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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Anarchy Event and other news.

Hello Citizens,

As stated in last week’s blog, we will be introducing the new Anarchy Event. This event takes elements from our Chaos Events and adds a new twist to its overall game play. While the previous Anarchy event was fun, the lack of a concrete goal (above personal survival, an optional challenge) resulted in the game mode feeling somewhat aimless. In addition, the factional nature could often result in one team steamrolling the other through sheer numbers. To fix these, the Anarchy event now looks as follows:

When the event starts, all players are split into two teams.

Unlike before, different faction members can be on the same team (it's Anarchy after all) and we use matchmaking to ensure the teams are fairly event. Groups are never split up, so make sure you and your friends are together before entering if you want to ensure you play together.

When you spawn, you won't have a primary weapon. Instead, we spawn them around the map. The game mode is a simple Death-match, so it's up to you whether you want to search for a weapon of your choice, or head straight into combat with your secondary and grenades and take one from the enemy.

If you survive long enough, you'll start passively gaining score. You'll also start to gain a score multiplier that ticks up over time. If your score reaches above 500, you'll gain access to your primary weapon, meaning you don't have to search for weapons any-more. Careful though, when this happens you'll also be shown periodically to your enemies, giving them a chance to hunt you down.

As the game progresses, and team lives go down, more weapons start spawning in different locations, providing more varied game play. Legendary weapons will also start to appear, but be shown on the map. Best be quick, or be ready to kill whomever took it (friendly fire of course is disabled in this game)

In last week’s post we also mentioned that the Independence day event will be taking place on the upcoming July 4th weekend. Unfortunately, we will not be having the event this year. In lieu of this, we will be awarding all players with redemption codes during the holiday weekend which awards players with items that would have been earned during the event. Information and codes will be provided shortly before the long holiday weekend.

That’s all for now Citizens, be safe and enjoy the new Anarchy event.

Reloaded Team

Friday, June 24, 2016

Summer Fun In APB!

Hello Citizens,

The month of June is almost over but we still have something in store for you!

Starting Friday, June 24th at 4:00 PM UTC until ending on Monday, June 27th at  4 PM UTC we'll have a store wide sale with up to 50% off (excludes JMBs see store for discounts).  



Marked for Death Event : Friday, June 24th - Monday June 27th

Start your weekend off right with the introduction of our new "Marked for Death" event. Take to the streets of San Paro and mark your enemies for death!

Each day requires a larger and larger number of kills in order to earn 20 JMB’s.  Participate each day and earn yourself an extra 5 JMB 19’s.

Friday
Kill 20 to earn 20 JMB 19's

Saturday
Kill 40 to earn 20 JMB 19's

Sunday
Kill 60 to earn 20 JMB 19's

Monday
Kill 80 to earn 20 JMB 19's

Compete every day across the entire weekend event and earn yourself a bonus 5 JMB 19s. You marked them for death, now it's time to pull the trigger and get your just rewards.

Note: The 5 additional Joker Mystery Boxes will be delivered within 72 hours after the events end. 

Good luck and get those kills!  See the event tracker for more information.

From Wednesday the 29th till the 13th of July we will be bringing you a new Anarchy Event. This event is an updated version of our popular Chaos event that contains modified game-play in order to give the players a fresh twist on an established and popular event.

We will also be seeing the return of our Independence Week Event, which will run from June 29th till July 6th.

Rules and information for both the Anarchy and Independence Week Events will be provided in next week’s blog post.

We also wish to remind those players that have not yet downloaded and played APB Reloaded on the XBox One; that time is running out for early adopters. Login before July 4th and be rewarded with the XBox One Founders Pack. This exclusive pack contains the Fireworks Flare Launcher and the Mikro JC14 ‘New-Cross’ for Criminals or the ‘BobCat’ Vaquero PRC40 for Enforcers. Additionally play more than 10 Hours and receive an added bonus of an exclusive Title – XBOX ONE FOUNDER and the exclusive XBox One weapon Skin.

The Title and Weapon Skins will be given out during the game's first update and are exclusive to early adopters with the required play time. The title and skins cannot be bought or earned after the “Founders” period ends!

That’s it for now citizens, enjoy the upcoming events!

Reloaded Team

Thursday, June 16, 2016

APB Reloaded: Weapon Pipeline Overview

Hello Citizens,

As most of you know, APB Reloaded is now available for the Xbox One. There's still time to join in the fun and earn yourself a nice Founders pack, which contains all you need for your gaming pleasure.

We received great feedback from our Character Pipeline Overview post that was done a few weeks back. The team wanted to provide you all with a little insight on how we create the weapons you all use when playing APB. Without further ado, I pass the remainder of this post over to our talented art department.

Concept and Proxy

The initial design and concept for a new weapon is usually centered around a new mechanic or unique visual design we’d like to incorporate into the game. The design space we have to work with is somewhat limited however, as each new weapon must currently use the existing animations/sockets and materials/skins.

Once we have settled on a weapon we typically design unique variations to maximize resource usage and to offer more options. These unique variations often introduce new optics, stocks, foregrips/handles, etc.

A typical concept may look like this:



Once we’re happy with the concept we now need to create a simple 3D model, or proxy, that can represent our weapon in game for testing. This is an important step as the new weapon must conform to the existing animations and varied character mesh sizes. We also need to test any unique aspects of the design, such as unique fore-grip elements.

If things don’t fit or feel right once in the game, we can adjust the proxy mesh on the fly until we achieve a nice balance between the concept and in-game practicality.

The proxy mesh for the Medusa:




The Medusa has a unique handle that is angled at 45 degrees from the main foregrip. This means we needed to test that the animations would still work as expected with the hand in this new position.

Modelling

Using the concept art and the proxy model as a reference, the first stage of the final asset’s production is to create a high poly model of it. The high poly will be used to bake Normal and Ambient Occlusion textures for our in-game, low poly mesh.

Given the low triangle count and texture resolution of the final product, the high poly needs to incorporate large visual elements whilst still containing as much detail as possible.

The High poly model of the Medusa:



The details here are exaggerated and simplified to give them more resolution when baked down to a low resolution texture.

Creating the low poly and baking down the details from the high poly is where the real fun begins. With a poly count for weapons ranging from 500 – 1,500 triangles and final texture resolution of 256x256 – 512x256 pixels, it can be difficult to balance the details between the normal map and mesh. On top of this the same texture and triangle budget is shared with the variations designed in the concept.

The low poly mesh for the Medusa:




Textures and Masks

UV mapping APB’s weapon meshes can be tricky, as we have little texture space to spare given our budget. Any extra space we can get out of our UV map means more space for texture details.

A lot of mirroring and reusing elements occurs here to help save space. Such as the foregrip handle on the medusa which is mirrored twice breaking it into quarters. And the receiver which is mirrored but the large unique details of one side, like the feed guard, are built to sit over these mirrored features.

The normal map comes next, and is baked down from the high poly to low poly directly in 3DS Max. There is some trial and error here, making sure the details are being picked up well enough, making sure the UVs aren’t stretched and that any mirrored/reused elements are showing up ok.

The low poly mesh with the normal map generated from the high poly:



Due to the vast number of skins and material types available to weapons in APB, we use instances of a super shader for weapon materials. Using instances of a parent shader minimizes the impact on resources, but also means we don’t have the full freedom of a unique material. Because our weapon skins can range greatly in material type (Gold, Chrome, Wood, etc.) and be unique in color and texture, our weapons don’t have a dedicated diffuse map. Instead we use an ambient occlusion map (detail and shadow map) to help the details stand out, but this contains little color or detail typical of a diffuse map. As such, we rely on masks to break a model up so the shader can apply the correct information to the weapon. For example, we distinguish unique elements like the handle, the receiver, the stock, the sight, etc.

The masks for the Medusa:



The Medusa with the normal map and the ambient occlusion map:



Completing the look of the weapon after this point takes place in the editor.

Editor Setup

Setting up the weapon in the editor is straight forward but time consuming. After creating a package for the weapon, we need to create an instance of each material (weapon skin) available to date. Each of these materials will need to be edited to use the new weapon’s textures and masks. In some cases materials need to have parameters changed so the skin will fit and line up with the new weapon correctly.

Material editor:




The final result after plugging in our textures and masks into the JMB material:




Archetypes come next, and while very time consuming, these are very important and have to be correct as they tell the game which model and which skin to load when required. A copy is made of the weapon for each possible skin that weapon can use. Then a unique Archetype, or reference, is created for each one.

Weapon Archetypes:



Custom skins
Sometimes as JMB exclusives or unique items to be used across all weapons, we need to create unique skins. This process is quite complicated as any new skins we create need to be used in conjunction with the existing parent shader and the unique masks that were created for each weapon.

Skins usually consist of 1 or 2 elements. A unique pattern, a tiled texture that is applied uniformly to the weapons, and sometimes a unique feature element such as the faces on the casino skins or the Medusa skin.

Take one of the casino skins for example:



Once an instance of the parent shader is created with the new skin’s textures, we then create a copy of that material and place it in the package of each weapon that needs to be able to use it. Each copy then needs to have the corresponding textures and masks added for that particular weapon. Then by tweaking certain exposed parameters we can adjust and fine tune the placement of these new patterns/features for each weapon. This is a very time consuming task, but allows us to create new weapon skins without having to create custom textures for each weapon.

Getting it into game

At this point all the archetype information gets plugged into an .sdd table as part of the game’s main asset database. After some initial checks in game, the weapon is then handed off to a designer who will decide on the weapon’s final game play attributes.

I want to thank the Art team for taking the time to provide you all with inside on how we do things here at Reloaded.

That's it for now Citizens, be safe till next time.

MoK

Friday, June 3, 2016

APB Xbox Game Service Status

[11:30 AM PDT June 4 (updated to clarify launch procedure)]

The team has figured out the issue affecting lots of players unable to load the districts and play the game. The fix will not be live for some time, as it will need to be certified and deployed by Microsoft before getting to all players.

The bug is that if you have more than 20 other players on your "block" list in your Xbox account you will not be able to load into the game districts, and you will just be stuck on a loading screen before getting kicked back to the main menu (or remain on the loading screen for a very long time).

We clearly don't suggest you reduce your block list (since often keeping other players blocked is a good thing) and the team created the fix for the problem this morning, and will be working with Microsoft to see how fast we can get it applied on an expedited basis.

Unfortunately that means that dis-proportionally "more experienced" and "older" Xbox accounts tend to be the ones that are unable to play the game at the moment, and we hope you return to try the game again as soon as it has been solved.



[7:30 PM PDT June 3]

The login servers are now back in service. We're still working on the other issues mentioned in the original post.

[6:30 PM PDT June 3]

We have taken down the login servers for maintenance work. Will update when they are back online.

[5:00 PM PDT June 3]

Hello Citizens

With the Xbox One “Soft Launch” underway, we have encountered two technical issues that are affecting certain players on the Xbox One version – and in case you are affected, it means you may have to retry the game at a later time.

The first issue is specific to certain players. Right now some Xbox One players are stuck on a loading screen when trying to play the game (and/or have seen an “Error Code 4” or “Error Code 5” message), and these players will be unable to join a “district” to play a match. Unfortunately those accounts that are affected with this issue will not be able to connect and play until the development team completes and deploys a patch since it’s an error triggered by specific accounts. Our team is working round the clock and on a patch, and we will update the blog here as soon as that issue has been resolved.

The second issue is an intermittent server issue that can kick a large number of players at once. We will deploy a patch for that issue as quickly as possible as well, and will update the post here with more information as soon as new information is available.

Again, thanks for being one of the first to try to game on console, and we hope anyone affected will return to try it once these two items are sorted. As soon as they are, we will signal the “all clear” here on the blog and our social media channels. And the team will figure out a good way of compensating all affected players.

-Reloaded Team

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Xbox One Release and PC Development Update


To the APB community:

The team here at Reloaded Games are happy to officially announce that APB Reloaded will be generally available as an Xbox One download starting June 3, 2016.

The game will remain in a "Soft Launch" mode for the first 30 days (which mostly means it will have limited public announcements other than the formal launch announcement from the Publisher). During this 30 day period we encourage all current and former PC players to try the game and to give us feedback that we can incorporate into the upcoming updates (note: in order to access the private APB Xbox One forums on our servers you first have to log in to APB from an Xbox One).

As a "thank you" for helping us test the game during the first month, we are giving out freebies to all players who log in AND we will be giving out "Founders" tags and "Founders" skins for those that put in more than 10 hours in game prior to the first patch (or during the first 30 days, whichever comes first). After the first post-launch patch for Xbox One, we then expect to complete launch of the PS4 version as well (final PS4 dates are still TBD).

What we are doing now is very similar to how a "Monetized Open Beta" or "Soft Launch" normally works in the PC F2P world. Consoles do not quite have those same procedures given the large amount of overhead involved in launching a console game, but we are following a process quite similar to how other F2P PC to Console conversions were launched recently (for example how SMITE was launched last year on Xbox One, and its current limited launch on PS4).

Also - we would especially like to thank those of you who took part in our very brief launch Tuesday morning to prepare the game for this wider release. Those who were part of that initial test audience will get additional goodies, also at the time of the first game update.
  

Changes and the PC Version

Since the vast majority who read this blog are PC gamers of APB Reloaded, we wanted to take some special care to give all PC gamers an update for what this all means on the PC side from the development and technical ends (and there will probably be a lot of other discussions on our forums as well). Especially since we have been unable to share information for such a long time. And the wait is finally over.

The first thing for all PC players to note is of course that you will have a massive advantage over the brand new Xbox One players just from the fact that you know this game. So if you were Silver and wanted to reach that coveted "Gold" level and couldn't quite get there on PC, there is a decent chance you will be able to get there on the console versions.

As many of you guys are aware, we have been in development limbo (or development hell) for a very long time. The console versions were originally supposed to ship a long time ago and we were contractually obligated to release the new engine on the console version before shipping these changes on PC. Since the new engine performs really well on PC, it has been a bit frustrating to be stuck in this mode for this long. With the Console release finally imminent, we are excited to share what has been going on under the surface, and how this will positively impact the PC version.

APB Reloaded is a massively complex game. Supporting up to 100 simultaneous highly customized players in single fire-fight in realtime is a total coding and server P-I-T-A and requires systems that operate very differently than those that support 8, 16 or 32 players (since most other games like GTA basically run on a peer-to-peer system, whereas APB use central servers, for both good and bad; good being the interaction between players and the environment, and bad being things like driving lag - since driving occurs 100% on the server, not on the client). And of course the original team for APB had 250+ people at its peak, and as those who have followed us for a few years now know, our current APB team is about 1/10th of that original size. 

While we worked with our publisher to augment the team with outside partners, companies and contractors, in the end, for the past several months the internal team ended up shouldering the all the development work to get the game ready for Console. Our team will now finally be able to get back to implementing these new things on PC as well.

The good news is that a very large percentage of the work is platform-agnostic, so completing the back-port into the PC Engine Upgrade is straight forward (see the screenshots here and at the bottom of this post).


Optimizations:

These are examples of technologies that were created for the Console version, and do not yet exist in the live PC version of the game;

Tiled deferred rendering
This is a neat solution created by our team that frees up memory and GPU resources. To compute each frame the screen is now divided into multiple "tiles" in a grid which is processed in parallel on the GPU using something called "DirectX 11 compute shaders." This will mean a nice performance boost on the PC side.

Multi-threaded rendering
Currently, the PC LIVE version of the game only utilizes a single render thread and does not take full advantage of multi-core architectures of modern processors. Multi-threaded rendering will speed up the game for anyone with quad core (or higher) CPU.

Utilization of pre-cooked packages
Unreal Packages (.upk), are where all of our assets are kept. In the original PC version all assets are split into very small groups, which means a lot of different files. In the new system packages that are frequently used together are combined on disk into large groups to reduce the number of separate files needed to be loaded from the hard drive. This, along with reducing the amount of packages involved means players will experience shorter load times and less VM usage on PC.

Improved animation compression
Animation data is now much more highly optimized, freeing up CPU and memory resources.

Various optimizations to night-time lighting.
The switch to a global illumination system also provided us with the opportunity to do optimizations to night time lighting, which now uses the latest distance-field based lighting technology. In this first launch of the Xbox One you will see that lighting is pegged to "midday"(which is temporary) but below you can see what all times of day will look like on the engine when this is "unlocked."

Shader optimizations and improvements.
We have been through some problematic shaders (such as vehicles, characters and roads) and removed all unnecessary instruction data. In some cases we also took the opportunity to improve the shaders visually (which is pretty apparent in the customization studio for Xbox). Vehicles also now have much more realistic environment reflections.

(New shaders on characters in the Xbox One Customization Studio):


Lightmap optimizations
In the larger environments, we fixed a large amount of issues involving lightmap UVs. Lightmaps are essentially pre-computed lighting and shadow information that are applied as textures to various assets in the game. UVs are co-ordinates controlling how these lightmap textures are rendered in-game.

For these textures, we replaced UV sets across large areas of the game with sets that were optimized by hand. These allows us to decrease the size of these lightmap textures without sacrificing pixel density, thus lowering the memory hit caused by these textures.

Mesh and texture streaming optimizations
In the LIVE version of the game, buildings are loaded from the hard drive as you move around the city, causing performance problems and placing design restrictions on the speed at which players are allowed to move around the district. We have now moved to a system where buildings are always available in memory, improving performance and reducing hard drive usage at runtime, and using the updated streaming in the new engine.


FEATURES AND WORKFLOW FIXES:

Lightmass
The entire game was re-lit using Unreal’s Lightmass global illumination system, resulting in more realistic looking lighting.

Foliage System
We have replaced all foliage in the game using Unreal’s own instanced foliage system, as it is far better optimized than what was present in the old engine.

Limited Dynamic Lighting
We can now use dynamic lighting under specific circumstances in the game. Currently, this is mainly featured in the customization suites, however we intend to look at ways to increase the scope of this in the future.

Pipeline replacement
We can now replace old, un-optimized pipelines when creating new content. This means we can now create new content that is designed specifically to get the best performance out of the engine such as modular environment creation. In practical terms, this means we can finally work much more efficiently on brand new content.

Draw Distance
With the new engine we have also been able to increase the draw distance on the PC version.

Improved gamepad support
Naturally the console versions fully support their respect gamepads, including analog driving controls and context sensitive stick sensitivity. We are bringing this code to the PC as well, for players who prefer to use a gamepad on PC.

What’s next - upcoming update for console and PC

Performance - Garbage collection optimizations
We are optimizing the game’s Garbage Collection system, which searches for any memory that can be freed up by removing unused assets. This is one of the main causes of stutter in the current version of the game, and will result in an overall smoother framerate.

Performance - Massive LOD
This is a new feature we are implementing that essentially merges distance assets together to speed up the rendering of objects far off in the distance. This also comes with the added visual benefit of less noticeable Level of Detail transitions, and comes with a nice performance boost.

UI fixes and improvements
With the console ports we were able to create a brand new Scaleform UI for the customization studios and the main menu. As no one wants a direct-console UI on PC, we are currently working to implement a PC friendly version of the new UI that takes advantage of the mouse and keyboard on PCs.

Time of Day
Due to the optimization work carried out Time of Day is currently locked. We are looking to re-enable time of day in the Xbox One version of the game in the next patch, but below you can see the actual "Time of Day" shots from the development version of the PC engine.

Iris Response/Bloom tweaks.
We are adjusting these values in order to fix an issue with over-brightness that some players are having on Xbox One, which should make the game feel less blown out.

Latest Engine Upgrade images (unreleased PC Version):





Latest Engine Upgrade images (w/ Xbox One UI):




Conclusion

Updating APB Reloaded and bringing the game on to a set of whole new platforms has been no small task for a development team of our size, especially considering the massive scale and scope of the original game.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved so far, and greatly appreciate the patience of our players. It's been a long road to get to this point, and next up we are looking forward to launching the PS4 and the new PC versions, so we can start focusing on bringing new items and fun features to APB across all our platforms!

Thanks to everyone who took part in the brief “soft launch” of the Xbox One port. The feedback we’ve received so far has been extremely helpful and we look forward to continuing the work to bring you guys a great and unique game.

- Reloaded Team


Monday, May 30, 2016

APB Xbox One Soft Launch Activities

[UPDATE: 9:02pm PDT - US player test will not take place now and will be announced later]

Greetings Citizens

Right now there are some Soft Launch activities underway of APB Xbox One designed to test various systems with a small public audience.

The first wave of this test involved European players (the game was available from midnight EU time). We will announce here when the second phase for US players will take place.

During these test periods you will NOT initially be able to make cash purchases, and we will announce here when purchase restrictions have been lifted. Also keep in mind that this is a “Soft Launch” period, so you should anticipate various rapid changes and updates, which means in some cases you may need to reload into your selected district as updates are released for the game.

Stay tuned for more information!

And thanks for helping us out being one of the first to test the game on Xbox One!

Monday, May 16, 2016

MID MAY UPDATE

Hello Citizens,

We hope you enjoyed this weekend’s RUNDOWN EVENT. We are aware of issues that did occur during this event and rest assured we will be rewarding those players effected with the proper prizes. Join us today for the final day of this reward packed event.

This Wednesday is also the last day to participate in the find the Dev event. Locate Ghoulface before end of day May 18th and earn yourself a little prize.

Voting for the first RETURN OF A SEASONAL event has ended and on Wed May 25th till June 8th you will have the HALLOWEEN EVENT available for your gaming pleasure.

 


That’s it for now Citizens, have a fun gaming week.

MoK

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Rundown Event!


Hello Citizens,

We hope you have been enjoying the Find the Dev event. There is still time for you to jump in and find Ghoulface and earn some cool prizes. Remember this event will end on Wednesday May 18th.

If you have not voted yet for the return of a favorite SEASONAL EVENT, you still have time. Voting will close this Monday with the reactivation of the winning event going live on May 23rd.

This weekend, the APB team brings you THE RUNDOWN EVENT. From Saturday to Monday is your chance to work your way down the list and earn Joker Mystery Boxes for each task as well as some bonus Joker Tickets for completing all the daily objectives. The list of objectives and prizes for each day are:




That’s it for now, enjoy your weekend Citizens,

MoK

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Seasonal event voting begins, and other APB events

Hello Citizens,

We hope you enjoyed Part 3 of the meet the Dev posts. With its conclusion comes the next Find the Dev event that will be taking place this Wed, May 11th and runs till May 18th. Here's your chance to participate and earn prizes for the event itself and a unique title at the end of the series.

Voting will be starting this week for the PICK YOUR SEASONAL EVENT. You will be asked to vote for your favorite seasonal event, the winning event will be playable for 2 week period. We will start the voting for the SEASONAL EVENT today, with voting ending on the 16th. Head on over to here and make your selection.

This weekend will also feature THE RUNDOWN event where you work your way up a task ladder for multiple Joker Mystery Box prizes. More info will be provided later this week before the start of the upcoming weekend.

Stay tuned this week for updates and be safe till later Citizens,

MoK

Friday, May 6, 2016

Meet the Dev part 3

Hello Citizens,

As mentioned in this week’s previous post, we are bringing you part 3 of our Meet the Dev series. With this post, I am happy to introduce you to our QA Lead Ghoulface.  He has taken some time from his daily schedule to answer a few questions concerning who he is, what he does and some other topics of interest.  



What does a work day look like for you? Talk us through some of the different tasks you have to perform.

The QA team are responsible for testing just about everything related to APB, and it’s my job to oversee the team’s work.

Generally, our work all starts with a test request from a member of the development team whenever changes or additions have been made. From there I need to assign out tasks to the rest of the QA team, and in the case of new features I’ll also need to write a new test script before we begin testing. These test scripts form the basis of most of our initial testing, as they allow us to ensure the main functionality of the element being tested is working as intended. I then need to report back the findings of our testing to the relevant members of the development team, and highlight any major issues found. I’ll also usually organize a play test with members of the SPCT for any new features, so we can get some additional testing and feedback.

Outside of specific test requests, I’ll generally ensure that bug fixes are tested by the team as they are submitted, as well as then verifying the fixes in builds that are set to be released to the public.

What has changed over the course of your time here at Reloaded? Do you have any memories that stand out as special for you?

I suppose the biggest change for us has been the move from solely developing for PC to also developing for the Xbox One and PS4, and having to adapt to the requirements and capabilities of these platforms.

There have also been some changes in staff here, and on a personal note it’s been great to see a number of QA testers progress into other roles within the company. Despite the changes in personnel though, we’ve always been able to maintain an enjoyable and productive atmosphere in the office.
The one memory which stands out for me, was a company trip to a local museum for a games exhibition. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sight of one of our producers going all out on Dance Central.

What excites you about the future of APB?

I’m excited about seeing the engine upgrade as a finished product, as I’m sure a lot of our players are. Specifically, I’m looking forward to seeing how we can do things differently as it should allow us more freedom when it comes to development.

What game(s) are you enjoying at the moment?

Right now I’m working my way through Pillars of Eternity, which I’m really loving. As a big fan of the old Infinity Engine RPGs, this is pretty much a perfect fit for me. Other than that, I also have my usual fall-backs of my slight Football Manager addiction (500 hours a year isn’t too bad, right?), as well as my love for Total War games.

Is there a new game or piece of gaming tech that you are really excited about?

I’m really looking forward to the release of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, since I loved the original Deus Ex and Human Revolution was really enjoyable as well and a step up from Invisible War.

What is your all-time favorite video game?

As I previously mentioned, I’m a big fan of the Infinity Engine games and so it’s not much of a surprise that Baldur’s Gate II is my favorite game. For me, the combination of story, characters and world is unmatched.

I wish to thank Ghoulface for his time and to inform the community that, with the conclusion of this post, we will be preparing the next Find the Dev event that will run from Wednesday May 11th until May 18th.  Get into district and hunt Ghoulface down to be in with a chance to win the ultimate prize at the Find the Dev finale.

That it for now folks,

MoK

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

MORE THINGS ON THE WAY, FOR THE MONTH OF MAY

Hello Citizens,

We hope you all enjoyed the second phase of our Find The Dev Event, featuring Androvald.  Keep an eye out for an introduction to another member of the Reloaded Team, which will coincide with phase 3 of our Find The Dev event.  Remember to hunt down the Dev in each of the events for a chance to earn a unique title at the completion of the final Find the Dev event.

Last week’s Character Art Pipeline blog was positively received from our community, so we will therefore be following up with more detailed descriptions from the key departments of Art, Code and Design over the next few months.

I am also happy to announce that we will be asking you, the community, to vote on which seasonal event you’d like to see return for a limited time this summer.  Voting will commence next week, so keep your eyes peeled!  More details will be provided as we move closer to the end of May.

April has been an exciting month but we are also excited for what May will bring to all the players in APB.

Until next time citizens,
MoK

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

APB Reloaded: Character Pipeline overview

The character and clothing pipeline for APB Reloaded is very convoluted and can get very restrictive at times due to the nature of the game’s customization systems. In this blog post, we attempt to break this system down in order to provide an overview of the workflow we use when creating clothing assets for APB Reloaded.

For the purpose of this blog post we will be using the “War” clothing pack as our case study.

Concept and Mock-Ups

Before we start production on any final assets, we need to concept and prototype initial mock-ups of what we intend to create. It’s beneficial to use ZBrush for this stage as it allows us to quickly put together ideas that we know will work within APB’s customization suite. We may then add further details in Photoshop, depending on whether we feel the need to:


Once satisfied with our initial concepts, we will create another mock-up that fully fits within APB’s pipeline restrictions. This is a very important stage, as the sheer number of clothing options available to the player can also prove very restrictive from a development standpoint, therefore we must ensure that any new item of clothing can work with potentially hundreds of different combinations, with as little issues as possible.

With this mock-up we can test for any glaring issues as the last thing we want is potentially weeks of production time being wasted by major bugs that were found during the final stages of development.

During this stage we may also take the opportunity to refine the initial design.


High Poly

As soon as we are satisfied that the initial mock-ups fit within our customizations system, we then move on to the next stage, which is the creation of the high poly.

The high poly is a high-density mesh that is used for rendering textures for our low poly game model. Normal maps give the illusion of extra geometry detail by altering how light reacts to the surface of mesh, whilst Ambient Occlusion is used to provide diffuse shadow detail.

We create the high poly first so we can then alter the topology of the low-poly mesh to match the high-poly as closely as possible before baking (rendering textures).

Our high poly meshes are created mainly in Zbrush, using the initial mock-up as a base. In some cases we may later refine areas in 3DS Max (such as with some of the hard-surface elements of the “War” outfit).






Low Poly

Once the high poly is finished, we then move on to the low poly. Which is the mesh used in game (as a ZBrush mesh consisting of millions of triangles would be unsuitable for real-time rendering).
Due to the fact that players can modify the height and weight of their characters, the majority of the base clothing in APB uses the same set of initial topology, which is then morphed depending on the clothing asset and shape of the player character in question.

Secondary clothing assets (such as hoods, headgear, body Armour and masks), are unique meshes that are snapped or placed on to the base topology as separate assets. These assets will not be directly affected by morphs, other than their placement in relation to the body.


In order to create an initial morph set, we first adjust our default topology to match the new high poly meshes. We will then re-create this process across various extreme weights and body sizes to create a set of morphs that should cover all player characters in game. This process is gender specific, so these steps will need to be further reproduced due to the differences in topology between the genders.


Unwrapping and texture creation

Once satisfied with our low poly morphs, we then need to ensure the UV’s are correctly unwrapped to allow for texture and mask creation. The UV points are the same across all of these morphs, therefore we only need to unwrap one (usually the default to provide the most balance and least amount of texture stretching).

When unwrapping these assets, we must stick to our template character layout, as the majority of texture space will need to be retained for other aspects of the character (such as skin and other clothing categories). This is because our studio editor generates new textures on the fly as the player puts various pieces of clothing together, therefore all unique clothing categories need to be unwrapped as if they were to fit on a full character texture sheet.


Once we are satisfied with our low poly morphs, we will then move on to rendering our textures. From the high poly we will render our Ambient Occlusion and Normal Maps, which we will then use as a basis for creating our final textures in Photoshop. In Photoshop we will also create our specular maps and in the case of “War”, emissive maps for artificial light features.


Masks

With our initial textures created we then need to create a series of color masks. These masks will determine what parts of the clothing players will be able to customize. The number of customization options increases with the number of masks. The War outfit for example, uses 20 different masks in order to provide as much flexibility as possible to the player. With this now set we are ready to begin testing in game.


Finalization

Once these stages have been completed (and tested), we can then move on to the finalization stage, which involves rendering out icons and naming the assets in game. The icons themselves are rendered from 3DS Max using global cameras and shaders, in order to keep the UI consistent. With this complete, the only remaining steps involve marketing and release.


We hope you enjoyed our brief overview of one of the art pipelines powering APB Reloaded. The artists would wish to thank our player-base for the amazing customizations you continue to create with our work.

Thanks, and until next time...
APB Reloaded Team

Monday, April 25, 2016

Another Dev To Find and Shake, Rattle, Implode!

Hello Citizens,

With last Friday's blog post, we provided a little info on Androvald, our Senior Engineer. Now is your chance to find him in San Paro and earn yourself a prize. From the 27th till the 4th of May, Androvald will appear randomly in action districts - find him before he disappears and earn a reward.  Whoever finds him first will win 10 deployable 'Joker Box Weapon Caches' that allow you to spawn a random Joker Box weapon temporarily for you and nearby friends. You only win this reward once, after which you'll receive 5 deployable selectors. Subsequent players will win 3 deployable selectors.

Starting with Androvald those lucky players who manage to find every single Dev will win a brand new Title upon finding the final Dev!

We had some technical difficulties over the weekend which prevented the Shake, Rattle & Roll event from going ahead as planned, and we’d like to apologize for that by giving every player who logged in between 04/24/2016 12:00:01 AM UTC and 04/26/2016 12:00:00 AM UTC (4/23/2016 7 PM CDT to 7 PM CDT 4/25/2016) 5 Joker Mystery Box 13s. Delivery of the JMB 13s will be within 48 hours.

Enjoy this week’s events and be safe Citizens,
MoK


Friday, April 22, 2016

Who We Are Part 2 & Shake, Rattle and Roll Event

Hello Citizens,

We hope you all enjoyed the return of Beacon this week, as well as the first Find The Dev event.  The month of April is still not over and we have a few more things heading your way.

Today we have another interview for you, from a second member of our development team.  Let me please introduce you to Androvald, our Senior Engineer.  Androvald took some time to answer a few questions.

1.       What does a work day look like for you? Talk us through some of the different tasks you have to perform.

I spend most of my time implementing new features and events, and fixing bugs within the game. 

While my specialty is game play, I tend to have to touch a lot of parts of the game as we are a small team. While the process of adding new features can be vastly different depending on what is required, for me it usually starts with a design document. Whilst the designers work on that, they will discuss the technical feasibility with the programmer who knows most about that area of the game. After we figure out what the new feature is going to be, we may create a prototype to figure out whether or not this new design will work. Once the feature is designed from a game design perspective, for bigger features we create a technical design. In this technical design, we lay out what goes where, and what pieces need to interact with each other. After all this is done, we can finally begin writing code. During the process of implementing the feature, we work with other disciplines to ensure things end up in a way that everyone can work with. When possible, we check with the designers that we are moving in the right direction, and the feature is working as expected. We check with the artists and designers that have to create content for these features that what we expect in code is indeed the case in the content that is going to be created for it. After it has been implemented, the feature will get tested by our QA department, and we try to fix as many problems with it as possible before getting it out to our test environment, and then live.

2.       What has changed over the course of your time here at Reloaded? Do you have any memories that stand out as special for you?

A lot has changed, yet a lot has also stayed the same. I’ll have to agree with Magallan that the general mentality always stayed the same, which makes this a great place to work.
One of the memories that stand out to me is when we moved into our new offices a couple of years ago - checking out the office space with a few of my colleagues and seeing Edinburgh Castle. It feels almost unreal that this has been a few years already.

3.       What excites you about the future of APB?

We have so many ideas of things that we want to do after the engine upgrade. The plans for a new revised mission system are particularly interesting. The main things we hope to address with that is the problem with the one-sidedness of the attack/defend stages, as well as the missions without opposition. The engine upgrade itself should be quite interesting as well, but there’s always more things to do for that.

4.       What game(s) are you enjoying at the moment?

I really enjoyed Epistory, which definitely has a unique art-style, as well as some interesting game play mechanics. I’ve also been playing Final Fantasy XIV, though I’m mostly waiting for them to add new content to that. Other than that, I’ve been playing CoD: Black Ops 3 multiplayer on and off.

5.       Is there a new game or piece of gaming tech that you are really excited about?

I’m looking forward to Star Citizen / Squadron 42. Seeing how their open development philosophy will continue to work, as well as how much of what they promised they can actually make a reality is a big part of that. It all looks pretty good so far.

6.       What is your all-time favorite video game?

I think I have more than one that is roughly on the spot of all-time favorite. A series of video games that has stayed with me for a long time though, would be the Descent: FreeSpace series. I received the first installment of that series with a joystick purchase, and I’ve picked up the expansion and sequel game after.  

I want to thank Androvald for answering our questions.  Meet the Dev team Q&A will be a recurring installment with find the Dev events to follow shortly after. 

We are also happy to announce that a new event will be had for this upcoming weekend.
Time to Rock Around the Clock this weekend by taking part in the SHAKE, RATTLE & ROLL event.

Get ready to SHAKE your enemies with grenade kills, RATTLE your foes with shotgun blasts and ROLL them over with a quick vehicular death.  

Each Daily objective rewards you with Joker Tickets and a Joker Mystery Box 13.
SHAKE, RATTLE & ROLL EVENT

SHAKE  
FRIDAY - 20 GRENADE KILLS  (PRIZE 200 JT)
SATURDAY – COMPLETE 30 MISSIONS (PRIZE 300 JT)

RATTLE
SUNDAY - 30 SHOTGUN KILLS (PRIZE 300 JT)

ROLL
MONDAY- 20 VEHICLE KILLS (PRIZE 200 JT)

This around the clock event, runs from today April 22nd till Monday April 25th.

That’s it for this week folks, enjoy this weekend’s event and stay tuned for the next find the dev update.

Till later Citizens,
MoK

Friday, April 8, 2016

Who we are at APB Reloaded

Hello Citizens,

Starting this month we will bring to you a new feature with our APB blog posts by introducing members of our staff to the community. This will provide you all with a glimpse of who we are and what each of us is responsible for within APB’s reloaded development.

Each introduction will include a few questions about what they do, their thoughts and other little titbits of information you might find interesting. With our first entry I am happy to present to you Magallen, our resident Operations Engineer who was kind enough to provide some answers to our questions.

1. What does a work day look like for you? Talk us through some of the different tasks you have to perform.

My main work day to day is writing code for the back end servers and databases used by APB, providing the platform upon which an MMO runs.

I wear some other hats too:
I'm responsible for making sure our QA team always have a safe space to test in;
I work with CS to help diagnose issues players are experiencing;
I work with our operations team to make sure that all of our hardware, new and old, is properly set up to be used for our live service;
I handle deploying new builds to our servers and configuring them to run the right servers in the right places.

The short version is: my job involves solving problems. Ideally before they happen. If something isn't working, I'm usually a good person to ask about it.

2. What has changed over the course of your time here at Reloaded? Do you have any memories that stand out as special for you?

We've seen a lot of people come and go in my time at reloaded but I don't think that's ever changed the mentality of the team. We still have a strong sense of family and everyone pulling together to make APB a place where you guys want to spend your time. We've improved a lot on our processes and how we communicate to get things done faster and make sure everyone is on the same page.

I've also really enjoyed seeing my colleague’s careers progress alongside mine and them rising to new challenges.

I think my favorite single memory was the first time we had an in office play test of the Easter egg mini-game (and not just because it's the only time I wasn't the worst player in the office).

It's my personal favorite event and it was good to see the whole team enjoying the game that we built.

3. What excites you about the future of APB?

In my own time I game on console much more than PC so I'm looking forward to being able to play APB at home on console.

I'm also looking forward to seeing a lot of new faces it brings into the APB community.

4. What game(s) are you enjoying at the moment?


I've been hooked on Star Wars Battlefront for a while now. I'm always playing football manager (Inter Milan are my team this year) and I play some Pokémon when I get the chance.

5. Is there a new game or piece of gaming tech that you are really excited about?

I think affordable VR kits open up some awesome ideas that just weren't feasible before. Games gaining access to almost infinite cloud processing power could allow developers to create a lot of things that until now have been impossible.

6. What is your all-time favorite video game?

Always a tough one. I'll say Skyrim, and the whole elder scrolls series, are the games that I've enjoyed most.

I want to thank Magallen for taking time from his busy schedule as well his Pokémon game time with us and we look forward to introducing you to the other developers here at APB Reloaded.

We also are announcing the SIN TO WIN event where it pays to be bad. This event runs from Saturday to Monday, so here is your chance to be rewarded for being your bad selves.

Till next time, be safe and good gaming citizens,

MoK