This article is a continuation of my APB article where I detailed some of my thoughts on APB. I started going into great detail about why I felt certain systems were weak and how they could be improved but it was extremely wordy, so I’ve broken it up into sections. :)
Another issue in APB was the missions. Personally I enjoyed the basic 4v4 objective based gameplay but there were weaknesses in it. Certain objectives are easy to exploit and camp but the biggest criticism is missions where you can run away or retreat to a “fortress”. These generally come in VIP or capture the item style missions. When played as intended (battle on the ground) these can be very enjoyable, especially capturing the item, however when a player simply runs away with the item or dumps it somewhere hard to access it can lead to a dull mission for both sides. Really these situations should be avoided and the best way here is to provide a sense of direction. Give both sides a set objective to go to. Given the opportunity I’d look to take a lesson from old school game types such as King of the Hill, Flag Ball, Capture the Flag and Assault. Got a stage involving an item? provide both teams a drop off, limiting the opportunity to just camp it. VIP missions should provide some objective for the VIP to do other than try to hide. Finally kill counters should be included as well as some form of “forfeit” for those missions where you can’t find a way through and give up. Previously this results in both teams just twiddling their thumbs but if a voting forfeit system is implemented this would be reduced.
For many the mission structure of go here, press ‘F’, go there, press ‘F’, is a little dry. I believe this was originally a prototype/placeholder, however no time was ever afforded to develop it further. Whilst I certainly wouldnt encourage minigames for objectives, it would be nice to see missions become a little more involving. To do this I would propose that players have equipment items that they can use ranging from bombs to knuckle dusters. Players can store items in their Locker that would then be used in missions. Different version of equipment could be available, such as a bomb that is quicker to set or longer to defuse, a gas can that has a nossle allowing it to be poured faster and a better lock picking kit. In addition to the items you store, they could be spawned as task items as part of the mission, although preferably always the base version. This would ensure that a mission is always possible.
Lets have a look at how this may work for bombing a shop. Previously any member of the team can go to the location, press ‘F’ and plant the bomb. The time this takes depends on the mission and the player’s equipment. Instead players should have to take a bomb task item to a location and activate/deploy it. Successfully accomplishing this completes the objective and dying/dropping it requires someone to pick it up and carry on until complete. If a bomb is detonated in the incorrect location, a new bomb must be retrieved. This provides a more involving mission and moves away from having you just run up and press ‘F’. So what would the opposition do? Simply camp the objective? No. Should the bomb be dropped in their vicinity / view it should be identified as a bomb and they should be able to deliver it for a reward or dispose of it. The task team would then have to obtain another bomb in order to keep going.
Missions then could be much shorter in terms of stages but with each stage involving more than anyone running up to an objective and pressing ‘F’. For example off the top of my head, here’s a possible Criminal mission based around a bombing. First the team are given a brief introduction such as “We’ve a bomb to plant. Get your team together and I’ll tell you more.” from the Contact. The objective therefore is for everyone to get equipped for a bombing mission and meet up. This also looks to bring teams together and get them rolling as a group. A bomb and crowbar could then be spawned and picked up with the next objectives being a burglary to get schematics for a building. This would be to trigger the APB dispatch. The team then have to go and plant the bomb whilst the opposition are looking to recover and deliver any bombs that the Criminal team drop.
Another mission could involve an Enforcer raid for evidence.The brief could state something along the lines of “Get a unit together, we need you to raid some locations for evidence.” which initiates a meet up stage. Once everyone is together a battering ram is spawned and the team then completes a raid operation, spawning an item. This would provide two delivery locations, one per side, as well as a new raid target. The Enforcers can either complete the new raid (and subsequent raids) and deliver all the items, or do them one at a time. Meanwhile the Criminals will be trying to retrieve these items and deliver them for themseles. At the end of the mission the team with the most deliveries wins.
My final thought regarding missions is with the open world section of the game. This involved driving into a shop front, taking some items and then delivering them or stealing a car and delivering it. If you were witnessed then an escape, VIP or deathmatch mission was triggered. Whilst these were sometimes fun, they were often exploited mainly as they took the Criminal away from what they wanted to do. Instead how about a short mission based on the witnessed crime? If the player was witnessed carrying a stolen item, their objective is to deliver the item and the Enforcer’s objective is to either kill them or for more reward, return the item. If a criminal is witnessed driving a stolen vehicle, make it an escape mission where the criminal must drive through a couple of checkpoints and then deliver the vehicle whilst the Enforcer tries to either kill/arrest them or of course, return the vehicle.
All in all I think that whilst the previous mission structure provided a basis for people to come together for PvP, players were looking for something more. I see the way forward as providing split objectives as well as utilising actual items to carry out operations such as bombings, burglaries and arson. Equipment items would give objectives more depth and be more involving than just fighting your way to somewhere to press a key. Team work would be required as well in order to protect the player with the item. Split objectives provide incentive not to camp and ensuring VIPs or items have a destination means that they no longer would be a case of “run away and hide”. The new open world / witness missions would give context and structure to the previously exploitable bounty missions that took you out of where you wanted to be.