MMORPG Info Logo APB: All Points Bulletin

APB (All Points Bulletin) is a recently released MMORPG by the talent from Realtime Worlds (of Crackdown fame) and published by Electronic Arts. The game has been in development since 2005, with a long history of delays, recently bucked by a release 3 months earlier than previously expected.

The core idea is a city-wide game of cops and robbers where players can play either side, Enforcers or Criminals and make themselves legends within their chosen faction.

APB‘s server strategy has had many different influences, including the experiences of Realtime World’s Creative Director, Dave Jones, with Dark Age of Camelot. He refers specifically to an incident where a French language server was merged with an English server, causing a language barrier which soured the game for many players. As a result of his experiences, he wanted a MMO that didn’t need large amounts of players on a server to survive, allowing each player to play the game his way, without interfering with what other people wanted to do. To this effect, APB features a interesting method of handling servers. The world is separated within two Districts (or zones): the Social District and the Action District.

The Social District, a 100,000 population server, is where players can socialize as well as customize clothing, tattoos and cars (more on that later). The Action District is where players get into the meaty part of the game, with non-stop chaos and bullets. When a player accepts a job, he (and his group) are taken to one of the many 100-user, low-population servers which comprise the Action District. Within the standard Action District, players may only interact with cars and other players related to their primary mission, so Criminals need not fear getting several groups of Enforcers on their tails randomly.

An exception to this rule is a few servers with the Chaos rule set implemented, wherein the restriction to only interacting meaningfully with things related to your mission is removed.

NPCs have very little impact in the city and their primary purpose seems to be keep you from spraying bullets wildly into innocent bystanders, which penalize your score regardless of your faction. One meaningful role they do play is represented in contacts. Instead of using a level system, the game uses a system of contacts, where the better you do, the better contacts and therefore jobs you get. Both Criminals and Enforcers get contacts, although in most cases it will be the Criminals who will initiate jobs, and Enforcers will then get All Points Bulletins (a reference to the title, where All Points Bulletins in real life refer to a communique from one law enforcement agency to another regarding crimes or missing persons) informing them about the heist that the Criminals are planning.

In this way, the game’s method of dynamic difficulty is shown. The game will assess your progress and aptitude through a variety of methods, including kills, deaths and how far into the job you are in relation to time since the job was taken. This information is used to decide which Enforcers are of a suitable difficulty to take on the Criminals. As a balancing feature, Criminals can call in back-up, which can result in all-out battles between Enforcers and Criminals, bullets whizzing everywhere.

Bullets flying as Backup arrives

APB also offers celebrity status within the game via a series of ranking boards for Criminals and Enforcers. These boards come in different flavors, with Daily, Weekly and Monthly versions. In this way, the Criminals quickly learn of which Enforcers to fear and the Enforcers know which Criminals they wish desperately to arrest or take down, boosting their own popularity. To complement this, APB discards any possibility of generic characters through its in-game editor, which allows you to create and use your own designs on clothes, cars and even tattoos. The editor means that no two players look alike and allows players to make their cars as cool as they want. In addition, the Auction House in-game allows for people to auction their clothes for Real Time World points. These points can be used to purchase in-game time, although only very good designs are likely to get people paying out RTW points for it.

The Squid T-Shirt was made by the player

APB has two different subscriptions methods, with the tried-and-tested monthly subscription, for which you get unlimited access, and the refreshingly new hourly subscriptions, where a player can buy hours in 20 hour blocks. These hours are only used up while the player is in-game, and even then, only while in the Action District. This allows casual players with limited time simply to buy blocks of play-time and not worry about recurring charges while they are not playing. As a interesting thing of note, if you are in the Action District, and you run out of play-time, the game will not simply disconnect you mid fire-fight but instead wait until the person has finished the current job and then return them to the Social District which they can continue to access. To return to the Action District, they will have to buy more hours.

The game has received widespread attention from professional game journalists, as well as the interest of Internet figures. Tim Buckley, of the Webcomic Ctrl+Alt+Del said:

APB takes some fun, fast-paced, shooter action, and mixes it with lots of fun MMO-style customization. It’s rough around some of the edges, but it’s also got a pretty solid foundation to build on.

While the popular gamer’s magazine, PC Gamer’s writer Craig Pearson summarised the game well when he previewed the game in the June edition:

A burning car drives past on two wheels. A tattooed, nipple-ring wearing thug leans out of the window, firing back at a wailing police car.

The game released 30th of June in the U.S., today the 1st of July in mainland Europe and will be available tomorrow, 2nd of July in the UK.

I’m Conot, a Criminal, on the Patriot server. Feel free to hit me up to go for some heists.

If you are already playing, you may want to read my post about APB: Customization. Watch this space for future articles as we explore the game.


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