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Friday, July 24, 2015

AS WE HEAD INTO AUGUST WITH APB


Hello citizens,

With the month of July coming to an end, it is time for a quick update on what is going on and what you will see going into August.  We hope you enjoyed participating and earning the awards from this year’s July 4th event.   Statistics from our weapon testing district are still coming in strong and of course we thank you all for providing feedback over the last few months as we get closer to the Unreal Update.  With that said, we have some information to provide regarding some elements we will be adding to the main game, and others we will be removing.

THE REMOVAL

Weapon Pick-up/Drop Mechanic
As most of you know, we implemented a weapon pick-up/drop system over the last few months, which was implemented with our previous season events as well as being used in our weapon test districts.  We will still see it being used in the testing districts but as was commented previously that we would potentially be adding the drop mechanic to the main game.  After reviewing all the feedback and comments provided, the decision to implement this mechanic into the main game has been shelved. 

THE ADDITIONS

Engine Update Video

Many of you (if not all J) have been asking for some video footage to be shown of the latest update work being done to the game.  We are happy to provide the first of a few videos highlighting the difference between the present APB and what it will look like running with the upgraded engine.  Below is a video clip of the Social District where we reveal the differences between old and new.  We are excited with the possibilities and feel you will appreciate them as well.





TTK Test District

During my vacation time, I reviewed most of the forum threads regarding the TTK in APB (those most recent and going back a few years).  I will admit that I have been having in-office debates regarding this topic and with the present feedback, I feel it is time we give it a good old, once over review.  We will therefore be setting up a TTK district to test out some numbers as well as provide you all with the chance to see how the game feels with some modified stats.  I personally am pro increase of TTK, but I will add that I am also a fan of implementing a stamina system to coincide with any TTK changes.  My view on adding stamina (if any) will be addressed at a later date following the results we acquire from this test district.

Since I am not married nor steadfast on the idea of adding a stamina mechanic, feel free to leave your feedback and comments as it will help decide if this is a good addition to the main game.

IO: GROWL

We are excited to try some new things with APB and the creation of new vehicles was a perfect start.  We wanted to introduce not only new vehicles but to also prepare for the introduction of new lore, future content as well as allowing us with options for new gameplay elements.  The aim is to have a more varied feel between each vehicle model, with very visible advantages and disadvantages between them.  Moving forward we will attempt to create more mods as well as provide gameplay reasons for specific vehicles being used in relation to the tasks the players require to complete in mission.  


Therefore, in the next few weeks we will be unveiling the first of two new auto manufactures and their vehicles.  The first to be unveiled is the IO: GROWL, a new sports car to hit the streets of San Paro in a very long time.  This will be the first, of hopefully many new models that the players can purchase, earn or unlock.  With an opportunity for us to show something new, I figured a good way to promote this new addition would be to have (drum roll) BeardyD, the artist responsible for the GROWL to discuss the process of creating and implementing vehicles into the game. 

Take it away BeardyD   :-D 

A BASIC OVERVIEW OF VEHICLE ART DEVELOPMENT IN APB: RELOADED

Hey there, my name is BeardyD, I am one of the artists at Reloaded Productions. With the IO: Growl now unveiled, we thought it might be interesting if we discussed some of the procedures involved with creating it.

DESIGN AND MOCK-UP

Our first step was coming up with the vehicle we wanted to create. When MoK came into the office and proclaimed “What we need is a new vehicle (arm stretched and finger pointing), that can allow us to create something different for the future” and then doing his “sales pitch” for what the new car(s) should be and why we needed them that way.  My response was, “this guy is crazy” but he actually made sense.

Once we had decided on an initial design, we started with setting up a proxy for the new car. This consisted of a fully rigged asset that had a proxy mesh in place for each individual component. We started with this so we could test that the vehicle’s design would work within APB’s animation constraints, and also so that our design team could begin immediately on setting up some basic handling for the new car.

Before long we had a drivable asset in the game.


CREATING THE MAIN MESHES

After some initial testing and tweaks for the proxy, the next step was to create the main in-game asset (or LOD-0 as it’s referred to internally).

The LOD-0 started as an exterior shell, which was built as one mesh, smoothed out, optimized and then separated in to the various components required for the customization system. These components were then unwrapped and assigned a paint mask to support colour customization and decal projection. Anything that doesn’t support colour customization is mirrored to save on texture space, which is even more important in APB as our unwrap procedure differs from most as it needs to support our component mask system, which allows players to literally cut out and piece together various textures as custom components get added.

Smoothing groups are also set up to allow for a better normal map (which we’ll get to later).
After these new meshes have been imported in, the interior, base structure and wheels were then created in a similar manner.


HIGH POLY AND TEXTURE CREATION

With these meshes in and working as intended, the next step is to create the high poly mesh. We use a high poly mesh to generate normal and ambient occlusion maps (a procedure called “texture baking”). This helps smooth out surface shading and also provides the illusion of more texture detail.


With the base textures now generated, a final detail pass is done in Photoshop. It’s during this time that the specular map for the vehicle is also created.


EMISSIVE LIGHTING

With the main models now textured, the next step is to create the emissive maps and masks. The emissive maps are texture maps that are used to simulate lighting on the vehicle. We use one for the exterior (covering headlights, taillights, etc.) and one for the interior (covering interior lighting and dashboard panels). We also use masks for both so the lights can operate independently from one another. 


LEVEL OF DETAIL

At this stage, the LOD0 model is now considered complete and it’s now time to move on to creating the LOD1 meshes. The LOD1 meshes are low detail meshes that are assigned to each of the car’s individual components. These appear when the player is a certain distance from the vehicle so that we can prioritize detail whilst cutting down render costs.


DAMAGE MORPHS AND TEXTURES

The final stage for the main vehicle is the creation of damage morphs. Damage morphs are meshes which each component of the main vehicle references when damage occurs. We use multiple directions for vehicle damage in APB (Front-Left, Front-Right, Side-Left, Side-Right, Back-Left, Back-Right and Top) so there are a lot of meshes to create. We also have to ensure that there is no clipping with the base structure of the vehicle and that certain components are still snapped together correctly.


This entire procedure then has to be repeated for the LOD1 meshes.

We also use an overlay normal map and scratch texture that becomes more visible as the vehicle takes more damage. A dirt mask is also applied for when the car gets dirty.

EXTRAS AND FINALISATION

With the main vehicle now ready to go, we then begin adding extras such as more components, or in the case of Enforcers, police lights. All of which have to go through the same processes as described before.

We have to be careful when adding these components that they don’t add too many restrictions for any future content. As an example, Enforcer light positions restrict any future kit design we may do in the future, as all new versions of a component now have to support them.

With these added, the art development for the IO: Growl is now complete.


I hope you enjoyed the write-up from BeardyD and I thank him for the insight he has provided here.

That is all I have for today folks, till next time citizens,

MoK

Monday, June 29, 2015

HERE COMES THE JULY 4th WEEKEND

Hello Citizens,

America’s 4th of July celebrations are just around the corner and to celebrate we have some goodies for you all to earn during this 2 week period. We are offering not one, but two new items, the Uncle Sam Jacket and Bald Eagle Mask that can be added to your character’s collection. 

 

You want these pieces? Then here are the rules and info for JULY 4th CELEBRATION:

DURATION


From July 1st to July 15th - 9 AM UTC

SETUP


New in game progression for Enforcers and Criminals

TASK


During opposed missions in Action Districts, use any dropped weapon from an opponent and:
  • KILL AN OPPONENT WITH A DROPPED WEAPON EARNS 1 KILL POINT 
  • KILL AN OPPONENT WITH THEIR OWN WEAPON EARNS 2 KILL POINTS 

Example:

Player 1 (ENFORCER) kills player 2 (CRIMINAL): Picks up dropped weapon (NO KILL POINT EARNED). Player 1 uses Player’s 2 weapon and kills player 3 (CRIMINAL) in mission (1 KILL POINT EARNED), Player 1 then kills Player 2 using his original dropped weapon (2 KILL POINTS EARNED). Player 1 switches to his original weapon and kills Player 3 again (NO KILL POINTS EARNED- NOT USED DROPPED WEAPON).

TOTAL KILL POINTS EARNED: 3


ROLE & PRIZES

  • Earn 100 Kill Points STARS & STRIPES: LEVEL 1 (STARS)
    • PRIZES: 
      • Bald Eagle Mask
      • Title: Stars
  • Earn 250 Kill Points STARS & STRIPES: LEVEL 2 (STARS & STRIPES)
    • PRIZES:
      • Uncle Sam Jacket
      • Title: Stars and Stripes 

NOTE: Clothing items are character bound and not account bound.


So jump in during the time of the event and work your way to titles and goodies. 

Till later citizens and enjoy your July 4th holiday weekend.



MoK

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Balanced Weapons, Creative Competition Winners and Phase 2 of the Juggernaut Strike Pack.

Hello Citizens,

We have just passed the halfway mark for the month of June. I have a few announcements prior to our live update for tomorrow, regarding a few things we have in store for you.

BALANCED WEAPONS

On my last post, I shared some info on our Weapon Test District as well as providing statistical info and description changes in the forums.  It was good to see that people enjoyed the forum thread and we are happy to say the following weapons have been migrated into the main districts:   
  • COBRA-A
  • OCSP
  • NFAS-OGRE
  • FFA-Bullshark
  • VAS-C2

With the above weapons returning a new batch of weapons will be included into the Weapon Testing District, these will be:
  • SHAW-556
  • ALIG-762
  • N-SSW
  • M-1922

All the new weapons listed will be included into the Balanced Bundle Boxes, which we are using to provide those who do not own a testing weapon, a chance to try them out and provide feedback.

CREATIVE COMPETITION WINNERS

After careful review, we at Reloaded Games have selected the winners of the Creative Competition that was created in May.  Below are the grand prize winners, the 2 runners up and links to view their submissions.

VIDEO WINNERS

FIRST PLACE 

RUNNERS UP

Janeconstatino

MUSIC WINNERS

FIRST PLACE

JungleFlaco

RUNNERS UP

Havok5

ART WINNERS

FIRST PLACE

supfinal

RUNNERS UP

incbox

jossin

I wish to congratulate those that were chosen, and thank everyone again for their participation and look forward to next year’s competition.

PHASE 2 JUGGERNAUT STRIKE PACK

On the 24th of this month the SECOND PHASE of the JUGGERNAUT STRIKE PACK will be available for those who purchased the PASS.  PHASE 2 includes the exclusive weapon and skins pack:
  • FRENZY ASSAULT RIFLE (FANATIC BROTHER COLLECTION)
  • STRIKE & BLEND SKIN PACK

Don’t miss out on these exclusive items, you still have a chance to purchase a PACK PASS and still receive bonus Joker Mystery Boxes.  For those that are only interested in the following ESPACIO Vehicle Kits:
  • BIGHORN
  • MAMMOTH

These will also will be available in the ARMAS store on the 24th of June.

So in summary, we have the return of balanced weapons, winners of the creative competition and the PHASE 2 release in the JUGGERNAUT STRIKE PACK PASS.  Please feel free to join us in the Weapon Test district and help us make APB Reloaded better each and every month.

Till next time,


MoK

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Weapon Test District Update and a bit more

Hello Citizens,

We start the second week of June with an announcement regarding the new weapon test district and changes we have in store with tomorrows update. 

WEAPON TEST DISTRICT UPDATE

Your play testing has provided us with valuable data regarding the 10 weapons we selected for testing. In order to gain the best info possible, all changes we implement will be provided shortly after a weapon has been included for balancing.  The reason for this is to avoid preconceptions which allows us untainted feedback. Many thanks to Qwentle for his work on analysing the data, implementing the changes and providing the descriptions of what has been done in order to balance the weapons better. 

You can find the detailed performance data and planned changes in the forums here: http://forums.gamersfirst.com/topic/382883-weapon-rebalance-description

AND A BIT MORE

We also provided the weapon drop system for those players wishing to participate and test, but do not have the weapon presently in their inventory.  These can be used until the player switches weapons, the weapon is dropped or on player death.  Future plans call for Weapon Caches Boxes, many players have seen this mechanic before with last year’s Christmas Event.  But unlike Christmas, these weapons will be available to the player and for others to use. As we move forward with testing more and more weapons, the weapon drop system will also be refined in order for us to include it into the main game.  Consideration is also being taken for changing the Weapon Test District from Baylan, over to a modified Open Conflict District.  

Next week will also include the announcement of the Creative Competition Winners.  I wish to thank everyone that has submitted their work and appreciate their patience in waiting for the final results.

Announcement of the Q&A live stream will also be provided this month once the date and time has been confirmed.  Details will be provided to you once everything is ready to go.

That’s all she wrote for now folks.  As changes occur, announcements will be made here or on the forums.

Till next time Citizens,


MoK

Friday, June 5, 2015

New NA Server LIVE and Action District First Look

As of Wednesday 6/3 we finished bringing our two NA servers together into a new, centrally located server located in Dallas. Just like with the Citadel in the EU, the merge creates a larger and more diverse population, which means better matchmaking and more chances to make new allies (or enemies) throughout each district. You might notice that it's currently named 'Union' - but don't get too attached; our NA players are in the middle of a final voting process that will most likely result in a new name by next week.

Early Merge Rewards


If you have a character on Colby or Joker and haven't already merged a prior EU character, simply log into the new server before Tuesday, July 14th to claim your exclusive Early Bird merge reward! The special gift includes 3 X Joker Mystery Box 17's, 5 X Premium Days and a special Trailblazer title for each merged character that displays its original server name.

Improving Network Performance


Now that the bulk of the merge work is done, we're now focusing on optimizing network performance and minimizing latency spikes that some of our players have been experiencing over the last couple of days. Specifically, all the districts are now centrally located in Dallas, but it appears that one of the network providers is having intermittent connection issues that has lead to random lag spikes, and our engineering team has been working with them to sort that out.

In a pretty extreme move, we are moving all the Waterfront districts to a different provider early (tomorrow) Saturday morning PST, and then we will be running an ongoing comparison on the performance between Financial (current provider) and Waterfront (alternate provider) for the rest of the weekend and next week. If the alternate network shows significant improvements, then we will be switching everything over to that by the end of next week. 

A First Look at the Upgraded Financial District


Many of you have asked for a shot of an Action District using the new upgraded engine, so here it is! Enjoy an early look at a familiar Financial location, and the difference is night and day (no pun intended =) ):


Jobs

Saturday, May 30, 2015

NA Merge on for June 2, plus New Engine Screenshots!

As we finish ironing out the kinks from this month's EU merge, we are happy to say that the NA merge is on schedule and set to go on June 2nd! The Citadel launch has seen a large increase in activity from both new players discovering APB and old vets returning to stake their claim, and we are excited to do the same for our NA players.

NA Server Name Leaked?

Many of you that are active on the forums saw a leaked name for the new server - "Liberty". This was a result of some of tests that involved momentarily putting a new server on display, which at the time was using Test server name. Good or bad news (depending on what camp you are in) the new Live server name is not Liberty, but something else entirely, which will be revealed on launch day!

New Engine Screenshots

Our team is rapidly making progress on the long-awaited Unreal Engine upgrade toward both the Console and PC releases going live this Summer. Here is another set of screenshots that share a glimpse of the dramatic visual improvements you can expect when it arrives:




As we get closer to the engine release, we will be spinning up a new OTW (online test world) for the PC game, where we will invite select community members to test the new game engine. More information will be released on the forums as we get closer to the first OTW test. The initial engine test will require that your system has DX11 (including a DX11 capable graphics card) and Windows 7 64-bit or later. Once these tests are completed we are still anticipating making a back-port to support DX9/DX10 cards, but the game will likely at minimum require 64-bit only systems going forward. 

Making the game 64-bit only solves several long-standing memory management and performance issues that we are happy to finally put behind us. But it does mean that a small percentage of machines currently used to play APB will need a new OS in order to continue playing.

Final Thoughts

We are excited about the upcoming North American server merge as we think it will be great for all NA players. Also we are very excited to see the return of many players after the EU merge was completed last week as well as the return of some players that took a brief GTA-V hiatus in the past month (which may have included some of our own team that went to check it out). Also a huge thanks to those who continue supporting the game through in-game purchases, giving us the ability to complete these great upgrades and continuing to deliver the unique creature that's APB. 

Wish us good luck on the NA server merge on Tuesday, and we are thrilled to finally being that much closer to the PC engine and the Console versions nearing the completion of their very long development journeys. As soon as we can share all release dates we will, the timing of which is in part driven by when our publisher announces the final Console release date.

See you in San Paro!




Thursday, May 21, 2015

Merge Cleanup and Final NA Merge Date

Hey San Paro!

As players continue to merge characters into the Citadel, our team has been working hard to tie up loose ends this week.

The TL;DR version; while 99% of characters were moved successfully during the EU merge (you can read more here), the remaining 1% had various issues, which means our dev team has been deep into sorting out the unique circumstances that lead to these conflicts. The team is updating the merge code as they go along to avoid those same issues during the NA merge. To give them sufficient time to sort out the current customer support tickets and updating the code, this unfortunately means we have to push the NA to Tuesday, June 2. It really does suck we have to move it, but this will allow for the smoothest possible NA merge.

Current Citadel Merge Status


Here is a a list of merge issues we have either fixed, or are working on fixing:
  • Not being able to merge certain characters, or unexpected behavior during the character select screen 
    • Fixed
  • Mail in inbox being reversed, from oldest to newest
    • Fixed
  • Unable to restore deleted characters from EU1/EU2
    • In progress. While we still store deleted character info, retrieving and transferring this data from the old servers is a complex task. We are building a set of tools to streamline this process.
  • Clans being renamed
    • In progress. Some clans that contained banned characters had their names mistakenly changed during the merge process. We are working on fixing these clans.
  • Unable to create new clans
    • Fixed. We temporarily disabled this feature while investigating an issue where new clans could potentially take the names of pre-existing ones from EU1/EU2. This is now re-enabled, and un-merged clans from EU1/EU2 will have their names reserved until they merge.

NA Merge Date


As mentioned earlier, our goal is to make sure that all the kinks are ironed out before we kick off the Colby/Joker merge, and we are now set to start the NA merge on Tuesday, June 2. More details will be posted as we approach this date.

Thanks for your patience, and we look forward to another successful server launch!

Jobs

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Welcome to the Citadel!

[Note: the merge has been completed, and you can follow the "merge clean-up" thread on our forums here: http://forums.gamersfirst.com/topic/381541-citadel-merge-and-fixes/  !]


After weeks of planning, building and testing and we are pleased to announce that the new EU server - the Citadel - is now open for you to play in!

A few weeks ago, we let you the players vote for the name for our new server, and Citadel was an overwhelmingly popular choice. We agreed, and thought this was a fitting choice - the Citadel is now APB's largest server, boasting 3.1 million characters, 193845 clans across 2.5 million accounts. 

What to do Next

Just log into APB!

As we mentioned in an earlier post, most characters will be merged on-demand as you log into the new server for the first time. This will only take a few seconds in most cases, but some accounts may take longer, especially if you are the first member of your clan to login. Once you see your characters in the selection screen, the process will be finished and you can start playing.

Earn Your Special Treat for Being an Early Bird!

Simply log back in to the EU server to automatically merge your accounts before June 30, and you will receive the special Early Merge Bonus Package, featuring 3 X Joker Mystery Box 17's, 5 X Premium Days and ONE Exclusive Title! 

Later This Week: Get The Juggernaut Strike Pack Season Pass

As a special treat, the eagerly-awaited Juggernaut Strike Pack will be available this week. Compared to our previous bundles, this season-pass style pack will bring you more, exclusive content than ever before from May through August. 

The Juggernaut pack will include:
  • Bighorn/Mammoth Vehicle
  • Frenzy Assault Rifle*
  • Strike & Blend Weapon Skins*
  • Urban Strike Clothing Set
  • Manic Submachine Gun
  • Rabid Light Machine Gun
* denotes pack exclusives


As an added bonus - players who pick up the Juggernaut pack will get all of the Bonus items for that phase and later!

Happy Hunting!

We sincerely hope you enjoy playing in the new Citadel and look forward to the intense matchups, new friendships and clan activities from here on out.

Jobs

Monday, May 18, 2015

EU Merge Countdown

Here we go! We're ready to start the EU server merge on Tuesday, May 19th at 200 AM BST (May 18th 6:00 PM PDT). The EU servers will remain down until the server merge has completed, once it has completed we'll post on the forums and social media to let you know! We'll also be creating a separate thread for EU players to post after the merge should they have any unexpected problems. We're hoping that everything goes smoothly and the thread won't be needed!

Joker, Colby, and Han will go down for maintenance at 8:00 AM BST (12:00 AM PDT) and be back in service at approximately 11:00 AM BST (3:00 AM PDT).

Once the EU merge is completed we will determine the best day to execute the NA merge based on the initial merge results (and if there are any new cleanup tasks the team has to perform after the EU merge).

Next Up; Server Name Unveiling and the Juggernaut Strike Pack info.


Keep your eye out for a new post once the merge process is complete, where we will unveil the new name of the EU server, and where we will share the details and preview images of the upcoming Juggernaut Strike Pack that arrives later this week.

Jobs

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Big APB Roadmap Update; new EU hardware, server merges, engine upgrade, console games and surviving GTA-V (again)

(note: read about the latest server merge schedule here)

A mighty northern wind...

Citizens!

As we recover from the storm that blew in across our northern border from Los Santos two weeks ago, down here in San Paro we are still plugging away on the jam packed schedule we are facing over the next three months.

First of all, a huge thanks to everyone who stuck around in APB Reloaded during the last two weeks, and to those who simply decided to come back after checking out some of the great storyline gameplay in GTA V.

Second, a very warm welcome to the slew of new players that found APB during this heightened interest in urban city combat! We admit we may also have wandered over to that "neighboring" city of Los Santos for some exploration, before we returned to APB with great ideas for how to keep APB unique and different, especially by focusing on and refining APB's multiplayer combat both on PC and Console.

Also, it has been interesting to see the competition step out of the safe confines of the console world with their new online PC experience, and attempt to deal with the crazy challenges that come from being a PC online game. We wish them the best on handling those situations, as it seems they have had their hands full the last few days.

On our end, as a small team juggling a lot of new releases and changes, we wanted to get you up to speed with a new roadmap post, particularly as we depend on your ongoing support to keep APB running, for many more years to come.

The Roadmap...

We are really excited to share the new roadmap, with its list of really important releases being worked on right now. We will also make a few individual blog posts for some of these key features as we near each launch.


May-Aug 2015 Roadmap:
  • Completion of all EU District Server Upgrades (NOW LIVE!)
  • Joker Mystery Box 17: Urban Legends (NOW LIVE!)
  • EU PC Server Merge
  • US PC Server Merge
  • Espacio Season Pass
  • Refer-A-Friend
  • CRISP: Community Moderation System
  • New Matchmaking Release
  • PC Engine Upgrade Release
  • PS4 Launch and Xbox One Launch

Live (May 1): All EU districts have been migrated to the new server hardware

So after what feels like thousands of iterations, all EU action districts are now running on the newest upgraded district server hardware. So far the hardware performance has been great. Of course we have seen problems with some malicious individuals still DDoS-ing things (making things feel slow), but when there are no network storms going on, we are now running a steady 33ms frame times on all action districts. That's exciting and should be a great experience improvement for all players.

Live (May 6): Joker Box 17

We are excited to release the next Legendary weapon model series, the Urban Legends, as part of the next Joker Mystery Box. Each of the 3 fully-automatic secondary weapons (Bloody Mary, Jersey Devil, and Hitchhiker) comes with their own unique modifications and deluxe skin designs. We hope you enjoy using them as much as we did crafting them!




Going forward: 


US and EU server merges

After massive amounts of testing, the very hard desicion was made to move the EU server merge from May 6 to the week of May 18-22 (the same week as the US server merge). More details here.

Aside from the ongoing engine update work, completing the merge preparations is currently our very top priority, not only to prepare for the upcoming console releases, but also to make sure that everyone will have a great experience on the PC version going forward. The merged servers will effectively double the current population, but will also set the stage for the "Server-Wide" matchmaking system that is being worked on. In short, the server merges are a critical cornerstone to a massive amount of upcoming new launches.

Introducing the JUGGERNAUT STRIKE PACK (THE JUGGERNAUT STRIKE PASS – Early purchase)

Since releasing the Heavy Duty pack in December, our art team has been crafting a bold new body kit design for the Espacio vehicle, along with matching clothing items and weapon.

We are planning to release the Espacio Pack at the end of May, but with a bit of a twist. Since we release a pack about once every 3-4 months, we are planning to release the upcoming Espacio pack as a "Season Pass," where for the same price as a normal content pack you will get even more content over a period of time: pack exclusives, Joker Boxes and other items every month.

The earlier you buy the more bonus items you will get. The goal is to make new content and extra bonus items available to you each month as a Pass holder. And also to pave the way for a fixed predictable long-term release schedule for these large content packs.

CRISP Community Moderation

Whether in missions or hanging around the Social District, APB is at its core driven by constant and positive social interaction between each of the players. Each day our team strives to create an inviting atmosphere so you will not only feel welcomed among other APB players, but also invite your friends to join you here. Still, we realize that our small GM staff is not always able to properly address all the harassment, scamming, and offensive language that takes place and much more needs to be done. So over the next couple months, we are introducing two major initiatives that will both tackle this toxic behavior head on while bringing the next generation of players into APB.

First, we are nearing completion on integrating a sophisticated community moderation solution called CRISP Thinking into APB. CRISP works seamlessly in the background to automatically detect and moderate toxic players anywhere in the game, then take instant action as necessary. Unlike conventional filtering systems, CRISP is able to look beyond 'bad' word usage and examine the context of entire phrases. Harassment, hateful speech, and even scam attempts can be detected and acted upon in real-time while keeping positive players protected. We are aiming to introduce CRISP this Summer.

Refer-a-Friend

We are finishing up our referral system that will award prizes for bringing your friends into APB! While there are other referral systems out there, APB's Refer-a-Friend is the deepest, most rewarding and most convenient system devised in a game like this.

As you invite friends and help them achieve milestones in APB, you will earn points that you can choose to spend across 31 different prizes at launch! After over a year of development, designing and balancing, we are expected to unveil the Refer-a-Friend system at the end of May.

Revised Match-Making

This summer we are looking to launch our new matchmaking system we first described here, internally named Dedicated Automatic Matchmaking (D.A.M.). By introducing the ability to match teams with equal ratings located on different servers, the new system was designed to promote more balanced, frequent, and engaging matches across all districts so that you can truly enjoy the unique multiplayer gameplay that sets APB apart from the competition.

Combined with a more concentrated population, D.A.M should vastly improve your chances of having those elusive, exhilarating and insane "APB moments" that will stick with you for a long time.

PC Engine Launch

It feels like an eternity since we began the complete rebuild of the underlying APB game engine. When we started the project back in 2013 (in fact if you go back to our October 17, 2013 blog post we shared that the engine upgrade project had begun July 17, 2013), we were wildly optimistic that we could complete the project in about 9-10 months.

That was insanely optimistic for a whole host of reasons. First we didn't count on the amount of other ongoing work APB needed just to stay operational day in and day out, so when the team was pulled away to solve other problems, the engine work slowed down. But most of all we hadn't anticipated the ungodly amount of work required to undo years of custom systems that would no longer be part of the new engine.

The Console game actually helped the team refocus on the engine update since the upcoming Console versions absolutely had to use the later version of the engine.

Below are screenshots from the current game (left) and the updated engine (right) that we are currently running in our office. Clearly the new look will be great for the game, but more than the visuals, the simplified workflow will dramatically improve our ability to actually make new meaningful content going forward for all three versions of the game.

Our current expectation is that the PC engine upgrade will go live either concurrent with, or just after the release of the Console games. It's been an insanely long road to get here, and when the engine and the console versions are launched we will finally breathe a sigh of relief, and then we will go right back to building new things for the updated game!



The upcoming Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions of APB Reloaded

Finally, we are also getting closer to the launch of our first ever console versions of APB Reloaded! While we don't yet know the final Console launch date, all the teams involved, i.e. our internal team, the external console development partner's team and the publisher's team, have been working around the clock to get the Beta and Certification versions readied for submission.

Unlike the PC game which can basically be launched "when ready," the Console versions require a long series of approvals from Publisher, Microsoft and Sony before anything can go live.

As soon as the formal launch date has been finalized, our publisher will be sharing that information through their channels, and after that we will be able to share that information here as well.

Thank You


Finally, it’s an awesome privilege to work on a game with this kind of longevity and ongoing community support. I am thrilled with all the changes that are coming, the big leap it will mean for us in adding new content with the new systems, and I cannot thank you enough for your continued support of the game. See you in San Paro soon again!

Jobs





Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Merge Update

Hey San Paro,

Just a quick update on our progress as we prepare for our massive server merges. First the TL;DR version; after a lot of testing and simulated merging even through today, we have decided to postpone the EU merge this week and are moving it to the same week as the previously scheduled US merge (the week of May 18-22), with the EU merge likely occurring at the start of that week, and the US merge occurring during the second half that week.

The fundamental concern; if this merge runs in to any issues, it would be nearly impossible to reverse once it's set in motion, and any post-merge repair job could take a very long time to complete. At this point we don't have enough test data showing us that the merge will succeed in all cases.

Therefore the decision was made today to give the first merge at least 10 more days of QA and testing time before we pull the trigger.

An insane number of merge simulations...

These server merges may be the riskiest operation we have ever undertaken with the game, other than maybe taking over the game in the first place, since it's going to be nearly impossible to undo or reverse once it's been kicked off.

Over the last two months we were busy writing the merge code and revising database systems to handle the size and complexity of the merge, while also running simulations of every type of merge we could conceive of.

Our first approach "worked," but yielded merge simulations showing the game might have to be offline several days and nights to complete the merge! Therefore over the last couple of weeks we reversed course and designed a new type of merge that lets us bring the game back online in less than 24 hours.

Old Plan: Merge 5.7 million characters in two rounds. 

Since APB:R launched in 2011, a LOT of characters have been created by you and your friends - over 5.7 million characters to be exact. For each one of these characters we store each character's customized appearance, vehicles, symbols, themes, inventories, friends lists, in game mail and a whole host of internal parameters that relate to each character's relation to all other characters in that world, like clan membership, the "author" of any items in your inventory you bought from the auction house etc. 

Suffice to say, reliably moving this data is a colossal undertaking in terms of both scripting, hardware configuration and sheer processing time. As you might expect, the most time-consuming pieces to migrate are related to character customization and inventory.

On the technical side, each of our 5.7 million characters "own" a set of around 30 distinct, long XML blocks, and each of these must be converted, validated and potentially modified as they move to the merged database.  This is why our last tests using this method showed it would take a colossal 3 days (72+ hours) of continuous downtime to merge the EU servers, and slightly less than that to merge the US servers. This would simply be an unreasonable amount of time to keep everyone out of the game this week.

New Plan: Merging On-Demand active characters.

Over the last couple of weeks our lead engineer in charge of the merge team devised a clever new way of reducing the 72-hour downtime down to a more manageable 8 hour downtime window, to fit in an "extended maintenance" period. Rather than merging all characters at once, the team implemented a new system to merge a lot of the preliminary data first, and then merge each character in real-time as players log into to the new world for the first time. This means that you will only need to wait 2 seconds for each of your characters to "arrive" before hopping right into APB again.

While this plan is certainly faster, it makes the upfront development effort significantly more complex, since we now have to consider the edge cases around the fact that characters will essentially be created on the fly on the new server at different times. In essence it became a live "character migration" in real time. The new issues that arise are things like - what does this mean for clans with members arriving at the new server at different times? What about mail that was sent by a character that doesn't yet exist, but might "arrive" at the new server eventually?

After the last few weeks of development we are finally confident we have a good solution, but now we need to spend significantly more time testing all these edge cases.

How long before it goes live?

The merge is something we have been working toward for a long time, and we never like pushing these dates back. So while we can't merge this week simply because we don't yet have all the test data showing us that we have a green light, the new plan is to complete both the EU and US merges the week of 5/18.

Thanks for all your patience. I assure you that it will be worth the wait!

Stay tuned for another post later this week, where I'll be going over the brand new roadmap (including the Engine Update) and unveiling the six new names for the six going forward servers for PC and Console for both EU and US! 

Jobs


Monday, April 27, 2015

Some Important News as we Move Into May

Hello Citizens,

This blog post will be a quick one with a few announcements from myself to you all. 

Last week ended the Easter Event 2015 and a new month is just around the corner. With the upcoming month of May, I will be providing the next batch of answers to your inquires and posting my questions to you very shortly. 

One issue I will address in this post regards our Trophy system that started in February.  The goal was for participants to collect unique items in past and upcoming events and then reward players with an upcoming unique event and customizable versions of their items. 

Much as the idea of a trophy system was solid, the methodology and practice did not perform as well as I expected.  So, with the next live release, all players that have earned the Valentine quiver and Easter egg head trophy will be provided with customizable versions of their very own.




As mentioned in the first Q&A session, we had plans to change the direction of our Trophy system in 2016.  The feedback and concerns from players provided us with the proper info and guidance to create a more valuable and promising system for the New Year. 

For your feedback, I say thank you in making our game better each and every step of the way.

Well, as I said this was a quick post so till next time citizens.

MoK



 



Monday, April 20, 2015

Server Merge Update and Name Survey

Hey San Paro!

We have been working hard this month toward the scheduled EU server merge this Wednesday, and the US merge 2 weeks later. As promised at the beginning of the process, I'd like to keep you updated on where we're currently at.

New Merge Dates


We are pushing both merge dates back by two (2) weeks. This means that the new merge dates will be:

  • EU: Wednesday, May 6 
  • US: Wednesday, May 20

Setting up a successful merge involves a ton of moving parts, including hardware setup (which requires flying out to the data center), database and server configuration, and extensive scripting work. We unfortunately ran into a series of events involving international travel complications and hardware shipments over the last couple weeks that delayed our timeline. 

Still, most of the configuration work is already complete and we are in a solid position to complete the merge. And despite these setbacks, we were considering different ways we could get everything in place by the original date. In the end, we felt it was best to reserve another 2 weeks for simulation and testing to take extra care that your characters appear on the new worlds just as you left them. 

Server Name Survey


We need need six new names for each of the servers that are soon coming online (PC/PS4/X1 on US and EU). One (or more) of these servers will be your new gaming home over the coming years and it's fitting that you take part in their creation. 

After gathering your suggestions for what to name the new servers, we compiled the most popular names into a survey for you to cast your votes. In case your chosen name isn't on that list, we left a space for you to write it in. Should you write yours in, we only ask that you pick a name that appears in the APB universe.

So please cast your vote here by May 1st 11:59 PM PDT! 



Jobs


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Weapon Rebalance and a Few Other Things

Hello Citizens,

We are halfway through April and we have more things to bring to your attention.  First, the Easter Event will be coming to a close and you have till April 22nd to earn those rewards and Egg Head trophy.  For those that have already played or have been playing, we appreciate all your feedback and all data in game and from the forums will be taken into consideration for all future gameplay and events.

We are also happy to say that we have now moved 10 of our newly balanced weapons into the advanced testing stage, our goal again is to give them the good once over before making these changes live.  The 10 weapons again are:


  • NTEC
  • HVR-762
  • VAS-C2
  • ISSR (A/B)
  • OCSP
  • FFA-BULLSHARK
  • COBR-A
  • VBR
  • NFAS-OGRE
  • NCR-ANUBIS


With this testing we are also refining a variation of the WEAPON PICKUP mechanic, which players saw in last year’s Christmas Event.  The goal is to release this mechanic and the rebalanced weapons within a few months.  There will be a forum post as soon as testing is completed regarding our final changes, listing each weapon as well as a brief description of the changes.

The next Q&A session will be started in a few weeks on our forums.  Of course, you the audience can ask any questions you may have.  I do ask that each person please limit your questions to 2, this way the same or similar questions can be answered as one response.  

New questions for the players will also be posted shortly after the Q&A session is posted.  The information you provided previously are actively being considered and in some cases have been implemented in our present weapon rebalancing stage of our testing.

In a few days APB will be having a Video, Art and Music competition open to our entire audience.  This will be your chance to show off your creative chops and help spread the word about the APB universe and how elements in game should be made to look, read and sound cool.  Details will be made available on the forums within the next few days.

So to recap…


  • 10 rebalanced weapons are in advanced testing – details will be posted on the forums when testing is completed.
  • Introduction of the Weapon Pickup mechanic – as seen on Xmas event 2014
  • New Q&A session – details will be posted on the forums this Friday.
  • APB Reloaded new Video, Art and Music competition – details will be posted on the forums this Friday

As you can see we have a few coals burning and are all excited to see what the end result will bring. We look forward to announcing the release date of the rebalanced weapons, but only when we feel they are fully ready.  But at the same time we are excited to see what your next questions may be as well as the answers you will be providing and the creative output some of you will attempt to do with our upcoming completion.

This is going to be an interesting couple of months.

Till next time citizens,

MoK

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter Update Patch

Hello Citizens,

After Thursday’s release the team and I further reviewed our play testing sessions and also read the feedback you all left on the forums. On many issues we agree with you and went forward with some rule changes to the event.

To tackle some of the exploits and obvious balance issues base on play styles, we implemented a few changes with tomorrow’s update:

  • PLAYERS will be invulnerable and will have a speed boost for 10 Sec when Re-spawning with eggs.
  • CAR SURFING will be removed from the Easter Event.

The additions above should remedy a few of the bad experiences players are encountering.

Back by popular demand, we will also be awarding players with Rabbit Ears for just logging in.

Finally, we are introducing last year’s EGG HUNT 2015! ROLE that has been updated for this years event.

Level 1 (250 eggs) : Animal Suit
Level 2 (500 eggs) : Rabbit Mask
Level 3 (1000 eggs): 'Easter Bunny' Title


That’s all from me gang, thank you again for the feedback and stay tuned for a new post from Jobs regarding other game developments.

Till next time Citizens,

MoK