The biggest issues were balance, progression, missions, shooting and driving.” For a game almost exclusively about shooting, driving, missions and progression, that's a fairly damning statement. I'd only asked APB Reloaded's Jon-Enee Merriex to name one problem with Realtime Worlds' game, the bones of which GamersFirst are resurrecting as a free-to-play title.
Jon-Enee qualifies his words: “Those parts weren't terrible. They just didn't add up. The 'feel' of the game wasn't right.” As producer on APB Reloaded, it's these floaty concepts that he and his team are focusing on. “We have no interest in creating a new game from scratch, or a direct copy of some other game. Old players will log back in and find the game they loved, just spruced up a lot.”
APB's all-important driving and shooting were wheezy – how will GamersFirst spruce that? Zak Littwin – ex-QA lead for Realtime Worlds and now lead designer on the reboot: “Now when you turn, your vehicle turns instantly, instead of taking a second for the wheels to move before the car does. We've also given each vehicle its own unique handling.”
Jon-Enee doesn't miss a chance to lambast the original APB. “Various basic decisions simply didn't make sense to us, like giving players a crap starter car.” Players now get the keys to a two-door coupe. “They have some of the best handling in the game,” says Zak.
As for shooting, both aim and camera positioning have been wiggled, bringing the game closer to a standard shooter in weight. “We've also adjusted recoil and weapon balance, as well as changed the upgrade system so both guns and vehicles can only have one upgrade of a certain category at a time.” This could potentially prevent top level players wielding weaponry orders of magnitude better than their noobish peers, but whether that'll work when players pay for item rental remains to be seen.
Next on Zak's laundry list of overhauls: missions – originally just a case of driving to a place and pressing F on a thing. “Instead of adding hundreds of new missions, we're focusing on adding a few interesting ones. There are also new game modes, like Bank Heist, Turf War, and DJ Battle.” Completing missions will create meaningful progression: Reloaded's aim is 'purposeful end-game PvP'. Players will be split into districts, with sectors that Jon-Enee describes as 'buckets' home to different skill levels. Lower-skill players can jump up a level to join their chums, but predatory monsters can't dip into lower buckets to have their fill of noobs.
I'm not sure whether they'll be able to lure back players burnt by the game the first time around, but at least they've identified the biggest problems and are launching themselves at them, face-first.