is better optimised.
Mostly though, I’m interested in seeing a developer talk openly about the way in which a big game launch like Grand Theft Auto V impacts upon their playerbase:
When the dust finally settled last week, it actually turned out that APB Reloaded was not hit any harder than the average Online PC game (again based on before-and-after comparisons of average PC game Steam numbers for the top-100 PC Steam games). Not to say we didn’t take a dent. But we are still here. Still plugging away. And still working on our ambitious long term plans.
Slowly but surely, starting last week, we also started seeing players returning to APB, which has helped us breathe a little bit easier this week. Our giant super-secret engine update that we have been working on since July depends on players continuing to support our game, so we are incredibly thankful that players are returning to APB once they have gotten their GTA fix.
When I played APB, during the beta of its first incarnation, I had all the same problems everyone else did. There was boundless potential in the concept, but it didn’t deliver on any of it. Yet it’s the kind of game I want to be good, even now that GTA Online has delivered on certain parts of it. I want APB to become what Real-Time Worlds always hoped it would; a platform for not just drive-and-shoot japes, but a playground for everything from persistent, EVE Online-style territorial control, to DayZ-style survivalist adventures.