Yesterday’s comic was about All Points Bulletin.
In case you didn’t play it – which was the game’s biggest problem – you drove around a big sandbox city as either a criminal or an enforcer. You couldn’t normally attack members of the other faction unless you were given a job to do so. Jobs were phoned in from faction leaders. These jobs were things like, “Kill player X” or “Player X is coming to kill you, don’t let them.” No story. No sense of anything happening. Just an eternal firefight against specific foes with the quest givers acting as matchmakers.
The problems in the game were not mysterious. They should have been obvious to anyone who has been paying attention to the last couple of decades of multiplayer evolution.
- It wasn’t just PvP-focused, it was pretty much PvP only. I think there are some really good historical examples of why this is a horrible idea. PvP is a spice, not a main course, and I don’t think there are enough people out there to support even a modest-sized PvP game, much less a big-budget monster like this one.
- It’s really odd to be trying to fight another player on a battlefield where other groups of totally unrelated players are also fighting each other. Imagine trying to play Team Fortress 2, only you’re playing a game of payload and there is another pair of teams also trying to play capture the flag in the same space. And everyone can hear everyone else’s voice chat, even if they’re not playing with you and they’re from the opposite faction. It’s confusing and those other players don’t really add anything to your own experience except a bunch of confusion.
- At low population levels the matchmaker would have to pit you against foes far above or below your own equipment and ability level. This was a wonderful way of making the game highly repellent to newbies, which only made matchmaking that much harder.
- By default, microphones were set to always-on. Which means many people were broadcasting when they didn’t mean to. Some of them had no idea. In a public area I’d hear people breathing, coughing, cussing, talking to their wives/ girlfriends, mumbling to themselves, and watching TV. I never heard a single female player. No young people. No old people. The game world was filled with nothing but profane, heavy-breathing guys in their twenties. I found it to be dreary. At any rate, Xbox Live has demonstrated why open mics in public games is a horrible idea. The signal-to-noise ratio is abominable even before you introduce the idea of cross-team, cross-game, open chat.
- It was possible to grief friendly players by ramming their vehicles and trapping them against a wall, blowing up their goals, or otherwise interfering with the game they’re trying to play. Developers figured out ages ago that some players will grief others if it’s possible and that doing so is bad for the community. Developers who ignore these long-established truths do so at their own peril.
Yes, APB had a lot of daring innovation and a lot of great ideas, but it also ignored long-standing conventional wisdom and paid the price charged to everyone who refuses to learn from history.
The Plot-Driven Door
You know how videogames sometimes do that thing where it's preposterously hard to go through a simple door? This one is really bad.
C++ is a wonderful language for making horrible code.
Why I Hated Resident Evil 4
Ever wonder how seemingly sane people can hate popular games? It can happen!
The Middle Ages
Would you have survived in the middle ages?
If Star Wars Was Made in 2006?
Imagine if the original Star Wars hadn't appeared in the 1970's, but instead was pitched to studios in 2006. How would that turn out?