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Accessibility was the watchword in MMO games development for the last few years, but much of that concept has been lost with the recent wave of MMO shooters. We'll take a look at why APB in particular is so hostile to new players and look at ways Realtime Worlds could build a bridge to new players in Loading... APB: Bridging the Newbie Gap.



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Loading... Daily

The promise of massively multiplayer shooters, for me, has always been that if the stars are aligned favorably, a new player can take out a veteran player. I'm not saying every character regardless of skill or time played should be equally powerful - as Scott Hartsman notes in our Rift class Q&A today, mathematical equality is usually destructive to games since (as in life) it's our differences that make things interesting - but even cannon fodder should be able to score a few hits once in a while.

I was thinking of that promise this weekend, as I emptied clips into APB enemies who, after a comedic interval, turned around and dropped me in two or three shots. Or, worse, stunned me, did a lewd butt-thrust in front of my face, then either arrested me or (if anyone tried to help) shot me in the back of the head and dealt with my friend in much the same way.

I don't claim to be a good or even a mediocre twitch gamer and my expectations of success are accordingly low. But I never thought I'd encounter a game with a skill or learning curve as monstrous as EVE's, and APB has perhaps achieved that dubious honor. Reason being, every time the average rating of the entire playerbase goes up, the game becomes that much more difficult for newcomers. (Higher ratings allow new and better weapons, and even small differences between weapons in a stat-less game count for a lot. Ratings is the level system in an ostensibly level-less game.) While new players can make a solid, if small, contribution in EVE Online as tacklers, scouts, etc., new players are there to be killed while waiting for their rating to slowly tick higher.

Worse, some game mechanics are meant to punish you for your newbness. From our talks with RTW, we know that driving, for example, is made to be much harder for new players - the type of vehicles available handle like bricks and explode as easily as a stationwagon in a CHiPs episode. Meanwhile, the opposition is roaring around in the batmobile, bristling with friends and guns at every window. Also, the idea of rated weapons and purchasable weapon mods tilts the game that much more in favor of veteran players. They not only have the skill to pwn at will, their weapons allow them to pwn faster and in greater quantities (damn you, rocket launcher).

Which brings me to matchmaking. I can't really comment on matchmaking simply because I haven't had what could be decently called a match yet. If, in six hours of gameplay with a rating in the 20s I was matched only once against a player that didn't have a rating in the hundreds. I wonder how it was fun for either of us.

Let me be clear that I want to take nothing away from what Realtime Worlds has done well with APB. First and foremost, they've aptly tamed the Unreal 3 engine tiger for physics-heavy, large scale multiplayer use, which is a huge, almost revolutionary accomplishment. The customization and graphics of APB are second to none, and Realtime Worlds can't get enough credit for their work on that front. Realtime Worlds also made some concessions to new players - chief among them the single hotbox idea (no headshots). Beyond that, the game has loads of style, the action is fast and frenetic and at times great fun, and for all of these reasons the game shouldn't be tossed on the MMO ash heap.

I also have a feeling that APB really doesn't have far to go to be a great game, either. So, humbly submitted, here are a few things I think would make APB much better:

  • Tiered instances, by rating - Why not make instances for action districts that are for 1-49 only, 50-100. 100-199, etc.? Players generally want a challenge, but not too much of a challenge.
  • Give new players more advantages, not less - I know this flies in the face of conventional game design, but WoW found ways to make itself more accessible to gamers who wouldn't have identified themselves as MMO gamers. In like manner, the MMO shooter genre has to find away to become more accessible to players that don't identify themselves as FPSers or TPSers.
  • More PvE missions - The best multiplayer shooters are always set up by good single-player campaigns to both teach new players the basics and make feel more powerful, and this is one area where a MMOG like Global Agenda is well ahead of the pack. APB never claimed to be anything but a group-based shooter, and while there are some missions that allow players to do things largely unopposed like vandalize or break in to places and steal stuff, but why not some GTA-style assassination and fast getaway missions that require soloers to maybe take out their guns?
  • Lower chance to hit with less-than-lethal weapons AND slower, uninteruptable arrest timers - The arrest system for enforcers has all the hallmarks of a concept that the devs fell in love with early on and didn't allow to change as balance dictated. Sardu put it aptly: it's as if the game introduced polymorph or some kind of PvP crowd-control for the Alliance and not the Horde. Either arrests should be nerfed substantially, or criminals should get a cool extra combat ability too, like short-term getaway stealth (a bribe ability?), or inciting a riot with the general public to turn them temporarily against Enforcers in the area. That said, I'm not sure that jetpacks or off-map arty would be enough to restore the balance right now.

Played APB? What are your impressions? What do you like, and what should RTW work to change about the game? Share your thoughts in the Loading... forum!

Shayalyn's Epic Thread of
the Day

From our Guild Wars 2 News & Article Discussion forum

No More Healers

No healers in Guild Wars 2? Say it ain't so! What happens to the
MMOG holy trinity of tank, healer and DPS? How can we play a fantasy
game that doesn't have chat channels filled with cries of, "Healer
needed for ______?" Xerin took a closer look at the lack of a healing
class in Guild Wars 2 and offered his thoughts and opinions. Now it's time for you to offer up yours. Discuss!


Awesome Quotes from the
Epic Thread

"Well, even if you can't be the
healer I hope you can still do the other support focused rolls that
they had in the original guild wars. I will miss my monk (assuming it
didn't make the cut), but if the earth elementalist can still throw up
a bunch of wards then it'll have the same use as a protection monk and
be useful to groups.

- Parenon

and Exclusive Content
Today at Ten Ton Hammer

6 Ten Ton Hammer
today! 32 Ten Ton Hammer
in July! 744
in 2010!


HOT! Rift - Class and Callings Q&A with Scott Hartsman

time Ten Ton Hammer had a chance to see Rift: Planes of Telera, the
more excited we became. After getting our grubby mitts on the game at
E3 2010, we tracked down Scott Hartsman, Chief Creative Officer and
General Manager of Trion Redwood Shores Studio, in order to have him
clarify classes and how soul trees are different than "just" talent trees, plus more on character development in Rift.


Singularity Review (PC)

Software, maker of some of the latter Jedi Knight games and Marvel:
Ultimate Alliance, has recently released their new time-twisting FPS,
Singularity. Mattlow recently spent several sleepless
nights playing the game. Now we've forced him to actually write
the review.


The Basics Of Trading In EVE Online

are some basic principles that any enterprising EVE Online trader
should familiarize himself with. Space Junkie outlines his take on trading with his newest guide.

Guild Wars 2: No More Healers

archetypes are a fundamental building block of the healer/DPS/tank
trinity in MMOGs, yet Guild Wars 2 will not have a primary healing
profession. Can a game survive without a healer and how will things
work? David "Xerin" Piner takes a shot at these questions and more in
our latest look at Guild Wars 2.

StarCraft II - The Total Newbie Primer

the second phase of beta up and running, and release only two weeks
away, you might be wondering just what exactly StarCraft II is all
about. You don't have to be a real time strategy veteran to have fun
playing it, but if you're looking to get into the game and put up a
fight, you'll need to have some kind of semblance of what the hell is
going on. Fortunately, we've got you covered with  this Total
Newbie Primer for StarCraft II!

WoW Cataclysm: Goblin Zone Levels 1-10 Walkthrough

Cataclysm Beta has launched and World of Warcraft players everywhere
are awaiting the e-mail that will tell them they are one of the select
few that get to experience it firsthand. However, not all of us will be
so lucky, that’s why we here at Ten Ton Hammer are pleased to bring you
a glimpse into the world of Cataclysm with a complete Goblin zone
walkthrough beginning with levels 1 through 10.

Hottest Articles, Guides, and Features

  1. Rift - Class and Callings Q&A with Scott Hartsman
  2. Exploring Middle-earth: Hands On with LotRO's Volume 3: Book 2
  3. Singularity Review (PC)
  4. Ten Ton Hammer Live Episode 14 with Pocket Legends
  5. Guild Wars 2: No More Healers
  6. APB Post-Launch - An Interview With Creator David Jones
  7. Guild Wars 2: The Evolution of Death in Tyria
  8. Ten
    Ton Hammer's StarCraft II
    Guide Portal
  9. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/aion/interviews/elysean-council"> style="font-weight: bold;">Aion – The Divine
    Fortress Taken! An Interview with the Elysean Council
  10. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/dcuo/yanagi-interview">Sock!
    Pow! Bam! DC
    – An
    Interview with Senior Producer Wes Yanagi

for visiting the Ten Ton Hammer network!

- Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle and the Ten Ton Hammer Team.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our APB: Reloaded Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Jeff joined the Ten Ton Hammer team in 2004 covering EverQuest II, and he's had his hands on just about every PC online and multiplayer game he could since.