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E3 2009: A look at APB's extensive character customization

Tracey John

There's been a lot of speculation about All Points Bulletin, the upcoming game from Crackdown developer Realtime Worlds, but at a closed-door demonstration at E3, we were finally able to take a good look at the game with lead designer EJ Moreland. And while many MMOs have detailed character customization, we've never seen anything quite like this.

During the video presentation of the game, Moreland said that the developers were focused on "the three C's" -- creativity, conflict and celebrity. The heart of APB is giving players the maximum flexibility to create what they want. Using the same customization tool that the developers use to make the thousands of NPCs in the game, players can modify their characters in a myriad of ways.

Gallery: E3 2009: APB | 7 Photos

To start off, players can choose their gender, skin color and physique. However, in order to stay true to a more realistic look, Moreland said that it would be extremely difficult to create "monstrosities," or to make characters with oddly disproportionate body parts (like so many games with slider options tend to do). Thus, while you can adjust cup-size, you can't make Dolly Parton-like breasts for the ladies (sorry). The high level of detail for the character customization doesn't just include body size: You can adjust visual minutiae such as freckles, vein protrusion and the direction your mohawk is pointed.

The same goes for the clothing selection. APB promises to have a multitude of clothes, with options that allow gamers to become fashion designers. The clothing starts off as neutral assets, but then it's up to players to color and layer their duds as they wish. This includes choosing the fabric, buttons, zippers, pockets and even stitching. You can also do things like have one pant leg rolled up or just wear one glove, Michael Jackson-style. As for vehicles, there are over 30 types of cars in the game, and players can choose from a variety of body kits, colors and paint styles to pimp their rides.

To top it off, with the vector-illustration tool you can add custom symbols to your character's clothing, cars and body as well as many objects in the world, like graffiti on buildings. When you're ready to place your symbols on objects, the tool takes the material into account. So when you place your graphics on leather clothing, dark and light skin, or the bumper of your car, for instance, it will adjust according to the location and material. Additionally, if you're placing a large graphic that's partially over a car window, the tool will make the window-overlapping part of the symbol transparent (after all, you do need to see through windows). Though the customization tools sound complex because the options are so in-depth, from the demo, they looked simple and intuitive to use.

But appearance isn't the only part of an APB character's personality. Thanks to a partnership with, Realtime Worlds is letting players share their musical tastes. When in your vehicle, you can drive around blasting your favorite tunes from your MP3 library. If other nearby players have the same song, they'll hear the music from your car stereo. However, if they don't, will play a similar artist in that genre. If licensed music isn't enough for you, you can use the game's music editor to create your own theme songs, which could play whenever you kill another player. You know, just to rub it in.

Celebrity is also an important part of APB. The game-makers wanted the players to not only look unique but to feel unique. Moreland promised that they'll be hundreds of leagues to rank in. "We want everyone in the game to feel famous about something," he said, "whether it's for the number of headshots, deaths or the amount of clothing sold."

As far as the gameplay, which is essentially the "conflict" part of APB, Moreland stressed that it was not story-driven but player-driven, and more about the world itself. Set in the open-world city of San Paro, players can chose to join one of two factions: the criminals or the enforcers. It's a cops-and-robbers dynamic, but there are no scripted events and everything that happens in the game depends on the players' actions. Moreland also said that the matchmaking in the game isn't lobby-based, but performance-based; if one player has a lot of experience, he or she may be matched up against four less experienced players for a challenge and a more organic, varied battle.

From what we've seen, Realtime Worlds has got big plans for APB with its "three C's" (creativity, conflict and celebrity). Though it certainly seems that they've got creativity and celebrity down pat, until we see more gameplay, the conflict part is still largely a mystery.

APB will be published by Electronic Arts and is slated for a Q1 2010 release on the PC.

For more on APB, check out our interview with EJ Moreland.

Massively is on the ground in Los Angeles this week and covering all the latest E3 MMO news coming from the convention. Check out our breaking coverage (or all the Joystiq network E3 reporting) and keep your eye on Massively's front page for the latest developments.

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