Friday, April 19, 2013

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Today we're going to officially reveal all the new stuff that's coming out in the next release. It's content - BIG content - so get excited!

Shake that asset

Customization is one of the core features of APB Reloaded, and it's also one of the main reasons that our game is so unique. There's no other game that allows you to customize virtually every aspect of the game in as much detail as APB:R, and every time we speak to someone about what they like about the game, customization is one of the first things mentioned. We have a dedicated art team that are always hustling to bring more clothing, weapons and vehicles to the game, and today we’re going to look at some of the fruits of their labor.

The average clothing asset takes one of our artists about three weeks to create. Every item needs to be prototyped, modeled in high poly, normal mapped, modeled in a low poly version next, and then have color masks created for it - all of this before going into testing. There are other steps, but we won't go into the details of that just now.

We asked Tim, one of our Senior Artists, about his time working on the clothing in APB Reloaded. "Each item presents us with a different series of challenges. One of the strangest difficulties is being able to find a way to make an item of clothing that looks unique and very cool, but also generic enough that you can customize and do plenty of different things with it," said Tim. His favorite clothing item he's created for APB:R is the jumpsuits for the new Bishada packs, and his favorite item ever created by our team is the Desert Scarf (which was created by another Senior Artist).

Speaking of which, here's another image for your viewing pleasure:

Something that’s become fairly critical to our team is trying to get a stronger sense of parity between the genders and factions in APB:R. At the moment, male characters have far more clothing items than female characters, so some of the old assets that weren’t released are awaiting creation of female counterparts. We’re finally getting through some of the backlog of old items though, which means that the Desert Scarf is, at long last, on the list for the next release!

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

A while back, we showed everyone a piece of concept art that showed the new, cross-faction Bishada Rapier. Since then, our vehicle team has been hard at work turning that concept into a reality, and we’re really excited with the final product. So, ladies and gentlemen, the Reloaded Team is proud to present to you the first official images of the new Bishada Kissaki and Bishada Mako!

When we design a new vehicle pack like this, we tend to think about it in terms of how the two sides play off each other.We like to think of the Enforcers being better funded than their Criminal counterparts – Criminals tend to have to work their equipment out of gear that’s believably available on the open market. Enforcers should be capable of getting their hands on more military spec and specialized equipment. While this isn’t a rule that we treat as gospel, it’s something that we run with when possible, and we feel that the hybrid we managed to achieve with the Criminal Bishada is great. A lot of the styling for the vehicle was provided by our Senior Vehicle Artist as something akin to his dream car.

The latest addition to APB Reloaded’s arsenal – The Nekrova N-SSW, which we mentioned in a recent post, will also be released in an upcoming update. We’ll be bringing two versions of this gun to the game: one version that’s obtainable through the Armas Marketplace and another version that’s obtainable through Joker Tickets. 

We’re shaking things up a bit in our next post, with a Q&A session where we lovingly interrogate our Audio Engineer about the Artist Program (and his guilty music pleasures - Prefab Sprout anyone? Google it if you don't already know...), so stay tuned!

Friday, April 12, 2013

From Your Mouth to Our Ears

It's crunch time once again at Reloaded Games. It’s been a pretty hectic week with "Settle the Score" getting ready to make its way out the door, not to mention the recent announcement of APB Vendetta. You should check out the Vendetta Kickstarter (if you haven't already), to find out more about the exciting game in the making, inspired by the APB Reloaded universe.

But first stick around!

We're going to talk about the process of how our Community team reports issues and ideas from our forums, twitter, Facebook and blog back to our Development team. We're also officially introducing you to the new Contact, Speedball, who will be joining us in the version 11 update.

Manning the Floodgates

One of the things that we're really working on this year is the quality and frequency of communication that goes on between Reloaded Games and our community. We're constantly striving for new and better ways to communicate with you guys, and it’s always good to see feedback on our efforts, be it positive, negative or (in some cases) outright weird.

Trouble is, there’s a lot of information coming in, so the community team needs to filter through a lot of the noise and try and get the strongest signal to pass along to the development team. What are the real concerns or ideas that the majority cares about the most, and how do we tackle those ideas?

We have a page on our Reloaded internal wiki that details the top ten issues in the community with links on how we intend to actually fix those issues. We're aiming to start crossing off more and more of these throughout the year. Some of the issues that we've got plans for are (in no particular order): server performance, new content, mission balancing, and in-mission spawning.

Cool Community Stats

We keep track of a lot of stats in APB Reloaded – just about everything that players can do in the game is tracked and collated into spreadsheets that we access and use to analyze player behavior. Recently we compared a list of the most lethal weapons over a week long period on Joker NA East before the weapon balance patch, and then again after the weapon balance patch when we saw a similar number of players on.

Over a 24 hour period on NA East we saw 203,055 kills; that’s 141 player deaths per minute. The most lethal weapon in the game was (prior to the weapon balance patch) the NTEC-5 with the STAR 556 coming in a close second. Shotguns accounted for slightly more kills after the balance patch than they did before, and the STAR and the NTEC had swapped places. Keep in mind that these stats don't reflect the lethality of particular weapons, rather they reflect their popularity. These stats also didn't include kills caused by vehicle explosions that were triggered from weapon damage.

Also, the total number of Easter Eggs delivered this year was a staggering 10,543,233 - that's over 8 eggs per second for the entire duration of the Easter Event! The person that delivered the most eggs was Colby’s DonCostello. Well done DonCostello, you had some tough competition!

The New Dealer

Who's this new Contact hanging out in Social? His name is Speedball and he works for the new faction, Joker Associates.

Speedball is a character that we're very proud of because everything about him has come from the community! The appearance of the character was taken from the winner of the Almost Famous contest that was run on the APB Reloaded forums for Reloaded Day 2013. His look and biography was created by Darrell Kayne from Obeya, his voice was provided by Bumbleton from Joker, and the outfits that he sells at the moment were created by players from all over the game.

Speedball will be selling player made content for various upcoming Joker Associates contests, as well as stuff that we find in the community that we think the rest of the world deserves to see and use. If you think you make stuff that other players would love to have, then keep an eye on the APB Reloaded forums for more Joker Associates contests in the near future for your chance to win. Together we can all help Speedball build a decent stockpile!

Winners of Joker Associates contests will get listed as the creator of the item in-game, and they'll be sent the new, super-exclusive Joker Associates weapon skin (props to Vivianne from the APB Reloaded forums for the inspiration on this skin!), as modeled by Gumball below. So far only twelve people in the entire game have this weapon skin, so it really is as exclusive as it gets!

That’s everything from the Community team for now. We hope this has given you some insight on what we do and how we work, as well as helping to bring you up to date on the latest in 1.11. Our next blog post will be up soon and should have details about a much requested item that’s finally going to see a release. Some sort of… dessert scarf? How the heck would you wear a dessert sca - 

Oh... right. Desert Scarf.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Settle the Score - Version 11

Earlier last month we announced we were working on "Settle the Score" - the Version 11 update (a.k.a update 1.11). We've been a bit coy about the fine details on this update, mostly because there were a few things still being finalised for release. We know everyone's been waiting in anticipation for more info so today we're going to show you some of the things that are absolutely pinned down and ready to go!

To start - there's a whole new Scoring System and two new weapons – the LMG and a shiny new secondary weapon. There’s plenty more going into this update, but here's the scoop of what's been finalized so far to get your appetite started.

New Weapons

This is the Nekrova Squad Support Weapon, a brand new LMG. It’s Nekrova’s first entry into the field of Light Machine Guns and it’s a hybrid of the ALIG 762, SHAW 556, and the N-TEC. Less damage than the ALIG and a slower rate of fire than the SHAW, but a much faster setup time. Other LMG’s suppress from a stationary position and are really effective, but this weapon’s more about mobility – it’s an LMG you can sprint with to get into position quickly before setting up and pouring the pain on your enemies.

The Flare Gun has been a concept that we've been throwing around for a while now. It’s a secondary weapon that we think every team is going to want one of, and it's going to be a total game changer during missions! It carries four shots at the moment, but these bullets aren't like anything else in the game – they bounce and explode causing very light damage (don't worry, it’s less damage than a perc.)

The real beauty of this weapon is that the flare tags every enemy in line of sight of the explosion on your radar and HUD. It’s an AOE tagger and can change the flow of any match by highlighting your enemies for the rest of your team. It’s the ideal support weapon and a must have for San Paro's elite groups.

New Scoring System

(Edited Section on 4/5/13.)

Ever since the start of APB Reloaded’s development, we've wanted to make player performance more of a factor in how you get matched up. One of our earliest tasks in the bug database (the 19th task that was brought into the database, in fact) was to simplify the scoring system and expose what it did to the player.

Version 11, introduces a whole new version of the score mechanic – everything you do while on Mission will count towards your score and your score will count towards your Threat. As you can guess, this feature inspired the name for the update - "Settle the Score."

Here’s the current system (this is a really, really simplified version):
You ready up, you get into a match and you win the match. Your threat goes up a little bit. If you lose your threat level goes down.

This is an ‘okay’ system. It works fine, but it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of edge cases. What if you lose because someone called for back-up with a minute left on the clock? What if you stomp on the other team but lose at the last second? What if the other guy on your team does really badly? And why should that guy get to be gold if they're getting carried there?

While some of those edge cases are covered (players called into a mission late only receive a fraction of the penalty) we can do better. These are the sorts of edge cases that we really want to address with the new system.

From Version 11 onward, when you kill an enemy player you get 100 score. Objective completion scores vary depending on the task. When you're near an objective getting completed you get 75 score for providing cover to your team mates. You get more score for kill streaks, blitzkriegs, arrests, stuns, freeing teammates, and vehicular kills. You get a major chunk of score for winning a match and a lot of score even if you lose.

At the end of each Mission the system will rank everyone according to their Score (people that win matches get a bonus to their score that averages around the same amount of Score as about five kills). The Threat system looks at everyone’s score and then ranks them against each other as if it were a free-for-all match. While it’s likely that the team that won will have the most score, it’s not always the case. We've seen occasions on OTW where the losing side had higher individual scores but these were when matches were incredibly close calls.

If you're below a certain threshold in score events or participation then your score and rewards are nulled. If you AFK through a Mission you gain zero cash, zero standing and zero threat. If you join a Mission very late but don’t have time to interact with anything (even things that don't score itself, like damaging other players), you won't gain or lose any threat at the end of the Mission.

Score also factors into your rewards after a Mission. If you play really hard, then you get a bigger cash reward – in fact, you get a percentage of your score as a cash reward up to a Mission-determined maximum. Getting a significant amount of score in one match compared to everyone else won't move your threat any more than a very close win but it will give you a significant amount of cash as a bonus.

So there you have it folks - the first round of feature and content details on "Settle the Score" Version 11 update! Don't forget to stay tuned for an upcoming post where our Community Team will share some cool APB Reloaded statistics we’ve gathered, and chat about the process of how community feedback gets filtered through to Development.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of the new Joker contact. Enjoy!