I LOVED APB when I first played it. I loved the fact that it was the only MMO in existence that required that little something called "skill" to play it. No luck, no numbers, no stats. The only thing that limited your performance was YOU, and perhaps your gun.
Except… it’s not like that anymore. Now it’s "A Piece of Bullshit".
After the BIG update, where they suddenly jumped three major revisions ahead IN ONE SHOT and required that people download the BIGGEST PATCH IN THE HISTORY OF GAMING (> 1GB ), I started to notice problems. The patch was good – it brought a faster framerate and improved graphics. The car handling had also been marginally improved, and it was starting to feel like a proper commercial game. There was just this irritating feeling while playing as a criminal that… it was unbalanced. And when I suggested that we try out Enforcers, the unbalanced gameplay became VERY noticable.
Criminals do not have ANY advantages over Enforcers, bar one. Criminals can RAM-RAID a store or garage for extra money, but Enforcers can’t. But then, even this isn’t that much of an advantage, because Enforcers can STILL PICK THINGS UP FROM ANOTHER PLAYER’S RAM-RAID! Oh, yes, criminals can also mug people, but that takes so long and gives you so little, there’s no point, and hence, it’s not an advantage.
Enforcers, on the other hand, can witness criminals commiting crimes (which can be anything from running a pedestrian over to simply scratching an Enforcer’s vehicle accidentally). This gives them a small amount of cash (not a bad amount for simply pressing ALT while aiming at someone) and, if the criminal is not in a mission, gives the Enforcer the chance to immediately interrupt whatever the criminal is doing and throw them into a mission with barely any warning! It’s even possible to follow the people you just beat in a mission, wait for them to accidentally bump into your car, and then BEAT THEM AGAIN IN THE FOLLOWING MISSION YOU FORCE THEM INTO! It may be quite amusing at first, chaining together a bunch of missions against someone who is clearly worse than you… but when you think about it, isn’t this a serious gameplay flaw you’re exploiting?! And no, you can’t quit missions if you have any opposition!
Oh, yeah, then there’s the BIG Enforcer advantage. Enforcers can use "less than lethal" weapons, which, apart from having some insane non-lethal damage figures, can STUN opponents for at least ten seconds, rendering them completely helpless. In these ten seconds, an Enforcer can ARREST the criminal, rendering them helpless for ANOTHER ten seconds or so, earning them an arrest reward, AND earning them an arrest point, EVEN IF THE CRIMINAL IS FREED AFTERWARDS! If the criminal is NOT freed within the time limit, then they automatically respawn, WITH A LONGER RESPAWN DELAY! Seriously, what the fuck?! Have you lost your minds, Realtime Worlds?!
It’s not just the unbalanced… what’s the word… "factions"(?), that ruin the game. The weapons are a major problem, too. Some are clearly overpowered, and some are so ridiculous you might as well not even bother. Then there’re the "upgraded" weapons, which are simply copies of normal weapons with "attachment slots". If your opponent has an UPGRADED version of your weapon, you, quite simply, have had it, and might as well just not bother shooting. I had an assault rifle, which was the exact same model as an opponent’s assault rifle. We started shooting each other at the EXACT SAME TIME, and I’m brutally honest about that. Unfortunately, he had a version of the weapon which had increased damage and accuracy, so even if every single one of my bullets had hit my opponent, I STILL would have lost because of his weapon. This is probably not a weapon balance problem, though – of course you should get better weapons for playing, that’s the point. The real problem is to do with the MATCHMAKING.
I have NEVER known a game with matchmaking as bad as APB. It was fine the first time I played – and I played quite a lot of missions. Some we won, some we lost – and that’s only natural, you can’t win EVERY match. But the crucial thing was… many matches were CLOSE. The matchmaking was brilliant, and I would have gladly paid the subscription fee to play when the game finally came out. I was actually quite eager for more players to join up.
But then, after the patch, it got ridiculous. We lost MOST of our missions, and when we did lose, it was fucking one-sided. In the matches we lost, our opponents had hugely overpowered weapons with increased damage, fire rate, accuracy… you name it, it probably had it. They also had much higher ratings and threat levels, so they had clearly been playing longer than us (and therefore had more weapons and money than us) and were also clearly better than us. So why did the matchmaking system put us against FIVE players like this, when there were only FOUR of us?! And as for the call for backup you get when outnumbered? It didn’t even OFFER that to us. Bad matchmaking is part of the reason why we quit being criminals and created Enforcers… but that scenario I just explained? It was one of our first games as Enforcers… as NEW CHARACTERS. If this was a new PLAYER, what do you think would have been going through their mind?! "Holy shit, they really spent some time on this great matchmaking system!"? I doubt it…
Also, after the patch, I noticed a couple of other things. Firstly, the "did you like this mission?" dialogs had disappeared. Sure, no big deal so far. But when you put that together with the fact that NONE of the three bugs I submitted were ever fixed in the following patches… I’m starting to believe that they don’t give a shit about what we, the players, think. That’s backed up a little bit by the big "EA" symbol on the title screen. I
REALLY don’t like EA nowadays. They have a tendency to fuck up
potentially great games, and their obsession with DRM is stronger than their customer support. I’m also starting to think that this beta test was not really a beta test at all – it was a publicity stunt. Viral. They say "don’t talk about this to anyone outside of the game or the message boards", but really… how is it even possible to stick to that? Who in their right minds would NOT tell their friends about a new MASSIVELY MULTIPLAYER ONLINE GAME?! "Yeah, let’s play this MMO ALONE!" Sure, a fat nerd with no friends might do that with pleasure, but…
After seeing all these flaws, and after starting to believe that this beta test was just to get people to spread word about APB and nothing more, I started to PROPERLY look at the gameplay. And… well… below the surface, it’s… boring! "Go to a point and do something by pressing the action button", "go to a point and wait until time runs out", "go to this point while carrying an item"… there’s just… nothing interesting or exciting about any of the objectives. And they change so suddenly, it just gets confusing and irritating, ESPECIALLY when you arrive at a point JUST BEFORE it gets captured! And when the objectives are god-knows how far apart, it can get infuriatingly BORING! Also, some positions are nigh on impossible to attack, others are nigh on impossible to defend. Whether you win or lose is quite often down to LUCK! And if you join a mission, there is a VERY high chance of it being almost complete. Whenever I’ve joined a mission, it’s ended in a loss for my team within a few minutes, because the call for backup has ONLY JUST found someone who is both free and wishes to join the mission! Score one for the SHIT matchmaking!
It’s… a mess. It’s just a big, horrible mess. There are way too many faults for this game to be released yet, LET ALONE go into open beta. If this insult to gaming goes into open beta, I expect that people are going to rip it to shit. I’ve NEVER seen anyone in district chat speak about it positively, and these people have APPLIED because they were interested, and then been INVITED to play! But here’s the killer… it’s NOT an MMO. You may THINK it’s an MMO, and the game is even ADVERTISED as an MMO, but truly, when you look below the surface, it just isn’t.
The first time I saw someone in district chat say, "This isn’t an MMO, though.", I laughed at them, thinking they were stupid. But then, a short while afterwards, I started to think. Is this REALLY, TRULY a proper MMO? Sure, there are thousands of people on one server… but that’s it. These thousands of people play in several different "instances", which hold up to 80 people each. Now… that sounds very much like a big team-based online shooter, such as Battlefield 1942. Hell, shrink APB down to say, 20-30 players an "instance", and it’s very similar to Call of Duty, Unreal Tournament… and so on. Are those games classed as MMOs? No. They are what we call "First Person Shooters", and they just so happen to have online capabilities. APB is a Third Person Shooter with a few role-playing elements… which just so happens to be only playable online and with a subscription.
I have a fairly good idea of what the guys at Realtime Worlds were doing when they were designing and prototyping this game. They said "Aha! Let’s make an MMO… SHOOTER! Something that doesn’t involve the simple pressing of BUTTONS on an action bar! Let’s show all these idiots how to make a PROPER MMO!"
Then, as they started a server stress test with a prototype… they noticed a VERY big problem. What if, say, 500 people were in the same place at the same time? Then, say, what if one person shot in this particular place? The server would have to take that packet of data recieved from the one client, and then send FIVE HUNDRED packets of data to all the clients! One sent to the shooter to confirm the shot had gone through, and another 499 telling the other 499 users that a player had fired a shot! That’s putting a ridiculous amount of strain on the server, and that’s just 500 players! What about 5,000 players?! And if most of these players are running around in the same place, shooting and driving around… how much data would the server need to process?! And what the hell would happen to the framerate of the clients?!
At this point, I’m guessing that the designers shat themselves, suddenly realised WHY all other MMOs play like they do, and reverted to the "instance-based" system, still convinced that it was an MMO, when in fact, they’d just reverted to a standard multiplayer shooter, where the master server actually hosts all the games instead of the clients.
I’m sorry, but there wasn’t a shred of bullshit in anything I’ve just said. It all makes perfect sense. And as for that old, lame "It’s still a beta" excuse? Please don’t bother. It is version 0.9.11, meaning there have been NINE MAJOR REVISIONS since the game entered Beta, and ELEVEN MINOR REVISIONS since the Beta hit version 0.9. They’ve had all those revisions to fix matchmaking, balance issues, stability, latency, etc… and they haven’t even bothered. Unless Realtime Worlds don’t know how to number their versions properly…? That would be embarrassing…
Oh, and by the way, one other thing. I have a computer with 6GB of RAM, with about 70-80% free when idling or under light load (web browsing, e-mail, etc). When APB is running, it uses ALMOST ALL OF THE REMAINING RAM. I know it’s there to be used, but… that is ridiculous.
Extremely disappointed – I thought this was going to be a great game, something that MMO developers should take notes from… but peel away the customisation features and "massively multiplayer" gameplay… and you’ve just got a sub-standard 3PS with a few RPG elements. And it won’t improve – I’m pretty damn sure of that. I know I said something along the lines of "BETA SIGN-UP, DO IT NOW!" in the past, but I want you to forget that I said that. Forget APB ever existed – don’t bother with it, seriously. Save your cash for Crackdown 2… because I bet that’s gonna be awesome.
It’d BETTER be friggin’ awesome, anyway…!
I have just recieved an E-MAIL. From Realtime Worlds. Here you go:
"We’re excited to announce the APB Public Test World (PTW)! This is a
place where we’ll be uploading early versions of new builds and patches
to APB, to allow users to help us test stability and changes
Mm-hm. Yeah, okay, whatever. This is them basically saying "We want free game testers". I wonder how many people got this e-mail…? I should check with the dudez on Skype tomorrow.
"Now here’s where you come in. The PTW is an invite-only environment. As you’re reading this, that means you’ve been selected as one of the users based on the high level and quality of feedback you’ve been providing during beta. Congratulations!"
Translation: "Congratulations! You’ve been selected to find even more bugs in our code, so we don’t have to!"
"To access the PTW, you’ll need to download the client…" blah blah fuckin’ blah. I haven’t logged in for weeks. I’ve sent a total of THREE bug reports over several MONTHS, one of them being very smarmy, sarcastic, insulting and unhelpful, and one of them about a bug so puny I might as well have not submitted it. If this is "high level" and "quality" feedback… what the frig has everyone else been doing?!? And they won’t listen to our feedback, anyway. Since when has a professional game development company ever listened to feedback?
And if it’s called a "Public Test World"… WHY IS IT INVITE ONLY?! It’s a "PUBLIC" TEST WORLD! If Phoenix Wright were here, he’d say…
Okay, I checked with everyone on Skype, and, you guessed it, ALL OF THEM got that e-mail. Including Andy, who HAS NEVER SUBMITTED A BUG REPORT. I’m still amazed that they even play it, though. Then again… they all have "World of Warcrap Syndrome", so of course they’ll continue to play a new repetitive, unbalanced, shitty game.
(Speaking of repetitive games, I finished the main Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky story. It may be repetitive if you play it for too long in one session, but holy shit, it has one of the best storylines I’ve ever experienced in gaming. No joke. I’ll blog about that another time, but back to A Piece of Bullshit. )
All they did was get a computer to randomly select a certain percentage of users, and send all the selected users that e-mail. It’s bullshit – they don’t listen to the players, and they don’t care in the slightest what we think. They just want people to play their unfinished game so they can get crash dumps and usage information.
I should read up on DDoS attacks and prepare one targeting Realtime Worlds just in case Crackdown 2 comes out shit. Which it won’t, because I refuse to believe it will.