APB 2023 Roadmap
This will be my fourth ‘State of the Game’ post for APB.
We haven’t done very well with this, so why keep doing them?
Historically, each year I try to plan out a roadmap of items we want to do in the future. And each year we’ve missed a lot of those. APB Reloaded is a massive learning curve for any publisher that takes the game on, and even five years in, I find there are still lots of surprises.
2022 was super challenging. The game didn’t have a lot of updates because I made the decision to laser focus on getting 64-Bit done. Beyond my semimonthly updates on the Engine Upgrade, we just didn’t have the bandwidth to manage the game properly. However, I feel like 2023 was the year we hit some of our goals.
With the launch of APB: Reloaded’s 64-bit Upgrade (1.30), I feel like we have finally gotten our feet under us. The upgrade has been a huge surprise across the board. Internally, I had been seeing steady progress, but then one day – we just finished. After months of grinding away, it was finally done. Then it tested so well internally that I made the call to release it publicly much sooner than I had planned. Beyond that, the development team has been able to follow up with a couple smaller updates to keep our momentum going.
The reception to 64-Bit has been incredible.
The team and I are extremely grateful that 1.30 launched with very little issues. An upgrade this size is extremely difficult to pull off. And even better – our community, be them new players or veterans, streamers, Beta Testers and San Paro City Testers / Mentors, have all been amazing about contributing to the success of 1.30 post-launch. We see you and thank you.
I want to take a moment to thank Secrets and his work on Discord and in-game to communicate with players directly. He’s super passionate about APB, and it’s been helpful to me to have his guidance for the last year. At the moment, our APB team is still pretty small. I hope to change that in the coming months, but 1.30 caught me by surprise. We currently have 2 developers and a technical artist solely dedicated to the project. Due to the game’s unique technology stack and age, it takes time to find people with the exact skills we need. But based on current staffing, we can still parallel backend tasks, client tasks, and technical art tasks. I recently brought over a Project Manager from another project to help us get more organized, and we have expanded our Quality Assurance Team to check builds more thoroughly.
A different approach to this year’s Roadmap.
I admit, it was really tempting to hold back a lot of the details this year and to post something more vague and easier to hit due to our terrible track record in the past. It felt like a nice change of pace to surprise everyone with 1.30 launching out of the blue. But I’m not going to do that. Instead, we jam packed this Roadmap. Please know that there is more here than I think we can actually get done in 2023. However, the community put a lot of time and effort into the Open Letter from last year, and all the players have been very generous in showing their support for us. Now it’s our turn to show our support for you.
We started by reviewing each of the threads we created on the forums to organize this new Roadmap. My hope is to provide as much detail as we can for each item below and to sorting these into various priority levels, so that we can start tracking each of these in separate updates as we move forward. That means we will be organizing project task boards and Live Streams, so you guys can track and see our progress better.
Lastly with respect to Live Streams, I am hoping to schedule another one to review all these items and maybe even give a sneak peek or two. Stay tuned.
Roadmap for APB: Reloaded
- Hosting Upgrade #1 – 64-bit, Easy Anti Cheat, Epic Online Services Support, Prerequisites for other hosting code upgrades
- This is a big one for us. Improving our cheat detection and addressing cheaters is high on our priority list. Back in 2021, Epic Games made EAC free, and many players have asked why we didn’t go back to it for APB. The problem is that Epic Games changed how EAC is integrated, which now requires significant modifications to our GamersFirst.com backend.
- Similar to how we upgraded APB: Reloaded to 64-bit, our hosting backend has to be upgraded to support Epic Online Services. That work has already started.
- We have also already upgraded the APB Reloaded 1.30 client to support the latest version of EAC.
- One bonus from this new level of integration is that we will eventually be able to launch APB Reloaded on the Epic Games Store similar to how we currently support Steam.
- New Car
- We have all the art assets completed for a new car!
- The team has been unearthing all the documentation and building out the in-game assets so we can start testing.
- We also want to use the release of a new car to do some balancing on all our vehicles to make sure each one has a solid use case. The goal is to use a series of small buffs and adjustments to improve less utilized cars.
- Hosting Upgrade #2 – New Mission Queueing System, Improved Matchmaking, Phasing
In my opinion, matchmaking is the single biggest problem in APB, and that is largely because of how matchmaking works. The current implementation requires threat segregation so players can only join districts at their skill let. But you can only get matches against opposing faction players in your district. And once a district fills up, players button mash to try and get an open slot.
The recent upgrade has reduced loading times to a tolerable level which opens our ability to move players between districts relatively fast.
‘Mission Queueing’ means that it doesn’t matter what district you join or how populated it is. You will be able to queue for specific district missions from any other district – even Social.
The new matchmaking system will determine the best server where the mission will take place based on skill and rating across all districts, not just the one you’re currently playing in.
This means players can mess around with friends, spend time upgrading their items, or even editing symbols and clothing while they queue.
Rather than taking a year to get the full system working, we want to roll this out in multiple smaller steps:
Step 1: Matchmake across all other players queueing in your world. Force an exit from your current district upon accepting and into a lobby which allows players ample time to load into a new district. When all players are available, start the match, and force them to spawn on the map screen.
Step 2: Do step #1, but with limited phasing where we keep the district type in memory along with all art assets. This means if you’re queuing for a Financial mission, and you’re already in any Financial district, your loading time will be significantly less. Once the lobby is full, we force all players to spawn on the map screen.
Step 3: Do step #1, but with full phasing where we place the character in the same exact position the player was previously in, accounting for collision issues in the new district, eliminating the need to return to the spawn screen. Players coming from other district maps would go through Step 2.
- New Contacts
- Lynette and Lucas have already been revealed to the community, and we are hoping to release them after EasyAntiCheat and Hosting Upgrade #1.
- These contacts will be added as optional Tier 3 contacts with requirements similar to Tier 5 contacts – they are meant to fill the gap on existing content that hasn’t been historically available through progression (The NSSW, OCA Nano, and HVR ‘Scout’) and to offer new progression points for veterans (new modifications, cars not normally available through progression, etc)
- Contacts are a lot of work – they require a lot of data entry, voiceover efforts, lore creation, and most importantly rewards. The last time APB: Reloaded released mainline progression contacts was nearly a decade ago with Gumball and Aletta.
- We feel adding new contacts is the single biggest content expansion we deliver to players.
- Hosting Upgrade #3: Multi-World District servers
- We will migrate the existing worlds to ‘regions’. Each region will host their own game servers and characters. These are grouped by location and latency to keep things as fast as possible. The idea is to have more, smaller regions vs. less larger worlds.
- We hope to start adding previously supported regions back to the game like Eastern Europe, Asia Pacific, and South America – even if its just a couple district servers to start.
- All district servers will be updated to route character updates and messages through that character’s region server.
- Character names will be unique to their region. If you’re playing on districts in your home region, then more than likely there will be no difference in how you receive messages or chat. If two players from different regions are on the same district server, then they will temporarily display their region suffix appended to their name (@NA-West, @EU-East, @SA-North, @AU-East, etc) and players can use those to distinguish between the players.
- This will allow players to choose to play in regions and on district servers they would not normally have access without starting new characters. During higher peak times, matchmaking will serve matches closest to the player. During off-peak times, players can opt into matches on different regions. Players will have agency where they matchmake, so that they are never stuck in a situation where they would have unexpected suboptimal matches.
- As a result of this system, we will be doing away with platform-specific worlds and districts. PC and console players will be able to interact together in Social districts, and PC matches can be happening right alongside console matches in the same district. This means our servers can be put where they are most needed.
- Anti-Griefing Options / Streamer Mode
- Griefing players in missions has long been a sticking point for people playing APB. I’ve made commitments in the past to address this with GMs and better oversight, but that has proven to be a waste of time on its own. I think our griefing problems are highlighted the most when people stream APB.
- Let’s face it. APB is an extremely difficult game to get good at, and Streamers are shining a spotlight on themselves to showcase their skills and the unique aspects of our game. Nothing is worse than getting embarrassed live in front of other viewers through no fault of your own. From my perspective, Players who stream our game offer some of the easiest awareness and marketing for us. They are on the front lines for potential players to watch before they commit to downloading the game and playing.
- Currently, Streamers have no options to remedy situations where they get singled out. Players can park out-of-mission cars in the way of objectives, dump trucks can force your team off-course, and it’s relatively easy for trolls to interrupt a serious match.
- Teamkilling is another serious problem – for streamers and regular players. While these issues can eventually be handled by customer support, there is generally no immediate resolution to a situation and often it’s easier for a player to log off and not play the game than it is to have it properly dealt with it.
- We need to make sure that the moment a player enters a mission, that they are not harassed by outside sources or intentional in-mission abuse.
- We’re looking into options such as: - Disabling out of mission collision contextually to prevent objectives being blocked. - Disabling collision on player-commandeered cars nearby that players have not interacted with in-mission interfering with objectives. - Hiding out-of-mission players while in streamer mode. - Flagging players as griefers so they are deprioritized from matchmaking – and potentially placed with other griefers until their behavior changes over time.
- There are potential abuses outside of these cases that we know we cannot address fully – no system is infallible – but with queued matchmaking combined with better cheat detection and deprioritization of griefers, we hope to lessen the impact on streamers to help the game grow.
- New Events and Holidays
- In 2018 and 2019, Little Orbit tried some rather unsuccessful ideas to replace our holiday events. I’m not afraid of making mistakes or trying new things, but I think it’s a tragedy that we didn’t iterate and try again. It’s time to try some new ideas and give you guys new rewards to earn.
- We will be redesigning the yearly cadence of events alongside expanding our LiveOps team to make sure we have enough new content in the pipeline to keep things interesting.
- There are plenty of mechanics that we created for Epidemic, Slay Bells, and RIOT that I would like to revisit to see if we can polish them a bit more.
- Upgraded Tutorial / First Time User Experience (FTUE)
- Our current tutorial simply isn’t great past character creation. The tutorial itself needs to be modernized.
- Players are thrown into the Financial district after character creation with a menu that explains a bunch of text but never teaches them what to do contextually. They are also bombarded with popups and get lost and overwhelmed with all the information they are given. We currently rely on other players to ‘fill in the gap’ on information.
- We need something interactive that players can complete, while also teaching them about the game and mechanics that aren’t properly explained in-depth, such as leaning.
- This is a tricky area to improve. We will post more details as we get closer.
- Server-side anti-cheat alongside EAC
- The plan is to re-integrate FairFight as a server-sided solution to compliment EAC as our client-side solution.
- While there is never a “silver bullet” for cheat detection, we feel that multiple anti-cheat solutions can operate in different avenues to help us keep the game clean.
- Server-side analytics gives us a full anti-cheat loop to help inform the client where to look better and detect cheaters who slip through the cracks. We want to detect, prevent, and deter cheaters from entering and interrupting our game, and FairFight fits the bill of that process.
- However, we will not be publishing any individual public ban lists – we feel that the previous usage of FFBans glorifies cheaters, and doing so only increased the level of toxicity of the game.
- Vivox Reintegration
- Vivox used to be integrated as our voice chat solution.
- Vivox changed their hosting configuration and we needed to upgrade our libraries to fit their new hosting platform – we were historically unable to do that, as Vivox did not have 32-bit versions of their new services.
- A lot of the work on Vivox has already been done in APB Reloaded 2.x – we need to backport this work to 1.30, as being on 64-Bit allows us to seamlessly integrate the required work.
- DirectX12 Rendering System
- We would like to eventually replace our existing DX9 rendering pipeline with a DX12-based rendering system.
- Newer operating systems are supporting DX9 less and less, and our engine will continue to show its age until this gets completed.
- Xbox and Playstation Ports of 1.30
- Hand in hand with the upgrade to DX12, we want to re-port the console versions of APB: Reloaded.
- The current console ports are based on a code base we have abandoned due to its bugs and performance. It is our hope that by adding console support to 1.30, we can significantly improve the performance and stability of those platforms.
- We need to back port the console specific systems from APB 2.x.
- We need to import controller support.
- We need to back port the console specific UI changes from APB 2.x.
- Console parity would allow for cross-platform interactions in the distant future.
- Premium Revamp
- We have made APB’s premium subscription model free since early 2020. We did that because I feel like the game is much better for all players when they have all the Premium features. Historically, APB’s premium system was based on how ‘freemium’ games operate which slow down progression or gimped design layers for non-premium players. We don’t want to do that.
- Premium players will get a special bundle of Joker Tickets equal to the cost of the subscription.
- Premium will also be able to queue in ‘Premium Only’ matches that we hope will free of reroll cheaters.
- Player vs Environment (PVE) Missions
- APB is historically PVP focused which means where there is a winner, there is always a loser. Other titles in the space, such as GTA Online, have always had PVE content that their players can engage to grow their skills.
- We will be adding support for discrete PVE elements over time. This should allow us to start using those game mechanics in new mission types, new Team PVE missions, and in the new Tutorial.
- Physically Based Rendering Pipeline
- PBR is already supported by later versions of Unreal, and to some extend in APB for clothes and cars.
- Our goal will be to convert the current models, textures, and lighting to a new PBR lighting pipeline. This means redoing high quality versions of map assets and to optimize the existing maps in the process while increasing visual fidelity and modernizing the look.
- This is very much a ‘nice to have’ features. But it’s on the roadmap.
Got any questions? Want to chat with other players? Then discuss this article in our Forums! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
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