GTA creator opens up on APB

DEVELOP '09: Realtime Worlds' Dave Jones uses keynote to discuss origins of forthcoming cops-vs.-criminals MMOG, suggests sci-fi settings limit audience size.


BRIGHTON, UK--As the creator of Lemmings, Grand Theft Auto, and Crackdown, Dave Jones is well positioned to talk about innovation and shaping the future of the industry. Nevertheless, this is the first time that the Dundee native has ever attended the Brighton Develop conference, let alone spoke at it. To mark the occasion of his first keynote at the show, Jones focused on the development of a 100 percent online game, with his upcoming action title All Points Bulletin at the centre.

Dave Jones at Develop 09.
Dave Jones at Develop 09.

The highlight of the talk was a 10-minute expose of APB, which launches in early 2010. The game is designed around the concept of "creativity, celebrity, and conflict." In terms of creativity, the game will offer an in-depth avatar creator, which also stretches to vehicles.

Some of the most interesting customisation in APB looks to come from the audio side. Jones confirmed the integration of music-streaming service (which is owned by GameSpot's parent company CBS) for the game, so when players link their APB accounts to the service, they will be able to enjoy their favourite music in the game. There's also a simple music composition tool included in the game, and Jones showed how users will be able to compose "Another One Bites the Dust" or the theme from Super Mario Bros. These customs sound clips can then be cued up to in-game events, for example, playing whenever the gamer kills someone. "You could become the Mario assassin," joked Jones.

On the technical side, Jones said that his new favourite piece of technology was the server that APB will run from. "There will be no lobbies in our game," said Jones. "There will be asymmetrical matchmaking, looking at your skill level and bringing in lots of players or just two depending on the situation. APB will also be a truly persistent world--GTA and Crackdown were not." He then showed how the game world is alive even when players aren't on the server, with AI cars and people going about their business in the city.

Jones also found time to talk about his previous game, Crackdown on the Xbox 360. "Crackdown sold 1.5 million copies, which was just enough to break even," he said. "You have to be top 10 these days," he claimed, talking about retail charts. He specifically bemoaned used game sales--often a favourite complaint from speakers at Brighton--as well as the difficulty in selling a new IP.

Jones also had plenty of advice to give from the lessons he's learned over his 20-year career. When he set up DMA Design, which would go on to make Lemmings and GTA, Jones was a student and received £0.75 ($1.20 at today's exchange rates) per game he sold. "I plagiarised and that's fine--it's OK to learn from the masters," he said. "Actually, a lot of people said GTA1 was a lot like Pac Man, and it was." Jones added he was amazed at how similar game development is now, with the advent of the iPhone, in terms of production and royalties for development teams.

Jones also talked about his design principles, listed in order of importance: attention to detail; simple building blocks, compound effects; great training; keep it contemporary; humour; innovate, forge a genre. Attention to detail is the most important facet of design according to Jones, but his most interesting, and potentially controversial, advice was on keeping games contemporary. "If you want to break down barriers, reach the biggest audience, [then] keep it contemporary," he said. While he acknowledged their place in the industry, he railed against sci-fi games in particular, which he feels have too many barriers to entry.

He also talked about looking at developing for other platforms. "We looked at Wii, and it's great for Nintendo, but I like to make games that I play and so does our team," said Jones. "iPhone is also interesting, but I think it's for the up-and-coming guys--a great one for students to cut their teeth in."

Eventually, the team settled on an online game. "Online has huge scope for innovation," he elaborated. "If you look at Gears of War and Halo, then you see [online] is truly where players spend their time." There are also selfish reasons, he admits. "Client piracy is not an issue, and the economics are more favourable to developers."

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Avatar image for Blood_Diamond

*fingers crossed* the first non sci fi MMORPG that could drag me in

Avatar image for SephireX

I disagree about the sci-fi thing. Most people can be attracted to playing in a sci-fi world, once it is interesting and there is depth. People watch sci-fi movies all the time and sci-fi games such as Mass Effect and Halo have done very well. However, I like being a gangster in games, well a smart gangster. I don't like playing as a scumbag thug but I like being the bad guy. I think the gameplay will make or break APB. It needs to have great gun-play, depth and competitiveness and it needs to be fun of course. It has potential but until I see it in action, I will find it difficult to be too hyped.

Avatar image for 1-800-Homicide

this game is gonna wreck on everything, guaranteed. all it is is a 100% customizable grand theft auto. which GTAs did dave jones make?

Avatar image for Jaxith

I realize he's a major player in the industry, and most of his points are all well and good, but I disagree with his opinion on the Sci-fi genre. The success of games like Mass Effect, and Halo pretty much go against the entire idea of them having such "obstacles". Furthermore, when you think of what he might mean by "contemporary", two things come to mind: Military Shooters... and 'gangsta' games. Military shooters are a dime a dozen, and as for the whole 'gangsta' thing... well... Contrary to popular belief, not everyone wants to be a thug. Some people like to play as a good guy, and so I go back to the Sci-fi genre. The heroes of sci-fi games are pretty much always just that... Heroes. Now, I'm really just a goodie-good at heart, so you can probably guess what sort of games I tend to gravitate toward. With that said, I'm actually looking forward to APB. It seems like alot of effort and some good ideas are going into it, though honestly, I wouldn't be even the slightest bit interested if it didn't seem like you had at least some capacity to play the role of one of the good guys. Whether I like the game or not remains to be seen, though I do regardlessly expect the game to be a good game, and hope it succeeds once it's released.

Avatar image for Uthek

Uh... client piracy not an issue? Yeah no online game has ever been used with pirated software. *stares at WoW and RO for starters*

Avatar image for scarface_dm

This game is going to be amazing, I love the fact you can listen to a music track in your car and the other players in the game can actually hear it as you pass by....thatz sweet. Im glade its coming to 360 :D

Avatar image for Alucard_Prime

"Well to all those wondering why gamespot sucks these days, the answer is in this article. They are owned by CBS, that explains a lot." Since Gamespot sucks, please enlighten the stupid people such as myself, as to which web site(s) is better.

Avatar image for dg3215

Well to all those wondering why gamespot sucks these days, the answer is in this article. They are owned by CBS, that explains a lot.

Avatar image for Cicatraz_ESP

I love good scifi flick, and especially a good sci fi game. And that's all I have to say on this matter.

Avatar image for pakhair

I agree with him on a lot of things...... I hope APB doesn't disappoint us, Many games have promised a lot but when they r released, They r epic failure...... I hope this doesn't happen with APB........

Avatar image for Taegre

I agree with him on how we need more games set in a contemporary world, but I don't see how a sci-fi setting turns players away. A majority of the gaming audience plays for escapism, and sci-fi and fantasy are the definition of escapism. Actually, it's ironic that he's calling out sci-fi for having too many barriers to entry while plugging an MMO, the most technically and financially inaccessible game genre out there.

Avatar image for Tygraph

When has GTA or Crackdown failed someone? I think I've made my point :) Think of the GTA everyone wanted before. MMO. Now this is it. He knows what's up!

Avatar image for mcspaddin

looks good im interested to see how the server matchmaking system will work

Avatar image for AnarchyRising

I agree with Gamesmasterx on the comment about "one shot one kill". Realism to that extreme is fine in a single player game if it is more of a "sim" than a run and gun. I actually like Face of Mankind (am i the only one hehe) and it wasnt FAR from one shot because of the massive wars. You took 5 bullets and thought you took one. All in all though; i think APB will be completely great provided its done right... and i think it will be.

Avatar image for S3XYT1M3

the customization on this game looks amazing

Avatar image for Gamesmasterx

@Hobbitslayer18 Yes, at last, someone who agrees with me. The only thing you missed out that i don't like is how easy it is to be killed, I know that in reality a single bullet can kill you, but who wants a realistic game? Seriously, walk to a little place called outside. (Rather large actually) Why have something that tries to come close to reality when we already have it, why not make something slightly more far fetched, at least something fun. I don't know, maybe regenerating health and an infinite ammo unlock/cheat and then I think I would have loved it. Though i could be wrong since GTA3 wasn't like that but i liked it.

Avatar image for Hobbitslayer18

@ban_fur Good that you mentioned it, but I still don't trust this guy, I would rather have the creator of Gta: VC and Gta: SA make this game and gta 5.

Avatar image for ban_fur

I think most of you don't realize that he is the creator of gta 1+2 the top down games, he has nothing to do with gta 3 and up. << LINK REMOVED >>

Avatar image for Hobbitslayer18

@Gamesmasterx @DaneGamer Guess great minds think the same, cause that's exactly what I feel. Gta4 wasn't bad, it had good graphics, but it just had too less options, the only thing you could do with your cash was buying clothes, guns and food. While in Vc you could buy shops wich would earn you money after some missions, same for SA, with the only difference that you only had to buy them and didn't need to do any missions so it would earn something. The combination between forest, beach, desert and city are great, and that's what I hate about LC, because it's only city. Also the characters from the previous PS2 console were a lot more interesting, I will never forget Tommy Vercetti, Ken Rosenberg, Carl Johnson, Big Smoke, Sweet, Ryder, officer Tenpenny, and many more. And the most fun thing was that a lot of characters from the other games appeared in the latest game of them, like Ken Rosenberg (gta: VC) in SA, or Claude and catalina (gta 3) in SA. One of the most important things I hate about Gta4 is that the action is slower than their precious games, it takes ages to take your gun, aim it at the enemy and gunning him down, sometimes it even looks like they are just absorbing the bullets cause it takes way too long to put them down. And at least we have the storyline, which could have offered a lot more interesting characters or an interesting plot, cause everything was so predictable. The only characters I liked in Gta4 were Little Jacob and Badman.

Avatar image for vexum

@ali-009: you're pathetic

Avatar image for Thirdrail1

I wish he'd find a way to "keep it contemporary" without rehashing the same game over and over. Let me guess, GTA5, 6, 7 and 8 will all feature a thug with a human touch that decides to ascend the ladder of organized crime. Maybe he has a secret bet with the pokemon designers to see who can clone their own game the most times and still make the top 10. Zzzzzzz! I like how he disses sci-fi then cites Gears and Halo as examples of games that led him in the direction he's now going. Classy!

Avatar image for vision2020

it's prolly coming out on PS3 i dont know they're all complaining they got Agent be happy greedy arses lol.....

Avatar image for wahyudil

GTA online? that will be WOW biggest competitor ...

Avatar image for txswagger

man apb sounds pretty good hope it doesn't blow

Avatar image for Hvac0120

[quote="brendanhunt1"] why is this not on ps3. [/quote] My guess... The deal that was made with Microsoft. There is probably an exclusive rights issue with putting a game on the ps3 that uses that service. I've noticed that since Microsoft announced the deal all of the home page review links (in the main flash) go to the Xbox 360 review pages. I think it's pretty crappy that the deal has affected this gaming site in small, but noticeable ways. _

Avatar image for yunarce19

gamespot is really becoming biased to xbox360.

Avatar image for brendanhunt1

on IGN it says "on ps3(rumored)"

Avatar image for THORINATOR

@ buzzoinks I totally agree, i'd love to see Body Harvest brought back to life-brilliant game.

Avatar image for brendanhunt1

why is this not on ps3.

Avatar image for maxsteel86

@ali-09 AKA Jack Thompson, shouldn't you be spending more time trying to get unbanned from practising law again?

Avatar image for trick6952

ok well ali-009 clearly dosent know what he's talking about metal gear solid and grand theft auto are comeletely different so why bother even saying that

Avatar image for DaneGamer

Lol at you All-009, MGS and GTA are two waaaaay different games xD - I think all the GTA games are great, but the GTA IV aint got the same charm as the previous... same thing goes for Chinatown Wars... I love Vice City and San Andreas (Last one was practicly one of the best games ever made!)

Avatar image for Generic_Dude

They should put an addendum in there "creator of Grand Theft Auto (not the good ones)".

Avatar image for Gamesmasterx

I liked GTA until IV...

Avatar image for payback_56

Ali-009 u might not like GTA, but i think its a great series, and the sales figures don't lie.....The only GTA that did bad was the DS version (chinatown wars)

Avatar image for buzzoinks

I guess we won't be seeing a Body Harvest sequel any time soon... a new Body Harvest on the GTAIV engine would be H O T!

Avatar image for partytimekegs

I'll be honest, I don't trust APB with my money. Considering it went dead for so, so long and just all of a sudden came back to life with a new lead and different design. I mean.. doesn't anyone else think this game was just picked up and slapped with a bit of style and rushed out the door? Maybe I'm being a bit too critical, even though some features are nifty, but I won't believe anything I'm told by these people until the game is in my hands and I have a free trial to decide if its rubbish or not. =P

Avatar image for cashfarmer54

that's cool!

Avatar image for cashfarmer54

Wow! really!

Avatar image for blink-jfg

I can't wait for this game. Could be the one to beat for online next year :D

Avatar image for hamoksha0000


Avatar image for nikbotv4

Too many good sounding MMO's at once! KOTOR, APB, AION, and Champions. WoW died a long time ago for me, and the MMOs since have not been too sparkly. These all look great though, i definitely want to get into one. *sigh* decisions decisions...

Avatar image for sun_rider95

Hmmm Ilove mmog

Avatar image for AllGunsBlazin

mmo markets isnt crowded imo there just alot of blatetly bad mmos

Avatar image for nurse_tsunami

That music integration in the game is a cool feature. I am curious to see how this game will sell. The MMO market is getting really crowded, and will get worse with the likes of SW:TOR and Champions and Aion. I am glad he mentioned humor as a pillar to development. I like games that can provide some lightheartedness, even in gritty settings.

Avatar image for zig_star

I cant wait till rockstar and bondi games release LA Noire but this would be good too

Avatar image for Gruug

@JedixMind: Isn't that what I said?

Avatar image for Mister__Awesome

I would love to see where this goes, I am intrigued.

Avatar image for Linkzelda

i hate sci fi games