GDC 2010: APB Updated Impressions

Tattooed homicidal freak or square-jawed do-gooder? It's up to you how you play in Realtime Worlds' upcoming massively multiplayer online action game.


Whether you're a hardened criminal or a crime-fighting enforcer, the world of APB will have plenty of options for adventure. The upcoming massively multiplayer online action game from Realtime Worlds is looking to make some significant changes to the MMO landscape, thanks to obsessive levels of character customization and a mission structure that is dependent not just on non-player characters, but on fellow real-life players. Realtime Worlds' Dave Jones gave a brief demo of the game during today's media briefing at the Epic booth on the floor of the 2010 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

It's cops and robbers on a massively multiplayer scale in Realtime Worlds' upcoming APB.
It's cops and robbers on a massively multiplayer scale in Realtime Worlds' upcoming APB.

Jones kicked off the demo by showing a menu featuring three of the areas that will be in the game: the waterfront district, the financial district, and the social district. The demo focused on the latter pair of districts. Jones explained that the social district will be where hundreds of players can gather together to chat, form clans, and dive into the game's deep customization tools. Seemingly everything can be customized from the ground up; Jones showed off the system of changing a character's physical characteristics such as height or weight, as well as designing unique clothes that he or she will wear by applying vinyl shapes. You can do the same with your ride as well--painting your car to your heart's content and adding vinyls to give your vehicle a look all its own. You'll earn vehicles either by unlocking them or by purchasing them outright with cash you earn in the game. You'll be able to build a modest, but not unlimited, car collection with a limited number of slots in your personal garage.

Customization doesn't end with cool threads and a pimped-out ride--Jones also showed off a simple sequencer that lets you create custom tunes in a variety of styles that you can then assign to your car to play as you drive around town. You can even create and assign a song to play when you kill a fellow player in APB--sort of a musical equivalent of teabagging.

You'll be able to sell clothing or cars you design in the game, and in the social area, you can buy designated spots in the world to display your wares in the hopes of getting people interested. And statues strewn around the social district will recognize the top players around the APB world and memorialize them, at least temporarily.

With the customization options out of the way, we were taken to the financial district where Jones and a fellow Realtime Worlds developer were unleashed in the world, with one character playing as a criminal and the other playing as an enforcer. Whether you are considered a criminal or an enforcer in APB will depend entirely on your actions in the game; if you start beating people down and robbing them, your notoriety level will rise and you'll gain a criminal rep. Likewise, if you shut down crimes in progress, you'll eventually become known as an enforcer.

It's the PVP interaction between criminals and enforcers that forms the basics of how missions work. In the demo, Jones' character joined a party of like-minded thugs and started spraying graffiti at certain spots around town. Before long, a group of enforcers were alerted to the crime in progress (via an APB, naturally), and a posse of enforcers showed up to stomp down the bad guys. A huge gun battle emerged as the criminals tried to get their graffiti message spread and the enforcers looked to blast them to bits.

When a player is killed in APB, he or she will respawn a few hundred yards away. Enforcers will also have the additional ability to arrest criminals--slapping the cuffs on them and essentially keeping them out of action for 15 to 20 seconds, considerably longer than it takes to respawn after dying. The dynamic matchmaking and the constant push and pull of enforcers and criminals look to balance the gameplay throughout APB--and both factions will have specific mission types. For example, criminals will be able to capture VIPs and plant bombs, and enforcers will be able to kick off mission types with things like escort missions and defusing bombs. Up to 40 players can be involved in a single mission (with 20 players per side), and teams can call in for backup should they find themselves outnumbered.

Cops and robbers might be one of the oldest genres around, but it seems that Realtime Worlds is casting the well-worn trope in a new light with APB. We look forward to jumping into the world with the tattooed homicidal freak we've created in our mind when the game is released...whenever that may be. Look for more on APB in the near future.

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