For around two and a half years I pretty much lived and breathed APB. I was very passionate about the game, loving it when it worked, believing it really could be a great title. However in equal measurements I was finding myself full of anger because of the game breaking upgrades, overly complex progression systems & scoring metrics as well as those “little things” that just drive you insane. It was a polarising experience of love and hate.
I’ve followed Gamersfirst since they picked the game up after RTW’s financial meltdown (moderate sales + massive server costs – money due from EA = bankruptcy) and was very keen to try it out, despite concerns over some of the ideas and comments in their blog and interviews. My first try was during the Beta and to be honest, it was a disappointing experience primarily due to poor performance (including bloatware), initial dislike of some changes and no doubt the fact that I was going solo, not with a bunch of mates. I opted against posting anything a) to avoid breaching NDA and b) still hoping it would improve. However it has matured into Open Beta and a few mates from my L4D clan were playing so I decided to give it another go. I feel a lot more positive about it, although still mixed.
I’d like to take a bit of time to evaluate how I feel that the game has progressed, what pleases me about the steps forward and concerns me about steps back. Rather than one massive tl;dr article, I’ll be breaking it up into a series of articles over the coming days. These will all be contained within the APB:Reloaded section of the site. However, before I go into detail I just want to say that the majority of the comments will be focused around what the Reloaded chaps have changed since the last build I played, which may or may not have been live. I will also look back to the launch version but will try to make this clear.
First things first, I’d like to talk about the general polish levels. APB never felt polished to me. Bugs and crap systems aside, the general presentation wasn’t quite right. Due to a lack of communication between teams/sub-teams and the localisation costs there was never a real look at the language and naming. Whilst the Creative team were there to manage the text in the game, it was originally written by the Systems Design team. It was sanity checked for grammar and alike but never polished. It seemed that at no time did anyone step back and thing “hey, do we like these names or can we do better?”.
I feel as though this has been done in APB:Reloaded to some extent. Little things such as progress status on the roles & achievements, providing a nice customised car for all players (not just beta / pre-orders), renaming the Social ruleset type to Safe and the naming of locations to give context, for example the vehicle repair bay is now simply named Ga$ Station (or whatever the name is on the sign). An fine example of how names should be within games. When I asked Creative for the correct name, they just came up with a standardised version of what was a dev team name. Much of that was seen throughout the game but in APB:R they’ve actually given everything decent names.
In a similar manner the first spawn into a Tutorial District has been improved. Perhaps having less chefs has worked out with their new flow for new players. Initially when our tutorials were put together it was around the existing systems however it looks like Reloaded have decided on what the first tutorial message should be and the actions reflect that. With the Ready system in place this means that there is less interference with mission offers, allowing the messages to be more focused and directional. By sending a mail players are instructed to go read it to learn more. Unfortunately this is also where it falls down. The mail is long and wordy, very much too long; didn’t read. As such players aren’t really introduced to the Ready system, which is required for tutorial missions. That’s about it for the initial user experience. Mine was a little ruined by the fact that the first mission broke and I lost markers. Figured out the cause straight away but my bug report failed due to firewall issues.
Within the blog it was evident that G1 wanted to get across more of the backstory to create a greater immersion into the game world, even suggesting a more single player experience. This has been done in APB:R through mails from the Contact. Every time you level up, you Contact sends you a message to give a bit of background on the city, organisations and of course the Contacts themselves as well as a bit of banter to give some personality to them. These were in the game quite a bit back actually but were reduced to just when an item as being sent as they were far too spammy. I have to concur with that decision and whilst its nice to get the background, text is boring to read and when you are getting them all the time they become a bit of a nuisance to be honest.
So I’ll wrap this post up. They’ve made some nice touches and it feels much more like a “finished product”, although some of the changes aren’t the greatest. I’d say they’ve taken two shuffles forward and one shuffle back with general polish and non-core gameplay, but that’s better than being static.