Stolen Pixels #228: All Points Bu

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Sep 22, 2010

Filed under: Column 94 comments

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.


From The Archives:

94 thoughts on “Stolen Pixels #228: All Points Bu

  1. jdaubenb says:

    This game sounds… lovely.
    I am reminded of Unreal Tournament and its ilk from the early 2000s. Isn’t this just pretty much the same idea, only with a sandbox-arena?

  2. Meredith says:

    I’d never even heard of this game until now. It sounds like the sort of thing that could potentially be fun, perhaps as a side-mission in another game, but not a mechanic to carry an entire game by itself.

  3. I purchased All Points Bulletin and attempted to play it. For the most part I found the experience to be completely infuriating. I’d step out the door and get instantly ganked.

    I finally managed to make my way over to a remote area of the game world, hijacked a large truck, and drove it around town on a site-seeing tour.

    That was the most enjoyment that I could wring from the game before moving on to better things.


    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Wow. That is.. well, it is a must-read, I think.

    2. Mari says:

      Wow. That was revealing. And just…wow. It makes me sad :-(

    3. There were 300 of us, some of us there for years, and we spent over $100m.


      The game was full of cheaters.


      APB was on a lot of PC gamers' minds, then the beta arrived and everyone bad-mouthed the terrible gameplay and lack of variety (i.e. the game design) and the online cheating. Even if everything Luke said was true, it wouldn't have mattered one bit had the beta response been positive.


      Ouch, ouch, ouch. I don't know if a comic writer could have hand-crafted a more deliciously ironic piece for us.

      Lots of interesting posts on the blog, great points.

    4. Veloxyll says:

      I agree with the Wowage. That’s just oh my gosh. A very pre-80’s corporate culture. Having followed a few MMOs too in my time that is the WIERDEST PR campaign ever.

      (I totally wrote that as WoWage initially, curse you and your addictive games Blizzard)

  4. Dazdya says:

    Would it be wrong to say that I still wanted to see the rest of the comic?

  5. Abnaxis says:

    All of those bullet-points do seem blindingly obvious. However, I worry that the only lesson developers will take to heart is “Don’t try anything new.”

    Sigh. Why do dummies have to keep ruining innovation?

    1. Telas says:

      My take on it exactly. They tried new things. They ignored many conventions of gaming. The game failed. Only the last two are directly related.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So,these strong points you keep mentioning,what where they anyway?

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Not like Wow.

      reapeat for any Wow clone.

    2. Shamus says:

      Incredible customization, Urban setting, and… did I mention the customization? I did. Crap.

      Well, it’s got those three things going for it.

        1. Shamus says:

          Right. Those two things. Plus customization.

          1. Jarenth says:

            I take it the customization was so good it counts twice.

            1. Irridium says:

              I’d say so. I remember in the beta I would literally spend hours designing stuff. It was just so fun, easy, and had a crapload of stuff to use.

          2. Peter H. Coffin says:

            And a fanatical devotion to the Pope.

            1. Yar Kramer says:

              And a 40-year-old joke! ;)

              1. albval says:

                According to this the 22th _was_ actually the 40th anniversary of the sketches. Good timing.

  7. guy says:

    There’s enough people up for leveled PvP only to make one fun. The Urban Dead MMO proves that. There is not, however, evidence that enough people will buy one to make a 100 million dollar one commercially viable.

  8. Dragomok says:

    All Points Bulletin had budget of 100 millions of dollars, big preview-based hype and hour-based subscription. All of that and it run for only seventy-nine days?

    It should be clear now that Realtime Worlds didn’t make a bad game. They made Titanic of gaming industry.

    I almost feel like I am watching the history happening right in front of my eyes. *a tear flows down cheek*

    1. Andrew B says:

      Nah, this is just a minor tanking. SW:TOR now that is going to be Titanic if it sinks!

      1. jdaubenb says:

        Nah, this is just a minor tanking. SW:TOR now that is going to be Titanic when it sinks!

        fixed that for you.

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          Unfortunately, I agree with the fix. All current information just indicates that the ToR is heading towards the iceberg on full steam overdrive.

          I would, incidentally, love to see Shamus do an article on “Why exactly ToR will / will not fail”. Whichever position he represents, irrelevant – would be nice to hear his opinion (besides what we already have heard of him on it).

          1. acronix says:

            I like that metaphor.

            Crew: “Captain! There´s an iceberg ahead of us! We don´t have space to avoid it!”
            Captain: “Top speed! We will ram it!”
            Crew: “…What?!”

            1. SolkaTruesilver says:

              Hey. If the Titanic wouldn’t have tried to dodge the iceberg, it wouldn’t have sinked so fast, and more survivors would have been found.

              Maybe TOR will surprise everybody, and be successful. At that state, with that amount of money thrown into it… There is little else to do. Just increase speed, close eyes, and make a prayer the game is gonna make it.

              Because if not, well, bye bye Bioware. and I doubt I am the only one who thinks this would be a bad thing.

              1. Mistwraithe says:

                As you suggest if the Titanic had hit the iceberg full on it probably wouldn’t have sunk (assuming they didn’t deliberately accelerate to ramming speed!). Totally munched bow obviously and flooding throughout the front of the boat but so long as the rest of the hull maintained enough structural strength to restrict flooding to the first 3 or 4 bulkheads they would have been fine.

              2. JKjoker says:

                TOR failing would not be a bad thing

                im hoping that when it happens publishers stop living in that pipe dream that thousands of mmos can coexist with each other and that you can dethrone WOW making the same game and go back to make actual games

                sadly the mmo failures so far have been too weak or too easy to write off as a “they were doing it wrong” fluke, they need a good clean slap in the face to wake up (look at it this way, less companies would rise 100 mil to die horribly) and a huge, hyperhyped mmo by one of the top5 companies with highest oblivious fanboy count using a highly successful franchise, with a very sizable development cost and time failing its as good as it gets

                1. daveNYC says:

                  Unless TOR tanking takes Bioware down with it. Or even causes some of the core team (whoever is left) to be let go. This is EA after all, no reason to think that they won’t go with quadrupling down on their EA Sports stuff if something goes pear shaped.

                2. Electron Blue says:

                  But losing Bioware would be a tremendous loss to the industry. Those people have put out some great games in their time and we’d be left hanging on many of their franchises, and we’d lose the intelligent, engaging RPGs we love. Without games like Mass Effect to balance out the Fallout 3s of the genre, Western RPGs could only get much, much worse without the positive influence of Bioware.

                3. uberfail says:

                  I wish they would just stop making MMO’s at all

                4. JKjoker says:

                  i get and sort of agree that Bioware is one of the few devs left making slightly above average (with the “average” kind of low these days) games but i think you are giving them too much credit, DA, ME2, they werent THAT good (they were are also pushing some very awful features like that conversation wheel crap and “simplified to the point of not being there” character development) and i see other companies like CD Projekt (the witcher guys) and indie companies doing way more than Bioware to “balance out” the fallout 3s which would benefit a lot from the open void

                  personally, i would not lose a second of sleep over TOR sinking Bioware like a stone

                5. SolkaTruesilver says:

                  I strongly disagree. First of all, Dragon Age did not used the conversation wheel. Maybe character development wasn’t that present, but characters were not just mere bi-dimensional archetypes. You had very interesting layers to most of them, and you grew to like and despise them based on that, rather than what were their stats.

                  Maybe the futur simply won’t be about re-creating classic RPGs with their characteristics, but going into new kinds of experimentation. But ultimately, what I liked about Bioware is that they tried to go beyond what was safe, and pushed further for new kind of dynamics and game design, which is always a good thing.

                  As opposed to Fallout 3 or Bioshock, which had little originality.

                6. Matt K says:

                  Plus I assume most of the Bioware guys would either form a new company or get jobs elsewhere. If they are as talented as they seem then finding a new job hopefully shouldn’t be too difficult.

                  Either way I could care less. The only MMO that really stands a chance of having a sustainable future is Guild Wars and that’s only because they are being innovative with the no monmthly fees which honestly I think more devs should be looking at.

                  I will never pay monthly for any game. I play too infrequently and tend to not play for long stretches of time for a monthly fee to ever be a good idea (I play a few hrs a weekend and for GW1 I stopped playing for like 6 months because I started playing some other game I was interested in from my huge back catalog of game I haven’t gotten to yet).

                  With GW, I can pick up months or even years later and play. No worries about if my Characters still exist or my account has been closed. I can imagine there’s a lot more people like me then people who would pay monthly for an MMO and yet no one else seems to even try to go after us. Although the move to free to pay looks like it may eventualy happen. But the caviat there is that GW gives you access to essentialyl everyhing while these you still have to pay for a good chunk of content.

                7. X2-Eliah says:

                  In response to Matt K:

                  COULDN’T CARE LESS!

                  Argh. Please, start getting it right, people.

                  As for Bioware – as I once said, I don’t want them to fail. Just because I ma a nice guy. But yes, their games are not perfect, and they have grown into an industrial giant, so there is little actual love in their projects.

                  A bit like APB’s devs, actually.

    2. GTB says:

      APB didn’t have a budget of 100 million. Real Time Worlds had a budget of 100 million. It was split between APB and other projects, and likely executive bonuses.

    3. JKjoker says:

      actually, not all the 100 big ones were for APB, their plan was to develop both APB and My World (which was being developed, aka eating money, parallel to APB) and set up the company as publisher planing to turn it Activision-Blizzard sized overnight, ahhh suits can dream.

      edit: ah just noticed GTB beat me to that one :p

    4. Yes, especially with $100 million dollars, they sunk a lot of game venture capital.

  9. General Karthos says:

    I’m in my twenties, though I’m not profane. Don’t I still count as young? Don’t I!?

    1. krellen says:

      Young General, from this day forward, you shall be known as “General”.

  10. Dev Null says:

    I’m not sure the sandbox+pvp combo makes a lot of sense. Whats your motivation to go out and explore any part of the world except the bit the other player happens to be standing on? I mean sure, _I’d_ explore it just for the heck of it, but at that point the PVP would be a hindrance to the fun, not an addition to it.

    Also, they didn’t just ignore the griefers, they built a game whos core premise was to make an MMO out of a single-player game in which the main character is _designed_ to be a griefer. The entire GTA series is a training ground for griefers (and its kinda fun, but it only really works because I’m the only griefer running amok in the world.) Seriously; try to imagine how you could recreate the GTA feel in a multiplayer and not end up creating a newb-unfriendly environment. You’re _supposed_ to walk up to anyone less powerful than you, kill them, and take their stuff. That, in a nutshell, is the plot of GTA.

    I think it was a flawed idea from the start.

  11. Bit of pedantry on a pet peeve:
    They did not flaunt long-standing conventional wisdom. They flouted long-standing conventional wisdom.
    These are two different words, with almost opposing meanings. Trying to make “flaunt” do duty for both is a bad idea.

    1. Shamus says:

      Thanks. You know, I hesitated at flaunted. It didn’t feel right. But flouted wasn’t in my head so I went with what I knew.


  12. Ergonomic Cat says:

    APB did have amazing parts. The customization was amazingly deep. City of Heroes wishes it had that much. And you could make costume pieces, cars, tatoos, etc and then sell them on the market. So an artistic player could, in theory, create a clothing line or the like.

    And it synced with or Pandora or some such to play your tunes in the car. Anderson others could hear your music. Really it had a real great world for bad gameplay.

    In my 4 hours I spent 2 lost, 1 trapped in corners by people in armored cars, and 1 hour trying missions where I was outgunned. I had one defense mission that I spent 14 minutes wondering where people were and 1 minute losing the match.

  13. Volatar says:

    “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…”

    I disagree with you there Shamus. I think Eve Online is a great example of just such a game succeeding.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      And I disagree with that – EVE online has NPC trading, mining, NPC killing at the start – and, msot importantly, it isn’t a raw PvP, it is a world where your friends and your enemies are human. You do not get stunlocked into permanent kill-zone the moment you spawn with a new character. And there is other stuff to do then just point and shoot at random enemy immediately.

    2. Shamus says:

      X2-Eliah said what I was going to. EVE actually has a lot of non-PvP stuff (or at least, not direct combat PvP) for you to do. In APB you’re either shooting people or you’re playing another game.

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        And this is where I swoon.

    3. GTB says:

      Eve isn’t a good example. It has pve shit.

      But I think you’re right, I don’t share Mr. Young’s premise that a pvp game can’t make it. It can. But when you are banking on players fighting other players, you MUST HAVE CHEAT CONTROL BUILT IN FROM DAY ONE. And that is all there is to it. You must present an initially level playing field (lets not bring up upgrades right now, that’s another problem) and you must do everything you can to make sure nobody gets an artificial leg up. Because if somebody in your pvp game is cheating, it will cause other people to not play your pvp game. This is such an intrinsic thing that I can’t believe they went into launch without even Punkbuster (not my first choice but whatever) working. It took them weeks just to enable it, and when they did, it caused mass lag all over the place and made the game unplayable. Anti-cheat protection should have been the very first thing on the development table. The fact that it was purely online means you get to decide what files get copied to the user’s machine and what do not. It complicates things and it probably wansn’t a good time, I get that. But if you want a pure pvp game, then ignoring cheating is the worst possible way to go about it.

      1. Jeff says:

        The premise of any PvP MMO with character improvement is fundamentally flawed. It’s completely untenable. Your argument has a gaping flaw. Namely, the “initially level playing field”. When the playing field is level, you get new subscribers. As time passes, people will grow more powerful. The more powerful the hardcore players get, the more that discourages new subscribers. This is not a successful business model.

        This is basically the economic concept of a natural monopoly. The established groups are too powerful for others to enter the field.

        If the only things to do in a game is PvP, then accruing innate mechanical advantages is a recipe for failure. Imagine if the game lasts for two years – and anyone joining in is essentially playing Modern Warfare where a 2 year veteran can take a full burst to the back – then turn around and kill you with a .22 round to the big toe. You will gain very little new subscribers.

        Observe WoW. They still get new subscribers, even though the majority of their population has moved up in levels. They’ve made lower levels quicker to pass, with greater rewards for their time. It encourages new subscribers, and new characters. This is a good business model.

        Of course, if you’re not accruing any sort of bonuses, then it’s basically one giant deathmatch, which is fine too.

      2. daveNYC says:

        I’m not sure that a PvP only (or only-ish) game can really work. If you look at Shadowbane and ignore the insane technical issues, there were still the issues that in game, there is no reason for Player A to completely crush and destroy Player B to the point where they cannot rebuild, and basically cannot play anymore, and that even if you get rid of leveling mechanics, there is little you can do to counteract superior numbers or the ability to stay online 24/7.

  14. radio_babylon says:

    the battlefield games scratch my leveled pvp itch just fine… i cant see any reason why i would play something i had to pay continuously for when ive already got BF…

    everything i heard about apb made it sound like it was geared more towards people who wanted to play dress-up than anything else, and in my experience, those kinds of players arent exactly pvp-only fans. the whole thing just doesnt make much sense from a business perspective.

    1. krellen says:

      I completely agree. When I first heard about APB, I was really looking forward to giving it a try because I am a “dress up” sort of player. I really wanted to play around with the customisations and see what sort of stuff I could make. But then I heard about the gameplay it had after that, and all desire to even give it a spin was killed. You really shouldn’t make a carebear-centred character creation system lead to a cut-throat PvP world.

      1. Jarenth says:

        Mildly off topic, this holds for me when it comes to games like City of Heroes and Champions Online. I can spend days creating a character, including name, alter ego, background, costume, colours, powers, accessoires, speech bubble layout, and so forth; but after playing for a little while the poor elements of the gameplay (Champions Online’s poor writing and generally unfinished feeling and City of Heroes’ slow levelling speed and reliance on mission grinding) get to me, and I quit playing.

        Then it’s just a matter of waiting until my poor memory kicks in and I forget why I disliked those games again. It’s a beautiful cycle.

  15. Kdansky says:

    I still claim that APB was your average FPS with MMO tacked on, but not thought through at all. It’s TF2 with monthly fees, except TF2 is much better at being a good PVP FPS, and it is (a lot) cheaper to boot.

    A PVP game rarely improves by adding on levels and equipment which you have to grind. Imagine “Diablo-Chess” where you start out with a king and three pawns, and have to play a few matches to gain more pieces. Not only does it sound silly, it’s also pretty much the worst idea possible. If you want “customization”, try out something like Chess 2 at . And while you are over there, read Playing to Win and come play some Puzzle strike against me. It’s incredibly awesome.

    edit: (a href) tag with proper brackets seems to fail?

  16. Mari says:

    Heck, if only I’d known all this earlier. As a somewhat older than 20-something female, I might have shilled out a few bucks just for the privilege of hearing the heavy breathing ;-) OK, no, not really. Especially not in a griefing engine.

  17. Jarenth says:

    I was going to make a crack about how the fact that players could create and drive around in those eye-searing dorkmobiles like the one you made could have been a contributor to its failure.

    Then I remembered that most other MMOs either allow you or make you dress up like a colourblind clown in an exploding paint factory, and they’re still going strong.

  18. Alan says:

    It is games like this where I wish they would release the source code / some other compnay buy it for £notmuch. I would think that if some developers got their hands on it, it could be made into a viable game.

    Sadly, from what I have seen, developers would rather sit on code / intellectual property that is ‘worth’ $bigbucks, and have no-one buy it, than let it go.

    1. Mewse says:

      It’s actually more that most developers would rather write their own bug-riddled mess of code than have to figure out somebody else’s bug-riddled mess of code.

      Having gone both ways, I can assure you that it’s almost always faster and cheaper to roll your own. :)

  19. Lord Cheeso says:

    Something about the story of this game feels like the plot of “The Producers” to me. Get a bunch of investors… generate the biggest possible flop… flee with the remaining money to Rio.

    From what I’m hearing, there was a lot of innovation in the game which might justify a $100M budget… but the programmer also admits that they tried to “build this highly ‘corporate’ culture”. I wonder if anyone has checked RTW’s billing statements for plane tickets?

    1. acronix says:

      Plane tickets? They probably bought their own small island. I´d check if any piece of land sorrounded by water changed names recently.

  20. Erin Palette says:

    It seems to me they could recoup their losses pretty handily if they just sold the character-creation system separately, along with some way to save/export the file and maybe an animation/posing system. Machinima is a big deal these days and the ability to create custom characters for it would be a godsend.

    1. Kdansky says:

      Especially with multiple licencing models, such as $lowbucks for stuff that is not sold (machinima), or even GPL, and $mediumbucks for artists as a separate piece of software (creates a model, saves files), and $lotsofbucks for game companies to include the complete character generator.

      But I will bet $manybucks that this will not happen and it makes me sad.

  21. Zak McKracken says:

    Just a word on the comic format (since you said you’d keep doing it until someone complains):

    I like the top-down arrangement better (in general) for the following reason:
    When reading a comic I alway have to restrain myself very hard to not look at the punchline first. Especially if it’s of the “suddenly everything explodes” variety. So I use to make the broser window flat enough (or just zoom in) and slowly scroll down. That way I can only see what I’ve read already.

    That works sideways and up-down, but it doesn’t work if you have several lines/columns of panels.

    => This one was fine (why am I posting it here then?). But … in general, you know … ok, it’s nothing worth complaining over, but you’re picking apart biographies of virtual NPCs in action games, so … yeah, would be cool.

  22. Not the Face says:

    You listed some things I thought where a plus when playing the game.
    You had small scale player vs player in the same world as other people. Given the large and colorful colors hovering over a related players name it wasn’t too hard to keep track of who is and isn’t related.

    So honestly? At the core it was a good idea. The issues is that it was still very exploitable. You saw people not related to an event placing trucks to block your way in to the people your SUPPOSED to be fighting.

    The opposite end of this stick would be you get a mission to tag place X. Then everyone gets to jump you because it’s open pvp and there’s 12 cops camping the area.

    So the problem of “How can we have a lot of players in a pvp environment and not have roving gank squads” needs more work and APB didn’t solve it.

    However I do maintain that driving past a roving gun fight as you chased someone else down was cool as hell.

    Game also would have been straight up better with no leveling.

    1. Adeon says:

      “Game also would have been straight up better with no leveling.”

      That one sentence pretty much sums up my opinion of PvP in any MMO. To me PvP is about player skill and leveling doesn’t demonstrate that. It simply indicates that the player has spent the required amount of time doing the required activities (which are frequently not even PvP related). It only serves as an artificial ledge that makes it harder for anyone new to get into PvP. I much prefer games like TF2 where everyone starts on basically equal footing and player/team skill is all that matters (yes, TF2 has unlockable weapons but you’re fine without them and most of them are either downgrades or highly situational).

      1. somebodys_kid says:

        I haven’t played America’s Army since 2.4, but their “honor” system was just a number indicating your experience; it had no effect on health points or accuracy (or very little effect…I think it let the higher honor people choose their role first). I agree though, leveling in the PvP world is really bad if you’re trying to get new blood.

      2. Matt K says:

        Guild Wars has a neat PVP system as you temporarily go to max lvl (20) just for the PVP.

        1. Pickly says:

          Not quite: Guild Wars lets you create an immediate level 20 PvP character, PvE characters (the leveling ones) don’t automatically get scaled up. (though this is nitpicking, I know)

          It does have the same effect, of almost completely removing levels from PvP (Though players do need some skill/rune/inscription/etc. unlocks.)

          1. Adeon says:

            See now that I wouldn’t mind. A bit of effort to get PvP ready is ok but to a large extent leveling in MMOs is designed as a time sink and getting a character to max level is normally a substantial time investment for a character that you might not enjoy PvPing with.

          2. Matt K says:

            My mistake. I only played PVP with my PVE character during the Snowball fight and the Dodgeball games when everyone got bumped up to level 20 for those PVP games. I just assumed it also happened for regular PVP as well.

  23. Axle says:

    From what I read about this game (mainly in I understod, that the game had some serious technical issues, regarding the car and weapon handling. Issues that were ignored during the beta phase and caused bad publicity even before launch.
    The review embargo did not help either…

    Anyway here is an interesting blog from one RTW ex-employees:

    Is there something wrong with “href”?
    I posted three times with it and my comment didn’t show.

    1. Jeff #3 says:

      Yes, it’s clearly entirely Shamus’ fault that this game went under. If he could go back in time the many months ago that Star on Chest was originally created and done it on the pre-beta APB instead the game would be alive and kicking.

      Granted, if you look at the effect that Penny Arcade has had on the sales of Minecraft (i.e. HOLY CRAP) word of mouth can have a big effect. APB was just to big to stop from sinking.

      1. Eljacko says:

        Look, I’m not trying to criticize Shamus here. I think Shamus is awesome, and I’ve been a follower of Twenty Sided for over a year now. I’m also not talking about doing that instead of the ORIGINAL Star On Chest, I’m talking about doing it after LOTRO instead of RE-running Star On Chest on the Escapist. Again, not trying to insinuate that this was Shamus’s fault, I’m just saying that some attention from a borderline household name like Shamus might’ve actually gotten it a more diverse and balanced player base.

  24. daveNYC says:

    It’s nice that they had some neat innovative features, but the fact that they left the core gameplay so susceptible to griefers just screams that they shouldn’t have gotten dollar one.

    The first question that any MMO designer needs to ask is, “What about the assholes?” And until you have a good answer, don’t type even a single semicolon of code.

  25. Mumbles says:

    Yeah, they’re still selling it at full price at Target. I checked last Sunday.

    1. uberfail says:

      It is sad. I bet the target people don’t even know that it’s fallen over…

    2. SolkaTruesilver says:

      Hey, I saw Tabula Rasa on sale recently. And off course, after talking about the fact that the servers were down, he mentionned that the store still wouldn’t offer refund since “there is nothing wrong with the software”.

      1. Jarenth says:

        That’s kind of like selling a car with the gas tank stripped out.

        Yeah, the chassis is still in good shape, the engine is still fine, and there’s no scratches on it. You can’t actually *drive* it, but that’s hardly my problem, now is it?

      2. Benjamin says:

        The Wal-Mart down the street from me still has a row of Auto Assault.


  26. GTB says:

    A lot of comments seem to be “What was the monthly fee for?”

    1. 80 people per server. They were trying for 100? 150? I can’t remember, I think 150, eventually, but it started at 80. I’m not a networking guy or even an IT guy, but I don’t see many 80 man servers, let alone 150 man servers on standard fps games. Without going into the horrible matchmaking mechanics and whether or not it worked very well, they had to have a pretty big server set in order to run those kinds of numbers. I know there were people who had lag, but I never did during the beta or the 40 hours I played before getting bored.

    2. Crazy customization. Consider how much bandwidth is needed for 100-stencil customized outfits, and 100-stencil customized cars. Multiply that by 80. Now add in custom music, and twitch-based gameplay. The Twitch thing alone means they can’t use standard mmo attack timers to deal with latency. So some of your 10 bucks or whatever goes to pay for that too, I assume.

    3. Salaries for support people, forum mouthpieces, and (presumably) devs working on fixing shit. We know none of this is really applicable (except the forum guys) but if the game had continued, part of your money would have gone to these guys too, eventually.

    APB basically had a bunch of tiny mmo servers running all the time. I’m not sure I would call it MASSIVELY multiplayer, but it was bigger than just standard multiplayer. Maybe “Largely Multiplayer” or “Hugely Multiplayer” maybe. They had to deal with the requirements for both FPS games (or 3rd person shooters, in this case) and MMOS, at the same time. 10 bucks a month didn’t seem like a bad deal at the time, conceptually. (Actual value differs greatly from perceived value, in this case)

    Ultimately I think there was too much mmo crap and not enough shooter. Each server should have been a good vs bad free-for-all at all times, with each side taking/defending specific points throughout the city. The little 6-vs-6 team games they had were pretty lame, considering how many people were around you all the time. If I see a dude committing a crime, I should be able to join in with the guys already chasing him, without having to use some kind of match making system to do so. Im a cop, he is a criminal. I think I heard that before the end they were talking about releasing a new server type where it was basically a free-for-all with two sides all the time. I don’t think it would have worked though because they were still going to use their stupid mission system rather than just capture points. The mission system got in the way of the PVP.

  27. Wolfwood says:

    I remember Guild Wars as an all PVP game. at the very least when it first came out. Max lvl in a given afternoon and for the rest of that all you did was farm for better gear so you can pwn some faces in PVP. PVP was the only reason you bothered getting better stuff…

    EVE at the least you can choose to get better ships/equipment in pursuit of becoming better at a PVE activity (mining, trading, hauling, building). granted on the way you’ll probably get killed by ppl who chose to PVP you, like it or not! XD (namely a -10 low sec pirate like myself >:3 i do love low sec areas sandwich between high sec trade lanes :3)

  28. wootage says:

    Actually, one PvP-only game (0 PvE content) did make it reasonably successfully, and in the face of what its parent company did to it in terms of lack of marketing, promotion and support.

    Planetside lived (and is still twitching a bit, AFAIK) because it was objective-based, 3 faction, massive battles (400 at a time), had multi-player ground and air vehicles, lotsa weapons, a built-in outfit system, and had a command-and-control component where you could gain Command Ranks which opened up C&C abilities. And it didn’t have levelage in the conventional sense – a day 1 rookie could kill the most veteran member of the game with the basic weapon.

    Add it all up, and though you could be a l33t solo hotshot, the best way to succeed was as a member of a squad/platoon acting in concert with others to accomplish objectives.

    IMO, that’s the only combination that can successfully make an all-PvP game a real success. Eve, Darkfall, Mortal Online, etc. all have PvE built in so that equipment will be an advantage and non-PvP’ers can have something to do.

    Incidentally, the PvE is a massive sub booster. For example, Eve had jack squat for numbers until they added mining and missions back in the day, and to back that up, most of the pop is in “safe” hisec lol. If they’d dumped the PvP, I bet Eve would have multi-millions of subs by now :D

    1. Traska says:

      I miss Planetside. They’ve made changes to the game which render it nearly unplayable. I tried it again a few months ago… there was no one there, so no reason to play (that’s the other problem with a PvP MMO… with a PvE MMO, if no one shows up, you can solo. PvP MMO, if no one shows up, there’s no game.)

    2. krellen says:

      I might give Eve a try if there were less focus on PvP, yes.

      And by less I mean no.

      1. Jarenth says:

        Given that in that game, suicide-ganking in the designated ‘safe’ areas is an actual, profitable tactic, I’m guessing this won’t happen.

  29. Jason says:

    I’m probably late on this but I have to disagree with you about your very first premise – that a PVP only game can’t stand on its own. If you look back to 1998 you’ll find a very ambitious FPS called Tribes. Tribes single player portion of the game was strictly a tutorial. The rest of the game was a team-based PVP FPS in a world scale that dwarfed all of its other peers at the time. After Tribes, you saw a lot of FPS games that didn’t focus too heavily on the single player and brought great multiplayer (PVP) experiences.

    The problem with APB is that it billed itself as an MMO. MMO shooters are doomed to failure when you can get the same or even better playstyle from regular shooter titles. Why pay a monthly fee for this when I can go play Grand Theft Auto multiplayer and have the same amount of people in the game and have a much better experience? Why play Global Agenda when I can play Team Fortress 2? I find it sad that the modern FPS has decided to borrow levels for equipment and weapon unlocks from the RPG genre but at least they haven’t tacked on a subscription-based service as well. Although, I fear that it’s only a matter of time before that becomes the case. Or maybe not since the MMORPG appears to be moving from subscriptions to micro-transactions.

    1. GTB says:

      Wait, you can have 80 people playing GTA Multiplayer?

      1. Jason says:

        When I played APB it was at best 4 vs 4 matches. I heard you could get 8 vs 8 matches. So yes. You can do that in GTA.

  30. acabaca says:

    APB had a lot of daring innovation and a lot of great ideas,

    Like what? Everything I’ve heard makes it sound horrible.

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