PAX East 2010: All Points Bulletin Impressions
One of the greatest things about PAX East 2010 is that attendees and media outlets could walk up and see first-hand many games that were not out yet as well as hear from and talk to producers, community managers, and many other exhibitors who were open and willing to talk about their games at length. I still remember the first time I heard of APB, also known as All Points Bulletin. This intriguing brainchild of online multiplayer, crime simulation, and creative expression comes from David Jones the father of Grand Theft Auto, and Crackdown with Realtime Worlds.
The focus of creating a world that the players form on their own has been at the core of this game and the result is high immersion in a massively multiplayer online shooting game like you have never seen before. I was vigilante enough to brave the swarms of people around the APB setup, as security continued to warn everyone not to block attendees, and get my hands on the game several times playing as an enforcer and a criminal and I must say I am very excited for this title.
If you are wondering what this game is like and have not heard anything about it yet, this is a crime game. This is likely not meant to be played by anyone who is sensitive to violence. Although APB is a crime game, it has taken the genre to a whole new level. Realtime Worlds has built a persistent real world in the freedom-based style of sandbox open-world games. Every character in APB is another real person that you can shoot, assist, arrest, or run over at any time, even the law enforcement!
The game features great graphics and a streamlined online system, complete with essential friends list, clans, the ability to join friends and clan members in battle, and the impressive capability of playing with up to around 100 people in each district! Before you start thinking APB is just a huge sandbox with no depth to it, this title is actually surprisingly deep in content for a multiplayer-only crime game!
In a game where you are known by your uniqueness, the direction of conflict can often come at you from every angle at once. With players spreading their own identity, some even forcing it through out-numbered attacks on players caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, there is a lot of competitive spirit to this game. Individuals and clans will be at each others’ throats, or allying to keep the rest at bay, in a power struggle initiated by anything from resource distribution to all-out war as players from rival clans run into each other often intercepting each others missions. The game can spontaneously erupt into a team death match style environment at any moment as killers chop each other down with a variety of machine guns, pistols, sniper rifles, shotguns, grenades, and more in an effort to enhance weapons, level up, build a name for themselves, and further their faction in the game.
In a world where the people have taken matters into their own hands the streets are full of blood. Two main factions emerge the most powerful, the Criminals and the Enforcers. Criminals follow a man named Benjamin who wishes to create a new world existing in constant anarchy. Enforcers also want change; they seek not to allow chaos to rule but to instead control everything themselves. Players jump in to this tense world, where explosions, gunfights and massacres can break out at any moment, making contacts that provide them with mission objectives that bring great rewards. A choice must be made between a life of crime and the life of a mercenary working for control under the guise of “Peace”.
The game play constantly echoes a war going on which no player is safe from. Criminals will be constantly breaking into businesses, going on homicide sprees for cash or reputation, and finding that their actions do not go unnoticed. Enforcers are able to see APBs put out for ongoing crimes and will show up to ruin the fun! Real players will be coming at you using any force they deem necessary from putting their pump action shotgun into your face and blowing you away to arresting you and making you hang around a while longer on your knees watching them break up the party. Criminals can become notorious by excelling at what they do best and racking up to five stars which will put a bounty on your head that all players can easily identify.
In addition to great damage modeling, intuitive shooter controls, car-jacking and drive-by shootings galore All Points Bulletin sports some of the best content creation tools ever seen in such a title. Players create their own character from the look to their alignment or opposition with the law. The community content based aspects and in-game editors of All Points Bulletin bring a new level of creative expression to the multiplayer shooter genre. Players now have the power to cover the world with their own fashion, graphics, and music into the game. This furthers the identity of each character in the game and removes the stigma of many shooters that go the massively online way. Playing on the North American private beta servers from PAX East 2010 in Boston was an incredible experience. It was very apparent that the characters are alive in this matrix Realtime Worlds has created beyond their gamer and clan tags.
Perhaps even more incredible than the powerful creative tools that have been put forth for APB is the community that is being built behind them. In the game itself you will establish a brand through your own creative design in the various fashion and artistic forms of expression found in the game. Brands in the beta have already been taking off and spawning real life fashion and music successes. Anything players desire to bring into APB can be advertised in the game. In-game content especially can be tagged across billboards, cars, clothes, and spread through the game various viral ways. Everything created in the game can also be sold within the game as well as in real life!
As far as being known for your gaming prowess, APB does not disappoint in that realm either. Players will constantly compete with their clan (or solo) to remain the best of the best and even identify you to your victims more intimately with custom ‘Death-Tunes’ created with in-game tools to make sure you are given credit for your best and worst of kills. The statues that are erected for the highest ranking players at the time (in monthly and weekly leader boards) set the tone for cold, hard competition in the streets of APB. Everyone in the game will be trying to become number one and doing so will only bring them more chaotic attacks at their power and position.
The game will feature three player zones. The Financial district in APB will provide action down town atmosphere for people to meet up and discuss business, commit drive-by shootings on other business meetings, and enjoy the close quarter’s feel of this part of the city. The Waterfront district is open, expansive, beautiful scenery booming with businesses ripe for the casing. Plenty of action will be going down in both of these districts. The Social district allows players to take a pause from the mean streets of APB to customize their character, shop, and show off their user-created assets.
All Points Bulletin will be an evolution of the online third person shooter genre, as well as crime genre as a whole, taking the scale up at least a few notches by bringing around 100 players together in each game instance. Realtime Worlds’ ability to take one of the best game play concepts envisioned to the massively multiplayer level is going to bring the gaming world a intense, competitive, and fluid persistent world where justice is in the gamers’ hands. Expansions to the game based on player feedback within the beta testing are already under way and the Realtime Worlds people at PAX East 2010 were extremely excited to be bringing such a unique game to the world. Becoming a celebrity in APB is a great prospect for gamers all around the world. The ability to profit from your own artistic drive in the game is an added bonus to the customization that allows you to finally take your shooter character, style, and clan to the next level. Expect to see more about this killer title to emerge from this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. All Points Bulletin is currently taking beta applicants at their website here and is scheduled for release this summer.