The Big APB Roadmap Update
New EU hardware, server merges, engine upgrade, console games and surviving GTA-V (again)
(note: read about the latest server merge schedule here)
A mighty northern wind...
As we recover from the storm that blew in across our northern border from Los Santos two weeks ago, down here in San Paro we are still plugging away on the jam packed schedule we are facing over the next three months.
First of all, a huge thanks to everyone who stuck around in APB Reloaded during the last two weeks, and to those who simply decided to come back after checking out some of the great storyline gameplay in GTA V.
Second, a very warm welcome to the slew of new players that found APB during this heightened interest in urban city combat! We admit we may also have wandered over to that "neighboring" city of Los Santos for some exploration, before we returned to APB with great ideas for how to keep APB unique and different, especially by focusing on and refining APB's multiplayer combat both on PC and Console.
Also, it has been interesting to see the competition step out of the safe confines of the console world with their new online PC experience, and attempt to deal with the crazy challenges that come from being a PC online game. We wish them the best on handling those situations, as it seems they have had their hands full the last few days.
On our end, as a small team juggling a lot of new releases and changes, we wanted to get you up to speed with a new roadmap post, particularly as we depend on your ongoing support to keep APB running, for many more years to come.
We are really excited to share the new roadmap, with its list of really important releases being worked on right now. We will also make a few individual blog posts for some of these key features as we near each launch.
May-Aug 2015 Roadmap
Completion of all EU District Server Upgrades (NOW LIVE!)
Joker Mystery Box 17: Urban Legends (NOW LIVE!)
EU PC Server Merge
US PC Server Merge
Espacio Season Pass
CRISP: Community Moderation System
New Matchmaking Release
PC Engine Upgrade Release
PS4 Launch and Xbox One Launch
Live (May 1): All EU districts have been migrated to the new server hardware
So after what feels like thousands of iterations, all EU action districts are now running on the newest upgraded district server hardware. So far the hardware performance has been great. Of course we have seen problems with some malicious individuals still DDoS-ing things (making things feel slow), but when there are no network storms going on, we are now running a steady 33ms frame times on all action districts. That's exciting and should be a great experience improvement for all players.
Live (May 6): Joker Box 17
We are excited to release the next Legendary weapon model series, the Urban Legends, as part of the next Joker Mystery Box. Each of the 3 fully-automatic secondary weapons (Bloody Mary, Jersey Devil, and Hitchhiker) comes with their own unique modifications and deluxe skin designs. We hope you enjoy using them as much as we did crafting them!
US and EU server merges
After massive amounts of testing, the very hard desicion was made to move the EU server merge from May 6 to the week of May 18-22 (the same week as the US server merge). More details here.
Aside from the ongoing engine update work, completing the merge preparations is currently our very top priority, not only to prepare for the upcoming console releases, but also to make sure that everyone will have a great experience on the PC version going forward. The merged servers will effectively double the current population, but will also set the stage for the "Server-Wide" matchmaking system that is being worked on. In short, the server merges are a critical cornerstone to a massive amount of upcoming new launches.
Introducing the JUGGERNAUT STRIKE PACK (THE JUGGERNAUT STRIKE PASS – Early purchase)
Since releasing the Heavy Duty pack in December, our art team has been crafting a bold new body kit design for the Espacio vehicle, along with matching clothing items and weapon.
We are planning to release the Espacio Pack at the end of May, but with a bit of a twist. Since we release a pack about once every 3-4 months, we are planning to release the upcoming Espacio pack as a "Season Pass," where for the same price as a normal content pack you will get even more content over a period of time: pack exclusives, Joker Boxes and other items every month.
The earlier you buy the more bonus items you will get. The goal is to make new content and extra bonus items available to you each month as a Pass holder. And also to pave the way for a fixed predictable long-term release schedule for these large content packs.
CRISP Community Moderation
Whether in missions or hanging around the Social District, APB is at its core driven by constant and positive social interaction between each of the players. Each day our team strives to create an inviting atmosphere so you will not only feel welcomed among other APB players, but also invite your friends to join you here. Still, we realize that our small GM staff is not always able to properly address all the harassment, scamming, and offensive language that takes place and much more needs to be done. So over the next couple months, we are introducing two major initiatives that will both tackle this toxic behavior head on while bringing the next generation of players into APB.
First, we are nearing completion on integrating a sophisticated community moderation solution called CRISP Thinking into APB. CRISP works seamlessly in the background to automatically detect and moderate toxic players anywhere in the game, then take instant action as necessary. Unlike conventional filtering systems, CRISP is able to look beyond 'bad' word usage and examine the context of entire phrases. Harassment, hateful speech, and even scam attempts can be detected and acted upon in real-time while keeping positive players protected. We are aiming to introduce CRISP this Summer.
We are finishing up our referral system that will award prizes for bringing your friends into APB! While there are other referral systems out there, APB's Refer-a-Friend is the deepest, most rewarding and most convenient system devised in a game like this.
As you invite friends and help them achieve milestones in APB, you will earn points that you can choose to spend across 31 different prizes at launch! After over a year of development, designing and balancing, we are expected to unveil the Refer-a-Friend system at the end of May.
This summer we are looking to launch our new matchmaking system we first described here, internally named Dedicated Automatic Matchmaking (D.A.M.). By introducing the ability to match teams with equal ratings located on different servers, the new system was designed to promote more balanced, frequent, and engaging matches across all districts so that you can truly enjoy the unique multiplayer gameplay that sets APB apart from the competition.
Combined with a more concentrated population, D.A.M should vastly improve your chances of having those elusive, exhilarating and insane "APB moments" that will stick with you for a long time.
PC Engine Launch
It feels like an eternity since we began the complete rebuild of the underlying APB game engine. When we started the project back in 2013 (in fact if you go back to our October 17, 2013 blog post we shared that the engine upgrade project had begun July 17, 2013), we were wildly optimistic that we could complete the project in about 9-10 months.
That was insanely optimistic for a whole host of reasons. First we didn't count on the amount of other ongoing work APB needed just to stay operational day in and day out, so when the team was pulled away to solve other problems, the engine work slowed down. But most of all we hadn't anticipated the ungodly amount of work required to undo years of custom systems that would no longer be part of the new engine.
The Console game actually helped the team refocus on the engine update since the upcoming Console versions absolutely had to use the later version of the engine.
Below are screenshots from the current game (left) and the updated engine (right) that we are currently running in our office. Clearly the new look will be great for the game, but more than the visuals, the simplified workflow will dramatically improve our ability to actually make new meaningful content going forward for all three versions of the game.
Our current expectation is that the PC engine upgrade will go live either concurrent with, or just after the release of the Console games. It's been an insanely long road to get here, and when the engine and the console versions are launched we will finally breathe a sigh of relief, and then we will go right back to building new things for the updated game!
The upcoming Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions of APB Reloaded
Finally, we are also getting closer to the launch of our first ever console versions of APB Reloaded! While we don't yet know the final Console launch date, all the teams involved, i.e. our internal team, the external console development partner's team and the publisher's team, have been working around the clock to get the Beta and Certification versions readied for submission.
Unlike the PC game which can basically be launched "when ready," the Console versions require a long series of approvals from Publisher, Microsoft and Sony before anything can go live.
As soon as the formal launch date has been finalized, our publisher will be sharing that information through their channels, and after that we will be able to share that information here as well.
Finally, it’s an awesome privilege to work on a game with this kind of longevity and ongoing community support. I am thrilled with all the changes that are coming, the big leap it will mean for us in adding new content with the new systems, and I cannot thank you enough for your continued support of the game. See you in San Paro soon again!