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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

HALLOWEEN '14: Part 2

Hello Gang,

Our Halloween 2014 event goes live tomorrow (29th, at 10am (UTC)) and we have brought back all the Halloween content from the last 3 years, the Artemis ISSR-A assault rifle and the new Vegas Firehawk kit. As mentioned in the last post, the new Halloween Dynamic Event has been built on the foundation of the system overhaul done for 1.18.

Unfortunately, the new event will be postponed by a few days - and I really do mean a few days (5 working days). Presently the new dynamic event is entertaining and fun but the team and I feel that, you, the audience, deserve an event that has a richer experience and is more polished than in its current state. The new Halloween event contains new gameplay, environmental effects, a brand new backpack to earn, new sounds and really cool in game modifications. Releasing it at this stage would be an injustice to what we are offering and so the decision was made to postpone that portion of the Halloween event for one week. All of the original Halloween content will still be available for you to play and enjoy as of tomorrow.

I believe something this new and unique deserves to be presented properly and not rushed.


I will provide an update shortly with the final release of this totally new dynamic event.



Ricardo “MoK” Viana

Friday, October 24, 2014

HALLOWEEN '14

Hi Gang,

Ricardo Viana here and I am happy to announce the APB:Reloaded Halloween 2014 event is on its way. The recent changes implemented in 1.18.0 has allowed us to create some new and unique gameplay for APB:R that we at Reloaded are very excited about. I believe you will not only be surprised, but very entertained with what we have achieved. With that being said - as seen on the previous post I am a man who enjoys surprises, so this year’s TREAT is that we will be offering a completely New Dynamic Halloween event, the TRICK is that I will not be describing it, you will have to show up and play it for yourself.

On top of this we will also be bringing back all the previous Halloween content for you to enjoy and even try for the first time. We will also be introducing an assortment of new content: a new weapon, the ISSR-A codename: Artemis, a New Vegas car kit called the Firehawk, and a new Halloween backpack that can be earned in game.

Further updates will be posted as we get closer to the end of the month, stay tuned for more guys and gals.


Ricardo “MoK” Viana


PLEASE BE AWARE: Fight Club challenges will be disabled from Monday (27th) till Wednesday (29th), as we’ll be introducing new challenges specifically for the Halloween patch.

Friday, October 17, 2014

UPDATE 1.18.0

Hi Gang,

I’m Ricardo Viana the Lead Designer on APB:Reloaded. This is the first of many updates I will be providing to you, so let me quickly tell you what has occurred since our last update.

Before I start, I wish to thank our players and volunteers for their commitment in providing regular feedback.

We will be releasing the 1.18.0 update that involves changes and improvements to our mechanics systems that are all under the hood, so to speak.  The three key areas of focus for this update were missions, dynamic events and visual effects that will definitely be felt during gameplay.   

1.18.0 Also includes changes to our TEAM LEADER system: 

TEAM LEADERSHIP CHANGES & ADDITIONS

  • We now offer the players the opportunity to request leadership, for the team.
  • Added new messaging for when voting begins, when Leadership selection is successful or unsuccessful.
  • The TEAM LEADER can now only kick other players who have earned a demerit.
  •  Included AFK to the present demerit system.
The team and I are striving to strengthen our core game mechanics on a daily basis. Our end goal is to provide to you the player, a more entertaining mission experience, streamlined matchmaking process, challenges for experienced players and a rewarding entry system for new.  I do not wish to give away too much on what is in store for you, but as Lead I am excited and looking forward to the future direction of APB:Reloaded.

Stay tuned for more guys and gals.

Ricardo “MoK” Viana

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

High Roller Video Promo

With the release of 1.17.1 and the High Roller pack tomorrow, we sincerely hope you enjoyed our series of posts over the last few days and look forward to seeing you in game!

As promised, here's a preview of the video series showcasing the High Roller pack:




Be sure and check the High Roller pack on Armas, when it releases this Wednesday and remember, you can grab a leased version of the Shredder from Wilde, at Joker Affiliates store in Breakwater Marina!

See you on the streets of San Paro!

-The Reloaded Team

Monday, September 8, 2014

1.17.1 Release Date and The Bishada Spectre
Kit

Introducing The Bishada Spectre

The Bishada "Spectre" kit marks the last of our little teasers for the new High Roller pack. Our primary goal when designing this new kit was to give the Bishada components that would drastically change the silhouette for the vehicle, whilst also being more refined, elegant and visually punchier than the Mako kit. At the same time, we also had to ensure that the kit still complemented the large catalogue of existing components, in order to maximize the options available for customization.

As you'll see below, the Spectre kit has a bolder, more aggressive use of lines and shapes, which we believe will really shift the look of the base vehicle. Additionally, we've added components like the Renzo Aero S-X2 wheels, complete with distinctive text around the tyres that really add a unique character to the Bishada, and also a new set of police lights, complete with license plate readers for the Enforcers.

Here is a large resolution (1920x1200) version of the High Roller pack for your shiny monitors:

If you'd like a clean version of this image, then we've got you covered too:


1.17.1 Release Date

Now that we've completed our little set of teaser blogs for 1.17.1 and the High Roller pack, all that is left to do is tell you when you can expect to get your hands on it.
....

*Drum Roll

1.17.1 will be released on LIVE this Wednesday (10th of September at 9am (UTC)) with the High Roller pack being made available on the same day!

Remember, you'll also be able to lease a version of the new Shredder shotgun, ahead of it's Armas release, from Wilde in Breakwater Marina - so check it out and let us know what you think.

*We'll start the maintenance at 9am UTC and should have it back up and running in 2-3 hours.

Did we mention this was the last teaser? We've got one more for you! Join us once more tomorrow, when we'll share a set of exclusive videos showcasing the High Roller pack!

-The Reloaded Team

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Shotgun Balance Changes and The Shredder
Revealed

Shotgun Changes

Shotguns where once the de-facto short-range weapon, but the last set of changes they received left them performing less reliably than we'd like them to. While the previous changes addressed the unreliable nature of the the pellet spread, we felt we could better still address the base accuracy or the accuracy changes that occur when a player moves and fires. To combat this, we've heavily changed the accuracy of all of the existing shotguns by improving where the centre of the spread will land. We've also removed any movement modifiers that would previously have affected the accuracy while running or sprinting.

This means that shotguns will now always hit near-centre, even when fired while running or sprinting . However, jumping and firing will still have a major effect on shotgun accuracy.

We've also taken this opportunity to change how the CSG and JG behave, as we felt they were a little too similar and we really wanted them to have their own distinctive flavour that better complements different play styles. To this end, we've upped the damage of the JG, while increasing its spread. This makes it a close-range monster. With the CSG, we've left it with a tighter spread which, when combined with the benefit of not losing any accuracy while moving, turns it into a excellent mid-range option that still performs well at closer ranges.

Throw the N-FAS and the Shredder into the mix and you now have a better suite of reliably competitive options when you want to play with a shotgun.

High Roller: Shredder Shotgun

The Shredder Automatic Shotgun is a powerful and precise weapon that can provide extreme amounts of fire against enemy targets. It's the exception to the new shotgun changes above, being fairly inaccurate when moving, but it's high rate of fire combined with the tightest spread of any shotgun makes it a powerhouse when used in marksmanship mode.

The High Roller pack will come with the "Shredder DF PR3" (The DF stands for "Drum Fed"). There are also two other versions of the Shredder: the Shredder SB JT1 (Short Barrel), which will be available to lease in-game from Wilde in Breakwater Marina; and the Shredder EB (Extended Barrel) PR3, which will be made available separately.


Join us tomorrow, when we'll be sharing the official release dates for 1.17.1 along with the final piece of the High Roller pack: the Bishada's Spectre kit!

- The Reloaded Team

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Performance Improvements and High Roller Clothing Revealed



1.17.1: Performance Improvements

For the past few months we've been running tests, adding logging, analysing data, going over client and server logs and reviewing network latency reports, all in an attempt to find out what the main causes of our performance bottlenecks are. Frustratingly, the answer is not entirely straight forward (we can't just blame Howard the server hamster, for example) as there are a range of potential issues in various areas of the game that could be causing problems. There are, however, a few systems that are primary candidates for potential performance hiccups. So - with 1.17.1, we've made changes to some of these systems that we believe should make a noticeable improvement to the game.

One of the primary candidates to optimize has been the garbage collection system - this has nothing to do with the Green Planet trucks and everything to do with how the game frees up memory by releasing objects no longer required by the game.

To give you a more technical overview of what we've done here, we're going to hand you over to the lead engineer who has been spearheading the development effort to improve performance, and has written an overview of the problems he's encountered and how he's gone about addressing them.


Identifying Lag Spikes


We've been looking again at server performance in 1.17.1 and have been analysing some of the spikes reported in server log files.

A server ticks (updates) 25 times a second which gives it 0.04 seconds (40 milliseconds) to update the game world. Every tick we measure the time taken and if this is over a threshold then we have a spike (slow update) and we log additional information about the causes of the spike.

Whether a spike affects your experience of playing the game depends on many different factors. Some will be noticed, others won't be, but the less spikes we have, the "cleaner" the server is and the more predictable its performance will be.

The Two Primary Candidates


A game server needs to do different amounts of work at different times, it does standard things all the time; for example, moving characters, simulating physics, and sending network traffic.

The server will often have to do extra work, however, when a character enters a district, and during garbage collection. I've been looking at these two cases.

Reducing Impact of Character Entry

When a character enters a district, the district server needs to grab information from the database and then initialise itself with this data. After observing that this involved a lot of time reading files from disk (which is a slow process because hard disks are often the slowest part of a computer system) I've been able to reduce the impact on the server of reading these files.

Optimizing Garbage Collection

Garbage collection is the process which tidies up unused objects in memory. It currently runs every minute, at 40 seconds past the minute, and runs in two phases:

The first phase is to identify which objects are no longer required. This needs to be completed in one step, otherwise memory could change and its analysis will be invalidated.

The second phase is to tidy up the objects which are no longer required. This was taking longer than was desirable.

For some time now, we've been adding extra logging to provide more information about the process of tidying up objects. From this logging I was able to identify which sorts of objects take the most time to tidy up. In fact - one type of object was taking up the majority of time. I've been able to rework some code so these objects do not always need to be created in the first place.

Improving server performance is an ongoing process, and there are still improvements we can make. We'll be continuing to work on identifying the points on the server where spikes occur and figuring out new ways to smooth these out.

High Roller: New Gear

Welcome to the first teaser of the High Roller Pack! In this installment, we'd like to showcase the new clothing items that come in the pack. As you can see from these pictures, the clothes convey an element of professional deadliness; a mixture of style and function.

First of all, we have some new pieces of wearable equipment that will help players intimidate their enemies. Enforcers will gain access to a vest with a multitude of spaces to store shotgun shells, while Criminals will be able to adorn themselves with bandoliers. Female characters will gain access to some very fashionable threads, including an underbust laced corset, fashionable shorts, skinny glossy pants and some high heeled ankle boots. Male characters will also be able to equip some stylish new attire in the form of a bakerboy hat, a waistcoat/tie & shirt combo, patched fashion jeans and a pair of very chic ankle boots.

Looking good has always been a priority for the residents of San Paro, and the High Roller Pack will give fashion-conscious players the chance to create trendsetting new outfits for their characters.



Join us tomorrow, when we'll be revealing the new shotgun and talking about the raft of balance changes we've been making to shotguns in general!


-The Reloaded Team

Friday, September 5, 2014

A General Update & 1.17.1


Welcome to the latest blog update for APB Reloaded!

Today we'd like to share the status of our ongoing development efforts, introduce you to the latest member of our design team, chat a bit about what you can look forward to in 1.17.1, and give you a sneak peek of the our upcoming content pack.

Over the next few days we'll be talking about the upcoming 1.17.1 release in more detail as we'll as revealing the content for the upcoming High Roller Pack.

Unreal Update

Many have asked how the Unreal update is going? - rest assured steady progress is being made. The technological progress of the update has provided us the opportunity to start defining the visual look of the game, in the upgraded engine. More visual material will be shared, as progress on the upgrade continues - so you'll be seeing less of this:

and more of this:




Overkill in the EU

Updating our EU servers to the "Overkill" hardware is progressing, as we're currently sorting out a few logistical issues. In the meantime, we've been making a raft of server optimisations that we're rolling out with 1.17.1 - be sure and come back for tomorrow's blog, where we'll go into more details on what we've been targeting.

Introduction to our New Designer

We are delighted to announce that industry veteran Ricardo Viana has recently joined the Reloaded team!


With 17 years of experience he has worked on such titles as Eternal Darkness, The Outfit, Company of Heroes and Army of Two. Ricardo has plenty of experience designing for third person action games, shooters and strategic gameplay. As fans of his games, everyone here is super exited to welcome him to the team and we're all really looking forward to seeing what exciting changes he'll bring to the world of APB:Reloaded!


1.17.1

We're currently hard at work putting the finishing touches to the 1.17.1 patch and we plan to have it in your hands very soon. More details on the content of 1.17.1 will be provided in future blogs leading up to its release - but as a brief overview, 1.17.1 will feature further performance enhancements, a broad range of changes to the shotgun weapons as well as numerous bug fixes and tweaks.

High Rolling
Before we sign off on this blog we'd like to give you a sneak peek of the next content pack we'll be releasing soon: the High Roller Pack. It features a new vehicle kit for the Bishada, new clothing assets, and a brand-new and totally unique weapon.


Come back tomorrow and we'll present some of the server performance changes we've been making in 1.17.1 as well as reveal the new clothing assets from the High Roller Pack.


-The Reloaded Team

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fighting Fair in APB Reloaded with FairFight

...and the sad naming and shaming of 200+ players.


I bet many of you know “FairFight” as the anti-cheat system currently in use in several top tier games, including Battlefield 4 and Titanfall.

But I bet you don’t know that the Reloaded team has been working closely with the FairFight team for the past several months to integrate and optimize FairFight in APB.

When were able to combine our existing tools and systems with the FairFight system, we were suddenly able to review a vast range of information and get much better visibility into what players were doing in the game.

Some of these new insights made us very happy; for example it turns out that the numbers of actual cheaters in APB is much lower than the community would believe. But some insights made us terribly sad; players with as many as 8,000 hours of playtime were caught red-handed cheating.

What kind of cheating did we catch? The current combination of tools can now catch a wide range of activities using almost every conceivable method of detection. The FairFight system has been great, since it has acted as a “key” to let us pull together a lot of disparate the data into one single effort. As a result we found lots of players who actively had a cheat running, but, sort-of didn’t use it much, and often appeared to be running mostly legit, while relying on their purchased cheat tool “to cheat just a little bit.”

Of course any cheat is a gross violation of our terms of service, and just as when pregnant; there is no “a-little-bit-of-pregnant” category in the human gestational cycle, just as there is no “a-little-bit-of-cheating” category when playing a fair game.

The sad naming and shaming of 200+ players

Today as we formally move out of “stealth mode” to ensure a fair APB game going forward we are also publicly listing a sampling of 212 people whom were detected cheating sometime in the last few weeks or months. The list of names can be found here. It’s not comprehensive (the total number of bans are several times this list), and it includes players caught using several different detection methods. A few were even tagged by the “trusty” old Punkbuster as well, though FairFight enabled us to truly be efficient in tracking down all these miscreants.

In the “name and shame” section we also opted to not only list the character names of those who cheated, but decided to take it a big step further and list the time spent playing the game, player rank, server, clan and the range of real cash each player had spent in the game before getting terminated.

APB Cheat Stats

There is some good news that came out of our intense cheat review; on a daily basis, the number of cheaters who log in to the game stayed pretty constant around 1.2% of all players (some of which were re-rolls). Inversely 98.8% of players in APB played on a daily basis without any trace of any cheat (which we are very thankful to see)! So as usual, it’s the 1% who is messing up the world for the rest of humanity.

For some even more startling facts; 60% of the players banned in this sample were paid players. That’s surprising on several levels. For comparison, about 10% of the monthly unique players in APB make a new purchase in the game in any given month. On a cumulative basis about 30% of all players playing the game have paid money for something at some point during their account history.  So in simple terms, paid players turned out to be 2X over-represented in the initial ban sample, compared to the APB population as a whole.

Another startling fact; paid players who were banned had on average 260 hours of play time in the game, had played for over 1 year, and had on average spent $180 on virtual goods.

Now clearly they got their monies worth already (in comparison they could have chosen to pay $59.99 for 20-40 hours of play time in a traditional single-player game, or pay for 12 months of MMO subscription time for about that amount of money) and it's crazy that they chose to have themselves eliminated from the "sport of APB" by cheating.

A Few Bad Apples Spoiling All the Fun

So why has there been such a giant perception that cheaters are rampant in APB, if the ratio of cheaters, even before FairFight went live, was only around 1% (when we were just observing what was going on during stealth-mode)?

Well, there are really two explanations.

First, yes the few cheaters that exist have a disproportionately negative impact on the matches (snapping, appearance of cheating etc.) partly BECAUSE they also tend to be active players. So they do affect a much larger number of matches than 1%.

Second, it also turns out that APB is a REALLY HARD GAME to master and play. In spite of what everyone says, APB takes some serious skill (much more so than money). Locational awareness, amazing twitch-skill, strategic planning, and a flawless group to play with are critical to success in the game. And in fact we found ourselves analyzing some matches where EVERYONE accused everyone else of cheating, but no one was actually cheating!

A few of the players in those matches were in fact just THAT much better at the game than everyone else. It’s a really tough feeling when you realize you got crushed in some inexplicable way, and a very common immediate reaction is to accuse everyone of cheating. Statistically there is a very good chance they actually were not cheating the last time you played them. They probably (though not always of course) were just better players, a better group etc.

Cheating “just a little bit”?

Even more fascinating, as we go through the list of cheaters, we realize that often they did NOT use a cheat to crank all their stats (well of course, some idiots did), and our only conclusion must be that some of them have been using cheats as a ‘crutch,’ probably because they thought the other people around them were beating the crap out of them (even if statistically they were likely NOT to be cheating).

Notice that the overall K/D ratio of the cheaters in the sample name and shame list is around 1.7 – meaning for every 17 kills the cheaters died 10 times. That’s around 70% ahead of break-even, but not massively better than players with equivalent time spent in game.

And finally, we also found accounts where it appears the players have been playing legit in the account for a long time, and then for some reason or another decide “to just try a little cheating.” That’s sort of like “just trying a little meth.” Your mom and your local DEA officials always tell you “don’t do it” to the meth. And we say the same about cheats. Don’t do it. One day you will be caught.

Should we enable Purgatory?

So while we are very glad to see some of our community members go due to these flagrant violations of our terms of service, one idea that we keep kicking around is to potentially enable a “Purgatory” District.

The idea is that cheaters don’t get banned right away (which of course doesn’t happen since the system runs on various delays), and instead freshly detected cheaters get kicked into special cheaters-only districts, where they can continue playing against other cheaters without initially realizing they have been tagged (or whole groups get thrown in there as long as they have a cheater on their team). Titanfall has implemented a similar system, and it seems to work reasonably well for them.  The main reason for us to consider doing this is purely for research. We benefit from continuing to capture data from those who cheat.

But we also realize this is a sensitive item for all players. We’d be curious to hear your feedback on this type of district (maybe it becomes a ‘mass-spectate’ thing where you can view them all cheating each other)? No final decision has been made so far about this type of new district type.

In fact – this is NOT free!

In jest I had added a post-script to last week’s ‘teaser’ post about making an announcement that said “hint: it’s free.”

Make no mistake. Spending THIS many resources to combat cheating, even with an excellent partner like FairFight (who have a great team, but of course needs to charge for their services), combined with all the other related internal and external tools involved, it all takes a massive amount of resources away from the Reloaded team. And again puts us in a position where we have to prioritize anti-cheat efforts which directly takes away critical resources that could be better spent on new shiny features and new systems in the game.

But in this case we feel the investment will be worth it in the long-term. And we are hopeful we will continue getting great support from our devoted players who spend countless hours in the game every month.

Final words

The other big project that’s ongoing is of course the engine upgrade, which continues moving forward at a steady pace. However, what started as one project has now morphed into two related projects that have much larger teams attached. The details of which I cannot release “next week,” but I promise that it will be “sooner than SOON™.” And I am personally super-thrilled about what our teams are already working on, and again, I hope to issue a really detailed update as soon as I am able to disclose all the details.

In the meantime, we continue being incredibly thankful for all your ongoing support, and hope to share more exacting news as it becomes available.

And just to cap it off – as an APB player, did you know that APB Reloaded is in fact the 19th most played game on Steam (out of 2750 total games distributed) of ALL TIME, just ahead of Borderlands2 and behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2? At least according to this Ars Technica article (and which, from our internal numbers, we can certainly corroborate, if not ponder that Ars may have under-counted some stuff). That makes APB more played than 99.3% of all other PC games (!). There is some additional data in this Ars Technica update as well.

In fact turns out Reloaded Games have 2 of the games in the Top-100 out of 2750 games: APB Reloaded at No. 19 and Fallen Earth at No. 94.

In short, we are very much looking forward to when we can share our next set of exciting updates.

In the meantime – play fair! And if you want to see the conversations that this has sparked – then you can go here to check out threads like these in our social district forums.

/TechMech



Friday, July 18, 2014

Next week

Since we've been very quiet recently, we wanted to make a quick post ahead of the weekend to tease something we will be sharing with everyone next week. 

As you know our teams have been working very hard and very long on several different projects, and at least in one of those cases we are ready to make an announcement next week that we think will make most people very happy...

What we are going to announce is not the biggest project we have going at the moment, but it's a good one, and worthy of some detailed discussion.

See you next week!

/TechMech

(hint: it's free)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The People's Blog

Today's blog comprises some the most requested topics we've seen recently regarding what we're doing, where we're going, and why it's taking so long. It's arranged in a factual point-by-point layout with little fluff, so let's dive right in with updates on the following:

New Contacts
There are two remaining specialist “New Breed” contacts that will be heading to the San Paro streets later this year. If you are an Enforcer there is Lynette Casey - a Prentiss Tiger who is looking for her sister’s killers. On the Criminal side there is Lucas Van Rooyen - a former MMA fighter from South Africa, who is now working for the Bloodroses as Michael Simeone’s personal body guard.
If you check out your character select screen, you’ll actually already find these contacts in the backgrounds of the Prentiss and Bloodrose character scenes.

Turf Wars
There are a variety of larger systems and changes that we’ve wanted to add to APB for a long time now – the question has always been, how do we do them in a timely manner with a small team?
This question is what led us to start developing the dynamic event system as it allows us to have a separate framework that we can use as a foundation for larger more involved systems, while also providing constant content updates without having to go into hiding for months or years.
Additionally, the other advantage to this method is you’ll have front row seats on the development of these features – of course it means they won’t always work first time round and you’ll see more iteration and polish than if we developed it in total isolation - but we believe that this form of more iterative development is both good for us as developers and you as a community because it means we are all working together to make future features as good as they can be.

Leaderboards
Our primary dilemma with leaderboards has always been working out a way of doing them without having the same issues we saw back at Realtime Worlds, where the leaderboards, and reward structure for leaderboards, were badly broken and easily exploited.
To this end we are currently planning on initially adding a new leaderboards structure to the dynamic event system and then expanding it based on what we find does and does not work. We’re still working out the details of it all and we hope to share more with you soon.

Turf Wars
We’ve had the Turf Wars design kicking around for a while and when we starting building the Dynamic Event system, the goal was always to expand upon it until we reached “Turf Wars”. This is the why the event system is built around more dynamic actions that move away from the rigid structure of our missions system. We’re intentionally keeping them simple for now so we can see what types of gameplay work well within the play space of a full action district – if you’ve been playing with us from the Chaos districts, you’ll know that simply having full PvP districts without structure quickly becomes frustrating and uninteresting.
Our challenge will be to find systems that allow us boundaries while also giving players the opportunity to feel like they are part of a dynamic 90-100 player district that can be affected by everyone in it, rather than being, in many ways, only a large lobby.

Engine Upgrade
Since our last update (please see the “Looking Ahead; Status of the Engine Version Upgrade” post below), work has been progressing at a steady pace. We’re getting closer to having it ready for our internal art and QA teams to start looking at. We’ve still got a fair way to go (for example we’ll need to evaluate and convert all our existing custom art asset pipeline technology and tools to support the newer engine) but we are getting there!

Overkill EU
Our IT bros have been pretty ridiculously busy with lots of foundational work behind the scenes. How this relates to you is the holdup behind Overkill for Obeya and Patriot. The logistics of how exactly we were going to go about importing, constructing, and installing everything was kind of a nightmare, but at least we've got the process sorted now (in case you ever get the urge to ship large, expensive, complicated electronics internationally, I guarantee you that just dealing with customs alone will be the worst part of your year). Conversely, it may have been possible to source everything locally and have it built there, but then we realized we have neither robots nor voodoo minions to scurry around and do all of our bidding. It turns, though, that there are services who will accept money in exchange for doing some of our bidding, though, which is the next best thing. This process not straightforward though, so we don't have a precise delivery date. Within 30 days seems a bit aggressive; within 60 days seems far more likely.

Armas
Here's a quick rundown of a few things happening in Armas now/soon:
Gifting. 
Gifting has recently come to Armas; thank you to everyone who is helping us test it out. Today we expect the 1000th gift to be given, and will probably give a special prizes to the sender and recipient.
Optimizations. 
Our resident web developer has been shoring up slight inefficiencies and found new ways to handle data extraction and display, optimizing how quickly pages load. We expect this to be an ongoing process as we hopefully find new ways every so often to improve the experience.
Detailed Stats. 
If you visit Armas you’ll know that fairly recently detailed stats were added to some weapons. This is being expanded to include all weapons, and we’re in the early stages of seeing how we might do the same thing with vehicles (though there are a few reasons we may find it best not to do this for vehicles, given a vehicle is far less the sum of its apparent stats, but I wanted to point out it is at least something we're looking at).
Refer-a-Friend. 
Eagle-eyed folks have spotted references to the upcoming ‘Refer-a-Friend’ system (also I talked about it once), which will, much as the name states, allow you to refer friends in exchange for points redeemable for exclusive rewards. Why this, why now? Most of APB’s new players come from friends referring other friends. Not only is this good for you (more people to shoot and call names in District Chat) it’s good for us as a business, and we’d like to add what will hopefully be a force multiplier on the process of bringing new people aboard.
Wish List. 
Sometimes you want something and it’s just too expensive. We get that. To that end, we’re putting together a wish list so you can keep tabs on your most coveted items, and even be notified when something goes on sale. We hope to expand on this in interesting ways in the future as well.
Welcome Screen. 
Getting information across is sometimes difficult. We can post on the forums and launcher (and blog, of course), but while players like yourself (thanks, by the way!) pay attention to that…most people don’t. To help with that, we’ll soon begin testing a new ‘Welcome’ screen you’ll see on your first session each day, launching between logging in and character select. In addition to having the latest news and listing any active promotions, it will also give you some interesting gameplay stats for yourself and your clan.
Upcoming Gear Pack. 
For those wondering, it will be called the Dressed to Kill Pack and will release later in May. We'll have some teases coming out in the coming days.

That's all for now. Did I miss something you wanted to hear about? That's ok! Run to the forums and complain endlessly about it! Bonus points if you do it in all caps; double bonus points if you craft a conspiracy theory surrounding its omission. Or I suppose you could politely point it out in the comments and I'll do a followup blog summarizing anything I missed. Just go with whichever method you find more personally fulfilling.

OH ALSO: I've been having a lot of fun lately checking out APBR streams on Twitch! Are you a streamer? Do you stream? Are you cool and funny and more interesting to watch than scenes with Arya and the Hound? That's good, you should drop me a line on here or Twitter or in the forums. If you're fancier than a velvet topcoat we might even just post it on the official APB Reloaded Facebook page. You'll get so famous you'll be talk of the family reunion, even more than Aunt Dotty's top secret potato salad recipe (come on it's just potatoes and mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce).

Toodles!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Looking Ahead; Status of the Engine Version Upgrade


Initially we’d planned on talking about the various things planned for the whole year, however, given the long-ish Unreal update below, we’ve decided to split this information into a few parts so we can give you all the information without causing you severe retinal damage or wearing out your mouse wheel…


An Update on the Unreal Engine Upgrade


We’re very excited to speak more openly about this, but there a couple important points to clear before moving forward.

  1. What’s being performed is an engine version upgrade – it is not a “new engine”. The team has been spending several months so far upgrading the version of Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) that APB was originally built on (the February 2008 build), and updating it to the 2013 build of Unreal, which is the most recent post-Gears 3 version of UE3 (and in fact it adds another 2 years of enhancements after the last Gears3 release). The engine fixes and improves a lot of systems throughout the game. However, this is a very complex upgrade because the job so far has consisted of stripping out and rebuilding from scratch many of the custom-built APB engine systems with newer Epic implementations of the same, and merging in the massive amount of changes the engine has undergone during the last 5.5 years. But this also has led to some unintended consequences (see below).
  2. When the update initially goes live, the game won’t look too different. This is because the first order of business is getting the game up and running again “as is” while using the updated engine in the background. Now, being a more up to date version of the Engine, this means it still has the potential to bring some nice visual enhancements, as well as allowing us to start working on bringing in other new features to APB seamlessly (for example dynamic lighting for car headlights, subsurface scattering for skin and other materials, and other potential future visual enhancements). These will take additional time and will not be present at the very first release, but by completing the Engine update we at least give ourselves to ability to add these later on at pretty rapid clip.
  3. Timeline for deployment of the “Engine2013” game to the live game environment is still to be decided. At the moment our end-of-Q1 2014 is actually NOT going to be far off for the first end-to-end QA version, keeping in mind the QA version of the engine doesn’t entail everything that will be included in a live version. So needless to say there will NOT be a public version available next week. But the last 6 months has certainly seen an incredible amount of changes to the entire game engine. As soon as QA has signed off on the insane amount of modifications from the last 6 months, then we will come back with a new time estimate that we can share on the blog.


The Unreal update is progressing at a steady pace, and while we run into a few challenges here and there, nothing so far has proven to be insurmountable. As with any complex project, certain changes has taken much more time than originally anticipated. But still, nothing has come up that looks like it could stop the process from completing successfully.


Pandora’s Box


Ok, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the Unreal update in more detail to give you an idea of the complexity of the undertaking.

As you may be aware from last year’s blog post on the subject, updating the APB engine is a massive undertaking. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that APB took Unreal as a base and then built entirely new, vastly complex systems on top of it to support the game Realtime Worlds wanted to make. This was also done under the assumption that they’d never need to update Unreal again. As you can imagine this means updating the Engine is a veritable Pandora’s Box of potential issues, which is essentially why it is so very difficult to estimate when it will be done.


The inside of Pandora’s box might actually look like this…

This one is less "Pandora's Box" and more "Arc of the Covenant"
Pan’s Labyrinth:


Let’s illustrate the complexity of the update process with a practical example of a recent problem we ran into while converting the character system.
  • In order to scale a character in APB, we use a non-uniform scaling system that allows us to change a character’s height and weight without causing strange behaviour in other systems – such as animation. 
  • So far so good, except the upgraded unreal engine does not inherently support this behaviour.
  • Let’s break this down so we can further illustrate the problem:
  • In APB, bones in a character’s skeleton can scale (get larger or smaller), rotate (change angle) and translate (move position).
  • In the default Engine, Epic uses a single value for the scale. This means a bone scales in all directions equally; i.e. a square becomes a bigger square.
  • In the old UE3, this was combined with the rotation and translation and stored in a matrix.
  • In the new UE3, Epic stores the scale, rotation and translation for each bone as separate values.
  • We still need to be able to scale a bone in perhaps one direction only; i.e. a square becomes a rectangle (this is non-uniform scale).
  • We need to do this as we stretch the character’s spine and arms to make them longer; i.e. we want to lengthen the arms but we don’t want to make the arms thicker.
  • We can carry on storing the scale, rotation and translation of each bone separately, but we need to make the scale multiple values rather than a single value.
  • However, there are some operations on bones which cause the mathematics to break in such a way that we can’t store the result simply as a scale, rotation and a translation. We need an additional skew value.
  • If you store the scale, rotation and translation of a bone altogether in a 4x4 matrix, then the mathematics don’t break. Matrices can handle skew (in the old Epic code, bones were actually stored as matrices in the first place, so we didn’t have this problem).
  • So the idea is that if we need to perform an operation which would cause the mathematics to break then we convert from scale, rotation and translation into a matrix.
  • Once converted into a matrix, we can no longer perform any operations which work on an individual element of the bone, but we’ll be fine as long as we don’t have to perform such operations.

So that is all well and good as theory but the practical solution can be very complicated as it starts to get into some pretty heavy maths, here is a snippet as an example:

If you're looking at this and thinking "That's easy, fools!" please submit your CV to Reloaded Productions!


There is a Light at the End of the Tunnel


As you can see, updating the Unreal Engine is a very complicated operation (the above example is just a small snapshot of the sort of things we are dealing with). However, the purpose of this information was not to dishearten you - we are still making good progress after all – rather it is to give you some context to help you understand why it is quite difficult for us to say exactly when we’ll be able to deliver it: but we will deliver it and once we do we’ll hopefully be able to expand APB in all sorts of interesting ways.

So at this point we’re planning on proceeding with QA for the current build, fixing the outstanding issues, and forging ahead with what has turned out to be one of the biggest—but potentially most important—projects we’ve taken on since bringing the game back online in 2011. You can look forward to further posts with more milestones as we cross them, and more granularity from us on how that proceeds. As soon as the scope comes into clearer focus we’ll also plan on posting an updated timeline.


The Year Ahead


Please join us next time, when we’ll take some time to talk about some of the other exciting changes we have planned this year - things like: Consumables / Deployables & Mini-Games; Clan Leaderboards; New Contacts and Turf Wars.

-          The Reloaded Team

Friday, February 21, 2014

1.15.0 and more!

1.15 is out now, isn’t it?

New Tutorial
The new tutorial is out! What do you think? We went a long time without a proper introduction for new players and that’s not something we’re necessarily thrilled about, but if you’re wondering why we took the old one out completely instead of just leaving it in until we had a better one, we found that having a sub-optimal tutorial actually made people play the game less than no tutorial at all. Which is also why the new version is completely different – instead of being forced into a tutorial district and being lead by the nose, now new players are given the option to do, or not do, mini-objectives which should guide them to a more thorough understanding of APB while they play the game for real.

There are also some fixes/updates to the tutorial going out in the next patch, which you can read here.

Weapon changes
Along with the update to 1.15 came a host of weapon balance changes, most of which are proving quite popular, and one which is fairly controversial! Obviously APB, and all online games, are always evolving. We're pretty confident that talented players do not rely on a single weapon or trick to win, but instead can learn and execute a number of different competitive maneuvers, of which there should now be a greater variety thanks to the balance improvements. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

JMB10 is out
If you think APB is a fun way to spend your time and you don’t mind kicking in a few dollars to support it, there’s a new Joker Box available for purchase with the new CAP40 potentially waiting for you inside. In testing I got it on the first try, so I guess that means I used up all my luck for 2014.

Sneak Peek Wallpaper
Hey look at this cool new wallpaper I found

Click for full resolution image
Chaos Contract
We're testing a new event type we're hoping may become a regular feature - this round requires a Legendary, so if you have one and want to test, head over to the forums and check out the details.

Engine update

Any blog post would be remiss without an update on the engine…update. That said, there’s not really one here – work continues as always.

Friday, January 24, 2014

APB Storm Watch; dealing with DDoS attacks

Here’s what’s going on right now:

For the last few weeks miscreants have been messing with APB by attempting both small and large DDoS attacks daily. The attacks range from small scale attempts, all the way to Derp Trolling taking down APB during their big take-down spree against Eve Online, LoL, Steam and Battle.net (on an aside, if anyone has any information about these events, we, and the FBI, are all ears and we will share more info on how the community can help out too).

In the meantime, choosing a mitigation response that is both effective and doesn’t destroy performance is hard, but that part is complete and a first solution has now been deployed. Unfortunately there is no free lunch; in this case, mitigating attacks comes at the cost of higher latency in the short term. 

We are now working with our provider to optimize the mitigation to bring pings back down with DDOS mitigation turned on. As if our job wasn’t hard enough without this extra layer of work, thankfully our team has added this challenge to the long list things they just ‘have to do.’

Being DDOSed sucks, but at least dealing with it is our job. Unfortunately for you, this whole mess is harming how you’re trying to spend time when you should be just relaxing and having fun in APB.

To that end we’re sending out 10 days of Premium to everyone who logged in to the game anytime between January 1 and January 23. It doesn't make up for the fact that you had to go through this with us, but hopefully it helps you get back on your feet and back to enjoying the game.

Along those same lines, let’s talk about the game engine's performance. This is an ongoing issue that we’ve made great strides toward solving. Additional deep network logging in the last four weeks helped us identify several deeply buried culprits in the game code itself, and we are rolling out code fixes to those issues in the next couple of patches. In December we rolled out more Overkill servers to Joker, and we’re rolling out two more this month (though the DDOS attacks have disrupted that schedule a bit).

Yesterday we also found and corrected an issue with the mail system. This change comes with certain limits on mail volumes users can send, so we’ll be looking at the effects of that going forward. This may cut down on scamming; it may also potentially impact players who use the mail system as a pseudo-inventory. Have any thoughts on this? Please share them in the comments so we can make an informed decision on how these tradeoffs might affect your quality of life. Edit: This change will not impact your stored mails or your ability to continue to store mails or attachments.

Finally, our system-wide Unreal engine upgrade is coming along on schedule. Currently progress is being made on rendering, the lighting system and the district/client interactions. I hope to share something more tangible in the coming weeks so you can see just how far along it’s come.

And while we’re smack in the middle of a Winter Warmup event, we’re also looking ahead towards Valentine’s Day events, which you'll see in a couple weeks.

Lastly, we've also noticed recently that the number of new players logging in for the first time has steadily increased. If this means you, welcome to the game! Soon we'll be rolling out early game content to help new players such as yourself find your bearings in the sometimes harsh and unforgiving streets of San Paro.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for playing APB!


Tl;dr DDOS solution in place but causing high pings (which we're working on), 10-days Premium free for everyone logged in January so far, engine still being upgraded, fixed a mail abuse bug, performance being worked on, more overkill servers, and more in-game events around the corner.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

APB Retribution now available!

APB Retribution is now live on iOS! Cheers to all the hardworking folks at Blazing Griffin for pouring their hearts and souls into this game. And I'm not going to lie -- the gameplay is pretty killer.


Learn more about it here: http://www.apbretribution.com/

Pick your shots carefully -- one slip up and you're dead

This is no shmup. Use stealth, planning, and tactics to win

Enemies can see and hear you...but make sure they don't.

Use grenades and the environment