Mark Rein’s spent the last few days at Realtime World’s offices in Dundee, Scotland, playing what-Dave-Jones-did-next MMO, APB.
Want to know what it’s like? The Epic VP gave us an exclusive overview of what to expect at GDC Europe today. Hit the link.
VG247: You’ve spent the last few days playing APB?
Mark Rein: Oh, it’s fantastic.
Tell me about it.
It’s hard to describe. It’s everything you’d expect that sort of game to be. If the Rockstar guys ever made an MMO out of the best version of Grand Theft Auto, this would be it.
How shooty is it?
Very shooty. It’s really, really fun to shoot. There’s tons of weapons. That’s part of the whole game, is upgrading weapons all the time, upgrading your vehicles. All the customisation is completely awesome. The missions are a lot of fun. It’s very easy to play. Somebody who’s familiar with shooters will pick it up in seconds.
Its your typical WASD controls. You know, in Gears of War we have the A button? We call it the “anything button”. They have the F button. I nicknamed it the “frigging anything” button. Jumping over crates and climbing fences, climbing ladders and kicking in doors: that’s all with the F key. It’s very, very natural for shooter players.
Were you playing it online or on a LAN?
I think we were connected to a server in Stockholm. I was in there offices [In Dundee - Ed]. And the performance was excellent.
Did you play with the character customisation stuff?
I did, yeah. I kind of made a fool out of myself, putting a big M in the middle of my face. Before I got there, they made me in the game. I got to actually play as me. They put a “powered by Unreal technology” logo on my t-shirt. But then after a few minutes they made me take it off, because they were recording it. They’re going to show the play session here [In the EA press conference - Ed], the thing that I played with Chris Collins from Realtime Worlds. We have this back and forth banter. We played it, they recorded this one main session where they want to show everything all the way through, and then we banter about it afterwards. It was kind of fun.
When you start, you go into a character customisation bit at the beginning?
How long is it from there to actually playing the game?
Well, you don’t have to customise a character. They’ll just give you a random one if you want. It’s very easy. What’s really cool is that you can choose a main character and randomise a few things, like skin tone or face. There seem to be a lot of randomise buttons. I created a new character in, like, 15 minutes. It’s very easy. Probably the easiest I’ve ever seen.
The really impressive thing is that they’ve got this awesome stencilling system. They keep memory usage down by, instead of allowing you to just stick textures on – which, of course, would be a huge bottleneck online, as they have to send textures to everybody – they have all these stencils, and they do intersections and cuts of them, so people make really amazing logos out of cutting and pasting stencils and they remember the deltas of how you did it all.
It uses very little memory. It’s very cool. It’s surprisingly easy. I was shocked. It’s the same with the vehicles. You’ll be able to go and put graffiti on walls too.
The game itself is running around and killing people, right? Is it objective-based?
I hate to use GTA, because the comparisons are so obvious, but it’s similar to that. You get missions. You pledge allegiance; you can either be an enforcer, or a criminal, and you pledge allegiances to contacts. If you’re an enforcer, then your contacts are sometimes police, sometimes they’re vigilante characters, and they give you missions. You can actually play the game in single-player if you wanted to, but with all these other real, live players going on around you.
That’s the most impressive thing. We’re driving around, we’re going on a mission, and there’s this big crime scene going on over here. And we’re in the middle of a firefight, but we’re not involved in it. That’s basically the way it works. You can call in back-up, real live players, and the system automatically matches you up against enforcer or criminals in that mission. They’re always real people. They’re never NPCs.
Say you’re an enforcer and it matches you up against a villain, does it then show you where the villain is?
Once they start shooting at you, they start to appear on your compass, but if they haven’t shot at you and they’re being stealthy, they’re sneaking up on you. But it’s really cool. You can call in other groups. The social aspects of it are dead easy. Being able to get into a group or invite people into a group, see what your friends are doing: that stuff works really well.
They actually have a social server, with no missions going on, and that’s where you can do customisation. There’s going to be an auction house in there where you can actually sell items you’ve made or earned throughout the game. They have a pretty cool little social environment. You can watch movies, things like that. Comparable to PlayStation Home, but more of a real game environment than that.
Out of ten, how pumped are you?
Eleven. I’m serious. I might be one of the best games I’ve ever played. And I’m not just saying that because it uses our engine. It is unbelievable. After the first night of playing, all I could think about was playing it again. And I have a log-in now. So I can play.