Well folks, All Points Bulletin is dead as of Sept 16-2010. That sure didn’t take long and I’ve got to admit I’m not all that surprised. I found it amusing that the news post on the Realtime Worlds website said “End of an Era”. The Roman Empire lasted from 44BC to 1453. The British Empire went from 1583 to 1997. Those were eras. $100 million dollars for three and a half months of game uptime does not count as an era even in our short attention span digital age.
Lamenting and gnashing of teeth aside, it’s still a shame. So much potential unrealized, all that work and creativity for naught.
I had high hopes when I bought the game. I’d been looking forward to it for quite a long time. The premise is pretty sweet and it really looked like a massively multiplayer version of GTA4. Cops, robbers, fast cars, character and vehicle customizability, good graphics and a huge living city to rip around in. Maybe we were finally going to see a shooter MMO go somewhere?
Here’s where the idea fell apart though: An MMO needs replayability and hooks to draw players in. APB didn’t have replayability. Sure you can play it over and over but you’re performing the same missions over and over again. The game very quickly started to feel like you were trapped in Bill Murray’s character from Groundhog Day…. er.. but with guns and cars. There’s bad guys here. Go there. Shoot them. Go to the next point. Stop them there as well. Sometimes get an item from point A to point B. Rinse and repeat.
The bounty missions were interesting, where characters who gained too much notoriety would suddenly appear on the map on all the players in the city with a mission to terminate them. That led to some frantic firefights as the predators closed in for the kill and were among my favorite really, really neat moments. Hanging out the window of a ‘jacked car, firing a submachine gun at the guy who’s trying desperately just to stay alive for a few minutes and dozens of other vehicles weaving in and out of traffic and dodging (or not) pedestrians in hot pursuit. It was sweet.
When the game got it right it was amazing but sadly those moments were few and far between and certainly didn’t occur enough to make me want to spend any of my seldom available gaming time playing. Most of the game for me consisted of trying to get my car to go in the right direction consistently. The vehicles were terrible to drive and I just couldn’t get the hang of it no matter how much I tried. Sometimes it’d go perfectly and it was great. Flying around the city running over bad guys, bailing out into fire fights, running people off the road. Fantastic. More often I’d just be running into buildings. Curbs. Pedestrians I was actually trying to avoid. (Yes I was playing an Enforcer.) It was maddening.
The shooter mechanics weren’t well done either so when I wasn’t cursing at my complete inability to drift around corners in a cool manner a la Fast and the Furious I was cursing at my inability to hit anything. Or to take cover.
No wonder the fellows at Realtime Worlds suppressed reviews of the game until after it was out. I think they realized on launch that they had something that just wasn’t going to meet up to the hype…. Not by a long shot. They had a great concept that just never seemed to jell properly. If they could have just made the game so there were more of those really great “Oh my God I can’t believe I just did that!” moments they would have had something there. The fact that the company went into receivership just six weeks after the launch of their big game tells me that they most likely launched the game before it was ready, forced into it by financial constraints and probably by an impatient publisher.
Luke Halliwell (one of the devs from Realtime Worlds) wrote about where the whole thing went wrong. It’s an interesting look into what happened and how a company managed to spend $100 million developing a game. By anyone’s measure that’s a metric crapload of cash. There was a bit of talk about another company picking up the game, Epic Games seeming to come up the most but nothing seems to have come of it. A shame that someone didn’t pick it up, polish it and make it good. Maybe no one could come up with a cost feasible way to make it worth their time and effort. The game felt like they were very close to being on to something really good but just couldn’t quite get there.
RIP APB, RIP Realtime Worlds.