17 Sep 2010

What I think went wrong with APB

There are many putting forward their ideas abotu what went wrong at Realtime Worlds, developers of the soon to disappear MMO, All Points Bulletin. Here, from my limited perspective (that of a gamer who played the Beta) is what I think went wrong:

APB Looked sooo good, but was let down in an awful lot of areas.

It was almost unplayable on mid-spec machines, in the beta at least, which put me off buying it.

The balance issues which were pointed out time and again to them in beta were not addressed, and low lvl/skill/gear players were fruquently put up against higher lvl players to simply be massacred, which also put me off buying it.

There wasn't enough variety in the gameplay. For a game calling itself an MMO, to alot of people it was simply an action shooter where they died alot (see above) and drove about a bit.

The crafting (read: customization) was amazing but overly complex and the demonstation materials made by the devs and pro artists/designers made anyone else trying it feel like untalented pre-school kids by comparison. There's no way your average joe on the street could produce the amazing stuff that was demoed, especially as the elements available for use in the design interfaces were restricted by how well you were doing in the game. So the low level players who were being shot up and dying a lot, never had access to the more interesting shapes and design elements.

I get the distinct feeling that a large part of APB's downfall was dues to a certain amount of 'feature creep', where instead of finding a core (say the dynamic mission matchmaking mechanic) and perfecting it. they got it working just enough to look playable then moved on to the next big idea.

Of course APB also suffered from pioneer syndrome. How many prospective colonists set out to break into new territory, and how many actually survive?

All in all APB was overambitious, over-hyped, and under developed in key areas. I hope lessons will be learned by all int the MMO field from APB's downfall. here are a few that I think are important (directly related to APB but could be applied generally):

  • Find the core of your game and perfect it.
  • Ensure that as many people as possible can play your game
  • Do not over-hype anything on the periphery of that core.
  • Remember that in player to player interaction, balance is key
  • Just because you have lots of money coming in from investors, does not mean that your game will be an automatic success.
  • If your game includes customization tools of any complexity, do not use professional designers/artists to demo them. Doing so will only make the ultimate users (who aren't pro's) feel small and insignificant.
Rumours abound that Epic is looking to buy APB, but the game as it is now will cease to be fairly soon (the official announcement doesn't seem to have a date). Its a shame, and I feel sorry for the people who paid for it, I'm actually kind of glad that I didn't after my experience in the beta.

M out


  1. I dont really think that perfecting only core set of features is viable option for game that tries to be AAA title on the MMO market. Most of customers expect standard set of features (fighting, grouping, social, crafting etc) and then something that will make you recognizable. This is the hardest think in MMO development. Creating working game is really hard and then you have mountain of features that are expected to be in game from the first day.

  2. hmm. I maybe could have put that better.

    There are things which re to be expected from ever MMO. Social tools, Grouping, Crafting, an economy etc. These are a given. Maybe what I should have said that if a game decides tyhat its going to have a unique selling point, it should perfect that.

    APB's problem, as I saw it, and again my experience of the game was limited to the hype and the beta, was that APB's focus was too broad, or at least in the wrong place. The hype that I saw was all about the customization, and everyone was going wild about that. When the actual game-play, where players shoot at each other was fundamentally broken and unbalaced.

    Maybe what I meant was that the core of the game, from RTW point of view, was in the wrong place. The customization tools were awesome, the best I've seen in any game. But the game-play sucked unless you were high specced (character and gear wise). You died alot but at least you looked good doing it.


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