The upcoming criminals-vs.-vigilantes game All Points Bulletin holds the promise of being an absolutely chaotic rampage, where a hundred players lay waste to a sprawling urban environment. While that *seems* like it would be fun, for a while anyway, even the most destructive gamer incarnate of Jack Thompson's personal antichrist will ultimately grow tired of blowing stuff up. Fortunately, that's not what APB is going to be all about.
In fact, a closer look at this game can makes us wonder: Is it really possible to compare the unbridled carnage and hot coffee of Grand Theft Auto with the gameplay of ABP? Not really, according to Realtime Worlds creative director Dave Jones, who spoke about APB with Chris Kohler from Wired's GameLife blog. Jones told Wired, "There's nothing to compare it to, but that's kind of what we try to do with our games."
The example given is one of boosting a car as a criminal, which provides you with a mission objective: essentially 'get this car to the chop shop'. If you're spotted while stealing the car, though, an all points bulletin is sent out by the police. Enforcer players hear about your disregard for the concept of ownership and respond by hunting you down to intercept your 487-in-progress, so you'll find yourself racing through the city towards the chop shop with gun-toting vigilantes in hot pursuit. (Kohler writes that this is a two-way street, as enforcers will also have missions where criminals attempt to prey upon them.)
This means that smart criminals will avoid broad daylight smash-and-grabs or car jackings when possible, and will pick their targets carefully. A clever player will find they can succeed in all manner of outlaw adventures with some planning, some stealth, and maybe a little bit of luck as well.
Of course, being a criminal in APB doesn't mean you're necessarily part of one big maladjusted family. You'll likely also have run-ins with (other) gangs which can complicate things for you. This, and the potential for enforcers to be patrolling the streets undercover, may add another layer to the paranoia that eyes are on you as you commit your various felonies.
But what about that chaos we mentioned earlier? It turns out that players involved in missions are somewhat insulated from meddling by other players who are bystanders; they can't simply invade your mission. Jones says that an exception to this is using your vehicle to mess with players in a mission you're not involved with -- doing donuts and clipping other players or t-boning a getaway car comes to mind -- but you won't be able to actually shoot mission participants when you're not in that mission yourself, regardless of whether they're criminals or enforcers.
Don't despair though. For those who need their occasional fix of mindless, rampant devastation, All Points Bulletin understands and accepts that you're a deviant, and will offer this in the form of "chaos servers" -- places where, we hope, you can go on 5-star caliber crime sprees that would make even Tommy Vercetti blush with inadequacy.
Realtime Worlds is aiming for an All Points Bulletin release in early 2010, and Wired writes that there will be an Xbox 360 version to follow. The Wired piece, "Chaotic Multiplayer APB Will Make You a Smarter Criminal" offers more perspective on the game, right from Dave Jones himself. Definitely worth a look.