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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


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Quick update

Happy Holidays everyone. I hope your days are filled with egg nog and cheer! Our days are filled with technomancy at all hours of the day and night. Here are some quick updates.


Overkill


Brand new Overkill systems for Joker have just arrived in our data center and we are now working on getting them deployed as soon as possible.


Engine Upgrade


The engine update is proceeding along at a brisk pace, with no significant delays being introduced. Thus, it is still on track to be completed early next year.


Server/Game Performance


After some exhausting research we have identified one possible cause of the latency. The issue, as you know, has been a particularly vexing and elusive problem to nail down, and not something we could just throw time/resources at. Because of the nature and how it might help things, we've gone ahead and recklessly tossed it onto both OTW and Colby. If you play on Colby, consider hopping in, performing a /latencytest or two if you run into any trouble, and sending it our way. We're hopeful, but we've been hopeful in the past, so the only thing remaining where our heart used to be is a smoldering lump of coal unwilling to let itself be hurt again. Update: The fix does not seem to have resolved the issue to any significant degree :(


Other Stuff

We've some events in store for the holiday period so make sure you stay up to date on the Forums, Facebook, and on Twitter.

PS - APB Retribution will be launching soon, so make sure you toss them a Facebook like!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Introducing APB Retribution

Today I’ve got something exciting to talk about. While the official announcement is coming later, I wanted to be the first to introduce you to a brand new entry in the APB universe designed exclusively for mobile: APB Retribution!

WAIT, WHAT?

Developed by our friends at Blazing Griffin, APB Retribution is a single-player top-down tactical combat game launching later this month. It features highly-intuitive touch controls, lethal one-hit kills, and ultra-badass hand-painted visuals for all characters, levels, and scenery.

Soooo what’s this all about then?

You’re dead.
Well, you’re supposed to be. Only someone messed up, and now you’re back and looking for blood. Your quest for revenge will see you claw your way up from the city’s seedy underbelly to scatter corpses all over never-before-seen San Paro locales such as the municipal dump, derelict apartments, subway tunnels, and more. You’ll have a ton of ranged and melee weapons to quickly brutalize enemies, but you’ll want to stick to the shadows, avoid making too much noise, and plan your shots carefully lest you find yourself on the wrong end of a 5-person beatdown. Fans of the outstanding Hotline Miami will feel right at home.

Shouldn’t you be WORKING ON APB RELOADED?!/1/!

Totally. Retribution is entirely separate and in addition to APB Reloaded. Blazing Griffin are a talented developer located down the street from our offices, a setup that has given us the opportunity to collaborate closely while still affording both teams the opportunity to focus on their core responsibilities. Things like the forthcoming Christmas events, server performance and the engine upgrade have been—and will continue—to proceed according to schedule. More on those soon!

APB Retribution will be out for iOS this month, and on Android soon after. Check out the site for game info, screenshots, and video.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Quick update today: I Call Shotgun!

1.14.0 will be arriving early next week. In the meantime, we've got a quick patch to blaze the trail which includes some changes to shotguns. We’ve heard a lot of talk lately about shotgun usage, especially in gold districts; specifically, the over-application of shotguns. To be clear using shotguns is completely fine, but given that all weapons in APB have situational benefits and drawbacks, we've found that shotguns specifically, based on how they worked, were more powerful in certain situations than they should have been. In today's patch we’ve given a little bit of a rework to the way that every shotgun in the game works: Now, before everyone freaks out, this isn’t a nerf. Nor is it a buff. But it is a change.

WARNING: The following contains technical-sounding game-developey mumbo-jumbo. Proceed at your own risk.

Previously, to calculate shotgun hits, we used a center-point at the middle of the spread of the shotgun. We then put the other pellets around the outside of the point equidistantly from each other. The whole thing was then randomly rotated to give the pellets their spread. This meant we needed a very tight spread in order to get reliable shots at close ranges. The downside to this was that even at extreme ranges (25 meters and up) shotguns were too effective.

The new change defines the number of pellets being fired by the shotgun and then creates a rough circle at the target of the shotgun. The circle is then divided up into a grid and each cell receives a single pellet that’s randomly placed inside that area. Overall this increases the consistency of hitting with shotguns, and as such we've altered damage and pellet numbers for all shotguns to better balance them with this new spread pattern. The total damage output of shotguns haven't changed, but the number of pellets fired has -- most were increased, while the NFAS shoots fewer now.

The important thing to take away from this is that at close range shotguns are still going to be very strong. At ranges of around 18 meters and up -- you know, the range where you should really be thinking "Maybe I shouldn't be using a shotgun" -- you’re not going to have the same ability to deal large amounts of damage inconsistently to enemies. Another thing to note about this change is that currently you're likely to do anywhere between 10% and 80% of a player's health. Now, provided you aim accurately, you're more likely to get 40-65% damage out of each blast.

One of the best things with the shotgun changes is that this new method of calculating spread allows us to tweak shotgun damage and play in ways that simply weren't possible in the past. This will allow us to make the CSG and the JG feel a little more different than they do at the moment and should help us breathe new life into the NFAS. Give ‘em a try, we think you’ll like them -- the new Joker Mystery Box 8 includes the new 'True Ogre' variant of the NFAS with the Double Drum mod.

Also, after seeing some mentions of the engine upgrade, yes it is still proceeding along well! While these postings are primarily concerned with version 14, one of the next postings will give some further progress info on things like the engine upgrade and ongoing performance improvements.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

APB Version 14.0 Preview: New Breed Part 4

Welcome to the APB Reloaded blog. Pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable. Today's update comes from the team on a subject that's been on everybody's mind lately: 14.0

Halloween’s over and done with and we’ve finally managed to pull ourselves out of that candy-powered-coma long enough to unveil the upcoming patch, New Breed Part 4. It’s been a long time coming, but we think that the two new contacts and the changes to vehicles will be worth the wait and add a whole new dynamic to the game.

First of all, let’s all say hello to the new contacts in Financial!

Aletta & Gumball


Aletta and Gumball are the two new contacts coming in 1.14.0. They’re specialist contacts, and have twenty levels of progression and are available to high end players. We’ve stuffed those twenty levels with clothing inventory and outfit capacity increases, unlocks for some absolutely top of the line vehicles and more brand new modifications than you’ll know what to do with. We’ve also added an unlock for the Flare Gun and some new titles to help you show everyone that you’re on the bleeding edge of progression.

Aletta and Gumball work for the Praetorian and G-Kings factions respectively and operate out of the Financial district.

Aletta’s goals are much darker than previous contacts, with other members of the Praetorians thinking that bringing her into the city might have been like opening Pandora’s box – is she going to do more harm than good in the city? Will the ends justify the means?

As for Gumball… well, he’s just in it for the explosions. Nothing burns quite like a car after ten seconds of sustained fire with an ALI-G, huh?

Vehicles, vehicles, vehicles


Both are specifically themed around vehicles. Between the Mobile Radar Tower mod (that highlights enemies near your vehicle), the Blowtorch (that burns your enemies and repairs damage to your vehicle), and the Remote Detonator which turns your beloved vehicle into a bomb on wheels, we’ve really tried to make vehicles much more important. Throw in a Muffler mod that makes your vehicle not show up on radar when you’re coasting and High Burn-Point Fuel that keeps your car from damaging you when it blows up and you're looking at some significant new vehicle-driven (no pun intended) tactics.

With all this change, though, we wanted to make sure everyone is going to stay on a level playing field. You’ll be able to buy leased versions of these modifications in the Joker store to put in your own vehicles and, from 1.14.0 on, whenever you point your reticule at a player vehicle, you’ll be able to see what modifications are on it. That way, you’ll know who’s got the radar tower, who’s got the spawn point and who’s got the ammo resupply. Prioritise targets and play tactical.

This is just a small slice of what's coming. Keep checking back for even more information on what you'll be able to find when 1.14.0 hits next week!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Halloween Idol Contest Winners!


The contest entries this year were so incredible I want to puke. In a good way. Like, it makes me nauseous to look at how good they all were. To everyone who participated, you've all outdone yourselves. There were over 500 submissions and all of them stellar beyond belief.

That meant 500 agonizing decisions.

Picking winners was not easy. There were very few disqualifications for not following the rules, and there were a fair number of entrants who took ‘pop culture’ as literal as possible, giving us some great music-personality themed submissions. As far as the judging went, we interpreted pop-culture as broadly as possible here; if your submission was recognizable to us from anything we’d have read, seen, watched, or played, it was considered valid. Submissions were evaluated fiercely on the following criteria:

  • How closely they matched their source material
  • Overall level of effort
  • Commitment to the character; this included anything like props, billboards, posing, or anything that really sold the character

So let’s get this started, shall we?

PARTICIPANTS


Because ALL of the submissions were of such insanely high quality, everyone who participated is getting 3 days of Premium and a Power Joker Mystery Box 7. Bam. That just happened.

HONORABLE MENTIONS


Even though narrowing it down to the final winners was so difficult, we wanted to expand the prizes to include everyone we thought still did an exceptional job.Honorable Mentions will receive 1,000 G1C for their effort!

SOLO


Atropine :: Fran Solo
Bombay :: Lilith
JakeHUN :: Nesquik Bunny
heysie :: McFly
Quemero :: Cyborg Superman
WeiShen :: Wei Shen
Miieena :: Mileena
TomBass :: Michael Jackson
SpittinBitch :: Ellie
CryinBitch :: Lara
CodeRed :: Ghost Buster
LslaSanguis :: Nicki Minaj
DrManfattan :: RoboCop
BannedKalyndria :: Pink Power Ranger
MakkeFett :: Boba Fett
Divlja :: Nova
Ivey :: Rogue
Fid :: Daft Punk

DUO


Ayyash & Apoplexy :: Legion Recruit and the Burned Man

GROUP


xTech, Shadow007, & DarkStar0 :: Hatake Kakashi, Naruto, & Pain
FreddyKruegar, Jigsavv, jasonVoorheas, xCHUCKY :: Freddy Krueger, Jigsaw, Jason Voorhees, & Chucky


GRAND PRIZE WINNERS


SOLO


GrizzledVet
Doomed Space Marine (sorry couldn't help myself!)


B45STWOOD
Driver (+ hauntingly awesome slow-mo dance sesh)








Johnnshepard
Crysis Nanosuit








Alexxx
Vaas Montenegro (with such great posing I can hear him now! Warning: Explicit language)











DUO


ArtemKirillov and Abssento
Scorpion and Sub Zero








UrdontWrex & HalfxLife
Best buds Duke Nukem and Gordon Freeman! 
I...I really want to play this crossover game now








GROUP


BlacklightITA, TheWarX, Cobra97ITA, AllCriminalsAreB
the Beatles









Tsaki23, Drharleenquinzel, Lance, and SPO3BuRaDoR
Ash, Pikachu, and Team Rocket










Dessal, Rutherus, and WookieeMan
Captains James Tiberius Kirk, Jean Luc Picard, and Benjamin Lafayette Sisko












<VIEW COMPLETE ALBUM>

Note: All winners per category are listed in no particular order. Winners and Honorable Mentions are going out now and should be delivered to all participants within 48 hours. Participant Awards may take slightly longer. Thank you for your patience.

CLOSING WORDS

Again we want to thank everyone for participating. I think this was the best costume contest yet!

On another note, 1.14.0 will be arriving soon. Check back early next week for a sneak preview of some of the upcoming stuff!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Only 5 days until APB Fright Club 2013

Hot on the heels of TechMech and Aphadon's crazy engine upgrade reveal, here's a new blog post by Scottomon with details on what's going down next week for Halloween! For that reason I've chosen a spOoOoky serif font with which to adorn this post; no need to thank me - Linus


To most of us, Halloween usually means fun, pranks and dressing up. However, Halloween in San Paro usually means guns, explosions and dressing even weirder than normal (so just another sunny day in San Paro really...)

Yep, it's time for the annual scare-fest that is Fright Club in APB Reloaded. We've gone all out this year to make sure that this is the biggest and best Halloween event we've put on yet! We'll be starting the event on Thursday 24th October and running right through to Wednesday 6th November, that's almost two weeks of frightening fun and petrifying prizes to be had!

First off, Trick and Treat are returning once again - you'll find them holed up in that old abandoned Asylum with the following goodies for you if you can progress up the ranks with them:

  • Level 1 - Start
  • Level 2 - Spooky Symbols
  • Level 3 - Terrifying Themes
  • Level 4 - Petrifying Pumpkin Mask
  • Level 5 - Thrilling Titles
  • Level 6 - Wicked Weapon Skin and Horrifying Headband
Also returning are those fiendish Orange Pumpkins. Some malevolent being (Qwentle) has hidden these throughout the Asylum - track them down and destroy them to cast away the evil spirits. Find enough and you could make quite the name for yourself...
  • Level 1 - Unlocks 'Pumpkin Chaser' title
  • Level 2 - Unlocks 'Pumpkin Murderer' title 
  • Level 3 - Unlocks 'Pumpkin Assassin' title 
  • Level 4 - Unlocks 'Pumpkin Terminator' title 
Now on to what's new this year. Daily Activities will be available for Trick and Treat in the Asylum District. If you can max them out you'll get access to these special Halloween-themed activities that reward your hard work with Joker Tickets. Be on the lookout though! There is a super-special rare activity that each player will only get one shot at - make it count to get your hands on a unique purple glow-in-the-dark weapon skin with bat motif!

If you thought orange pumpkins staring out of dark corners at you were disturbing enough, then we've got some bad news for you. Purple pumpkins have been spotted hidden throughout Financial and Waterfront, and, like their orange cousins, they need to be destroyed. There are reports of them numbering in the thousands, but with only some of them choosing to make themselves visible to each player across both districts, so you'll need to rely on your own wits to vanquish them. The good news? Once destroyed, those cackling purple monstrosities are gone for good. The bad news? There's quite a few of them... Check your in-game roles and clear your sight of these purple fiends to get your hands on some nice rewards:



  • Level 1 - A unique pumpkin-themed, orange glow in the dark weapon skin!
  • Level 2 - A set of brand new (and only available here) customisable Devil Wings!

To top it all off, we also have special Fright Club Challenges for the duration of the event. Complete enough in-mission activities in the Asylum District to claim your prize!


  • Bronze Challenge Complete - Joker Tickets for use in the in-game Joker Distribution store!
  • Silver Challenge Complete - Scary Clown Mask (available week 1 of event) and a brand-new Witch/Wizard's Hat (available week 2 of the event)!
  • Gold Challenge Complete - A whole stack of Joker Tickets and a 10 day lease of a brand new weapon you can't get anywhere else!
Lots to get your hands on, so make sure you get into APB Reloaded during the event!

Now, if ghouls and ghosts aren't your thing, we've also got a sneak peak at some upcoming content for you. We're tentatively calling this the 'Punk Pack', and it contains a couple of long-requested items including new backpacks as well as the goggles that made Javez famous. The pack also introduces a new weapon from Somatic Advanced Tactical Systems, who seem like they're trying to match a Joker Gunworks favourite. Get your hands on a unique variant of this new weapon by completing the Gold Fright Club Challenge in Asylum!





That's all for just now. We're off to lock the doors, it's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark...


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Colliding with the GTA V train (and getting back up again) - plus - details of APB's upcoming massive engine upgrade.

First let me get this out of the way; we think GTA V is a very good game. We always look for great competing products when we figure out what we should be working on next, and clearly GTA sets the bar very high.

The GTA express train
The September 17 release of Grand Theft Auto V, and the follow on October 1 release of GTA Online had a massive impact on the whole game industry.

Using Steam Data as a general PC-activity level sampling tool (keeping in mind Steam only tracks activity for those game installs that originated from Steam itself and not from publishers' websites, which means it only shows a small portion of gamers in non-Valve games, but shows 100% of gamers in Valve created games) it appears Online-PC games in Steam's "western-market areas" took an average 30% percent hit in normal average peak CCU levels when players jumped onto the GTA V bonanza.

Given GTA V broke the record for top grossing 24 hour sales in the history of ALL entertainment, one would expect the wind to get knocked out of the rest of the game industry for some period of time, especially for action-oriented games like Saints Row, All Points Bulletin and Planetside.

Steam Peak CCU for players accessing PC Online games through Steam as a before-and-after
comparison of GTA V's impact on the overall online game market.
More specifically, because APB Reloaded is also very similarly themed to GTA V with the same player demographic (even though APB is far more skill and map knowledge based, and far less 'arcad-y' and 'aim-assist-y' than GTA), we were pretty much standing on the GTA train-tracks waiting for a possible collision (and GTA of course having a much 'shinier' and newer engine, much larger development resources, deeper content and years of iterative development under its belt made it a hard challenge to face).

When the dust finally settled last week, it actually turned out that APB Reloaded was not hit any harder than the average Online PC game (again based on before-and-after comparisons of average PC game Steam numbers for the top-100 PC Steam games). Not to say we didn't take a dent. But we are still here. Still plugging away. And still working on our ambitious long term plans.

Slowly but surely, starting last week, we also started seeing players returning to APB, which has helped us breathe a little bit easier this week. Our giant super-secret engine update that we have been working on since July depends on players continuing to support our game, so we are incredibly thankful that players are returning to APB once they have gotten their GTA fix.

Introducing Tiggs

For those who have followed APB Reloaded closely over the last several months, we recently made some significant team changes.

In September we introduced the APB community to a person we think is the best community manager on the planet (Tiggs, with 20+ years of online community management experience dating all the way back to Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies) and we also appointed Joe "Linus" Willmon to be the the new head of APB's production team. We also concentrated our internal efforts on the newly begun stealth engine upgrade mission, and numerous improvement and performance items.

Tiggs and her new team has also done an AMAZING job of keeping the community up to date, and leading the efforts around tracking down performance issues and continually updating the players of ongoing bug fixes and updates.

Our massive "Secret Engine Upgrade Mission"
APB clearly was born with tech in an era that pre-dates GTA V by one full ‘game and engine generation.’ As those who have followed us for the last few years know, APB Reloaded uses Unreal 3 version 2007 and 2008 as its primary game engine (basically the version of the engine used by the original Unreal Tournament 3 that came out in 2008). Therefore the upgrades mentioned on the Unreal 3 Wikipedia Page do not apply to APB's original engine.

Due to the vintage of the engine, we keep bumping up against performance limitations, and also severe limitations in our product development speed. Because we use many custom systems in the game, it takes a very long time for our team to make material changes to the game, resulting in a lot of features being shelved or delayed.

An upgraded engine would let us tackle important things like min-spec system performance, lighting system improvements, net code improvements and new graphic card optimizations and it would likely lead to a faster content creation pipeline by taking advantage of new systems available in the updated engine.

The team performed small upgrade tests throughout 2012 and then Johann "Aphadon" took a serious stab at the task in April 2013 to test if we may be able to fix just 'some' of the older rendering code that causes some of the frame stutter (for example with some particle effects that have been shown to have some serious performance problems). But taking that approach turned out to cause other big follow-on problems when fixed in isolation. So to combat the overall problem, the drastic decision was then made to let a part of the team go off and map out what it would take to upgrade "everything." And with that, we really do mean "everything"

July 17, 2013 marked the kick off of the massive engine upgrade to move the engine forward in time by 5 years, from the early 2008 version of the engine to the 2013 version of the engine, which is the version that contains all the improvements Epic created for Gears of War 3, plus 2 additional years of engine refinements after those changes and optimizations. Clearly Epic has worked very hard in recent years to allow really small targets (even targets as small as cellphones as evidenced with the release of Infinity Blade for iOS/Android using a modified Unreal Engine)

Gears of War 3 version of Unreal 3, circa 2011 (Image: IGN)
The 2013 version of the 'vanilla' Unreal engine contains about 25,000 source code files of various types. The original APB game and custom engine contains 61,609 files in total, out of which nearly 35,000 were source code files (the other tens of thousands of files are content and config files). The mission; merge these terrifyingly massive projects. To complete the merge it turns out that our team has to merge roughly 10,000 source files, representing well over 1,000,000 lines of code. And then get them to compile. And then fix all the dependencies between these files, and fix features and functions that end up breaking as a result of the merge.

By end of last week (October 11, 2013) the team had finished the basic merge pass of 9,393 files, which leaves them only a couple of hundred files to go. Once the team gets everything to compile, then the long and painstaking effort of solving for issues and dependencies get underway (not to mention the massive QA and testing effort).

An upgrade of such a customized game as APB presents some particular issues. The first one is that RTW originally created a ton of code that added custom versions of features that were not natively supported by the engine. Many of those features (day-night cycles, building systems etc.) were later independently created (and optimized) as engine features by Epic, but by then the RTW code path had already diverged from the original engine code. In 2007-2008 adding these items (like day-night cycle to textures, and city building tools) were huge engineering feats. Some of the custom code lead to the development of some really amazing functions that remain top of the line, like the character and vehicle customization systems. Of course it also lead to being dependent on certain ‘dead-end’ custom features, that are hard to break the dependencies for after the fact.

The new Lighting Systems supported by the upgraded Unreal 3 engine
The other big issue is that Epic traditionally performs a massive amount of optimization and performance work around each of their own releases for their own games. Most notable Gears of War 3 that came out in 2011, several years after the APB engine version we use today. The GOW-3-optimized engine is also sometimes referred to as "Unreal 3.5" given the very large amounts of code (network code, light systems) optimized in preparation for Epic's Gears release.

Of course the APB code base (to date) contains none of those upgrades (bar a few items we added such as some net code from a later engine and of course the singular integration with Scaleform). And in the last few years as Epic began to start supporting mobile and tablet devices (as evidenced by Infinity Blade) the engine started supporting incredibly optimized and compact build targets, something that was not really a focus in the original engine.

The upgrade timeline, and opening the door to next gen options
Aphadon (our lead developer on this task) will pen a more detailed technical post about the upgrade in the next month or so when we are getting closer to something that's actually testable. Also, as we get closer to launch we should be able to predict the performance (and optimization) characteristics of the upgraded engine.

The current roadmap puts a full 'upgraded APB engine' sometime at the end of Q1, 2014, but as with all roadmaps, that could potentially change. The team is clearly working insanely hard on this particular task, and we think it will finally allow us to also unleash a lot of potential that has remained locked away in the custom code the game has been saddled with. As an added bonus, by upgrading the engine, we also open some interesting possibilities, including a path to launch on other platforms in the future.

Next Up
Linus will be penning a separate post about the ongoing server-performance testing that's led by Tiggs and her team, as well as the Halloween stuff coming very soon.

Also, I am personally very curious about Rockstar's decision to sell in-game currency directly in GTA Online, especially given the many reported GTA Online glitches that basically could make the whole currency purchase process moot. It's a very interesting idea, so I may pen a whole post just about their add-on transaction system. It's something we are looking at very closely.

And as always, thanks for continuing to support APB for the past several years, and with these massive coming changes, we hope to continue keeping APB strong for years to come.

/TechMech


Saturday, September 21, 2013

1.13 Features

Today we're going to talk about Daily Activities and Leased Modifications as the headline features for the 1.13.0 release. We've been promising both of these things for a while now (even though you might not have realised it) and we're incredibly happy that we're finally getting to bring them to the game.

Daily Activities
Daily Activities are activities that you do for contacts that you've completed progression with that give you rewards. Most of the rewards that you'll be given will be Joker Tickets but there are some very difficult activities that give rewards that are even more impressive! These activities can range from 'finish a mission' right through to 'run over a hundred and fifty pedestrians.' You can take up to 5 activities in a day and each one of these will give you a reward the moment you complete the activity. 
Let's just go through this process:
The first thing you've got to do is finish your progression with a contact. Every contact has a Daily Activity - early contacts give easier activities, higher up contacts give higher difficulty activities. Just open their pledge menu, accept the daily activity, and it'll appear at the top of your HUD right next to your contact progression indicator. It'll update as you carry out your activity and also give you a quick indicator of how things are going and what your goal is, just like the current Fight Club activity system. Unlike the Fight Club activity system you can't skip your current activity but you can move onto a different contact if you're not happy with what you have at the moment.


But what will you be spending these tickets on, I hear you ask? Well...

Leased Modifications
Also arriving in 1.13.0 are Leased Modifications. These modifications don't have any Rank requirement. They cost 250 Joker Tickets and $750 and last for seven days. 
The current modifications that can be leased are all of the modifications available from the Specialist contacts (ie Car Surfer, Flak Jacket and Radar Jammer). This, along with a whole host of content additions planned for the Joker Store in upcoming patches means that you'll have plenty of things to spend your Joker Tickets on!


This is just a piece of what's in store for 1.13 – keep checking back for more updates!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pandemic Event - A New Strain

Thanks to the great reaction that we've gotten from the Epidemic event, we've decided to give the infection a whole new vector that starts with today's patch!

Introducing the Agrotech Close Engagement System, AKA the ACES.



The ACES comes in two varieties - the ACES SMG and the ACES Rifle. 

The ACES Rifle and the SMG are two entirely different animals. The SMG is a short range, fast firing weapon. Low damage and a huge magazine, but you'll want to consider firing in bursts to maintain accuracy. It also features a Red modification called Short Barrel that allows the system to output more bullets than its sister weapon, with the downside that accuracy tends to degrade due to the lack of a rifled barrel. If you want something with a faster fire rate than the OCA but find the Tommy Gun too difficult to control, then the ACES SMG is the perfect gun for you!

The Rifle version of the ACES is similar, but features an Extended Barrel Red modification that effectively transforms the weapon from an SMG into a pseudo rifle platform. The longer, rifled barrel allows for higher velocity rounds to be used, thus increasing the weapons damage at the cost of firing speed, due to recoil management systems inside the weapon. This is actually a blessing in disguise because it makes accuracy bloom more manageable than the Rifle's sister weapon. If you want something that fills in the gap between the ATAC and the OCA then the ACES Rifle is for you!


Players that have 26 total kills with the Colby .45 AP will get a 10-Day ACES SMG. 10 kills with the ACES SMG will get you the 'Mutated' title. 50 kills with the ACES SMG will net you the ACES Rifle for 10 days. If you didn't manage to get a Colby .45 AP during the Epidemic Event, it's now available for purchase from Armas and Joker Distribution. 

Better get crackin'.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Epidemic Event

San Paro Sickness
For the last few months we've been thinking about different ways to bring new weapons into the game. We want to give everyone a try with the brand new gun before giving people a chance to get hold of it on a more permanent basis, and we think we've come up with something pretty special this time. Starting today, we'll be running something that we're calling the Epidemic Event where we'll be introducing a new weapon - the Colby .45 AP.

The Weapon
The Colby .45 AP is our latest secondary weapon. Built with very high killing potential and maneuverability, this weapon should remind our long-term players of the classic FBW. It suffers from a small magazine, but it has enough of a kick to make quick tap-firing of the weapon quite challenging. It works well at short-to-medium ranges and we think it sits pretty happily between the FBW and the ACT 44 in terms of power and usability. It's got a classic style and a fearsome sound, so if you're looking for a secondary weapon to help you press the advantage in a fight, then the .45 AP is for you!

Here, for the first time ever, is a view of the Colby .45 AP in-game:


Looks pretty great, huh? Well, here's how you get your hands on it...

The Epidemic
The only way to unlock this weapon in-game is to get killed by it. The Reloaded Productions team will be killing random people in random districts on random worlds with this gun; anyone who is killed with the gun will get the gun, and thus be able to 'spread the epidemic' themselves.

When you get killed by the Colby .45 AP, you'll get mailed a version of the weapon for ten days and a 'Patient Zero' title if you manage to kill 25 enemies with the .45 AP. So get in there and see if you can get infected!


Keep an eye out for potential mutation in the event rules...

Friday, August 2, 2013

Artist Program Part 1

Just a quick post today to say that we've added Part 1 of the Artist Program to APB Reloaded in our most recent patch!

Part 1 contains eight new tracks to the game from ForestPunk, Evo Evolver, Solar Deity, Magnifikate, The Fevers and Dope Stars Inc. They've all been picked for the game from hundreds of submissions, and this is only the beginning of tons of new tracks we'll be adding gradually over the coming months. We tested all of the songs in-game to see how awesome they were in every situation you'd find yourself in while playing APB. Every single track we've selected for inclusion is stellar, so get in game and check them out! We've got a pretty great mix of alternative rock, electro, rap, and classic rock, and we know there's going to be something that you'll love.

Reloaded Games are also very proud to announce the first Featured Artist of the Artist Program:



Dope Stars Inc. is an award-winning Italian cyberpunk rock band, and they're perfect listening for driving through Waterfront. Seriously, give driving around Baylan shipping a try with this in the background - it's like they were made for each other!

You can check out Dope Stars Inc.'s website here and then get into the game!

If you just can’t wait to get into game to hear the new tracks, you can preview them here:
If you want to learn more about the Artist Program, check out details here. And if you want to submit your own tracks, email artistprogram@gamersfirst.com (please read the rules regarding submission beforehand - if you submit your track incorrectly, it will be ignored).

We'll keep everyone updated when we add new tracks, so watch this space...if you've submitted a track, you could be the next Featured Artist!