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APB: What it was and what GamersFirst hopes APB: Reloaded will be


With the news of APB rising from the grave as APB: Reloaded, Joystiq spoke with GamersFirst's CTO and COO Bjorn Book-Larsson. The company is a free-to-play publisher which maintains a steady following and, as you can imagine, we were left with plenty of questions following the announcement -- the biggest being: why?

APB was largely seen as a failure, both commercially and critically. It was called "ambitious" by some, which may have been its biggest problem. But for Book-Larsson, it's all about opportunity. "We think of it as an opportunity," he told Joystiq. "It's worth our effort to take it and combine it with all of the user data we have and let the game take its time to reach its full potential."

We always thought it was kinda nutty you had to pay for access- Bjorn Book-Larsson

Its "full potential" includes several monetization efforts in line with the usual free-to-play model. First, APB: Reloaded is a chance to offer a different type of shooter to fans of GamersFirst's other shooter, WarRock. It's a first-person shooter with low system requirements that has a decent following online (most of its players hail from Germany), but what APB: Reloaded will be able to do is offer a third-person shooter experience to those players, granted their system can run it. Secondly, GamersFirst will look to offer the game to new regions -- specifically, South America.

"The original release already had Italian, French, Spanish, English, Russian -- it had several different language versions. We'll offer it to those regions, definitely, but one of the new regions we'll add it to will be something like South America; we have a presence in Brazil." But the big challenge in doing that is system requirements. Because APB runs on Unreal Engine 3 and is a high-end game, its mass market appeal is somewhat diminished because, well, not everybody can play it.

Book-Larsson detailed a fix: if they can't run APB, have them check out WarRock. "APB has pretty high system requirements and our other shooter game has low system requirements, so what we might end up doing is once you have our downloader, look at your hardware and have it help determine what game you get." This is something Book-Larsson says is a short-term resolution and GamersFirst is considering retooling the game into two different versions: a "starter" game and an "enthusiast" version. "It's sort of similar to what EVE Online did originally, where you basically had a starter version and an enthusiast version," he offered.

As for gameplay itself, all Action Districts will now be openly accessible. "We always thought it was kinda nutty you had to pay for access -- we understood why, because the back-end server requirements is kinda high for running stuff in the Action District." For GamersFirst, the goal is to get you in and playing as long as you can "because at some point you're going to run into a situation where you'll want to spend money."

We're open to contacting former employees for consulting gigs to bring the game back online again, but I think a large chunk of people had to move on because it was a kind of heart-crushing experience for them. - Bjorn Book-Larsson

And what of returning players? There wasn't much Book-Larsson could offer in the way of hope, though he did say his company is considering ways to help those players reclaim their virtual identity. "It gets kinda tricky -- we'll work and see if there's a way we can do it. One of the ways, which is not clear yet, is to potentially recover some character information that's already there and maybe let people reclaim some of those characters. But at the end of the day, people are going to have to make new accounts on our services. We'll work as closely as we can with the original folks to get some of the rights to that original character data." Those efforts would involve reaching out to some ex-Realtime Worlds employees, without a doubt. Book-Larsson sounded very open to the idea.

"Most of the Realtime Worlds guys have scattered for the winds. We've talked to a few of them and we're open to contacting former employees for consulting gigs to bring the game back online again, but I think a large chunk of people had to move on because it was a kind of heart-crushing experience for them. For those that still have the passion for seeing it through, we're interested in talking to them."

It gives one hope, but it seems that hope is all GamersFirst has going for it right now. It's hopeful it can tailor the game to its model and strike success where there has only been failure -- as subjective as that failure may be in the eyes of some. But that's essentially the free-to-play model in a nutshell: put something out there, hope people like it and respond with their wallets. For APB: Reloaded, that hope is firmly placed in the six-to-twelve months of post-release support GamersFirst is planning following re-launch, including new content.

"There are things like a racing mode that was never released and other snippets of content and districts never released. Really our first goal is to get the game up and live again, that's number one. If we can cross that hurdle, we'll release the native patch, which was never released by Realtime, then modify that patch to at least promote a few basic monetization things, like a premium account access mode and a gun leasing mode. If we can do those two things, then beyond that there's a whole slew of stuff to do next."

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