GDC 2013: How APB exploded into a franchise

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|03.31.13

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GDC 2013: How APB exploded into a franchise
GDC 2013 How APB exploded into a franchise
By now, pretty much everyone knows the story of how GamersFirst swept in to save the DOA All Points Bulletin by relaunching it as APB: Reloaded. Since then, the title's done immensely well for the company and has prompted Reloaded Games to look into turning APB into a bona fide franchise.

How this happened was explained to us by PR Manager Darek Connole at GDC. Connole said that the devs are constantly taking suggestions from the community and sorting them into different buckets. While some of the buckets represent doable ideas, one bucket is full of great ideas that are impossible to implement in the current game.

"We're taking the NPCs from APB: Reloaded and bringing them into their own game," Connole said. "It's going to be a traditional first-person shooter, but it's also going to have non-traditional elements."

Read on to discover how APB's world is going to get a lot more crazy with APB: Vendetta -- and how the team is even thinking about future games in the same world.

GDC 2013 How APB exploded into a franchise
FPS meets parkour

Connole wanted to stress just how different Vendetta was from your standard run-of-the-mill FPS. While it's got guns, the whole game is far more cinematic and athletic. Players can dual-wield weapons, slash with broken bottles, and jackrabbit around the field.

"We decided to look into the cooler aspects of culture and throw in things like parkour-type moves, like wall-running, wall-leaping, and sliding under buses," he said.

But that's not the limit of the craziness that Vendetta may hold. Time dilution and slow-downs (aka bullet time) will be parts of the core experience. Hey, if you're going to do awesome moves, you'll want to slow everything down so that you can appreciate it, right?

"The goal is to create a server-side instanced game centered around 12 characters," Connole said. "People will join a server and fight in one of nine different modes. The game will react differently depending on the character you pick."

Some of the modes he cited were traditional, like deathmatch and story, although one called action hero caught our attention. In this mode, the more players you kill, the tougher you become until you've transformed into a stereotypical action movie hero. That will make you a bigger target, of course, and if you're killed, then you revert back into your normal self.

Vendetta has around 10 maps to explore. They are Goldilocks in size: not too big and not too small.

GDC 2013 How APB exploded into a franchise
The business of business models

Unlike APB: Reloaded, APB: Vendetta is not going to take the free-to-play route. Instead, Reloaded Games is positioning the title as a buy-to-play product; you'll have to pay up front to purchase the client for $25, but after that you can play for free forever after. There are optional server rentals as well (starting at $5 a month) but no microtransactions whatsoever.

Reloaded Games CEO Bjorn Book-Larsson stepped into the conversation then to explain why the studio is branching out into a different business model. He said that in a fast-paced shooter environment, focusing on microtransactions to give players an edge would create a balance nightmare.

The team didn't want to saddle the game with that; instead, it hopes to deliver players the experience they want. That's why Vendetta will welcome mods for players to tinker with on their own servers. Want to overlay everything with Tron-style neon? Make it so that everyone can only use melee weapons? Block an annoying player? It's your server and you make the rules.

"While Reloaded is all about customizing your own characters, Vendetta is about customizing your own experience," Book-Larsson said.

The two APB titles will have a small degree of crossover going on beyond the game world itself. If players have a premium account in Reloaded, then they'll be granted an automatic premium server type in Vendetta. The two games will also share stories and key characters, so lore buffs will need to play both to get the full experience.

Vendetta will initially be released on the PC, although the team is looking to create a PlayStation 4 version for later on.

Growing by leaps and bounds

Reloaded Games might be small, but it's growing; Book-Larsson said that the studio's added one person a month over the past 20 months. Because the execs didn't want to touch the current Reloaded team for Vendetta, they went with the Kickstarter route to raise the fund for new developers.

"Of course, the moment we put the Kickstarter out there, the Reloaded team flipped out," Book-Larsson said. "They assumed that it meant the death of the game."

He sees these games as having a limited lifespan, with a free-to-play title lasting around eight to 10 years. To keep the studio and game world alive, then, the studio must add new titles in the same universe.

Will APB become, say, a strategy game? "It's funny you should ask that," Book-Larsson said. "We are considering other platforms." Other possibilities include licensing characters.

It's clear that Reloaded Games is in it for the long haul and that what we know of APB now might only be the tip of the franchise iceberg. We'll have to see where it all ends up eight to 10 years from now.

Massively sent its ace reporters to San Francisco to bring you back the biggest MMO news from this year's GDC, the largest pro-only gaming industry con in the world! Whether it's EVE Online or Star Wars: The Old Republic or that shiny new toy you've got your eye on, we're on the case, so stay tuned for all the highlights from the show!
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