The coverage on APB has been ramping up lately here at MMORPG.com as the urban crime MMO continues to turn player's heads. At PAX East we got a demo of the game from Social Media and Community Manager Chris Collins. Chris gave us a run through of the customization aspects of the game as well as talked us through some PvP in the Financial District. The look and feel of APB is fast and furious. Guns, crime, cars, and combat make this MMO that rivals Grand Theft Auto in its intensity, read our interview with Dave Jones if you have any issues with that comparison.
APB claims host to 100 players in an instance and 100,000 players in a city. This quantifies it as an MMO and the urban crime setting allows Criminals and Enforcers to battle it out. There are no official police as the Enforcers fill that role, but the Enforcers do have the right to stun gun you and hand cuff you which can really slow things down. The criminals do not get this ability. The other advantage is that you do not know who the Enforcers are until an APB goes out on you and someone is assigned to stop you. This is an environment that Chris said they hope will create rivalries between Enforcer players and their Criminal nemesis.
You do not have to choose your faction right away. It is something you can build into as you get comfortable with your character. Each city has three districts: Social, Financial, and Waterfront. The Social district is for players to hang out, customize their look and plot their next crime wave. The Financial and Waterfront Districts serve as the area for missions and objectives. These zones are bustling with crime and enforcement trying to stop each other. Once a character calls for backup on either side, then the groups are now in opposition and fights can ensue. The escalation of crime vs. enforcement in these zones is a major part of the game. It can get up to the point where 20 vs. 20 is going on and that is an all out gang war. Chris mentioned they do have the ability to add more districts, but these were the ones at launch.
We got a chance to see some of the car customization, which looked amazing. Players can earn money to buy different cars in the game and customize them into some awesome get away vehicles or just all out tanks. Everything from Minis to Muscle Cars was available.
One of the biggest questions we asked Chris was if the sides were evenly matched between Enforcers and Criminals. This was something Real Time Worlds had worried about as well so they put mechanics in the game so that Criminals, who they expect will be more popular, can fight each other. However, in the beta tests they found that the split was 50/50 so it may be a moot point. They hope the trend in beta will continue into production and an equal number of Enforcers and Criminals will be squaring off in the urban warzone.
Another question that came up was the concept of player experience. How can a new player compete against some of the top players in the game? Chris explained that overall there is a 20% difference from a new player to a veteran. Also, that the game is very skill based, so players are all on an equal field. Even a new player can take out a master criminal if they play the game right. It is all a matter of skill.
The game is in third person but plays like a fast paced shooter. The action we saw of people getting mugged, shooting at each other and driving over pedestrians moved very quickly. The zones were designed to be easy to navigate so no one has to hit a map key. Right now the game is all shooting but the team plans to put some melee into the mix at some point in the future.
For players, there will definitely be leader boards and ranking systems. Clans will get rankings as well. Players who do well will get statues in the Social District and gain in notoriety. Also, if players do really well there is a Bounty that can be placed on their heads. If a player gets a bounty, they cannot hide; everyone will get reports on where they are. If you truly become an arch criminal, it can get tough on all sides.
APB is exciting and fast paced. It is a game that definitely falls into the MMO framework, but has many differences from MMOs the way we are used too. If MMOs and Grand Theft Auto had a kid... it would be APB. In our frustration we all thought a fantasy game in this style would be awesome for PvP players. Hopefully the Beta will be open soon, and then we'll see a whole new world to battle in.