All Points Bulletin had to work its way onto my radar. I’m not a fan of twitch shooter MMO’s, and APB seemed like another game that would attempt to capitalize on the expanding market. However, my skepticism was abated when I was able to spend some quality time with Realtime World’s new baby.
Yep, a company with only one major release (the studio is filled with talented and experienced individuals) will be releasing a bold MMO in 11 days. What’s different here is that Realtime Worlds is trying to put creativity in the hands of the player, and from our hands on, they are heading in the right direction.
The first part of our demo was set in the game’s action district. These instanced locations are cities that are filled up with about 100 players. These players will be criminals, or enforcers, and they can team up together to take on quests and earn money.
This is a fairly generic experience. Players compete quests akin to most – if not all – MMO’s. But, APB adds a little twist. Since the world is a concentrated source of players, completing missions raises the opposing factions awareness of your deeds. Rob too many banks, and enforcers witness your crime, the game will begin setting players against each other in matches.
These matches occur dynamically. While our group of four was heading off to raid a hideout, the criminal faction grew tired of our deeds, and criminals began an assault to stop us. The game takes a big twist here. Now, instead of completing these missions without any opposition, other players are trying to stop you.
These matches can grow anywhere from four on four, to 20 vs 20. And, the matchmaking system Realtime has created for the game will do everything in its power to balance the team. They told us that certain games will have matches of 4 vs 12 because one side is way too good. There is a large focus on making sure that player’s earn their keep by skill, rather than gear.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any items. APB has a large selection of weapons and upgrades players can buy to customize their aggressive personality. I took the rocket launcher for a spin, and also blasted citizens as I passed by while a teammate took us to our destination.
The game comfortably borrows from GTA with the ability to kill citizens, and steal cars, but the main focus is generating these PvP matches by completing tasks. The driving is a bit wonky, and we had a bit of a hiccup trying to get a match started after our first one, but once they start, they soon balloon into an exciting third person shooter experience.
The second part of the demo was a look at the customization options. Instead of offering players set hair pieces or sliders with numbers, they are offered an obscenely large amount of content. OBSCENE.
The major selling point of the game is that players can utilize this system to channel their personal creativity into the character. Realtime has divorced functionality from the visuals. This is great, because gear based MMO’s have a tendency to create high-level clones. Not anymore, players are free to express themselves because rewards are based on twitch-skill.
It’s hard to encapsulate all of the customizations power in a few quick sentences, and it is too it’s benefit. The system is massive, and is by far the most expansive I’ve seen on an MMO. It rivals anything City of Heroes/Villains. You can literally do almost anything.
Almost all of the character models and artwork you see associated with the game has been created using their customization toolset. You can design your car, different sections of your hair, design your own tattoos, clothes, and symbols. That isn’t even the half of it. It is phenomenal.
And, if you are quite good at making designs, players can create art and sell it to other players for in-game money, or RTW points – which can be used to fund your account.
There is also a fully functional midi toolkit available for players to create their own tunes to listen to on the road and show off in the social district. Players can also make a death tune that acts as a musical teabag each time you kill a player.
I’m ready to give APB a full time shot. Their business model of allowing players to purchase hours that rollover is an effective way to get players that’ can’t dedicate the time to afford paying the standard $15. And, if you love the customization, but don’t want to shot people, the social district and creative aspect is free to play.
However, the isn’t exactly a “massively” multiplayer game. The districts are limited to 100 players, and getting in and out of matches without going into a matchmaking system requires moving from mundane mission to mundane mission. But, when enforcers and criminals are pit against each other, and the bullets start flying, it’s a blast.