Two week update - Q&A notes from my stream
I want to start by thanking everyone who came out for the stream today. I had a great time chatting with Kempington. He was a gracious host and put a lot of behind-the-scenes effort into pulling off the broadcast. The community asked many thoughtful and direct questions, and I know he and Lixil tried to include as many as they could.
Before I jump in, I want to talk a little bit of how I like to approach problems.
I like clear solutions that can be largely enforced through objective systems and infrastructure. If an exploit exists, then we should be trying to fix it. Make no mistake, that doesn't give players license to abuse it. Our terms of service clearly state you should report it and that we can ban you for exploiting. However, that also means we shouldn't leave these kinds of problems around for years on end either.
Here are the questions and answers from today
1. Will you be changing the cheat detection? If so, will you be looking to unban players from the past? Will there be ban broadcasts in future?
The cheating problem in APB is complex. It's a hard game. Our players like it, because it has a unique combination of gameplay that takes a while to master. Managing recoil. Leaning around cover points. Switching weapons for various conditions.
Cheating robs everyone of that experience.
I fully understand the desire to want to put on some training wheels to make your own gaming experience a little more fun. Wall hacking. Smooth aim. No recoil. I get it. But ask yourself what are you afraid of? Being embarrassed? Losing a match? Isn't that how we get better?
We are committed to creating a fair, fun environment to play the game. So, I am very excited to announce that we are implementing Battleye as our client-side cheat solution. It's used by Fortnite, PUBG, and many other games. The implementation is mostly done, and we hope to include it in our next patch. We will be keeping our internal cheat detection and our server-side cheat detection and continue to tune them as well.
Now the second part. Unbanning.
This has been a complicated decision. One part of the community feels that cheaters have ruined the game and that they deserve to stay banned. The other part of the community feels they have been unjustly banned.
For me, this comes down to a single question: “Has the cheating/banning policy been enforced objectively or subjectively?”
In an ideal world, everything is black and white. I've spent the last couple weeks working alongside customer support, talking to players, vetting logs, and testing our cheat detection myself.
The results were conclusive.
Our current system is inaccurate and capable of automatically banning players who are not cheating. I also found a lot of instances where bans were enforced subjectively. That means the punishment or lack thereof was largely at the discretion of the GM or CS person.
In order to grow, we need consistency.
With that in mind, I am going unban a significant portion of the player base.
Before you get too excited or disappointed, let's establish a couple expectations.
This isn't going to happen until we release the next patch with Battleye.
Please do not contact support asking to be unbanned. That will happen automatically when we're ready, and then we'll message the player base.
We will not be unbanning players that violated other parts of our terms and conditions. For instance, credit card fraud or other forms of illegal activities.
My hope is that players will see this for the opportunity it is and come enjoy the game. If they choose to cheat, then we have given fair warning, and we will ban them again.
Lastly, we will not be broadcasting, tweeting, or publicizing bans. We are not proud of banning or catching cheaters. Banning is a failure. It means someone has left the game, and while that person may have clearly violated the rules, it still means we lost a player.
2. Can you give us a rough roadmap on what you plan on working on first? Is the Engine upgrade to 3.5 a priority/first on the list? What can we expect?
Our project for the last two weeks has been "Infrastructure".
We identified a couple key areas such as customer support, anti-cheat, and the forum systems, and we upgraded them to help provide a better base for us to grow on. The PC version has not seen a patch in 9 months. We are clearing the cobwebs, upgrading old licenses, and getting testing processes back in place. We have a little more to do on this including 2FA to help secure accounts better, and a couple other items.
Our next project is "Unification".
We will be completing the upgrade to Unreal 3.5, which will benefit both the PC players by incorporating a lot of optimizations that the console version received, and also improving the console version by filling out the missing features. This will also include some optimizations to help the game run better, and we will be cleaning up a lot of code.
There are a slew of other things we want to do, but trying to implement any new content onto the top of what we have would be a mistake, so I prioritized this piece first. I'm not going to give a time estimate, but I will give periodic updates on our progress. I will also say that we have an entirely separate team working on the Unreal 4 upgrade. They are starting from an empty project and then migrating one system at a time.
Beyond Unification, we will be focusing on "Critical Mechanics".
This will be a hard core look at some of the long standing issues in the game that need fixing.
Alongside this project, I'd like to do a "Minor Content" update. Just a small project to get back into the content generation tools. We'd like to get a new weapon in the game. Possibly some new clothing items. Possibly a new vehicle. I doubt they will be crazy innovative, but we need to start somewhere.
And then I'd like to do a "Major Content" update.
A new map and/or a new mode. We have plenty of these systems that were already in the works, and some that were nearly finished.
Hopefully we will catch up with the Unreal 4 team at this point, and we'll be able to cut over.
3. Will ARMAS pricing in the future be changed? If so how. On the subject of micro-transactions, how do you plan on tackling the Pay 2 Win stigma that’s been haunting this game for a long time?
I have spent some time looking at this, and this is another polarizing question.
I personally don't feel that APB is Pay 2 Win. The weapons don't make that big of a difference on whether you win or lose. Not every weapon can be used in every situation. A very skilled player will nearly always win regardless of whether an unskilled player has bought the best weapons they can get.
However, that stigma exists for a reason.
In my opinion I think the balance/costs on ARMAS do need to be examined. We have a designer coming in who will be make a pass to balance the pricing of the store. I do want players to feel that we're being fair and not trying to gouge them for money.
4. With the upcoming changes to the CoC and ToS, what areas are going to be scrutinized the most? How will in-game behavior be moderated in the future? What’s the stance on nudity, such as player made symbols and clothing?
I really feel like this question is better answered by Lixil, but I'll answer this question from a high level standpoint.
First, you're going to see us in-game more. So expect to interact with the GMs.
Second, I love the immense creativity at the heart of APB. Personalizing your character, weapons, and vehicles is one of the aspects of this game that makes it fun. Overall, I don't want to dampen that creativity. However we have limits. This is a game. Nudity doesn't have a place here, and it's not allowed. Hate speech or symbols are also not allowed.
Use some common sense, and you'll be fine.
5. De-threating. Will you be looking to tackle this phenomenon, if so how? Will changes to the threat system be made to assist this?
At the end of the day, this comes down to proper matchmaking and creating fair fights.
This is one of those long standing systems that needs to be changed. I want to dig in more deeply, but we are committed to better matchmaking.
6. Will there be a live stream dedicated to Dev updates / Dev Vlog to show active process and work on the game?
I love this idea, and based on the reaction to today's stream, I want to make it happen.
I think the best way for us to build trust with the community is to do what we say we are going to do. Showing off progress is a great way to do that.
7. Will the original login screen, along with some of the previous music within the game, be making a return?
I think so - or some close variation.
I need to check a couple of things like music rights to make sure we can still use that track. Admittedly I had the login screen music track playing on a loop from YouTube for a portion of May 10th. It's a great vibe to start the game with.
8. Will you be addressing the poor performance and optimization on the console versions of the game?
First, I have to apologize, because I saw the Xbox and PS4 forums, but I didn't realize they couldn't post in the main Social Discussion. We've corrected that in the new forums, so console players can better participate in the community.
Second, yes. There are a bunch of areas that we should be improved on the consoles. By unifying the code base, I think we can put more attention on this. The console players need some love.
9. Are there going to be any further extensions to the ignore/friend lists? Will this system be changed at all, if so how?
I have spoke with the dev team, and there is a small "cost" to the database size for friends and ignores, so we can't make these lists infinite.
However I'm a not a big fan of charging for more ignore or friend slots. I don't know when we will be able to address this, but I'd like to increase the size of the lists and just give that to everyone for free.
1. What is your stance on the prestige/notoriety system (bounty system). Do you plan to make any amendments to this?
This needs work.
I understand what the designers were going for, but the current system has a lot of feel-bad moments for higher skilled players. Mainly I don't think anyone outside the opposing team should be able to interfere with you when you're in a mission.
2. Will the Refer-A-Friend system be making a return? Do you plan to make any changes to it?
I haven't given this a lot of thought yet.
We do need to implement something that helps players share the game with their friends to help us grow APB.
3. A lot of players are curious to the future of the weapon balance in this game. Do you plan on making changes to the weapons in the near future?
This is tricky.
We are going to have a designer make a pass through the game, but I would expect only minor tweaks to help balance things. My general feeling is that most weapons are decently balanced now, and its a lot easier to mess that balance up than to improve it.
4. In the distant future, will character server transfers be possible?
Character server transfers current have a lot of pitfalls.
I wish it were an automated system, but more often than not when we move characters it screws up some aspect of their customizations. Symbols. Facial features. Clothing items. If we can solve these issues, then I would love to make this available to players with some limitations, because I think it would help our server populations, but we need to do some serious work on it first.
As a side note, we will be migrating the Han players to Jericho. This wont happen immediately because of the issues I mentioned above, but I want to give the Asia/Pacific players a larger pool of players to interact with.
5. Players are eager to see a proper trading system in the game be implemented. Is this a possibility?
Yes. This comes down to infrastructure. It shouldn't be possible to scam players. That's bad system design.
However, trading securely leads to other problems that we need to think through. It's possible that we may need to build in waiting periods or trade locking mechanisms to manage abuse.
6. What plans do you have to improve the competitive scene of the game?
I'm going to be more vague about this.
There are some things in the works that I hope come to fruition. If they do, then I'll point back to this stream and say, "that's what I was talking about". But we are definitely looking at new modes for the Major Update.
7. Are there any changes coming for Joker Boxes due to potential gambling legislation?
For those that aren't aware, the Netherlands and Belgium have approved laws that define Loot Boxes or any randomized reward system as gambling based on specific criteria.
We are watching this fairly closely.
I like the Netherlands approach, because they have specific guidelines and timelines to help publishers get into compliance. Belgium not so much. Most likely we will keep the Joker Box system, but the rewards wont be tradable, which means the price may go down.
8. Will GamersFirst approve the use of shader configs or the Advanced Launcher?
No. This is a super slippery slope.
Once we allow players to modify parts of the game, then how do we detect cheater-based changes from these more innocuous changes? That makes our investment into Battleye useless.
However, I do believe GamersFirst needs to solve the problems that these things address. We need to allow players to change the color of the crosshairs in-game for colorblind people. We need to add a lower graphics processor setting to help people with less powerful machines.
Thanks again to everyone who participated and volunteered questions.