APB 2021 Roadmap
For the last 2 years, I've done a State of the Game or Roadmap post for APB.
This year, I'm substantially later getting this organized than I wanted to be. For that, I want to apologize.
It started with a bit of extra time off after the holiday to try and decompress from an exhausting year. I chose to do something I rarely do, which is largely disconnect from the computer. When I came back, I immediately jumped into organizing the roadmap post for 2021, but after reviewing my first draft I felt like it was mostly lip service with no actual tactical plan behind it. We hit so many road bumps last year and the year before that, I felt I owed it to the players to take a long hard look at the game and to be 100% honest about its future. That led to quite a bit more research and planning sessions which in turn further delayed this post.
I am not normally absent from the community for what has now been over a month. Truthfully, I've been so busy that I haven't had the time to sort through my forum inbox, read forum messages, or do more than the occasional retweet. As a result, I am certain there are those who immediately leapt to one of several conclusions: (1) the company is shutting down, (2) the company has been acquired, or (3) the game is being shutdown.
I can assure you that none of those things are happening or in the works. So, with sincere gratitude for your guys’ patience, let’s take a look at the results of my deep-dive. Before I jump into the roadmap itself, I want to briefly look back at some of the tasks we did accomplish last year.
- We formalized Joker Tickets as our in-game paid currency.
- Instead of forcing players to go to our website for paid purchases, we launched the in-game Joker Store and added hundreds of items for purchase, including guns, clothing, and vehicles.
- We added bundled items to the Joker Store that automatically adjust their price based on items you already own.
- We revamped how some purchases are delivered to player accounts so they don’t need to be kept around when not in use.
- We removed Joker Mystery Boxes and created an entirely new rental system for getting Legendary guns with Joker Tickets.
- And we added ways for players to earn Joker Tickets to finally make the game truly free to play with all content available to all players.
We’ve come a long way, but there is still a lot to do with APB. It would be disingenuous to talk about the good without acknowledging the bad, so I also took a moment to review some of our problem areas.
With our focus entirely on the new engine and on the transforming our store, we were largely unable to produce new content or new events. I think players would have tolerated that better had the new engine come out, but to-date we still haven't launched APB 2.1, and we haven’t seen the progress we were hoping for in our Open Betas. In addition, 2020 was a difficult year for Little Orbit overall. We still have a major project that cost the company millions of dollars held up in litigation, and while the APB playerbase grew dramatically over the summer, we ended the year at an all-time low concurrency.
So, that is where we are. Now, here is what we plan to do about it.
Many of you have seen these roadmap items before, but this year I also wanted to share more information on how we expect to get there. Here is our agenda for 2021:
- Complete and launch APB 2.1
- Marketing for APB
- Updated console builds
- Matchmaking fixes / DAM
- New player experience
- New contacts with new rewards
- New car, new guns, new clothing - all immediately available in the in-game Joker Store
- Cross play across worlds
- New player name strategy
- Phasing R&D and further matchmaking upgrades
- Another large overhaul of our online store
For APB 2.1, it's become obvious that we don't currently have all the resources we need in-house to properly evaluate and solve the remaining issues. We have done 5 Open Beta tests, and while there has been a lot of hard work and some progress, it's not enough to meet our goals. To that end, we are in the process of signing deals with some Unreal 3.5 consultants that specialize in performance captures, identifying bottlenecks, and recommending specific optimizations that will work for the APB engine.
Admittedly, these kinds of resources have been very challenging to find in the past, which is why we haven't done this before. But, after the holiday, I made this our #1 priority. After weeks of sifting through resumes and candidates, we are now ready to move forward. Additionally, we are about a quarter of the way through a massive effort to go line-by-line through every inch of the code and identify problematic areas. I have built a very aggressive timeline, shared it with my leads, and we'll get started on Feb 1st. I hope to do progress posts to share more details as we go.
The launch of APB 2.1 needs to be accompanied by real marketing. This is an area that I have been holding back since we took over because I felt it would be a waste of money to attract players to a game that just wasn't ready for them. We now have a detailed marketing plan with budgets, large partners, and targets. I am excited to finally see it in action.
Directly following our marketing push, we will jump into finalizing console builds. As I've said before, these players have suffered long enough. They will be getting all of the APB content they’ve been missing from the last 3 years along with all of the new systems and changes we have made. Beyond simply making good on my promise, it is also critical that we sync up our entire code base for the rest of what we need to do. A lot of work has already been done to pay off the technical debt we created with all the new changes to PC.
The immediate benefit of a shared codebase is that we can finally launch the District Management system. This system will have the full pool of servers that it can dynamically distribute across any of our 3 platforms as concurrency goes up and down during the day. This also means we will be able to implement cross-play across worlds. Players from the EU will be able to hop on NY or LA servers and vice versa. Console players will be able to buy, sell, trade, and participate in Social districts alongside everyone else. It also opens up our ability to investigate phasing and other possible upgrades to matchmaking.
Finally, we know you guys have been looking for ways to continue to support us. It has been incredibly gratifying to see so many of you continuing to purchase Premium despite our delivering nearly a full year of free Premium to the community. Some of you have amassed a truly impressive amount of paid Premium. To make sure we can honor that level of commitment and support, we are going to temporarily remove Premium purchase options while our free option is ongoing. We will also be deactivating reoccurring Premium payments for anyone who is still on subscription at this time, as we want to make sure that all our users get exactly what they pay for. To that end, we hope to have new things you can support us with later this year, like a new car, some well-crafted clothing, and fun guns with new twists.
I won’t rehash the rest of the list, but in closing I do want to talk about one more thing that needs to get some focus in 2021: our new player experience. Aside from matchmaking and performance, this is the next biggest handicap for the game. Over the coming weeks, we will be organizing a series of design ideas to pick and choose a solution that will truly help players understand our mission system, contact progression, gun ranks, and mods. While we appreciate and will still need players to help mentor new blood, we can and will do much more to support onboarding new players.
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