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Leading The Design of APB
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Leading The Design of APB

June 26, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

One thing that could be a concern is system requirements, on a game like this. Because I think it could draw a totally different audience, and those are not necessarily the people who are buying giant six thousand dollar PCs. But it looks really, really good...!

EJ: Right. So the good news is, it is -- at our core, we are an Unreal 3 game. So we have the same system specs as most Unreal games. But we spent a lot of time reengineering it ourselves, not because we were dissatisfied, but because we were doing some crazy stuff with the streaming and the customization.

The truth of the matter is, we've spent a lot of time personalizing. That's what it's there for. I mean, you take an engine off the shelf, you don't expect it to work right off the bat. And the games that do do that are pretty mediocre, to be honest. So we spent a lot of time making our own, and making sure it works for us. And part of that is optimization.

I mean, it's definitely going to have bigger system requirements than you typical turn-based fantasy MMO; we understand that -- and [it's] because of the customization. But they're not unreasonable system requirements, in my opinion. You don't have to have a brand new machine that has an I7 and dual-core video card. I mean, I've seen it run on a GT 7800 Nvidia card; I've seen it run on really low spec dual-cores, and and high-spec old P4s.

I guess that's an engineering question, too, in terms of how the game deals with those system requirements. Some games just choke on low systems; some games scale more intelligently.

EJ: So, we certainly are still working on it. It does choke at times, but that's just part of the ongoing development. What we've actually done is, we've reduced the fidelity of the look as we good.

Actually, I would say we don't do standard LOD stuff, we do some pretty clever stuff. We care about what's relevant to you rather than what's nearby you. So people in your group and people you're opposed to, we try to keep that detail much higher, even if there are many more people in there.

The matchmaking tech in the game is really interesting to me. You talked about the hierarchy of the way you find groups to fight with each other and put them together, and that it's asymmetric, in terms of one really skilled person could be taking out a group of four. How do you make that work?

EJ: Well, so, I mean, that's part of the magic, to be honest. We've spent a lot of time on the logic behind that. We've got a dedicated gameplay tech team that pretty much focuses on our mission system and our matchmaking, and we have a gameplay design team that basically is joined at the hip with them. Their whole major charge is making this work. And a lot of it is just really simple math.

One of the things that we looked at was: you look at how you categorize -- how you get a metric off someone -- and the first thing you think of is, "Oh, well, it's the equipment that they have, and it's this, and that..."

But you know, honestly? It's the last 30 or so missions, and success. That window, and that metric has been the most accurate thing, and the most predictable thing we've had. So, it's based all around that..

How about ping and latency issues with such complex multiplayer action?

The one little secret we have is, we have a pixel-precision shooter, and we're latency-tolerant. Now I'm not going to talk about how we got that, but it's pretty unique, and we're pretty proud of it. So, even ping isn't that big a deal -- for the combat.

For driving, it tends to be a little tougher, since the driving is truly digital, rather than analogue. Playing driving games on a console, you've got the thumb sticks, but with the WASD, you hit A and you turn left. So the driving is not quite so latency tolerant, but the combat is extremely latency-tolerant. We've had people who've played in Korea and been competitive in combat.

So it is absolutely tolerant... up to a degree. Now, obviously, after a certain point -- you know, 340 milliseconds, it starts to degrade pretty drastically, but under that, it's pretty competitive and equal for everyone, whether you have an 80 millisecond ping, a 50 millisecond ping, or a 140 millisecond ping. Same thing with framerate. We tend to framerate lock; we tend to be able to make sure that your technical requirements don't invade in that too much either.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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