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. :)
The biggest game breaker in APB is Upgrades. They are to be frank, a dreadful system! It is furstrating to lose a very tight battle because the opposition has a slightly superier time to kill over you. Playing against a decent team with maximum upgrades when you don’t have any is just a slaughterfest and leaves you angry and disillusioned with the game. Sometimes the upgrades may not have even had an effect on a scenario (for example an upgraded player is a good shot, killing a player who sprayed wildly due to skill), however knowing that the opponent had upgrades will leave you bitter and feeling hard done by, regardless whether it is the case or not! Even when I was privvy to the actual values and knew Savage 1 on a certain weapon made no odds, I still found myself feeling agrieved at dying to it! Whilst I’m not completely opposed to the idea of statistical upgrades and fully appreciate the need for things to unlock and develop your character with in an online title (especially a subscription based one), providing a strong advantage is just wrong.
My approach would be to create three upgrade categories. Weapon upgrades, clip upgrades and attachments. Attachments would be utility upgrades such as spotting and radar suppression that do not have any effect on your ability to kill someone once opening fire, however they provide some form of tactical advantage. Clip upgrades would be reload speed, increased ammo count and so forth. Last but not least, weapon upgrades would be accuracy, damage and recoil. Rather than the three tiers of Savage (damage upgrades), have one minor upgrade then use zero sum. Increased damage may come with reduced accuracy.
You should only be able to pick one upgrade per category and provide weapons with specific slots. This provides a great depth in items for progression. Similarly the unlocks should come from a new progression tree not currently within APB, weapon progression. Using your shotgun should unlock upgradeable shotguns and shotgun specific upgrades. Ah yes, weapon specific upgrades. To avoid over powering certain weapons, provide specific upgrades for each weapon. Previously a 5m upgrade on range means little for a semi-auto rifle but for a shotgun it is immense. This system would allow for tiers of upgrades to have values most appropriate to the weapon rather than having to balance across all weapons. Presets can still remain part of the main progression arc to provide the player with a variety of weapons, however players will be develop their preferred weapon rather than having to receive unlocks for weapons they are uncomfortable using for prolongued periods before getting something of use.
The same would need to be done with character and vehicle upgrades. It wasn’t particularly common knowledge but using the maximum combination of character health mods was insanely powerful. Again these should be restricted by category and using a zero sum approach for any statistical upgrades (more health means less speed). There is also a massive amount of utility character mods to gain tactical advantages with the radar and world space markers as well as the ability to drop a grenade when you die or perhaps a temporary adrenaline rush. I would potentially also move the equipment upgrades to character slots, allowing players to specialise in carrying out objectives.
A key thing with bringing in such a range of tactical upgrades is the ability to switch them. Previously replacing an upgrade meant that you lost your upgrade when switching it out. Obviously if you have spent all your in game cash to get an awesome setup but feel the need for something different for a particular mission, throwing away your upgrades isn’t an option. I’d look to create interchangable upgrades so that switching one out simply dumps it in your stockpile. This would help encourage the use of upgrades in a tactical manner.