Crackdown Team Debuts APB, The Counter-Strike of MMOs http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/73780.html First APB Vids http://www.gamevideos.com/video/id/17693 http://www.gamevideos.com/video/id/17694 http://www.gamevideos.com/video/id/17691 Dave Jones of Realtime Worlds wowed GDC audiences this week with his presentation "My First MMO", debuting the successor to the award winning Crackdown known as APB. APB, Jones explained, is a massively multiplayer online game without the grind, one that draws inspiration from Counter-Strike more than it does from Ultima Online, EverQuest or World of Warcraft. Why Counter-Strike? "There's no persistence, no progression, no customization, its just damn fun," Jones said. APB does have persistence and progression, if done a bit non-traditionally. But customization is one feature that APB has in spades. Jones kicked off the early look at APB with a preview of character customization. One of the design goals for APB was to "let the player make their own action figure", putting character generation in the hands of the user and giving them the ability to make their avatars look totally unique. While deep character customization has become a staple of the MMO, APB's version may feature the broadest set of tools yet. Jones walked us through a sped up version of the creation process, outfitting his avatar with unique identifiers—facials scars, veins, freckles, tattoos, realistic looking hair, a massive wardrobe. Using a system that might look familiar to serious Forza Motorsport 2 players, APB looks to one-up what Turn 10 Studios has done, with a decal system that has some stunning customization chops. Not only can users manipulate primitive vector shapes, they can apply shaders, textures and pre-made hi-res images to their designs, making for extremely realistic decals. These decals can be applied to anything the player wears, even to his skin, with a realistic tattoo look applied to the player generated content. Clothing is also fully customizable, with attention paid to fit, layering and even things like tucking or untucking one's shirt. That unique identity extends not just to your own character, but to your clan and your car as well. Car customization works just like avatar customization, so the decals a player has emblazoned on his jacket can also be applied to your ride. Jones showed footage from the game, featuring characters fresh to the world—one thug was on an early mission, stealing a TV set in the default noob outfit of white t-shirt and jeans—and characters who were longtime APB vets. The MMO features "dynamic matchmaking" as Jones called it, essentially setting up player versus player missions on the fly. A three-player group of Gangsters were tasked with scoring some loot, then driving it to a safe point to complete their mission, a standard Grand Theft Auto-style mission set up. The moment the Gangsters crossed the line and broke the law, an APB was sent out to the game's Enforcers, the cops to their robbers. What followed was essentially the MMO version of a Counter-Strike round, with players either driving their respective vehicles or engaging in a third-person firefight. The pair of Enforcers, two player pairs, responding to the all points bulletin eventually tracked down the bad guys, blocking them into an alleyway. Jones said that these dynamic matchmaking battles in APB wouldn't necessarily pit players of the same level against each other. He showed a clip of a group of new players, with just a single pistol between the four of them, being matched with a very high level Enforcer. He quickly took them down, but not before destroying their low level car with a rocket launcher. Who doesn't like rocket launchers? What we saw of APB was really exciting stuff. The team looks like they may have something special that appeals to gamers who would traditionally scoff and MMOs, but something that isn't just Crackdown Online or EverQuest In The Bad Part Of Town. The final feature that Jones showed, was APB's ability to generate great machinima. With a group of wildly customized characters that looked like Cloud and Barret from Final Fantasy VII taking on a Cactuar and something impish, but not immediately recognizable to this FF noob. A turn based battle ensued, which quickly ended when "Cloud" summoned a decked out flaming car, done, of course, to hilarious effect.