Brian Mardiney, Crispy Gamer
"APB" fails as an MMO because there is no progression aside from unlocking clothes, cars and guns
When "Grand Theft Auto III" debuted on the
While the dust has yet to settle, one thing we know for certain is that this was a very flawed game on every level. A massively multiplayer game has to function on two levels: gameplay and social atmosphere/style. The social aspect ties directly to the style and tone because it's all about what audience the game attracts. If you make a "My Little Pony" MMO, you have to know that you will be jumping into a legion of 6-year-old girls. This was "APB's" first big blunder.
"APB" was not marketed to me (or any adult), not even slightly. I simply can't relate to the world of killer tats, tricked out rides and punk hairstyles. So almost immediately upon loading the game, I inwardly sighed. Everything in "APB" was about graffiti and "edginess"; the "thug" lifestyle proudly displayed center stage. And what type of player does this atmosphere attract? The very nature of "thug" lifestyle implies a high level of teen rebellion, angst and immaturity. For some people, it's an unfortunate phase on the road to becoming a rational adult, but if you played this game for any amount of time, you had to soak in it, stew in it. Everything that turned me off about this game is exactly what attracted the racial-slur spewing, negligent parent-having boys (yes, only boys). And that is a recipe for disaster in any online community.
So APB failed in its first big test. How did it fair in the gameplay arena? The action was not so much "Grand Theft Auto" (story-based missions against AI opponents) as it was "Unreal Tournament" (mindless deathmatch against human opponents). You checked in with a handler, hit the button to toggle the "I'm ready to shoot people" status, and then off you went to attack or defend random parts of the city. There is a litany of problems with this approach. First off, there were no NPC enemies in the game. Everything was PvP. That means if you were online during off-peak hours, you ended up fighting the same person (singular) every mission, or worse still, no one at all. I'd spent a good hour total time just driving around randomly, waiting for people to log in so I could fight them. The second problem is that people never turned off their "ready" status, so lots of times, you were the only active player on your team since your teammates were in the bathroom or getting a sandwich or just off doing something more fun while they left their game running. This resulted in very uneven battles that produced a decided lack of fun in both directions. The people with the deficient team hated it because they were overwhelmed and died frequently, while the dominant team had a cakewalk - equally tiresome.
Driving was the only other gameplay draw besides shooting, and unfortunately, was just as unexciting. Because of server-side input recognition, you never got the sense that your wheels were even touching the ground as you slip and slide around the city. It wasn't like driving on ice, because at least there, you would have the sensation of driving over (inhospitable) terrain.
So with two nails in the coffin, APB was always destined for failure. The question was never "if" but "when". That's where pricing comes in. If your game is cheap enough and simple to pay for, you will always get a core contingent of people to stay with you. But "APB" spat in the faces of their customers by being overpriced and needlessly complicated. The
APB was not made for most people. The MMO crowd has dozens of better options to choose from, some of them are significantly better and free to boot, such as "Dungeons and Dragons Online." It fails as an MMO because there is no progression aside from unlocking clothes, cars and guns.
There's no character building at all and that's most of what keeps people playing and paying. Factor in the hyper-annoying adolescents and you have yourself a recipe for worst community in gaming. It also fails as an action game as, again, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of better single and multiplayer options out there (again, that are free after the initial purchase).
In reading some of the news that has leaked out, it appears that Realtime Worlds took their success for granted and spent ungodly amounts of money before the game had even launched under the assumption that they would have record Day One sales numbers. According to some estimates, they got one-tenth of what they were expecting, just to break even.
Half (or more) of the failure of "APB" was probably behind the scenes and we will never know the full truth. But what we can state, unequivocally, is that this game deserved to fail. And in the age of "too big to fail" government bailouts, sometimes it's a beautiful thing to witness a perfect cause and effect.
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