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Death of a Game - APB

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Doctor Tyche
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Death of a Game - APB

For those who did not know, one of the games we studied heavily in developing CoT was Realtime Worlds' APB. While the game itself was, simply put, weak, it featured the most advanced character creation system in a massively multiplayer game. But, there are other lessons to be learned from APB, and more importantly, it's failure.

The short version is that APB cost nearly $100 million in development, and likely led to the bankruptcy of Realtime Worlds when it failed to catch on with the gaming public. But the underlying issues come not from the development side, but the company.

NerdSlayer's latest video covers APB, and I highly think the insights given may be helpful to those of you curious about several of the decisions MWM has made over the years. We do not want to repeat the mistakes others have made before, no matter how tempting the carrot is.

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Read enough Facebook and you have to make Sanity Checks. I guess FB is the Great Old One of the interent these days... - Beamrider

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The real problem was that

The real problem was that Realtime Worlds was based in Dundee! :-p

Are there any points you'd particularly like to highlight, Doc? I find the production values of that video (especially the voiceover quality) too off-putting to endure for 30 min. IMO this is the kind of video that makes a great case for the written word.

Spurn all ye kindle.

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I was in the earlier CBTs it

I was in the earlier CBTs it was well polished at that point which I think is why somethings didn't get ironed out, they were in too deep to make changes. I didn't play it when it went live. Cost and time were factors. It was a good concept but there were a lot of parts that were not working to the best of their ability. Balance, driving, were weak and those two are 90% of the game. I did join after it shuttered and was picked up for FTP. I didn't stick around for long as a lot of the customization options were behind the pay wall. If they had done better they could have really put the squeeze on GTA online, or at least skimmed a sizable portion of that user base.

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One thing I noticed that APB

One thing I noticed that APB had in its character creator was the ability to take a chest symbol shape (the five-pointed star) and use it as a stencil with which to make a shape in some texture or skin pattern. The guy in the video ends up wearing a t-shirt with a star on it, but it looks "distressed", like an old t-shirt would look. I assume you could have make that star shape out of mesh, felt, fur, brushed steel, rubber, leather, burlap, steel diamond plate, etc if those skins/textures existed for use in the character creator.

That would be one SERIOUSLY cool thing to have in CoT, if we could pull it off.

R.S.O. of Phoenix Rising

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Radiac wrote:
Radiac wrote:

... the ability to take a chest symbol shape (the five-pointed star) and ... I assume you could have make that star shape out of ... fur ... if those skins/textures existed for use in the character creator.

That would be one SERIOUSLY cool thing to have in CoT, if we could pull it off.

*perks up ears*

*raises head*

*purrs cajolingly*

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Cinnder wrote:
Cinnder wrote:

Are there any points you'd particularly like to highlight, Doc?

I am going to take a not so wild stab at saying skip to the 30:00 mark.

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Cinnder wrote:
Cinnder wrote:

I find the production values of that video (especially the voiceover quality) too off-putting

This YT guy needs to work on how he scripts his video. Creative Writing classes can do wonders. Writing in a style like you are conveying exasperation in a conversation does not translate well (especially if your delivery is lacking). Also, if he is going to read written comments, it would help to actually read the words that were written. It would also help the viewer to graphically highlight the quote instead of just showing a full screen of block text. If he tightened up the scripting, this video could have been shortened to 15-20 minutes, and that is much more digestible in a YouTube format.

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My take away from that video,

My take away from that video, apart from making me want "cookie cutter" shapes we can make out of a myriad of different types of stuff now, is that APB was woefully mismanaged after it got picked up by a big corporation and part of the problem was that they grew too big too fast and couldn't manage that effectively. The game might have turned out better if they remained a small indy label and kept it tight, instead of accepting $100M and trying to make a game worthy of that kind of investment, with all the red tape and bureaucratic BS that comes with it.

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I think the biggest point the

I think the biggest point the narrator tried to make is that no matter how amazing the character creator was, nor how interesting and desired the concept was; without a good game under the hood it will not succeed. Oh, and make sure a business person is responsible for the business decisions, not the creative lead.

Another point he made was not to make it pay to win.

...but Trion has figured out that as long as they get enough whales to pay to win, it doesn't matter how many free to play riders complain about the game.

Potential Titans:
Trap Spider - the little spider rides a big robot
Thunderbird Priest - conduit of the Thunderbird spirit
Lovebot - programmed to love man, gives tough love to mankind
Schwarzchild - singularity-manipulating time traveller is lost

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But also, I am concerned if

But also, I am concerned if DrT equates indie developer with what they are doing (distributed crowd source-y volunteer effort).

There is a difference between being 'picked up by a big corporation' and just getting $100M thrown at you. I don't know the details of the APB project, but if you just dump that much money on someone without due diligence the blame rests on the people doing the dumping.

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I believe in our City of

I believe in our City of Tabbies Devs, and this vid has illustrated to me some of the landmines and pitfalls that they have to traverse in order to give us a fun game. As nice as it would be for MWM to get a Daddy Bigbucks to back their CoT project, it could be a double-edged sword and, if not properly managed, could cause things to implode, regardless of how much positive energy is directed toward our beloved Devs, who have donated 4 years' worth of time and effort and personal sacrifice.

*hugs entire Dev team, both past and present*

Fank-mew!

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Huckleberry wrote:
Huckleberry wrote:

I think the biggest point the narrator tried to make is that no matter how amazing the character creator was, nor how interesting and desired the concept was; without a good game under the hood it will not succeed. Oh, and make sure a business person is responsible for the business decisions, not the creative lead.
Another point he made was not to make it pay to win.
...but Trion has figured out that as long as they get enough whales to pay to win, it doesn't matter how many free to play riders complain about the game.

The big problem is, what's considered the good game under the hood?

I'd wager there are many on this forum who do not consider games such a WoW. What about those games that fail, go FTP and suddenly everyone is like "I always liked it!" nevermind they couldn't be bothered to play it when it wasn't FTP.

There were many who didn't consider CoH a good game and most on this forum likely do.

I'm still of the thought that CoT won't hit big sustaining numbers with what we've seen so far, but I'm not even sure they're trying for those. :p

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I have every confidence that

I have every confidence that the Devs will add lots of polish once the core elements are properly adjusted "under the hood". I am sure that the current mannequins will eventually look like our heroic avatars once the proper skins are applied.

Keep up the great works, my dear Devs!

*hugglecates and headbonkinates the Devs, individually and in groups*

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Huckleberry
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Brand X wrote:
Brand X wrote:

The big problem is, what's considered the good game under the hood?
I'd wager there are many on this forum who do not consider games such a WoW. What about those games that fail, go FTP and suddenly everyone is like "I always liked it!" nevermind they couldn't be bothered to play it when it wasn't FTP.
There were many who didn't consider CoH a good game and most on this forum likely do.
I'm still of the thought that CoT won't hit big sustaining numbers with what we've seen so far, but I'm not even sure they're trying for those. :p

I believe it is far less subjective than you think. We are not talking about what kind of game they designed, we are talking about game design fundamentals of the kind of game they did design..
If you watched the video, the narrator was quite specific about what was NOT a good game:

  • cars that drove like boats
  • little tactile weapon feel
  • repetitive content
  • poor storytelling
  • unfinished feel

you can go to 7:54, 13:15 in the video, but he really gets into it at the 19:00 minute mark.

Potential Titans:
Trap Spider - the little spider rides a big robot
Thunderbird Priest - conduit of the Thunderbird spirit
Lovebot - programmed to love man, gives tough love to mankind
Schwarzchild - singularity-manipulating time traveller is lost

Kiyori Anoyui
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"cars that drove like boats"

"cars that drove like boats"

*shudders*

I'm having GTA 4 flashbacks

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Brand X
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Huckleberry wrote:
Huckleberry wrote:

Brand X wrote:
The big problem is, what's considered the good game under the hood?
I'd wager there are many on this forum who do not consider games such a WoW. What about those games that fail, go FTP and suddenly everyone is like "I always liked it!" nevermind they couldn't be bothered to play it when it wasn't FTP.
There were many who didn't consider CoH a good game and most on this forum likely do.
I'm still of the thought that CoT won't hit big sustaining numbers with what we've seen so far, but I'm not even sure they're trying for those. :p
I believe it is far less subjective than you think. We are not talking about what kind of game they designed, we are talking about game design fundamentals of the kind of game they did design..
If you watched the video, the narrator was quite specific about what was NOT a good game:cars that drove like boats
little tactile weapon feel
repetitive content
poor storytelling
unfinished feel
you can go to 7:54, 13:15 in the video, but he really gets into it at the 19:00 minute mark.

Only one video has given me any hope on combat, while all the rest as left me feeling "Little tactile weapon feel".

Looking at the characters running, it looks like people that run like snails.

We have no idea of the possible repetitive content or poor storytelling or even if it will have an unfinished feel or not.

I saw the concept art for Blade & Soul and thought, "OMG! THIS GAME WILL KICK ASS!" and for me, it really did, it just lacked a good pay model and progression system.

I can't say CoT has had any moment of that yet. All it's had is "I hope it's better than the other super hero mmo's we have out there now that CoH is gone"

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I wanted to share this

I wanted to share this because in a real way, it was a perfect storm of conditions which sunk the game. In 24 days, I'll be meeting several game developers at PAX. This video is timing perfect to help remind me of what pitfalls I need to avoid.

And Brand X, I know what you're talking about IRT running like snails, and I have to tell you that you're right. I am just grateful that the particular system which causes that is inherited from Unreal, and is due to be replaced. We've shown off the early portions of that but not the finished product.

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Doctor Tyche wrote:
Doctor Tyche wrote:

I wanted to share this because in a real way, it was a perfect storm of conditions which sunk the game.

It sounded like the guy in charge didn't know how to figure out what he didn't know. No peer review. He developed a culture where 'creative genius' was seen as an answer for everything (or people around him just didn't ask questions).

Huckleberry
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Brand X wrote:
Brand X wrote:

Only one video has given me any hope on combat, while all the rest as left me feeling "Little tactile weapon feel".
Looking at the characters running, it looks like people that run like snails.
We have no idea of the possible repetitive content or poor storytelling or even if it will have an unfinished feel or not.
I saw the concept art for Blade & Soul and thought, "OMG! THIS GAME WILL KICK ASS!" and for me, it really did, it just lacked a good pay model and progression system.
I can't say CoT has had any moment of that yet. All it's had is "I hope it's better than the other super hero mmo's we have out there now that CoH is gone"

I believe you are referring to videos of City of Titans, yes? While I do not agree with the running like snails observation, I do agree with your other statements. Although it appears MWM does agree with that observation, so I guess I need to work on my observation skills.

I felt the same with Blade & Soul. I thought combat was very fun and rewarding.
Watching the animators make combat animations for Camelot Unchained during Twitch livestreams has been great. I even convinced one of the animators to make the character's head and arms to dip a bit when landing from a running jump.

Despite it being an action combat game, Blade & Soul was not a button masher like most people think it would be. Because it was all about openings, blocks and feints. So, in my mind it was an improvement over TERA, which was itself an impactful, visceral combat experience.

But I don't think we need to have an action combat system to have a good visceral feel for combat in CoT. Good impact sounds and animation that looks like it contains power, grace and balance are going to make the difference. Some people have claimed that CoX had good impactful combat. I somewhat agree. The sounds and ragdoll physics during knockbacks were good, but the fact that no one ever reacted to getting hit left a lot missing for me. I would hope that CoT would include a visual as well as audible feedback of some sort when characters and their opponents are hit hard enough. I'm not talking about the ineffectual punches of low level trash, I'm talking about something that would take X% hit points before mitigation. But now I've gone off a bit on a tangent.

Potential Titans:
Trap Spider - the little spider rides a big robot
Thunderbird Priest - conduit of the Thunderbird spirit
Lovebot - programmed to love man, gives tough love to mankind
Schwarzchild - singularity-manipulating time traveller is lost

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Huckleberry wrote:Despite it
Huckleberry wrote:

Despite it being an action combat game, Blade & Soul was not a button masher like most people think it would be. Because it was all about openings, blocks and feints. So, in my mind it was an improvement over TERA, which was itself an impactful, visceral combat experience.

I never played Blade and Soul, but I did play TERA and Neverwinter Online around the same time. I can't say that I liked the combat system in either of them. I just have a preference towards tab-targetting style, similar to CoH/V and The Secret World (TSW). So I can't say I'm in love with the combat system they put into Secret World Legends (SWL) with it being a departure from their previous combat system and more like something in a FPS/TPS to appeal to players of those genres to hopefully bring them into an "action RPG".
It makes me glad that CoT has made an effort to compromise between the two systems.

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Well it just goes to show ya.

Well it just goes to show ya... hype can probably get ya 100000+ players and poor gameplay can turn that into 5000 or less in a relatively short period of time. I'd have to say if there is such a thing as the MWM "advantage" it's that they "get it " in terms of maintaining the fun factor from a players perspective. I'll predict that CoT will wind up much higher than APB on any player rating scale. OTOH, the charismatic and very likable creative guy with his fingers into "everything" reminded me of somebody Doc T as did the importance of a solid business model. This has been a roller coaster ride so far for me in terms of my feelings about the CoT project and I'm not expecting it to end anytime soon... but I am rooting for you (us).

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Huckleberry wrote:
Huckleberry wrote:

Brand X wrote:
Only one video has given me any hope on combat, while all the rest as left me feeling "Little tactile weapon feel".
Looking at the characters running, it looks like people that run like snails.
We have no idea of the possible repetitive content or poor storytelling or even if it will have an unfinished feel or not.
I saw the concept art for Blade & Soul and thought, "OMG! THIS GAME WILL KICK ASS!" and for me, it really did, it just lacked a good pay model and progression system.
I can't say CoT has had any moment of that yet. All it's had is "I hope it's better than the other super hero mmo's we have out there now that CoH is gone"
I believe you are referring to videos of City of Titans, yes? While I do not agree with the running like snails observation, I do agree with your other statements. Although it appears MWM does agree with that observation, so I guess I need to work on my observation skills.
I felt the same with Blade & Soul. I thought combat was very fun and rewarding.
Watching the animators make combat animations for Camelot Unchained during Twitch livestreams has been great. I even convinced one of the animators to make the character's head and arms to dip a bit when landing from a running jump.
Despite it being an action combat game, Blade & Soul was not a button masher like most people think it would be. Because it was all about openings, blocks and feints. So, in my mind it was an improvement over TERA, which was itself an impactful, visceral combat experience.
But I don't think we need to have an action combat system to have a good visceral feel for combat in CoT. Good impact sounds and animation that looks like it contains power, grace and balance are going to make the difference. Some people have claimed that CoX had good impactful combat. I somewhat agree. The sounds and ragdoll physics during knockbacks were good, but the fact that no one ever reacted to getting hit left a lot missing for me. I would hope that CoT would include a visual as well as audible feedback of some sort when characters and their opponents are hit hard enough. I'm not talking about the ineffectual punches of low level trash, I'm talking about something that would take X% hit points before mitigation. But now I've gone off a bit on a tangent.

Think the fact that I said B&S might have messed things up a bit on the comment. The CoT video with a sword and bow (I believe it was) gave me some hope on the combat :)

I have no problem with CoH's combat of tag and target. It's about the animations for me. Tera and B&S delivered on those imo. CoH tended to have some hits and more misses, that however could have been because they didn't want to give some of those blasts and control powers longer animations. After all, animation time was a factor in CoH combat, even when it wasn't a DPS class. :p

Dual Pistols for example...awesome! Other blasts sets? All the same animations and all kinda plain.

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Brand X wrote:
Brand X wrote:

I have no problem with CoH's combat of tag and target. It's about the animations for me....
Dual Pistols for example...awesome! Other blasts sets? All the same animations and all kinda plain.

Agreed about great action animations being the key, but it is a matter of individual taste. Dual Pistols was one of my least favorite animation sets. Not everyone wants their character spasming around like a spider on a hotplate just to send a few rounds downrange. It's undignified :P. But different stokes and all that :).

FIGHT EVIL! (or go cause trouble so the Heroes have something to do.)

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Empyrean wrote:
Empyrean wrote:

Brand X wrote:
I have no problem with CoH's combat of tag and target. It's about the animations for me....
Dual Pistols for example...awesome! Other blasts sets? All the same animations and all kinda plain.
Agreed about great action animations being the key, but it is a matter of individual taste. Dual Pistols was one of my least favorite animation sets. Not everyone wants their character spasming around like a spider on a hotplate just to send a few rounds downrange. It's undignified :P. But different stokes and all that :).

Did everyone want the same two blast animations for all their blasts, which is basically what every other blast set was? :p "I stand her and do the same move over and over!" Sooo boring. It's why I preferred melee from the start. :)

Dual Pistols, I just made one who could get into melee range at that point :p

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I didn't mind the similar

I didn't mind the similar animations for blaster because the power effects were unique and Dual pistols while cool, in retrospect it was kinda funny seeing someone bouncing around like they are in the matrix then get killed in one hit. That's an example of animation being too intricate. For me off the top of my head, lunge for spines was really well animated, the leg movement almost like you were pitching a baseball made it seem very realistic and cool.

Kiyori Anoyui
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Having way too intricate

Having way too intricate moves always makes me think of The Last Airbender, what should have been so cool and powerful was turned into the longest/most boring scene ever. This video does a pretty good job at showing the difference between good power movement in the Cartoon and the bad power movement in the movie

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Kiyori Anoyui wrote:
Kiyori Anoyui wrote:

Having way too intricate moves always makes me think of The Last Airbender, what should have been so cool and powerful was turned into the longest/most boring scene ever. This video does a pretty good job at showing the difference between good power movement in the Cartoon and the bad power movement in the movie

After looking at those examples I can't but fully agree. Way too much movement for far too little effect in the movie compared to animated series.

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Poor fiscal discipline

Poor fiscal discipline
Overlapping job duties
Failure to take into consideration customer criticisms and suggestions

These three items will destroy any business.

Myself, until proven wrong, I will remain of the opinion that there is no mass market for an open sandbox PvP game, regardless of theme and quality. A niche market, perhaps even a profitable niche market, but no mass market. Most of the people who keep clamoring for such a game refuse to pay for it. That is why so many PvP-centric games quickly devolve into "pay-to-win" love affairs with "whales".

At the end of the day a company must turn a profit. Bullies and braggarts don't pay for privilege to abuse other players.

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