Just wanted to throw out a chunk that's been stuck in my head for a long time now... Call it an editoral if you will, I just wanna write this as a final goodbye. With a nice professional ego-boosting easy-to-read-but-still-unnecessary way, ofcourse. :3 So uhh hit the TL/DR bit up if you wanna be lazy and refuse to read...
King of the HillYou remember that game APB? If you recall correctly about 6-8 months ago it had it's massive run of 79 days. (June 29 '10/Sept. 16 '10). Unreal, eh? 79 days. Hellgate: London ran for 1 year and 5 months before it's shutdown. Hell even Tabula Rasa had a run of a year and a month. What were the flaws with those two? Tabula Rasa was well recieved, and was actually a moderate success. The game shut down cause the creator Richard Garriot quit/got fired from NCsoft. Hellgate on the other hand was sort of the shadow of APB with it's demise.
Hellgate wasn't as much of a success... Roper of Flagship Studios himself even admitted they went the traditional MMO way; Release the game in skeleton form and fill it up overtime. I think we can all agree no-one can get away with that anymore. The expectations of the game were skyhigh, and it simply fell flat on it's face. Much like APB did.
Excuse the shitty pun here, but Flagship went down. The game went down with it and was seized by the bank they owed cause they actually used the game as collateral.
Now I didn't play either of the games personally, and I suppose each in their own individual ways could've had a fuckin' blast with either. Boils down to the consumer who has the fun, not the reviewer. Am I fuckin' right?
APB on the other hand I got hands on experience with.
... Long, Long, Long Way Up the HillLittle background on this one for ya'. Realtime Worlds started out in 2002, from the start Dave Jones had this idea. And from the start dude wanted to make it true. Grand Theft Auto + MMO. The thing that made him also became his dawnfall according to one of his former colleagues who got interviewed for EDGE Magazine in August 2010. He's a creator, not a leader. I can see how this ultimately became the ballbuster cause they had multiple seperate teams running around, and without guidance you get massive fuckups obviously.
Crackdown was heading right down the same road before APB could reach this critical phase. Part lack of guidance and part don't-give-a-fuck. According to the guy in EDGE, not more than six months before Crackdown was slated to hit the shelves Microsoft stepped in and ordered that they aughta get their shit straight or they'd kill the funding. Microsoft send in some of their own guys to give guidance and get the game in a working state before release, as at that point the game's physics engine which the game would depend on was still broken and unfinished beyond belief.
APB from the start was always idealized as "the perfect Grand Theft Auto". In 2006 the plan was like this; APB would feature the crazy ass customization we were showed, open world action and cops-vs-robbers gameplay available on Xbox 360 and PC. This changed to something different in 2008, where Jones at GDC said the game would feature 25 player multiplayer while retaining the other features.
Doesnt that sound like a different concept? Sorta. Well in 2009 somewhere before the beta was announced it went back to it's supposed roots, although something was missing. Remember the Xbox 360 bit? Slowly overtime it went from Xbox 360/PC launch to PC launch with Xbox following, to we'll look into doing it if we get the time for it to a solid no.
The Facedunk Into Concrete of the Ages ComethIn late '09, the beta was released. And oh boy the response was one-sided. Just about every problem you can imagine with an online game came to the show; Balancing was non-existant, missions were insanely repetitive and ran on a predictable cycle, the APB's on criminals were virtually unstoppable, the graphics were set on a insanely high level, hit detection being random, vehicle physics were half-done and it goes on and on and on.
Luckily the APB post-development team were right on it and were working all the time to get things in order. And overtime, while the public beta ran in early '10 the game took more of a shape and slowly turned into a somewhat decent multiplayer action game.
Although many problems continued through the release in the mid of '10. While surprising, it was slightly predictable as most of the players' complaints lied in the framework of APB itself. It demanded too much power, killing it's potential as a wide-spread game. It's balancing was still off the charts, pitting veterans against new players. Hit detection still had issues and the cops had a significant advantage.
The fact that many problems that were there in the betas caried over killed some players' enthusiasm, the much bigger nail in the coffin came in the shape of critics and reviews; 55% average. The third nail for the lovely coffin? Pricing structure. APB made use of a weird while somewhat smart payment system; The base game was 50$ with 50 hours worth of game time, which can be saved forever. In theory this is a stupid idea, but in practice it could come in handy for the 'every now and then' crowd. Ofcourse there was still a flat monthly payment option, but was rather pricey.
All in all, the game's sales were massively disappointing.
Player-wise this led to only a few full servers and at most times seeing the rest at 2/50 at the highest.
Financially? Oh fuck me...
The game wasn't terrible, and throughout the 79 days it was out the game was constantly updated by the team and was actually taking on some of the shape they were looking for. I personally went into the game with low expectations and was relatively surprised.
TD/DRIn the end, the developers blew through 105 million for this game. Jones was anticipating millions to come flowing back in, however in the end the sales of the first month were barely enough to make up 2% of the entire budget to be re-earned. The company of 270 strong went into administration in early August '10, and the game was axed just 4 weeks later.
150 were told their jobs were about to get killed off in August already. Around the end of September just 50 remained. Before Christmas '10 Realtime Worlds as a brand was effectively no longer. Every RTW staff member was either out of a job, or elsewhere. Around this time RTW's other ambitious project codenamed "Project MyWorld" came to light was also used as a good reason to lure potential fire sale buyers.
Eventually earlier this year APB: Reloaded came to the news, but that's not even worth mentioning. It's structure is pretty much deemed to clean your ass out money wise, and the insane damage that's been done, has been done.
Why won't I let this go? Well part of me is just disappointed, one of the industry's greatest bit the dust and it bit it hard. You know it's a high roller if they rake in over 100 million in funding, obviously they had faith in it and they gave it all. To me, man. To me this was the last and biggest risk the gaming industry's taken. Big players, big names, massive cash flow and an amazing potential for greatness.
The risk factor to the MMO market? Well quite literally, you win or you lose.
And it lost Dave Jones his reputation, Realtime Worlds it's right to exist, 270 employees their career and income, and slightly over 100.000 players their game. With the staleness the gaming industry is in, this was to me a welcome change. Dispite the shit presentation, delivery and in general it's state... It ment to aim high, it had massive potential and the concept on it's own is a genius idea and I had a blast with it. It was a first for the industry of this scale to actually make it, and it's probably the last when you judge it's massive failure and the destruction that followed...
Salut, Realtime. I <3 you, still.