Sunday, May 11, 2014

The People's Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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