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We listened to developers GamersFirst hearing them explain more about how they are developing APB: Reloaded at GDC Online 2011.

All Points Bulletin (APB) was a game originally developed by Realtime Worlds and then acquired by GamersFirst’s Reloaded Productions; GamersFirst decided to take the game and re-tool it into a free to play title.  APB was originally an MMO with a subscription monetization model, so how will this affect gamers?

The obvious model for free to play MMOs is micro-transactions, but with an established title this can be hard to do without alienating players. Bjorn Book-Larsson of GamersFirst explained that there were five things that they had to deal with in the new APB:

1. Mission System

The old mission system auto-matched players together like a quick match.  This removed any player choice when looking for other players to play against.  Their quick fix was to allow the majority of the game to be played with player choice.  Reloaded Productions are in the process of including more quick-match type matches that are strictly optional missions for players.

2. Skill Ratings

Originally, APB had a premiership score.  Matches were based on points for a win, loss, or draw and the last twenty matches players had carried more weight than the total number of matches played.  Their fix was to add an algorithm that used the “perceived” win percentage of two different leveled players.  They also started matching players of similar skill together.

3. Rewarding Bad Behavior

The old gameplay system in APB could match up very high level players with new players causing a large displeasure for new players who would quit playing the game or resort to cheating.  Reloaded Productions attempted their fix by modifying the progression system where lower level players could level before seeing these higher-level players.

4. Map Inflexibility

Since most of the assets in APB were already placed and formed to meet the old version of APB, there wasn’t much that Reloaded Productions could do.  They decided to create new, tailored maps around the existing maps.

5. Lack of sign posts

This meant that players who finished the tutorial wouldn’t continue.  After finishing the tutorials, they were told on-screen to press “k” to accept their first mission.  But what was seen was most players didn’t click to continue and drove around the city without any direction ultimately quitting APB.  Reloaded Productions changed this by adding more blatant signposts for players to see.

Where will Micro-transactions be seen?

Providing players with unique gear, vehicles, and guns is the simplest way.  It was already built into the gameplay.  Gear was superficial changes in the avatar that the player used. Vehicles that were offered had specific power-ups.  Guns that could be purchased had a pro/con system so even if players bought what appeared to be a high-powered weapon, it might have horrible aiming.

Reloaded Productions have also added premium accounts.  For an initial $9.99 for the first 30 days and $7.99 after, players received certain perks and bonuses that help them in the game.

Not all games can work as free to play.  Even though the current trend for many MMORPG titles is to go towards free to play, there is a conflict between content and micro-transactions. Despite its failure to stick with gamers first time round, this free to play version has a better chance starting off.

I don’t see every publisher being able or even want to follow this business plan.  It’s still too early to tell if GamersFirst's developments are going to bring them a dedicated user base, but APB had solid core gameplay: these content and gameplay changes could assist alongside the new free to play model.

Will you be trying APB: Reloaded? You can download and play the beta here.

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21/09/14
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