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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!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Reloaded Day Update



It's been nearly five months since Reloaded Day, so we thought we'd take some time to talk about what we've done since March and our plans for the next six months. If you have no clue what we're on about, here's a quick recap: we celebrated the second anniversary of the APB: Reloaded team on March 7th and dubbed it 'Reloaded Day'. It seemed like a good time to reflect on what had transpired since we began our journey with APB, to celebrate what we've achieved so far, and to explain our plans for the rest of the year and beyond. 

The first half of 2013 has been good for us. We've been able to move forward on feature work more quickly than was possible in the past. We've continued to have great success with in-game events. Our community continues to produce some brilliant creations, some of which have made their way onto the Joker Associates store in the Social District. The Artist Program is starting to give us a lot of great music from both inside and outside the community.


So Far

Back in March we listed our major goals for 2013. So far this year, we've brought in:

  • The updated score system
  • The new front end
  • Elective spawning system
  • Another test of Asylum
  • Threat segregation
  • The smart district spin-up 

The team has been hard at work to reach the numerous goals we've set ourselves for this year. Overall, we're pleased with the additions we've brought into the game recently. We feel that they add more player choice, more options in how you fight, and more feedback as to how you're doing. We're pairing more players up with people of their skill level and we're making the game less spiky in terms of difficulty. That being said, not everything has been perfect, and there's always room for improvement. Here's a few things we're planning to improve upon following recent changes we've made to the game:

  • Score is going to get a bit of an overhaul. We're going to bring in assists on more objectives, give bonus score for taking down a VIP, and give the VIP score whenever a teammate performs a scoreable activity (to counteract VIP's usually getting the lowest score in a match). We also want you to generate a little bit of score while a mission objective is in a Defend state to give defenders a bit more score for their play.
  • Threat segregation will be changed; players will no longer be able to go down into districts below their current threat level. We found that too many people were going into districts below their recommended threat level and making life miserable for those players. Design on this is subject to change, but it's something we're looking into and intend to move forward.


Wins and Losses

We've had some victories this year, as well as a few unexpected setbacks. Three members of the Reloaded Productions team have moved on, and two things have had to be pushed back from the 2013 Roadmap. In terms of victories, we've found that the new front end allows us to iterate new versions of it very quickly, including making event specific front end scenes (such as the 4th of July update). We're getting some awesome new content for the game that's coming straight from the community - outfits, vehicles, and symbols are now being sold through Speedball (who was also community created!).

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, two of the four new contacts have been pushed to early 2014. However, we still have plans for two contacts (one Praetorian and one G-King, both in Financial) who will come with a new wave of interesting weapons and equipment. The mission revamp has also been pushed out of 2013. We started really digging into the level of work that would be needed for this to make it through production, design, and code, and it was too much for us to get done while working on bringing out the fully-featured version of the Chaos game mode that was previewed in Anarchy Week. We're working on the mission revamp and have some awesome designs for it (including missions where everyone on your team gets opposed to the entire opposite faction, given a number of lives, and told to hit several checkpoints deep inside enemy territory for a huge reward), but the scale of the task is a little outside our reach with everything else we have going on right now.

Don't fret about the delay of these things though; they are still happening, we just have to adjust our schedules according to feedback and circumstance.


The Future

We're hoping that the next six months are going to be huge for the game. Just some of the things that we're going to be doing over the coming months include:

  • New tutorial with checklisted activities that players can complete to make the learning curve of APB Reloaded a little less vertical, as well as introduce rewards for people that complete the tutorial entirely (don't worry, you can go back and do the tutorial on your old character to get the reward too). 
  • Two new contacts - Aletta Cadagen and Gumball will be appearing in the Financial district. Aletta is the embodiment of the Praetorian endgame - she's the natural and logical conclusion to Operation Urban Firestorm and she's advocating total war on the Criminals of San Paro. She's cold, calculating, and one hundred percent certain that in San Paro, the only way peace can be achieved is through overwhelming firepower. Gumball is pretty much her exact opposite - he's not in it for anything more than his own desire to see just how much fun he can have. He's not like any contact that we've seen before - there's no endgame with him and there's no real 'plan.' He's just a guy with a healthy disregard for property law.
  • Daily Activities in mission districts will be coming to the game in a release that's getting the finishing touches now. Keep checking back here for more information; just be aware that Joker Tickets aren't the only prize you'll get in Mission Districts in the near future. Joker Tickets are a long standing feature request and they're also bringing with them another longstanding feature - the ability for low level players to get their hands on late game modifications. So, if in a couple of patches time, you see a group of three people standing on top of a Han Celante with STAR-556's, don't be alarmed; they've just got their hands on leasable car-surfer. Details to follow...
  • We just re-released Asylum for another test run and the feedback from the community was outstanding. The fully featured version of Chaos will have high score tables, objectives to fight over, and territory control points.
  • The re-designed HUD is something that we've had our UI artist working on for a month (at time of writing) and it's looking great. It blends very well with the UI in the Front End and the Options menu.
A development meeting about the new tutorial. Note the incredibly cheap doughnuts. Brain food.

The Armas Marketplace will be seeing a bit of an overhaul in the near future too. There's some content up there that's not as fresh as it should be, and we're going to put more of a focus on packs and bundles to help provide you with the most value possible.

We've got a team of dedicated artists that are creating new content for the game. We're working on two completely new weapons for the game that will bring some variation to secondaries and the SMG weapon class. And below you'll see Danny, one of our vehicle artists, working on the new Packer Vaquero kit. 

One of our vehicle artists working on a new vehicle kit.

One of the things that we're aware of is how long some of these things take to create and get to players (small scale projects like individual weapons and much larger scale projects like rolling out Overkill servers globally). To help speed up this process, we're continuing to hire dedicated and talented people across all departments to work on code, network support, and art. If you're interested in working at Reloaded (or know someone that might be), please visit Talentscotland.com and find Reloaded Productions for more information.

Speaking of Overkill, we recently converted every Mission district (Financial and Waterfront) on Colby NA West to Overkill servers and we saw a significant improvement in performance. The Overkill servers that you're seeing at work on Colby are the third iteration of the hardware, which is now a great mix of performance and future-proofing. We're very happy with the hardware and hope to have it deployed to the rest of the servers as soon as humanly possible.


What's Next?

Right now our next major release is scheduled to be 1.13.0. Since we're totally not scared of apparently unlucky numbers, we're doing something a little weird with this release - we've pulled all the new features from this release and moved them into the 1.14 release series and we've filled 1.13.0 with bug fixes, client optimization work, and quality of life changes for players.

We've been listening to and collating a lot of the feedback, and we're now getting the chance to act on it. Expect the 1.13.0 patch note post on the forums to be one of the biggest notes lists that we've ever posted. We'll be talking in greater depth about the client optimization changes, the major bugs that we're fixing, and what else is coming in the 1.13 series as the weeks progress, so keep an eye here and on the APB Reloaded forum for further details.


We hope that you've enjoyed the changes that we've made to the game recently. It's great to see some of the reactions that we get from players as we continue to improve the game. Thanks for reading and thank you for playing.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Return of Asylum

First off, we'd like to say congratulations to everyone that participated in the Asylum event for helping make it such a success! You did it! It was really close, and for a while it didn't like it was going to happen. But you all went above and beyond and broke the target that we'd set.

We saw a higher number of users this week than we've seen at any point in the last month, so we've decided to give everyone that got a kill in this event an Asylum weapon skin. It'll be delivered to you within fourteen days of this blog post going live, so keep an eye on your character's mail box.


This test release of Asylum shows a few changes to the Environment from the Halloween 2012 release of the level. For example, you're able to go beyond the old boundaries to the south and get near the lighthouse area that was previously locked off (remember to be careful around the water - the Nantego is so toxic that you'll probably die the second you touch it). We've added linking overhead walkways in a warehouse space that's spread out over two buildings.


We're also bringing Anarchy back to Asylum for the duration of this event. We believe that Anarchy is the perfect fit for Asylum and, in its final version, we'll be using the Anarchy rules coupled with a variety of point-capture, objective hold, and open-world-activity missions to see who can capture and hold Abington Towers. Ever since we tested Anarchy in Financial and Waterfront and saw all the feedback we were getting, we've changed some of the final design specifications for Anarchy, which should help us turn it into a fully featured, fully fledged Chaos district – something that we know all you lovers of the urban war are going to just go nuts for.

We will be launching this second phase of testing on Asylum for two weeks from the 18th of July. Hope to see you all there.

We're very proud of your performance during the last week and we hope that you all enjoy Asylum!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 4th 2013

Four on the Floor

It’s July in San Paro, which means it’s time for you to break out the barbecue, put the beers on ice and admire the bursts of fireworks lighting up the skyline.

We always like to do things for holidays – maybe it’s having the Easter Bunny walk around the city. Maybe it’s bringing in two psychotic elves that make you dance to their tune to get Christmas-themed goodies. This year for Fourth of July we’ve done the only thing that seemed natural.

We’ve taken a hostage.

How much do you want it?

Let’s take a step back for a second and talk about the normal, non-hostage-taking part of the 4th of July celebrations in APB Reloaded. We’re having an event where all you’ve gotta do is log into the game and you’ll be sent the Uncle Sam Stovepipe Hat. Just like that, a free item of clothing for your character and all you've gotta do is show up. Couldn't be easier. If stars and stripes isn't a year long look for you then grab a customizable Stovepipe Hat in Armas for just 99 G1C.

It wouldn't be the 4th of July without honoring one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States, would it? Since this is San Paro, though, the word 'greatest' means different things than it does in the rest of the world. He's not a crook, sure, but he's Richard Effin Nixon.


This mask is available through the Joker Store in game for 1000 Joker Tickets and 3500 $APBCash or available for purchase in the Armas Marketplace for 199 G1C and will be available for a limited time as a holiday exclusive release.

Let's not do anything rash here...

I'm sure you're wondering what exactly we meant when we said we'd taken a hostage.
That hostage's name is Asylum.

Last week 11,532,741 characters were killed. If you want access to Asylum, you're going to help push that number to 13,839,289 for this week. Any less and Asylum stays where it is, locked off and just out of reach. Meet the target and we'll bring Asylum back for two weeks. There are even some Stretch Goals (like an Asylum themed weapon skin for taking part), if you're all feeling particularly violent and manage to exceed even our wildest dreams...



Team kills don't count. Kills in Fight Club, kills in Opposed Missions and Kills when you're 5 stars all count towards the global total. This is a worldwide event. It doesn't matter what server you're on, it only matters that you're killing. Kills between 00.01 AM (British Summer Time) on the 4th of July to the 00.01 AM (British Summer Time) on the 11th of July count, so keep an eye on the clock.

Go on. Buy your ticket to Asylum with blood.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Means of Production

We spoke with our Lead Producer, Scottomon, about how he contributed to the development of APB Reloaded. Once we got his attention for long enough, that is - he was busy working on getting 1.12.0 running smoothly and we were the sacrifice he was willing to make. We did eventually steal him away during a free moment to get some answers though...

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do at Reloaded Productions.
I'm Scott, the Lead Producer at Reloaded Productions. I manage the Production team and oversee all development at the studio, which includes art, programming, design, hosting, and QA. In the first instance, I work with the Executive and Development teams to set our high-level goals and deadlines. After those are in place, I manage the Producers and the Development team throughout the process of meeting those goals.

I mainly work on long-term strategy and planning, but the role is quite broad - the simplest description I can think of is that I make sure the team has all they need to do their job and that I work to remove any obstacles in their way, even if that obstacle is a really persistent community manager. (surely some mistake - Jotunblut)

How did you get started as a producer?
I studied software engineering (specifically game development) at university and got a taste for producing during a group project in my third year. After graduating, I joined my first games company as a tester on their in-house tools team and after a year saw that the company was advertising for Assistant Producers. I plucked up the courage to ask and before I knew it, I was the first Assistant Producer on the company's flagship title. Fast forward another year and I was both Associate Producer and Release Manager, responsible for coordinating the entire team to ship the game. I've been in Production ever since.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis? What are the sorts of decision that you make?
Day-to-day I look at our progress towards milestones across all our different projects and make adjustments to any plans (if necessary). This includes things like looking into reported issues and deciding how important those issues are against other issues and even other features. My main daily role is making sure that any issues blocking development or causing us pain get removed so that development can keep going.

What's the decision making process behind what features stay in a release and which ones get held back?
This is a tough one, and there's no hard and fast rule for deciding. Dropping features from a release is always a last resort and can happen for a variety of reasons. Our Executive Team may have news that changes our priorities, we may find issues in the game that make that feature difficult to implement, or we may even drop a feature because the developer working on that feature is unavailable for whatever reason. Before a feature gets dropped or pushed, we explore every possibility that would allow us to keep the feature, including sacrificing a less important feature, extending the deadline, or even pulling in a developer that was working on a future release.

The goal with every release is to ship the most important features within a reasonable time period and to the highest level of quality possible. Using that description is the best way to decide when it's time to hold back a feature for a later release, to extend the deadline, or even push the team harder.

What's the decision making process behind picking what item to release on Armas?
We decide this between what the community is telling us they want along with our own analytics. We saw that a lot of people wanted new, preset weapons so we started to make more preset weapons. We've seen people want new, more fashionable clothing items, so that's going to be a big part of the clothing artists' push over the next six months. We're pretty well sorted for armor at the moment. The goal is always to balance what we have on the store - we might highlight weapons that are underused by players at the moment so people will be more tempted to give those weapons a go, like we did with the NFA-9 and RSA.

What feature are you most proud of seeing in the last 12 months, and which one are you most looking forward to seeing in the next 12 months?
I’m more proud of our combined progress in the last twelve months rather than any single feature. We’ve added a lot of new features and have definitely improved the game immensely while also paving the way for even more new features. We've got lots more to look forward to over the next twelve months, but the one that excites me the most is our brand new [REDACTED] game mode. It’s a whole new way to play APB and definitely highlights APB’s strengths. We’ll release the details painfully slowly over the next few months.
(smile)

How has development on Reloaded changed in the last twelve months?
In the last twelve months we’ve actually been able to focus a lot more on long-term work that should start making appearances over the next couple of months. We’re keeping quiet on these things just now, but players have already seen snippets, such as the Overkill servers and the early-version Chaos Ruleset. That's just a couple of the things we’ve been working on.

Can Jotunblut have a pay rise?
We've kind of blown the employment budget on Server Hamsters.



Friday, June 7, 2013

The Scale of Scaleform

We've got a little surprise in store for you all with the 1.12.0 release of APB Reloaded. One that we've been keeping very quiet on. Patch 1.12.0 will bring with it the first implementation of our new Scaleform User Interface.

We've spent a long time working on this, getting all the systems and mechanics in place. One of the biggest challenges has been creating it in the background of the game without disrupting the existing User Interface. The first release of this major improvement contains entirely re-made 3D versions of the Login, Character Select screens, and more. While our newly revamped front end doesn't include updates for the HUD or Editors yet, we hope to have more news on that in the coming months.

It's also bringing a new theme song to APB Reloaded. Sharp-eared listeners might recognize parts of this new track from Asylum back in Halloween 2012. We hope you enjoy more of the unique work by our very own in-house audio guru, Farfletched.



There's another secret in this update, but that would be telling...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Anarchy in the Streets

Well, you finally did it.

You finally pushed San Paro too far.

Maybe it was that last rocket that sailed over your shoulder and into an SUV. Maybe it was the stray bullet from the PMG that you were firing out of the side of the car window. Maybe it was just the day-glow shirt you were wearing yesterday. Regardless of what it was, it looks like Anarchy has finally descended upon San Paro. We expect to restore order by the end of the week, but in the meantime we'll try and explain what's going on...




Transient Aberrations

We're going to be testing out Chaos Mode on the live game between May 30th and June 6th. This is a very early prototype for the mode that doesn't contain all the social features or game play elements from our finalized version, but we're finally ready to bring this to the game at large.

The first thing you'll notice once you join a Chaos District is that the contacts have gone - you can't run missions in Chaos Districts at the moment - and have been replaced by Shadow Strike Elites and Bloodrose Assassins. They serve as vendors while in Chaos Districts, just in case you realize that your LTL gun might not be up to the task in this brave new world. You'll also notice that you have a couple of counters at the top of your screen.




The number on your left is your Score for this life. The number on the right is your current survival time. The small numbers behind those ones are your high scores, which is a number that's tracked in perpetuity, so it won't reset even if you log out. Your job is to go out and hunt the opposite faction and get the highest score. You can see a list of how well everyone in the district is currently doing by pressing Tab and bringing up the Chaos Scoreboard.




Some of the prizes that will be available during the course of this event include two brand new titles for your character; one is awarded for killing 100 players during the event, and the other for staying alive for a total of ten minutes, which is way harder than it sounds! We've also added a new role just for this event! The Score Streak role rewards players for reaching certain score totals during a single life - if you score 500 points, you get 150 Joker Tickets. 1000 points will net you 350 Joker Tickets. And finally, a score of 1500 will get you a 10 day lease of the new Nekrova SSW Light Machine Gun!

This game mode will only be available to play for a week, so enjoy it while it lasts! Remember, this is just a test of this system as it is at the moment. We want to see how well it works and whether you guys like it or not, so don't hesitate to come on over to the APB Reloaded forums and tell us what you think.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Elective Spawning: Programmer Edition!


In our last post, we began talking about our new spawning system in a general overview kind of way. Today, we're going to expand a bit into the technical side of the exciting improvements we're making to the system. This is the first blog post to be written by a member of the programming team, in our continued effort to give you perspectives from all around the studio. Stuart is going to be giving you a taste of how he and the other programmers actually created the new spawning system. We're going over some basic stuff first for those of you who may not already know, so for all you smarty pants out there - bear with us for a few paragraphs until we get into the specifics.


The Basics

APB – and every computer program ever created – is comprised of two essential ingredients:
• Code, which is the list of instructions telling the computer what to do and when to do it, what decisions to make and how often to do things.
• Data, which is the set of information about the game world and every last detail within that world.
We write code, which works with this data to create the game, but the code and data are organised in a very specific way.
Everything in APB is an object. Programmers see everything in terms of objects. An object is a small, self-contained clump of code and data which interacts with other objects to make the game work.
The complexity of APB is formidable, but because everything is enclosed in its own object, I can focus intently on one small piece of APB at a time without worrying about anything else. APB has many thousands of objects, all working together to make the game work, so this is the only possible way to tackle this complexity.
Objects generally correspond to “things” in the game. Each character is an object, every vehicle and pedestrian, each stop light and fire hydrant - they are all objects. There are other objects in the game world which you won’t be able to see. Spawn zones are a good example, as they exist in the world at a particular location but are ultimately just areas of empty space. Yet more objects work entirely behind the scenes, such as those which calculate collisions or run missions.


Everything in APB is an Object

All the objects in APB are organised into a hierarchy depending on how they are to interact. The way in which objects relate to one another tells us what this hierarchy should be. There are two key ways in which a pair of objects can relate to one another:
“One object has another object.”
A spawn wave is a set of characters which will spawn at the same time. Everything in APB is an object, so naturally we created a new spawn wave object to represent this. Characters in a spawn wave will always be on the same team and indeed there is already a team object.
We say that a team object has a spawn wave object. This means that the spawn wave object is owned by the team object, and as such the team object will be responsible for creating new spawn wave objects and putting team members into spawn waves when they die.
The other way in which objects can relate is subtly - but fundamentally - different:
“One object is a type of another object.”
One feature of the new spawning system is the ability to spawn directly into a vehicle. Previously it was possible to spawn only using the spawn zones dotted around the district.
We use the general term of “spawn point” to describe spawn zones and vehicles; a spawn point is just a something you can spawn into, whatever that might be. We say that a spawn zone object is a type of spawn point, and also that a vehicle object is a type of spawn point object.
An important point to note here is that the new spawning system is designed to work with these generalized spawn points. It deliberately doesn’t worry about the specific details of what a spawn point is; it lets the spawn zones and vehicles themselves worry about the particulars. This means we could potentially extend the new spawning system to allow spawning using something else in the game, as long as it can be made into a type of spawn point. In fact, we wouldn’t actually need to change the spawning system itself, as it would carry on working with what it sees as “spawn points”.


The New System

After we decided to move ahead with a new spawning system, the first order of business was to figure out exactly what we were trying to achieve. Our designer wrote a 'Requirements' document, which gave a high-level overview of all the features needed for the new system. There are three main features:
  • Elective Spawning, where you choose where to spawn by clicking a spawn point on a map
  • Spawn Waves, where you are able to coordinate spawning with team mates
  • Vehicle Spawning, where you may spawn directly into a vehicle
Most of this information was given in the form of a timeline, which describes the series of events from the instant a character dies to their subsequent re-spawn, as seen below:
  1. The character dies and joins a spawn wave with other dead teammates.
  2. The death camera views the character’s rag doll.
  3. The elective spawning map is shown with a countdown. It is a map of the district which shows the set of spawn zones and vehicles chosen for the spawn wave. The best spawn point is already selected for the player.
  4. The player may click different spawn points. They will see which spawn points other members of the spawn wave are clicking, so they may conspire to spawn at the same location.
  5. A spawn point will be disabled if an enemy approaches. This can invalidate the player’s selection and they will need to choose a different spawn point.
  6. When the countdown reaches zero, the character will spawn at their chosen location. If their selection was invalidated and they did not choose another spawn point then a red countdown begins.
  7. If the player clicks a spawn point during the red countdown then they will spawn immediately.
  8. If the player still hasn’t choose a spawn point when the red countdown goes to zero, the character will spawn at a point chosen for them.
The document went into more detail about each stage, and included a mock-up of what the elective spawning map should look like:


An example of the spawn selection UI. As you can see, you are given 
information on where your team died and where they plan to re-spawn.


The Legend for the Elective Spawning Menu. 
NOTE: The enemy location visibility works in the same way as the 
radar - if they are driving or firing a weapon, they are always shown.

There were a series of meetings where the finer points of the requirements were discussed, and after these meetings a 'Design' document was written. This outlined the key strategies and decisions that needed to be made by a programmer when creating the new spawning system. The actual process of that creation is called the implementation.


Server vs Game Client

There are two sides to every coin, and APB is no exception. There is the game client itself (which you will be very familiar with), but there is also the server, which hosts the game world and allows you to play with and against other people.
A key question we had to ask ourselves was: which parts of the new spawning system will be added to the server, and which parts will be added to the game client? In other words, who is in charge of what?
The server acts as the ultimate authority of all things. It has complete knowledge of every aspect of the game world. As such, it would:
• Remove characters from the world when they die and add them again when they spawn.
• Create spawn waves and put characters into waves depending on when they died.
• Choose the best set of spawn zones from those scattered across the world.
• Add any vehicles which have the appropriate modifier.
• Validate the spawn point selections a player makes.
The game client doesn’t have any authority to make decisions which would affect other players. It only has a limited knowledge of the game world, knowing only about that which is directly relevant to the player. As such, it does much less than the server, which:
• Shows the elective spawning map.
• Handles the mouse input as the player selects spawn points.
This division of responsibility also showed us the sort of information which would need to be communicated back and forth between the server and game client. The server will need to send the set of spawn points it has chosen to each game client involved in the spawn wave, to allow the elective spawning map to display them. The client will need to send the player’s selection to the server, when they click on a spawn point.


Exceptions to Every Rule

The new spawning system must be able to handle edge cases. An edge case is a situation which is exceptional or out of the ordinary. We needed to take some time to imagine all these possible scenarios and think of the best way to deal with them. Here are some of the edge cases we came up with first:
• What happens if a vehicle is destroyed after you’ve selected it on the elective spawning map? Wrecked vehicles can’t be used for spawning.
• What happens if a mission ends when you are in the middle of elective spawning?
• What happens if you are kicked from a team while in the middle of elective spawning?
These won’t happen very often, but they still must be proactively accounted for and handled appropriately.
Edge cases can be time consuming and sometimes difficult to deal with, especially in testing. But we actually cheated a little to make testing of these edge cases easier - we altered the configuration of the new system so that it spent a full 60 seconds on the elective spawning map! This is nothing like the actual amount of time you will see the map for, but this gave us sufficient time to run through all the combinations we were interested in.


So, perhaps that’s given you a little bit of an insight into the life of a programmer at Reloaded.
Next time…