This week we will give a VERY early sneak peek of what will eventually become the "Third District" in the game - the Asylum. Since this district will now involve a whole new set of game modes, there is a lot of work still to be done in this area to redesign it to make it work for its new purpose. But at least showing a few snapshots should provide some fodder for your imagination (and - if you have any creative ideas for how to exploit this awesome environment, feel free to make suggestions. Who knows; a good district specific game-mode idea that we have not yet considered might be lurking out there among the APB fans, and if so we would be all about trying it out :) )
More about Premium and Leased weapons.
We have actually worked out the whole initial batch of leased weapons, and premium items. But, we won't share that quite yet. But we will very very very soon (oh - the suspense is unbearable ! :) )
Things that could have been better in original APB
thus - things that are now OUR top priorities
And most importantly, our designer Zak "Qwentle" Littwin is back - this time with a whole series of items that "should" have been different the first time around. So basically a bit of a venting session. But also should give you guys a good idea of where we are heading with more core fixes and updates.
Til next week,
Bjorn / TechMech
The way things could have been...
Hey everyone. This week I'm going to be talking to you about things that were not really up to scratch in APB that we are now in the process of improving long term. The only thing to keep in mind that while we are fanatically dedicated to this project, we are a somewhat smaller team nowadays (or maybe the word should be “more focused”) so I won’t promise exact time scales on these changes, but they're certainly top priorities for us for the next few months to help make this game awesome.
As with last week, I've got my typing hat on, so this is going to be a pretty long one.
To be frank, a lot of the current missions are not up to the quality bar that we expect. They focus extensively on spots that can be camped, requiring one team to do something and the other team to pick them off. While this can be fun for some of the game play, it can also be incredibly frustrating in the long term, especially in an area that's very defensible. On the other hand, there are an absolute ton of missions (around 250 or so), and changing them all is a gargantuan task. As such, we're working to fix them incrementally over a decently long period of time.
We're going to add a contact to each district that you don't level and gives out new missions that we'll add that will be more fun for all participants. As the new missions get positive feedback, we'll replace the worst offenders from the existing missions with the new ones. This should hopefully allow us to constantly be phasing out sub-par content and replacing it with great stuff, without just stripping out too many things from the beginning and accidentally leaving too little content. At the same time, we'll be fixing the mechanics on all the existing missions that are broken at a base level to improve the experience (top contenders for fixes include Hold Item, Territory Control, VIP and Chase missions).
As mentioned last post, Money is going to become a lot more important with the new release (or rather – it will be incrementally more important). This of course makes the disparity between the factions’ income something that becomes a lot more important to solve. At the same time, the Ready system added to the game near its end pretty much killed witnessing, and it's something that we really feel is necessary to implement again as a part of the world.
As such, we're changing witnessing, and open world crime significantly in order to make the experience a lot more interesting for both sides. When non-mission crimes are committed, the criminal doesn't receive money directly, instead it's added to a pool of dirty money that they need to visit a money launderer to actually add to their cash. When they do so, the money is multiplied by their notoriety bonus (we'll be making this a lot more obvious for players) to give the amount they actually get, and then their notoriety is reset to the base level. This should hopefully introduce a play-style where criminals want to go on a large crime-spree before cashing in.
At the same time, when they commit a crime, any off-mission enforcer can witness them (the icon will only appear if you can witness them, rather than the previous implementation of being able to witness, but a match not occurring). When witnessed, their dirty-money pool is moved into a small task item in the criminal’s inventory that either team must drop off to end the encounter. Whichever side drops it off gets the cash. If either the criminal or enforcer was on an unopposed mission when doing the crime, that mission will immediately end and the new mechanic will kick in.
The ideal scenario we're attempting to create here is enforcers patrolling the district looking for criminals (the higher cash amount the better) to take down and gain their money, with criminals partaking in a risk-reward situation where the more crime they commit, the better rewards but the more chance they have of being spotted.
At the same time, we're also looking to add backup and dispatch calls to players not within the ready system (but prioritse players within it) so that players patrolling are not removed from the matchmaking pool.
In my last blog post, I touched on upgrades. For closed beta we've added a system where upgrades are grouped into categories, and you can only add one of each type. This solves the 'stacking' problem, but we still have a problem with the power they imbue. Our goal with upgrades is to make them specialise a player, but not improve their overall power. I'll give a couple of examples based on our current upgrades below (we've also renamed most of them, but I'll refer to their previous names for clarity):
Survivor : Reduces Damage taken, reduces movement speed, adds spark effect rather than blood when shot.
Fast Regen: Reduces time before you start regenerating health, increases time before you regenerate to full health.
Nitro: Heavily increases acceleration and top speed when active but reduces handling.
Mobile Supply Unit: Allows you to resupply and switch items from the trunk of your car. Removes the ability to place items in the trunk.
Spray and Pray : Increases fire rate, decreases base accuracy, removes crosshair.
SuperMag : Increases Clip size, increases reload time.
We won't be adding downsides to every upgrade, as if you equip one, you can't equip another one in that slot (which is a downside in itself), so upgrades that don't have a substantial effect won't be seeing them. In addition, certain upgrades have built in downsides (field supplier for instance makes you very vulnerable for its duration), so those won't need negative modifiers. By adding downsides, we can also increase the benefits, to really allow players to specialise in a chosen niche. Ideally we'll also rename them 'Modifications' rather than 'Upgrades' but it's a much longer word and may screw up our UI, so not sure if that's possible yet without extensive UI changes (though to be honest, we'll want to do that at some point anyway).
On a slightly technical note, we're also spending some time into improving how they're implemented. Currently they're hard-coded, so for instance in the Take Damage function there's a line that reads 'If Survivor, reduce damage by X%'. We're putting work into changing this to make it data driven, so instead we say 'If ReduceDamage, reduce damage by X%' and then having a section in the design tables that reads 'Survivor is: ReduceDamage 30%, ReduceSpeed 30%', HitVFX Sparks' for instance. This may not mean much to a lot of you, but it vastly increases the turnaround time of adding new modifications, so we can make and iterate a lot of upgrades a lot faster.
When designing, generally the principle is to go completely over the top first, then lower it down until it's an acceptable value. This often comes up with hilarious side-effects. The nitro for instance works by multiplying the engine torque of a vehicle by a set amount, and as a test we massively increased this amount (generally we want to increase the benefit but decrease the duration and cooldown). When placed on a G20 Vegas (which I mentioned last week that we heavily increased the torque of) it has the following effect...
Extreme G20 Vegas Torque + Power-Up Nitro = Bad Idea
(aka Funniest Bug of the Week from the Dev Team):
(aka Funniest Bug of the Week from the Dev Team):
This is a little bit awesome, but the mod also has a bad effect on other vehicles (the Mikro in particular bounces all over the place if we try using Nitro on it), so it's not something we can add as a general modification without heavily altering the implementation of the effect (otherwise we'd accidentally turn the game into Super-Mario-Cart Extreme Edition).
Our current thinking is we'll make Nitro a modification that players can't normally unlock but that will appear on certain preset or mission vehicles that are done up like crazy stunt cars (though probably not like the crazy stunt above, given just how nuts that makes the world feel). We may have certain over the top fun mods spawning very occasionally on living city vehicles (though we will be careful not to go completely Cyber-Punk or 'The Matrix" style by accident).
Matchmaking and Threat:
APB doesn't use your traditional gaming matchmaking mechanics. The closest comparison I can come to is actually the handicap system in Golf. Generally the system is attempting to make you win 50% of the time, regardless of your skill level, to give each side of the match a fun experience. If you are very good at the game, it tries to match you with equally skilled players, and if it can't find them, it matches you against larger numbers of lower skilled players or lesser numbers of higher skilled players (or calls in backup for you if you are over-matched). When explained like this, you can see why determining your skill level based on mission win percentage becomes a little bit silly. In addition to this, the entire idea of determining skill based on win percentage is pretty mental. If you are at the skill level that we call Threat 13 for instance, you should be winning about half your missions against other Threat 13 opponents. But 50% win ratio is what the current system thinks Threat 6 is, so it'll lower you Threat. This leads to players bouncing around a bit too much, and is something we need to sort out. There is currently quite a bit of internal debate about this issue. One camp favors using the Chess-algorithm analogues (ie you move in rank a lot early on, but as you approach your true skill level the swings moderate considerably). Alternatively we are looking at using a non-historical system that determines your mission score (something we actually calculate at the moment, but is not shown to players, more on this later), and using this in comparison to other members of the mission to determine any changes to heat level. It's a fairly complex change, so something that will need tested extensively once it's in.
Spawning in APB is currently very simple. At the moment it just checks for any nearby spawn points based on where you died, and spawns you at the closest one outside a determined range (92m in the live version). Naturally this can lead to some horrible situations where the nearest spawn zone may be 200m away from the objective, behind an entire district block, or in the face of the guy who just sniped you from max range. This naturally needs to be a little more intelligent, so we're looking to implement a formula for spawning that uses the position of your teammates and enemies to choose the point closest to your teammates, furthest away from your enemies, and away from the death locations of any group members (including yourself).
At the same time, we're also looking at some more specific spawning mechanics, such as respawning in waves, elective spawning, and potentially using player vehicles as optional spawn points.
Player performance during missions is governed by an internal scoring system that uses individual activities during missions to determine the amount of rewards given at the end of a mission. While you can work out why you got what you did at the end of a mission, it's rather confusing. We want to make this score visible to players and highlight the amount of score you get when doing certain activities. We can then also increase the amount of benefit that score gives. At the moment, missions award a certain amount, which is then multiplied by your score (without going under a certain minimum). We want to make it so that activities give score based on the mission, and there not to be a multiplier and minimum reward based on the mission at the end. This should give players more immediate feedback and incentives to work as a team to complete objectives, and also stop the problem of AFK bots overnight. There are still some things to be figured out, like how exactly do we reward people doing non-tracked tasks like being the designated driver or covering the person that's performing the activity (and using personal greed to promote teamplay is a great motivator) , but it's something we really feel will provide a great benefit.
Well there you have it. We've a lot of work to go to get to where we feel we have a great baseline to add content to, and there's certainly things to change that have not been mentioned in this post, but these fixes should definitely give us the game we were wanting at the previous launch.
by Zak / Qwentle
Well there you guys have it for this week. As you can tell - we are picking up speed, and with some further team expansion over the next few weeks, we feel well positioned to take this game really really far. But in the meantime, we also appreciate the patience from you guys as we work out all these items. As you can imagine, the task of turning this thing around is pretty staggering.
Til next week,